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Posted: Dec 12, 2013
A touch of the Universe
(Nanowerk News) The Astronomic Observatory of the University of Valencia has undertaken this year the project ‘A touch of the Universe’, a non-profit mission that aims to create thirty kits with tactile astronomical activities for children with visual difficulties. The Observatory is currently distributing these packages or astrokits, sending them to educators and teachers from Astronomers Without Borders, Universe Awareness (UNAWE) and Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP) in America, Africa and Asia.
Each of the thirty astrokits consists of several pieces, among which a sphere that simulates the lunar terrain and a hemisphere representing the main constellations. The latters, moreover, are also palpable in three 3D models that recreate the distance from Earth to each star that is part of Orion, Ursa Major and Taurus.
The rest of the astrokit is formed by a small book on the moon phases, another one with activities and sheets with astronomical images that NASA made for the International Year of Astronomy. Everything under the symphony of the planetarium show ‘El cielo en tus manos’ (‘The sky in your hands’), a DVD included in the kit with explanations in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Two speakers help the child to touch the reliefs of the constellations as they explain everything about what the child is touching, such as the colour of the light from a star or the history of constellations.
It is a material that, in principle, is addressed to children, fully adapted to braille, but it is also extensible to blind people of all ages. In the classrooms of countries without resources, teachers sometimes do not have the necessary and appropriate means to help children with visual impairment. This is the disadvantage that this supportive project intends to remedy, that is the continuation of a previous project, in which twenty moons were sent from Argentina to India. The satisfaction of educators, their enthusiasm and their collaboration with the proposal of improvements led to this second part of the project.
“The astrokit is not sent in Spain, only to developing countries because the funding comes from the Astronomy Office for Development, but there are many people that are also interested in other countries such as the United States, Belgium and even Scotland”, says the director of the project, Amelia Ortiz.
‘A touch of the Universe’, in Uniempren
It was planned that in December of this year, the project would finish sending the whole of the astrokits, but there is not enough funding for this final step. Specifically, 2000 euros are requiered to send the last eighteen boxes to their addressee.
It is because of that that the people in charge of this outreach project have decided to launch a new funding campaign through the crowdfunding formula, using the university platform Uniempren. This way, people or organisations that want to collaborate can do so via its webpage: www.uniempren.es
Uniempren is open to all Spanish academic institutions that aims to help students and graduates to promote their business or social projects through crowdfunding, finding investors or partners and non-monetary contributions.