Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Website closed

On April 11 2017, the Lieutenant Governor will issue a "writ of election" which will dissolve the Legislative Assembly of BC and begin a 28 day election period regulated by Elections BC.

During I will no longer be MLAs and this website will not be active.

However, as the final act as an MLA I am very pleased to share this fantastic update from Ben Dorman, Chair of the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Congratulations Ben, RASC Members and all who have turned the lights back on at the Centre of the Universe!

Subject: Observatory Volunteerism bringing life into the Centre of the Universe!
The Centre of the Universe building has sat mostly vacant and unused with the exception of some Saturday night Star Parties for part of the summer the past couple of years, but that is soon to change.

With the expansion of the volunteer base with the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, the not-for profit now boasts several teams of volunteers that are working on revitalising the programming at the observatory. 

Current projects include replacing of the old, early 2000's computers in the Centre with credit-card sized "Raspberry Pi" computers that will run screens with content - but that's not the really interesting thing. What's interesting is that the coding of these computers is being done by a team of volunteers ranging in age from 14 to 40. This is a great opportunity, especially for youth, to get real-world experience in the technology field, using cutting edge technology.

One of the other volunteer teams is led by a 13 year old. Aria Gates-Smith is currently the lead presenter in the Planetarium - that team is expanding, and with the help of some astronomy students from UVic, the program should once again be running regularly.
The Friends of the DAO is expanding the Star Parties so that the Centre of the Universe will be open almost every Saturday night, starting on April 29, 2017 (Astronomy Day). Tickets will remain free for the general public. Tickets will be available soon on Eventbrite.

While the local RASC had previously run the Star Parties in the past, a lack of capacity prevented them from having the centre open every Saturday last summer. The FDAO hopes to increase its volunteer base so that it is once more a vital hub of science and education outreach in Saanich.

Even the gift shop has been re-opened. The  team, under the watchful eye of parent volunteers, is lead by a 14 year old who helps  to train others. 

The current treasurer, Jennine Gates, credits her work with the FDAO in helping her to secure her supervisory job with the Government last July. "The amount of project work has really given me a lot of real world experience that I might not have gotten had I not volunteered. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to take their career to the next level - especially in a project-oriented or technology related trade".

A huge milestone for the organization is the recent approval to hire a summer student. "With a summer student, we can meet our mandate to expand public programming at the observatory - right now most of our volunteers work or go to school, so having someone there to organize the outreach will be huge". Some of the work the summer student will be doing is organizing tours, with an eye to re-starting school tours on a regular basis in the near future. 
In order to help supplement the summer student wage and in order to continue with revitalization of the Centre of the Universe building, the FDAO is having a fundraiser on Earth Day titled "Earth and Friends", which features noted Science Journalist Bob McDonald and the Vox Humana chamber choir as well as live and silent auctions.  Tickets are available at https://earthandfriends.eventbrite.ca

The FDAO is always looking for new volunteers - if you are interested, you can email Jennine at membership@observatoryhill.org. Tickets for the Star Parties are available at https://daostarparties.eventbrite.ca.