Astronomy group eyes Mindanao observatory

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews / 22 Oct) —  Mindanao should have its own astronomical observatory because astronomy is an effective way of boosting interest in science and technology, Rodion Herrera, program director and head lecturer of Voyager Adventures said.

Herrera told MindaNews Sunday that existing astronomical observatories like the Manila Observatory are inaccessible to Mindanao’s students and instructors.

He said the group hopes to build an astronomical observatory in Mindanao either in Davao or in Zamboanga City to help raise the quality of science and technology education.

He acknowledged that this requires a huge investment and might take a long time to be realized so in the meantime, his group goes around Mindanao “to bring the universe closer” to the students.

Voyager Adventures, a Davao-based private group promoting the study of astronomy, ended its nine-day tour in Bukidnon Tuesday.

The group visited schools in Bukidnon from October 14 to October 22 as a follow up to their August 2013 run.

On October 14, the 12-member Voyager team went to Lantapan for an exhibit with elementary and high schools students and teachers. They proceeded to Valencia City Central School on October 16, to the Valencia City National High School on October 18 and in Malaybalay City on October 21 and 22, at the Bukidnon National High School, Bukidnon’s biggest high school.

The group first toured Bukidnon in August 2013, spending two weeks in the towns of Quezon, Maramag, Pangantucan, and Manolo Fortich.

The group has toured more than 200 schools around Mindanao, except in the cities of Surigao, Cotabato, Pagadian, Gingoog, and Cagayan de Oro, said Herrera.

The group uses educational events program with a state of the art Voyager Planetarium, mobile digital educational podium, as a visual and entertaining tool in teaching astronomy and other sciences.

The group also does telescope set up and camping, film viewing, games, quizzes, seminars, and photo exhibits on astronomy. The group charges an affordable rate for their shows to cover for expenses in equipment, personnel, and other costs.

Another activity in Voyager Adventure is solar viewing using a Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST). They also provide stargazing and planetary observation using three telescopes all of which come with assorted eyepieces that would guarantee excellent and exciting viewing opportunities for children and the general public.

The group’s equipment also includes a telescope-specific CCD camera for astrophotography demonstrations and other activities to be participated and interacted by the students and teachers.

The group was founded in 2011 by now Brunei-based educator turned entrepreneur Anyati Orcullo Abdullah, one of two proprietors. Abdullah hails from Zamboanga del Norte. After initiating the project with Rizal Technological University’s (RTU) Bamm Gabriana, the group’s first exhibit was held in Polomolok, South Cotabato, Herrera said.

Herrera said the group wants to give students a “deeper understanding and appreciation of astronomy and space exploration,” motivate and inspire them through the

latest innovations in astronomy programs and software developed by a group of Filipino professional and amateur astronomers.

Before, teachers and students need to go on field trips to planetariums to experience astronomy education.

The Voyager’s concept is to be the one to go to the schools.

He said they hope that with more interest in science and technology subjects, more students would take courses in the field.

“We hope this could lead to more students becoming science and technology professionals, and eventually help bring our country to development,” he added.

After the Bukidnon tour, Herrera said, they will showcase the Planetarium and their booth as tool for teaching during the convention of the Samahang Pisika ng Visayas Mindanao at the Ateneo de Davao University on October 24 to 26. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)