Here is guest post by Gopolang Mohlabeng about the NASSP Summer School which is organized every year at SAAO for the incoming NASSP honours students. For many of the students, the NASSP program is their first exposure to astronomy. As they progress in their studies, many of the students will end up using SALT, and like a number of previous NASSP students, some of them will end up making key contributions to the development of SALT.
The National Astrophysics and Space Science Program summer school is a 4 week program that is aimed at the new Honours students. Most of the students who get accepted into NASSP honours have backgrounds in Physics, Mathematics or Engineering and no Astronomy. The summer school introduces these students to Astronomy through Introductory lectures, fun activities that are related to Astronomy and Space Science and excursions to national facilities.
The 2011 Summer School started on the 17th February 2011, there were 19 honours students. The first three weeks were hosted at the South African Astronomical observatory in Cape Town and a typical day at the SAAO consisted of the following: in the morning a lecture on introductory Astronomy by Dr Petri Vaisanen for two hours, there would then be tea and after tea there would be an invited speaker to address the students about his or her field of research. After the talk from the invited speaker, there would be lunch, after that there would be a talk from another invited speaker and then there would be an activity or an excursion. After this there would be dinner. The day would then end with a short activity. The excursions included: A trip to iThemba Laboratory for accelerator based science. A trip to the KAT(Karoo Array Telescope) offices in Pinelands, Cape Town. A trip to the Iziko Planetarium. The students also spent a week at the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory learning about Space physics and all its applications. After the week at the HMO, they spent a few days at the SAAO in Sutherland, where they took a tour of the Southern African Large Telescope and the other smaller telescopes. The last week was spent at the University of Cape Town where they were given an orientation and given an introduction on Latex and on the UNIX system.
The NASSP summer school is organized and coordinated by different people every year, preferably students who were honours the previous year. For 2011 it was organized and coordinated by Gopolang Mohlabeng and Rocco Coppejans.