The Mars Generation, an organization which strives to energize young people to explore space and STEM and understand the importance of space exploration, announced the winners of the “24 Under 24 Leaders and Innovators in STEAM and Space Awards 2018” on Wed., Jan. 31. Warwick Valley High School (WVHS) senior, Jacqueline Grundfast, was among 24 students chosen from around the globe for their work in the areas of Science and Space.
Grundfast has recently completed research in the WVHS three-year science research program and her work is titled, “Confirmation of an Extrasolar Planet Based on its Light Curve Created to Ascertain its Existence as a Transit.” She was able to perform a good deal of her research at the Little Bear Observatory, located on the School District grounds as she worked alongside astrophysicist Dr. Mary Lou West, and Observatory Director Bob Moore.
“This study examines exoplanets and their orbital habits as gaged by a light curve, either confirming or denying their existence. Planets found in solar systems other than ours, otherwise known as exoplanets, are becoming a topic of growing interest as the habitability of planets is studied. In order to ascertain the level of inhabitability, it is crucial to confirm the existence of the earth-like body. In the experiment, a transit search will commence to acquire a new, undocumented anomaly which will have photometric methods applied to it,” said Grundfast.
Grundfast will be presenting at the WVHS University in the HS-Science Research Program Symposium this year and will also be presenting her research at the Eastern NY 11th Annual Subregional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. In her astronomy-based science research, she discovered that there was no ongoing opportunity for other students to share her passion or make use of the observatory in the School District.
As a result, she met with her principal, fulfilled the necessary requirements and established an Astronomy Club, which she currently leads as President for a second year. She has also served as a STEAM Fair Judge for the last three years at various schools in the School District, mentored younger students on their research, and taught enrichment classes in elementary schools on astronomy so they would foster a love of science.
She was recently awarded the funds and approvals to continue an ongoing astronomy project in the District which fellow students will be participating in. She is working with the principals of the middle school and elementary schools to bring astronomy involvement to their buildings as well.
This past year, she went to an astronomy conference and heard of a project universities and observatories were participating in around the world to take local data of the night sky and to share on a worldwide site to discover variances. Grundfast presented this project to her District administrators, acquired the approval and full funds to make the project happen, and it is currently being built.