Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program

The Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) is a collaboration between AUI, the National Radio Astronomy ObservatoryAURA, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Gemini Observatory, and is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF 1439408 and 1723697). The Program brings amateur astronomers, planetarium personnel, and K-16 formal and informal astronomy educators to US astronomy facilities in Chile. While at these facilities, ACEAP Ambassadors will receive extensive training about the instruments, the science, data products, and communicating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. When they return home, the Ambassadors will share their experiences and observatory resources with schools and community groups across the US.

Background

The U.S. has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in astronomy infrastructure in Chile, and tens of millions of dollars more each year for operations, and new projects are already under way. In addition to the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), Gemini-South Observatory, and the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, has begun construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). U.S. institutions are also leading an international collaboration to build the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in Chile. Between LSST and GMT alone, nearly $1.5 billion will be invested over the next eight years. By the year 2022, 70% of the world’s astronomy infrastructure will be located in Chile. Why is this the case?

An informed citizenry is important to the success of any national endeavor, including those focusing on the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The U.S. is making significant investments in astronomy in Chile, and those investments are yielding incredible new discoveries and advancements in science and technology. Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation, ACEAP will develop a core group of individuals with a deep understanding of NSF supported facilities in Chile, and enhanced STEM communication skills needed to share this knowledge with a diverse public.

ACEAP Goals

  1. Inform amateur astronomers, planetarium personnel, and K-college astronomy educators about astronomy facilities in Chile, the nature of work being done by scientists and engineers at the facilities, and how they can access and use data being collected and other resources from these observatories,
  2. Create a core group of individuals (Ambassadors) who will broadly disseminate NRAO, NOAO, and Gemini information and resources to the general public and K-college learners.

Becoming an ACEAP Ambassador

As we move toward a long-term sustainable model to support ACEAP, and in an effort to broaden participation, each ACEAP 10-person cohort includes those supported by NSF grant funding, as well as individuals who are fully supported by their institution and/or personal funds. It is anticipated that 6 of the ACEAP Ambassador positions will be supported by grant funding and the remaining 4 will be fully supported via institutional and/or personal funding. PLEASE NOTE: Regardless of the source of an Ambassador’s support, requirements remain the same, and all Ambassadors will receive the $500 stipend for completion of their 7 required outreach activities.

Who may apply? Anyone may apply for the four positions fully supported by your institution and/or personal funding. This includes US as well as non-US citizens, regardless of geographic location. The remaining six slots are restricted to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are amateur astronomers, K through college formal and informal educators who teach astronomy as part of their curriculum or program, planetarium educators, or those working in the area of astronomy communications.

If selected, what can you expect? A total of 10 ambassadors will be selected this year from across the U.S. and its territories. Throughout late winter and early spring, Ambassadors will attend a series of virtual meetings and online training to prepare them for the expedition.

The ACEAP team will travel to Chile for a nine-day expedition. Ambassadors will visit ALMA, CTIO, and Gemini facilities for a “once in a lifetime” behind the scenes experience. During the visits, observatory personnel will share an overview of observing facilities, discuss current science and engineering taking place at the facilities, and show Ambassadors how to access the observatory data archives for research projects and other purposes. Participants will also experience Chilean culture and society, and the astro-tourism industry that has emerged in Chile. In addition to the professional facilities, ACEAP Ambassadors will visit smaller amateur-public observatories. Weather permitting, nighttime observing opportunities will be made available.

What are my obligations as an ACEAP Ambassador?

  • Participate, via conference call or videoconference (e.g., Skype, Googlechat, etc.), in pre-travel meetings and training. Training sessions will focus on traveling internationally, getting the most out of your camera, using social media to get the word out, how to tailor presentations to specific audiences, developing effective press releases and articles, and engaging the news media. We anticipate a total of six meetings/training sessions between the time of selection and departure to Chile.
  • Participate in pre- and post-evaluation activities for the program. We anticipate these activities will take less than one hour.
  • Travel to Chile for the nine-day expedition and participate in all activities. Please see the ACEAP Application for the dates for this year’s expedition.
  • Ambassadors are required to complete a minimum of seven outreach events. Outreach events include, but are not limited to, presentations to K through college students or the general public, virtual presentations, online blog, article for newsletter, newspaper, or magazine, presentation at professional meetings, etc. Ambassadors will receive a $500 stipend for completion of the seven outreach events.
  • Ambassadors will be visiting facilities that are located at high elevation: CTIO is at 7,200 feet, Gemini is at 8,900 feet, and ALMA is at 16,400 feet. For their own safety, Ambassadors will be required to provide confirmation from a licensed physician that they meet certain health criteria related to blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart and lung function, etc.

What are the related costs?

ACEAP takes a shared cost approach. Typically, one could expect this type of an experience to cost more than $6,000 per person, not including the value of the training and support provided. Historically, the National Science Foundation, has provided the vast majority funding to support individual Ambassadors. As we move toward a sustainable model for ACEAP, we must work to reduce the amount of funds from NSF required to maintain the program. Each Ambassador, and/or their institution or sponsor, will be responsible for the following:

  • The Ambassador’s airfare from the U.S. and Santiago. Round trip tickets from US major cities to Santiago are typically $1100 - $1500 USD, however this can vary depending on your specific flight itinerary. NOTE: Previous Ambassadors have also used their accumulated miles (or those of a family member) to secure a ticket.
  • The Ambassador’s airfare in Chile between Santiago, Calama, and La Serena (Estimated cost is $450)
  • Some healthcare policies cover individuals while they are in other countries. If yours does not, you will want to purchase a supplemental healthcare policy to cover you while you are in Chile. Prices vary, but typical supplemental policies are around $75.
  • Individuals requesting to join the expedition as one of the four Ambassadors fully funded by their institution and/or personal funds must complete an abbreviated application, and be prepared to provide a $1,000 non-refundable deposit. These abbreviated applications will go through an expedited review process to confirm eligibility, and the four slots will be filled on a first come-first serve basis. The total cost (less RT airfare to Santiago) for an institutional or self-funded Ambassador will be $4200. Please note that upon completion of your outreach activities, you will receive a $500 stipend, bringing the total cost down to $3700.

NOTE: Your institution, or a sponsor organization, may be a source of funding to support your costs. All Ambassadors will receive significant training in STEM communication, as well as the recognition that comes from being one of the few individuals chosen for ACEAP. The long-term benefits to your institution or sponsor will significantly outweigh the minimal investment of funds on behalf of the ACEAP Ambassador. Check with your institution to see if professional development funds might be available to cover your individual costs.

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