Namma Telescope Construction Workshop at PN Palayam : 25 Schools 25 Telescopes

Namma Telescope Aug 11, 2023

“The sky is for all,” as the saying suggests. The Open Space Foundation's (OSF) Namma Telescope project was launched with the aim of making the sky accessible to everyone by providing each school with its telescope. The project seeks to democratize the opportunity for sky observation and the study of astronomy among government school students. In this unique initiative, students are trained to construct their telescopes and then install them within their school premises for celestial observations.

The inaugural telescope construction workshop of the Namma Telescope initiative took place at Panchayat Union Middle School in Thudiyalur on August 10, 2023. The workshop was attended by 25 Government Middle Schools from the Periyanaickenpalayam Block in Coimbatore. Situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats, Periyanaickenpalayam is a town within the Coimbatore district, surrounded by various tribal communities. This endeavour brought together 80 students and 25 teachers from these schools, all eagerly participating in the workshop. Among the attendees, 65 were boys and 15 were girls, showcasing a diverse and inclusive engagement.

The workshop officially commenced with the District Educational Officer inaugurating the event. In the inaugural address, the DEO encouraged students to cultivate curiosity throughout their learning journey and to set higher aspirations for themselves. Further, emphasizing the importance of hands-on learning, the Block Educational Officer highlighted the significance of the Namma Telescope Construction Workshop. To infuse the workshop with even more excitement, an exhibition was arranged, showcasing various aspects of astronomy, spacecraft, telescopes, the Chandrayaan mission, and ISRO's upcoming Aditya L1 mission. An array of telescopes and their components were also displayed, accompanied by a rocket model crafted by OSF. Students took delight in presenting their self-made satellite models and explaining the Chandrayaan mission and Aditya L1 mission to the audience. This blend of interactive displays and informative talks added an enjoyable educational dimension to the event.

The workshop formally began with a theoretical session that offered an explanation of the fundamental principles of telescopes and the integral role of optics in their operation. This session helped students grasp the arrangement of lenses within telescopes and the crucial analysis of focal length. Furthermore, the session provided a concise overview of the distinct functions of individual telescope components and their applications. The students were encouraged to actively interact with the OSF team members throughout the session.

Following a brief break, the students embarked on constructing their telescopes. They were organized into 25 teams, each accompanied by a teacher to provide assistance. The essential telescope components were distributed to each team, allowing them to initiate their constructions under the guidance of OSF team members. They began the process by accurately positioning the lens and eyepiece, ensuring the proper adjustment of focal lengths. The diagonal was thoughtfully placed to eliminate optical disruptions. Subsequently, the telescopes were securely affixed onto stands, utilizing mounts that facilitated precise alignment in the intended direction.

By evening, the students had successfully completed assembling their telescopes. Subsequently, a feedback session was held during which the students enthusiastically shared their experiences. With this session, the program for the day concluded. Leaving the school with a sense of anticipation, the students were eager to return the following day to add the finishing touches to their telescopes and begin sky observations.

The following day began with great enthusiasm. The OSF team members explained the significance of calibrating telescopes and demonstrated the process to the students. Through their explanation, the intricate relationship between telescope components in rectifying optical errors and enhancing observation precision became clearer to the students. As they engaged in calibrating their telescopes, they gained a better understanding of the optical principles underlying telescope functionality. Upon completing the calibration, their eagerness was palpable, as they couldn't wait to put their telescopes to the test. Without delay, they stepped outdoors to assess the effectiveness of their telescopes.

Positioning their telescopes in an outdoor setting, the students directed their focus towards distant objects, carefully examining the telescopes' ability to provide a magnified view. Thoughtfully adjusting the lenses to achieve optimal focus, a clear sense of happiness and accomplishment radiated from the excited faces of the students, marking the successful completion of their telescope constructions.

Later, the students eagerly prepared for the valediction, looking forward to celebrating their remarkable achievements. The valediction ceremony commenced with the presence of the Coimbatore district Collector, adding a motivating touch to the event. As the Collector arrived, the students extended a warm welcome, taking turns to elaborate on the telescopes they had constructed. Their excitement shone through as they enthusiastically showcased their exhibits. The Collector was delighted, witnessing the accomplishments of these young innovative minds.

The DEO provided an overview of all the astronomy-related activities undertaken by Panchayat Union Middle School, Thudiyalur, together with the Open Space Foundation. The presentation concluded with an appeal to extend these activities to other government schools as well.  Subsequently, the collector delivered an inspiring speech, commending the students for their impressive accomplishments. He extended his appreciation to the DEO and the OSF team for their proactive initiative. The collector also acknowledged the instrumental role played by Mrs. Chitra, the English teacher at PUMS Thudiyalur, in organizing the program. Furthermore, he highlighted the Rotary E-Club Metro Dynamics for their valuable financial support in arranging the material requirements for telescope construction and expressed his motivation to expand these activities to other schools as well. Later, he honoured the students by presenting them with certificates of participation and appreciated the winners of the Ideathon competition organized on Asteroid Day for the school students by the Open Space Foundation.

The presence of members from the Rotary E-Club made the valediction ceremony even more special. They delivered motivational speeches, urging the students to aim for greater achievements. Additionally, they expressed their enthusiasm for funding the program and shared their eagerness for its success. Upon the conclusion of the valediction, the students and teachers gathered to share their feedback. Following this, the entire Namma Telescope team joined for a cheerful photograph. With a wealth of new learnings, experiences, and happiness, the students carried their telescopes back to their schools. OSF also provided them with a manual on operating the telescopes and a schedule of rare astronomical events that they can observe and enjoy throughout the year.

The triumphant accomplishment of the Namma Telescope Construction Workshop, the first of its kind, holds immense significance for the Open Space Foundation. OSF expresses gratitude to all those who contributed to the successful implementation of this unique initiative. The strong support extended by students, teachers, schools, and the government serves as profound motivation for OSF to continue introducing further innovative projects for students.