The Total Eclipse Was a Computer Science Moment

The Total Eclipse Was a Computer Science Moment
Last Updated: September 5, 2017 12:13 pm

The Eclipse Was a Computer Science Moment

David Lockett is a STEM teacher at Bok Academy in Lake Wales, Florida. He is responsible for implementing a project based curriculum for all students as they rotate through the STEM Lab. Mr. Lockett has a distinguished and diverse background in the fields of Astronomy, Biotechnology, and Engineering, and he is an advocate and practitioner of STEM accessibility for all students. STEM classes recently erected the Bok Small Radio Telescope in cooperation with Tampi MOSI. Radio astronomy is the science of researching astronomical bodies – such as stars, galaxies, and planets – using radio frequencies. You can reach him on Twitter @DavidJLockett. 

The eclipse may be over, but the learning has just begun. Many students kicked off their school year celebrating the total solar eclipse this year. On Monday, Aug. 21, twelve states in the path of totality experienced a total solar eclipse. I’m pictured here with Joe Elmore from Tennessee Crossroads. On eclipse day, we broadcasted live from the Adventure Science Center rooftop in Nashville, TN. We intersected live with millions of people across the country to observe this natural phenomenon. I helped by adding context about how an eclipse occurs, how to safely view the sun during one, and what can happen during an eclipse. 



The recent eclipse was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. Astronomers and educators alike used terms like magnitude and obscuration to describe the Sun’s diameter as the Moon covered during maximum eclipse. New online tools gave eager students a preview of what to expect. 3D simulations, NASA’s Eyes in particular, provided information about what is currently known about the sun and used models to produce interactive simulations. Not only is coding an important part of astronomy, astronomy is coding. I find it quite exciting to see students’ first impressions of what astronomy is really all about. 


Real world experiences are the best learning experiences. A variety of safe viewingstations including eclipse glasses, pin hole projects, and interactive Tynker models of the Solar System were available for experiential learning.  Incorporating the eclipse with block coding, sequence steps, and loops provided great tutorials about how coding and space are intertwined. Students wrote over 60 lines of code to make interactive eclipse animations. QR codes included interactive writing activities, scavenger hunts, and learning Greek and Latin roots of the eclipse. But the learning doesn’t end with the conclusion of the solar eclipse. Students should share important findings, build on the knowledge we’ve gained, and carry out experiments.  

We need to foster a love for astronomy, and events like this are what sparks imagination – authentic, hands-on experiences. 






Follow and connect with Mr. Lockett here. @DavidJLockett 


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