African Skies: Establishing an Observatory for Students in Ghana

Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Tax Deductible
Raised of $12,000 Goal
Ended on 9/27/14
Campaign Ended
  • $150
  • 2%
  • Finished
    on 9/27/14

About This Project

This project will establish a small observatory at the Heritage Academy in rural Ghana. We will also develop telescope lab exercises for students to use. This will form part of a new science-based educational program at the school and will address the question of how hands-on science affects student motivation and learning. This will be the first (and possibly only) exposure that many of these students will have to science.

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What is the context of this research?

The Heritage Academy was founded by a Franklin & Marshall College alumnus, Kwesi Koomson, to provide opportunities for students in his native Ghana who would otherwise have no access to quality education. In the 10 years since he founded the academy, it has grown and become extremely successful, as measured by national exam scores.

Currently the school has a very limited science program. A small observatory that can be used to view the night sky and lab exercises to help students explore the scientific nature of what they are seeing will form a good introduction to western science. F&M already has a program in which F&M students visit the academy each year, so the ties between F&M and Heritage exist.

More information about the academy can be found at

What is the significance of this project?

These students are extremely poor and need all the help they can get. This is probably their one chance to get any western style science education before graduating the academy. The proposed project is an initial effort to introduce science to the academy in a sustainable form and assess the value of such a program in terms of its impact on student motivation and learning.

Sure, you could donate to a regular old science project, and you could help humanity that way. But why not donate to a project that might develop new, young scientists and can help individual humans?

"You never know where the next genius will come from...How many of them do we leave in the rubble?" - Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

What are the goals of the project?

The project goals are:

1. Travel to the Heritage Academy with the annual F&M student group over winter break

2. Build the telescope pier on the campus out of concrete, with custom iron mount to bolt the telescope onto the pier

3. Install and test the small telescope, including testing power options and building a solar-powered battery charger for those times when AC power is unavailable

4. Provide and explain the astronomy lab exercises (developed prior to the trip) and the instruction materials for the Heritage teachers to use after we depart

5. We will evaluate the success of this project after we depart by monitoring how the Heritage teachers use the materials and the observatory, and by determining what impact the first-hand astronomical observations and lab exercises have on the students.


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The budget is for supplies and for travel.

The supplies are to construct the observatory, with a concrete pier (for mounting the telescope during observations), the telescope itself (Meade 8-inch LX200 with GPS), auxiliary telescope equipment (power supply and telescope eyepieces), and a battery power backup system which is chargeable by solar panels. Supplies for various lab exercises (including lab manuals and star charts) are also included here.

The travel cost is for two faculty members to travel to Heritage as part of the F&M alternative Ghana winter break program to install the equipment and train the teachers to use the equipment and use the lab exercises. F&M undergraduate students will help with all this for free (i.e., as part of their work on the trip).

Why two faculty members? Each of us has different expertise with the various equipment and pedagogy, and we have worked together well in the past doing team teaching at F&M.

If you donate $12000
We will offer you naming rights for the observatory! (see Lab Notes).

Meet the Team

Fronefield Crawford
Fronefield Crawford

Team Bio

Froney Crawford teaches physics and astronomy at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum as well as an energy and environment course for the non-scientist. His research interests are mainly in the field of radio pulsars, and he has conducted modeling work on visible/infrared remote sensing systems (while employed at Lockheed Martin Corporation). He has worked with undergraduate students on a variety of research projects and has observed with student colleagues at various telescope facilities. He has served both as an independent technical consultant for Raytheon Corporation and as a strategy consultant for an investment firm specializing in quantitative market-neutral strategies. He was named the Most Influential Professor in the Natural Sciences by the F&M Class of 2009. He has served as a textbook reviewer and as a reviewer for astronomy and physics journals. He also enjoys raising poultry and is a member of the Chester County Beekeepers Association.

Press and Media

Here is a bit more about the Heritage Academy and its connection with F&M:

A description of the Ghana alternative winter break program at F&M (our telescope project will be part of this trip):

"Heritage: Breaking the Cycle" (Invited F&M Common Hour talk by Heritage Academy Founder Kwesi Koomson, F&M '97) -- WATCH THIS TALK!:

The Heritage Academy travel blog:

More information about the academy can be found at

Additional Information

Here are some photos related to this project:

Students gathered in front of the Heritage Academy.

A young Heritage student with a big smile at the blackboard.

Smiles from young women receiving their diplomas.

F&M student testing a Meade 8-inch LX200 GPS model telescope (the same model we plan to install at the Heritage Academy). This model is GPS controlled, making is simple for the Heritage instructors to set up and use.

Young Heritage students receiving certificates. Yay!

Project Backers

  • 6Backers
  • 2%Funded
  • $150Total Donations
  • $25.00Average Donation
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