ORBYTS – MAKING FUTURE SCIENTISTS
Twinkle’s education programme aims to foster links between space exploration and schools, to increase uptake of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects by underrepresented groups, and building connections between schools and local university tutors.
Original Research By Young Twinkle Students (ORBYTS) is a flagship programme in which secondary school pupils work on research projects under the tuition of PhD students and other young scientists. While ORBYTS was originally centred around Twinkle, it has since grown to include a wide variety of research projects.
ORBYTS gives school students the unique opportunity to contribute to real research run by scientists from around the world. Students also receive scientific training and build skills in a range of disciplines.
Collaborate with scientists at top institutions
Undergraduate level teaching
Advanced data analysis training and research experience
Opportunity to publish scientific papers
ORBYTS was founded in 2016 by Dr Clara Sousa-Silva, to challenge the preconceptions or stereotypes about who can become a scientist and what scientific work is like. Through this programme, students get hands-on experience of scientific research and work closely with young researchers. The fortnightly mentoring programme teaches the skills required to contribute to an ORBYTS project. The original research has often led to co-authorship on papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
Outcomes for school students participating in ORBYTS:
- Get a hands-on introduction to undergraduate-level science and connect with early-career scientists
- Develop applied scientific skills such as data analysis, literature searching and using advanced Excel
- Cultivate soft skills including oral presentation, group project collaboration, and academic writing
- Gain practical experience of what’s involved in scientific research and what it’s like to be a researcher, with a view to potential future careers
Outcomes for schools participating in ORBYTS:
- Inspire students and parents alike with the opportunity to engage in real scientific research and even co-author publications
- Boost uptake of STEM subjects (at secondary school level and beyond) for participating pupils from underrepresented demographics
- Build lasting outreach connections with local research institutions
- Meet academic requirements in a novel, exciting way — ORBYTS projects are suitable for EPQ or CREST awards in the UK, and other academic awards or credits abroad
Outcomes for tutors participating in ORBYTS:
- Nurture critical skills in leadership, project management and mentoring
- Gain hands-on teaching and outreach experience
- Get paid a living wage to deliver a customised project that contributes directly to their own personal academic research
- Have the opportunity to be a role model, inspire students and give back to the community
As part of the Measured Active Rotational-Vibrational Energy Levels project pupils are assigned a molecule relevant to exoplanet atmospheres (acetylene, titanium oxide, methane). After locating, collating and formating a lot of experimental spectroscopic data, they use software to obtain accurate experimental energy levels. This is essential research that will help the Twinkle mission to detect these molecules in the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Pupils work on updating the highly cited 1979 Huber & Herzberg database on the spectroscopic constants (rotational constants, equilibrium bond lengths, vibrational frequencies etc) of diatomic molecules by undertaking a literature search to find any experimental results containing updated constants. As well as being relevant for exoplanets and astrophysics, this data has wide applications in diverse fields (e.g. environmental studies, industrial processes, cold molecules and quantum computers).
Pupils carry out background research about observing exoplanets and undertake a literature review on exoplanets from the list of Twinkle’s potential targets. They work with training datasets from archives to practice analysing lightcurves and, finally, schedule observations of upcoming transits with robotic telescopes/partner observatories and analyse the data.
Want to get students involved in real scientific research?
Want to expand your school or university outreach activities?
We’re looking for schools, teachers and academics to get involved!
We need enthusiastic educators and researchers to help us deliver ORBYTS projects to as many students as possible across the world.
Please contact the Twinkle team to find out how your institution can join the programme.