STEM Industry Partner: Edison Grant Supports Astronomy Program

Cypress College Astronomy

(Photo Credit: Edison International)

Cypress College regularly partners with industry to strengthen classroom studies so that students are better prepared for career opportunities and transfer to some of the nation’s best universities and liberal arts colleges. Southern California Edison (SCE) has done much to support our programs, faculty innovation, and student success. With guidance from CC Foundation Board Member and SCE Local Public Affairs Manager, Janelle Bader, Cypress secured a $25,000 grant in 2013 from SCE’s parent company Edison International, to fund science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies .

Astronomy Professor Michael Frey received $5,000 of the grant to buy a 10-inch Meade Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, which is larger and more advanced than other telescopes owned by the College. Frey uses the instrument to give students and the community high-powered views of above. During select days of the semester you can catch him in action by the Pond, both during the day (with students observing the sun, pictured above), or at one of the several evening “star parties” (open to the community) that he hosts in collaboration with the Astronomy Club. Frey also takes students on field trips, including to Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert (photo below).

In an interview with Inside Edison, Frey describes how through astronomy he feels connected to the past:

“I name the stars, then have the students name them. I tell them the ancient names of the stars, that our ancestors were people just like you and me and that they have mouthed the words of the ancients, connecting them to the past.”

A view of the night sky from Joshua Tree:

Joshua+Tree+Stars

(Photo Credit: Edison International)

Michael Kavanaugh, Manager of Systems Technology at the College, is a former student of Professor Frey. He was so inspired by Frey’s teaching and the course material that he now volunteers his time to help Frey with astronomy events. For Inside Edison, Kavanaugh describes the power of the Meade Ritchey-Chrétien telescope on a recent trip to the desert:

“We saw this big blue ball — Neptune — and Uranus and nine of the planets one night. The image was so bright that I had to put on sunglasses.

Tammy Tumbling, director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at SCE, spoke with Inside Edison about the value that that Edison International sees in students getting this type of experience:

“As an energy company, we recognize the skills needed for our future workforce and business growth as well as the country. So we focus our educational funding on programs that prepare students to excel in the STEM fields.”

Frey and the College are planning future steps for the astronomy program, including an observatory and planetarium in a brand new Science, Engineering, and Math building that will be constructed under the Measure J Bond Program, which voters approved in November 2014. The Meade Ritchey-Chrétien and other telescopes, which currently have to be hauled out for each viewing event, will have a permanent home in the observatory.

Frey and Kavanaugh exemplify the dedication and innovation that Cypress faculty and staff are able to bring to their jobs with the support of the community. A big thank you to Jenelle Bader, Edison, and all of the College’s partners who make this type of service to our students possible!
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