Striking Sparks Telescope Awards Program

 

History of Striking Sparks (Video)

 

The 2014 Striking Sparks telescopes were awarded
at the SCAS general meeting April 9 2014

The 2014 winning students are from left to right are:
Julian Peay, Grade 1, The Healdsburg School, Healdsburg
Elena Selva, Grade 5, Douglas Whited Elementary, Santa Rosa
John 'Joey' Barrett, Grade 5, Douglas Whited Elementary, Santa Rosa
Phillip Hebenstreit, Grade 4, Orchard View School, Sebastopol
Drew Haley, Grade 2, Grant Elementary School, Petaluma (Photo by Len Nelson)


The Proctor Terrace meeting room was full of excitement when we celebrated the awarding of five Striking Sparks telescopes to deserving students that had entered the 2014 essay contest. This is the 29th year of the STRIKING SPARKS program where 256 telescopes have been awarded to Sonoma County students.The applicants attended Robert Ferguson Observatory events or SCAS meetings and wrote essays about their interest in astronomy to win telescopes. They also attend the Young Astronomers meeting for an introduction on how to use their telescopes. The winners were accompanied by some very supportive teachers and proud parents that shared the festivities. Kenneth Frank, President of AANC provided a life history of John Dobson and how he played a great role in amateur astronomy with telescope building and sidewalk astronomers. Len Nelson, Young Astronomers Adviser, provided a PowerPoint program on the upcoming night sky events and the Young Astronomers activities as well as future opportunities. At break time June and Colleen Ferguson served the traditional Striking Sparks cake decorated with moon and planet images. There was a lot of competition for a slice of Mars or Jupiter.

Following the break Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator, gave a little history of how the program began in Bob Ferguson's basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. He also had one of the 200 hand built telescopes that were fabricated by SCAS members on display. When the stage curtain opened revealing the telescopes the excitement really kicked in. Larry assembled the telescope winners on the stage for their awards followed by teachers, sponsors and mentors for pictures with the telescope winners. We quickly reassembled outside with the views of the Moon and Jupiter with its observable moons through a partly cloudy sky.

Winners automatically become members of SCAS Young Astronomers (YAs) for a full year, receive our monthly newsletter Sonoma Skies and the Astronomical League's quarterly publication, Reflector. YAs are encouraged to join us for stargazing events and SCAS meetings.

How to Enter

To get the ball rolling, students, parents and teachers are encouraged to obtain an entry packet here:
Striking Sparks Entry Packet
. You will need Adobe Reader to open it.

Applicants must:

Sponsorship

You or your organization may sponsor a telescope and participate in this worthwhile program. The cost to sponsor a “Striking Sparks” telescope is $250. An engraved sponsor plaque is attached to each telescope. Contact Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator, at: llmccune@comcast.net

Spring 2013 Awards

The photo at top shows the 2013 winners who received their new telescopes at the March 13 Striking Sparks Awards Ceremony. The Proctor Terrace meeting room was full of excitement when we celebrated the awarding of five Striking Sparks telescopes to deserving students who had entered the 2013 essay contest. This is the 28th year of the STRIKING SPARKS program where 251 telescopes have been awarded to Sonoma County students. 

The winners were accompanied by some very supportive teachers that parents that shared the festivities.  The President gave a little history of how the program began in Bob Ferguson’s basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. A cake decorated with astronomical images was served after the President’s presentation on the telescope, accessories and the safety concern of not pointing the telescope at the sun. June Ferguson served the cake doing her best to meet requests for a slice of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars or the Moon.

Larry McCune The telescope winners were assembled on the stage for their awards followed by teachers, sponsors and mentors for pictures with the telescopes.  We quickly reassembled outside with the night sky cooperating to yield views of the Moon, Orion Nebula, and Jupiter with its observable moons and some constellations. 

We want to connect the winners with some school astronomy nights and visits to the Robert Ferguson Observatory so they have an opportunity to use their telescopes. Most of the telescope winners attended the Young Astronomers meeting at Dunham Elementary school on Friday, March 15th where they tuned up their telescopes and observed the night sky including Comet PAN-STARRS.  Teacher, Siobhan Wilde, and Len Nelson have organized an excellent continuation of learning opportunities to share with the Young Astronomers.

This year’s sponsors that enable SCAS to continue the program are: Siobhan & Steve Wilde, Lynn Anderson & Leo Bleier, Rob Koslowsky, AANC and the Hejtmanek family. We also want to thank Orion Telescope and Binoculars of Cupertino for providing the affordable telescopes. We look forward to continuing Striking Sparks with next year’s sponsors.

—Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator


Left to right: Maggie and James Ward, Hunter Ward, George Loyer, Kade Crandall, Kenneth Frank, John Whitehouse, Devon Bolt, Mary Jo Kinser, Colton Rowe, Lynn Anderson, Lisa Ryan, Gina Richman and Estella Zea. (Photo by Len Nelson)

We really appreciate the role teachers have played by nominating students, evaluating their essays and joining us at this event. We could not do the program without teacher support.