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Friday, April 30, 2010

May Scientiae: Bumps & Humps

As you may know, I’ve been trying to start up an education and outreach program (EOP) centered around the nearby observatory. The main reason for this is the observatory is slated to shut down at the end of the year, and I think that’s just sad and it should be used for something instead of being allowed to just crumble to the ground.

I knew from the very beginning that there would be lots of bumps in the road, but I never really guessed how vast they would be.

Initial Issues

Funding: everyone was supportive of the creation of an EOP, from the students to the professors to the deans. No one is willing to give me a dime.

Perpetuating misconceptions: I cannot believe how many people have told me that “No one will be interested in driving all the way out there, especially since the last km is a dirt road”. First of all, it’s a whole 20 minutes out of the city. Second, I’ve had people ask me about that observatory more times than I can even count. Third, other observatories in Canada have these kinds of programs, are much further out from any city, are at the top of giant hills with dirt/gravel roads, and they have NO problem getting people out to their events!! There is demand for this kind of thing!!

Personnel: The telescope technician is retiring. He’s really the only guy who’s been looking after the telescope for 30+ years. He knows what is wrong by the sound. He doesn’t have a manual of any kind. The telescope seems to break down often. How are we going to learn how to maintain/fix the thing?

Changing of the guard: There is one professor that uses the telescope for research purposes. So, he basically has a private 1.2m research-grade telescope. Think it’s going to be hard for him to give that up?

Arising Issues

All talk: People love to talk about this program. They like to share ideas, and go totally crazy coming up with things that could be done. But, when it comes right down to it, very few are willing to put anything in to action.

Committees: I’ve posted about how I’ve put together a steering committee to help me write a business proposal and such. I hate this. I hate this so much. Everyone just has better ideas than everyone else and it totally gets out of hand. We have gotten nothing accomplished.

My commitment:waxes and wanes. There are times where I want to give my all, and get this program off the ground running. Other times, such as when dealing with committees or curmudgeons, I desperately want to walk away.

Red Tape: Insurance, liabilities, permissions, etc. etc.. So much shit that I know nothing about, and have no idea where to start.

As you can see, there are about a million and one bumps on the road to creating the EOP. My question is, when do I know when to keep going, and when do I know when to walk away? I don't know the answer.