The SETI Institute's Education and Public Outreach (EPO) programs share the excitement of searching for life in the universe with people of all ages. Many folk are curious about our place in the universe: are we alone in the vast ocean of stars and galaxies?
Curiosity motivates both exploration and learning in schools, science centers, colleges and universities. In a less formal venue, several million people per year tap into the Institute's website and podcast radio show for cutting edge science, technology and opinion. Others learn about our astrobiology and SETI research through print and broadcast media via our SETI Thursday column, popular articles, and science-based television.
We're in classrooms across the nation. Institute scientists are co-authors of college-level textbooks: Life in the Universe, a national best-seller for introductory astrobiology, and Perspectives on Astronomy, a widely adopted text for introductory astronomy. The Institute offers curriculum and teacher professional development programs. Today, Voyages Through Time, our high school science curriculum, is taught in more than 400 schools around the nation, and is supported by a network of more than 90 teacher-mentors trained in our Astrobiology Summer Science Experience for Teachers (ASSET) program. Evolution is the core theme of Voyages Through Time; it provides the tools and strategies for science teachers to effectively manage social controversy, while teaching about evolution. Between summer institutes, speakers, workshops, short courses and exhibits at science and education conferences, we provide professional development for several hundred educators each year.
We also foster future scientists. Our Astrobiology Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program brings talented young women and men from across the nation to the Institute for an intensive 10-week summer research experience; each is mentored by an Institute scientist. REU is supported by the NSF, NASA and private donors.
We succeed through partnerships. For NASA, we co-direct the EPO programs for Kepler, a Discovery Mission, and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA. In April, 2007, SOFIA took to the air for its first test flight as an observatory! We look forward to training and pairing educators with scientists on board SOFIA for research missions. Scheduled for launch in 2008, Kepler will seek evidence of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of distant stars. Soon, we'll know whether our world is rare or common.
The SETI Institute continues its work as a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), a virtual institute of 16 US research organizations and universities, and 5 international partners. With the NAI, we train teachers, support public science talks, and contribute to the design of science museum exhibits, often in partnership with other NAI teams. Beyond our funding from NASA, NSF, Educate America, and private donors, our EPO programs benefit greatly from partnerships with other outstanding EPO groups: Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Universities Space Research Association, the 15 fellow members of NAI, and the professional organizations for scientists and teachers. Our scientists reach the public nationally.
More than 90 scientists work at the SETI Institute; many present public talks on all aspects of astrobiology (including SETI) that reach hundreds of audiences each year. Looking for life beyond Earth is the fundamental human question that motivates us to reach out and educate people about our research work. It's motivating, exciting, and fun!