TechnologyObserving FacilitiesEducation and OutreachAbout Haystack

Research Experiences for Teachers

MIT Haystack Observatory will host two local high school science teachers for 7–8 weeks in summer 2018, to be paid under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. Located 40 miles northwest of Boston, MIT Haystack is a research center engaged in atmospheric science, radio astronomy, geodesy, computer science, and engineering.

Teachers will work with staff scientists on a project using observational instruments and will receive hands-on experience. The goal of the program is for STEM teachers to develop a series of inquiry-based introductory lesson plans for a particular high school level.


Mentors: John Swoboda and Mark Derome

The digital revolution has made it possible to produce remote sensing devices cheaply and quickly using single-board computers and commodity parts. The availability of inexpensive small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs), also known as drones, has opened up the skies to allow sensors to be deployed wherever needed. Drone technology is readily available today and offers an easily accessible way to provide experience very relevant to today’s all-important STEM job opportunities.

The goal of this RET project is to produce materials that will give students experience in designing and building instruments that will bring practical experience to the equations that they see in the classroom. Over the summer, Haystack Observatory staff will also host an undergraduate student to create an open-source drone platform for software radio applications at the state-of-the-art Haystack sUAS facility in Westford. The RET teachers will work with the team on a combination of contributing to the technical development of the system and creating classroom materials to integrate technology into their curriculum.

Interest in drones, computer programming, software-defined radio, or single-board computers such as a Raspberry Pi, along with motivation to incorporate one of those components into a high school class, is highly desirable.



We plan to host two high school science teachers for seven to eight weeks during the Summer of 2018 who will work at the research facilities of the MIT Haystack Observatory. Studying with MIT scientists at Haystack Observatory, the teachers will acquire sufficient background information to develop lesson plans at the requisite grade level for students in the classroom. The teachers will interact with staff and students, and learn about special research projects as they attend the summer seminar series and activities planned for students and teachers. As they begin their project, scientists will guide them in their studies of the subject.

The goal of the program is for the teachers to develop introductory lesson plans for a particular K-12 level based on their summer research internships. These plans can then be followed by other teachers interested in using these units or by students pursuing independent study. The lesson plans will be placed on the Haystack Web site and will be linked to a rich base of other research and educational materials located there. Links will also be provided to other sites associated with Haystack's research disciplines and to educational materials relevant to the effort. This will simplify access to the materials by all teachers and students in the future. Haystack will encourage all interested teachers to take advantage of these materials and to apply them to their class activities prior to visits or interactions with our group.

During the summer, stipends of $1,000.00 per week will be paid to the participating teachers. Scheduling of time is somewhat flexible, but requires a joint starting date. While the project is in progress teachers will have the use of working space equipped with a personal computer connected to our network. Opportunities are also available for the participants to report on their projects at selected professional meetings. Participation in this program requires a commitment from each teacher to integrate some part of this experience into his or her classroom activities. Participants are usually invited to return to Haystack for two to four weeks the following summer to refine their materials.

A meeting will be held at Haystack Observatory on Thursday, March 22, 2018, at 4:00 PM to provide more information and answer any questions related to this program. Attendance is encouraged but not required for participation in this program. Directions to the Observatory can be found on the Haystack Web site. In the event of severe weather, please check this page to learn whether the meeting has been postponed. Questions about the program can be e-mailed to

Application deadline is April 9, 2018. All applications must include the following items:

Application should be submitted via email at:

The decision on teacher selection is expected to be made in mid April.


The results will be a series of inquiry-based lesson plans to be used as an introduction to the research discipline described above not only by the participating teacher but also by other teachers. These lesson plans will also be made available through the Web to all teachers as part of our expanding education program. Teachers are also encouraged to present the results of their experiences at professional forums such as the AAS, AAPT, NSTA or AGU meetings.


The primary staff mentors and coordinators of the RET program at Haystack Observatory include the following key personnel. Summaries of their vitae with emphasis on their educational experience and interests are outlined briefly.

John Swoboda, PhD., 2017, Boston University. Geospace Research Scientist, specializing in developing sensors and data analysis techniques for monitoring the near earth space environment and atmosphere.

Mark Derome, sUAS Specialist, FAA licensed remote pilot, principle duties include fabricating and testing of small unmanned aerial systems.