SDSS Plates for Education

Here at SDSS we’re working on a new educational initiative, where teachers and informal educators will be able to take back to their classroom their very own piece of SDSS history – an actual SDSS plate which was used to map a small patch of the night sky.

We have been developing a “Plate packet” to distribute to teachers and educators. This packet contains an SDSS plate, along with a custom made poster showing the SDSS image of the region of sky the plate was designed for, as well as some selected educational materials, and links to specially designed activities on SDSS Voyages.

Certificate handed out with each plate.

Certificate handed out with each plate.

On Saturday 30th May 2015, SDSS Members from the University of Washington handed out the first plates to a group of  teachers representing high schools from around the western Washington, USA. These teachers spent the day at the in Seattle discussing ideas for using the plates in their classrooms, as well as getting a tour of the machine shop, where all the SDSS plates are manufactured.

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“Hard at Work”: SDSS Member Oliver Fraser (pink shirt) shows some educators how to find the data from their plates and use it for classroom investigations. A plate poster can be seen on the board in back. Credit: Danielle Skinner

Photo May 30, 2 41 54 PM

“Yay Plates!”: some happy educators (and SDSS Member, Danielle Skinner in black) excited to be taking their very own SDSS plates back to their schools. Credit: Oliver Fraser.

The University of Washington is already planning more such workshops, and we look forward to expanding this program to other SDSS Member Institutions.


If you’re a teacher or educator reading this and interested to know how you can get your own SDSS plate, please contact the outreach representative at your nearest SDSS Institution, or email outreach ‘at’ sdss.org for assistance doing that. SDSS members interested in getting involved in this programme should join the EPO mailing list (details on the password protected collaboration wiki). 

Job Posting: University of Washington Machine Shop Manager

The University of Washington Physics Instrument Shop is looking for a new shop manager.  This is the machine shop which builds the SDSS plug plates, fiber systems, and a number of our other instrumentation and telescope equipment for SDSS, APO 3.5 m, and soon LCO. This shop is a key part of SDSS operations.

Position Description

The Instrument Shop Manager is responsible for the daily operations of a 5 FTE research and development machine shop with an $850,000 annual budget.  The Instrument Shop provides clients (primarily scientists) with both one-of-a-kind and production instruments.  The manager is solely responsible for assessing each client’s request, estimating the amount of time and effort to complete the job, assigning the job to the staff persons whose abilities and experience best fit the request and scheduling the job.  The Manager is the line supervisor for 5 FTE – selecting, hiring, evaluating and disciplining employees as necessary.   The Manager ensures that the proper tooling and materials are on hand for each job, that machines are maintained and repaired and that the workplace is safe. The Manager works closely with faculty, staff and students on their research projects.  Many experiments involve instruments that are not available ‘off the shelf’ and are custom designed for each particular experiment or project.  Faculty, staff and students depend upon the Manager to review their ideas and ensure that the devices are buildable and suggest modifications that may result in a better instrument or make it easier to produce.

Link to the job posting. 

You can get an idea of what goes on in this shop in this video of SDSS plate production