By Joe Frennea and Dave Bilgray
Members of the Southern Arizona Section of the International Dark-Sky Association (SA-IDA) scoured the rows of over 1,300 exhibits at the Southern Arizona Science Fair (SARSEF) for projects dealing with Light Pollution and Outdoor Lighting. Excellent exhibits were found and prizes were awarded to three students.
First Place Award: The winner was Carter, a 7th grade student from Doolen Middle School. His project titled “Light Pollution over Tucson” was very professional and detailed, demonstrating impressive scientific skills and keen powers of observation. He measured sky brightness (light pollution) from five different areas in and around Tucson. He used two different methods. First, he used a Light Pollution Meter (LPM) made by Avery Davis (a member of SA-IDA). Carter meticulously developed his measurement technique until his observations were highly reproducible - - - to a degree of “perfection” not yet demonstrated by other users of the meter. Then Carter counted stars within Pegasus from his five observation areas. Finally, he plotted his results graphically, demonstrating a most impressive relationship.
Second Place Award: The winner was Jessica, a 6th grade student at Satori Charter School. Her project titled “For Stars at Night Turn Down Your Lights” was most innovative, demonstrating awesome imagination. She coupled two unique ideas which she developed into her science project. First, she constructed “View Finder 2” a box to fit over her head while lying on the ground to observe the stars above (see photo). This year’s box had been significantly improved from the one which she originally invented last year. She was able to introduce various levels of white light to “mimic” light-pollution artificially. Next, she devised an experimental method to determine how much light was really necessary to do a simple task- - - finding toys in a darkened room. She concluded that outdoor lighting could be reduced appreciably to a level where she was still able to perform tasks well and at the same time still be able to enjoy seeing lots of stars- - - including the Milky Way. Her final comment was that this would also result in a substantial saving of energy.
Third Place: The winner was Amie, a 7th grade student at Alice Vail Middle School. Her project titled “A Study of Lampshades and Light Pollution” could not have been more appropriate. She constructed many different shapes of lamp shades, hand-made from paper materials. She then tested the shades, at different angles, using a light meter. Her results clearly demonstrated that fully shielded fixtures do send more light onto the ground where it is needed and also send far less light upward - - - thereby greatly reducing light pollution . If Amie continues this interest, Tucson may have a skilled lighting design engineer in a few years !!!
All three winners will be invited to present their projects to members of TAAA at an up-coming general meeting.
They also have been invited to show-off their science fair projects at the International Dark-Sky Association’s Annual Conference. The conference is always exciting. The three day meeting is again being held right here in Tucson at the Hilton Hotel East on Broadway from April 7th through April 9th. We hope that several TAAA members will be able to attend.
Submitted by John Polacheck
President of SA-IDA