The University of the Western Cape’s Physics and Astronomy Department not only prides itself in leading astronomy research and quality teaching but also in its community engagement activities. The department shows its commitment to the local community by using science and astronomy as a main driver through various events and programmes within and near our main campus. We strive to educate the local communities on astronomy, the night sky, education opportunities, job opportunities and the South African telescopes and observing facilities: such as the Square kilometre Array (SKA), the Hartebeesthoek Radio Observatory (HartRAO), the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the High Energy Spectroscopic System (HESS).
Simultaneously we are interested in better equipping high school students to become science and mathematics majors at university; thus our programmes include mathematics and science skills development. We encourage every member of the department to participate in public engagement events.
Below is a brief summary of a few current and past programmes the department has participated in.
Astro Molo Mhlaba
Astro Molo Mhlaba is our current flagship outreach project founded and coordinated by Dr Margherita Molaro in partnership with the Molo Mhlaba School. It aims to bring outreach activities and career advice to female primary and high-school students in underserved communities of Khayelitsha and Philippi through a number of outreach activities. One of the events : “IAU100 Women and Girls in Astronomy @ Molo Mhlaba” was selected as a winner of the IAU100 Women and Girls in Astronomy events competition in February 2019. More information about the programme can be found on https://www.astromolomhlaba.org
The UWC Open Day
The UWC Open Day is an annual event held during the month of May. This is an opportunity for the public to obtain information on programmes the university offers. Each year we have an exhibition stand, in which we share astronomy related information, show instruments we make use of, such as telescopes and the public has a chance to engage with Astronomers to answer questions they may have.
Night Sky Viewing
This event is targeted at students, staff and other astronomy enthusiasts within and near our main campus. Monthly we take out our small telescopes to observe the night sky. Our visitors get a chance to see celestial objects such as the moon, planets,star clusters and constellations. We also have our friendly astronomy experts to answer questions from the visitors.
Elsies River High School Lectures
In 2015, we partnered with Elsies River High School for a long term engagement with one of the grade 11 science classes. Working with their science teacher, Mr. Gordon, we committed to visiting the class weekly for 15 lessons and assessment. We presented a list of potential topics and from these Mr. Gordon selected the ones most appropriate for his class. Our goal was to supplement the normal science content, not replace the teacher. Mr Gordon and the students gave positive reviews of the outreach programme as well as made suggestions for implementation in the coming years.