Welcome to the SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program

The SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program logo. Blue dome with constellations inside, these include Orion, Cassiopeia, and the Little Dipper. In the middle of the dome the letter Z is shown with an arrow pointing up to the SciAccess star.

The SciAccess Zenith Mentorship Program is a fully virtual program that engages blind and low vision (BLV) students in astronomy and space science by pairing them with student mentors at the Ohio State University. Created in 2020 in partnership with Ohio State and the Ohio State School for the Blind, Zenith is open to BLV students in grades 8 through 12 from around the world and provides them with an entry point into the fascinating world of astronomy and research.

Paired one-on-one with undergraduate and graduate students in science and math fields, students grow academically as they attend weekly lectures from astronomers at Ohio State and beyond, engage in discussion with the full program cohort, and participate in real astronomy research with their mentors. Students also grow their professional and social networks by connecting with established members in the field of astronomy and meeting peers with similar experiences and interests.

Zenith was formed to make astronomy accessible for all students. To do this, the hallmark activity of the program involves the students in Transient Zoo, a citizen science project that uses sonified data to identify light curves from supernovae. Instead of looking at graphs of a supernova’s varying brightness, students listen to audio versions of the data to determine which kind of supernova each dataset is from. Students also learn tactilely about the universe through 3-D models printed by our partners at See3D, who print and distribute 3-D models for people who are blind or have low vision. Some of the models used include a constellation dome, a black hole, and the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Zenith is dedicated to supporting SciAccess’ mission to inspire, develop, and promote innovative approaches to equitable science access. Accessible STEM initiatives, like Zenith, invite people from all backgrounds to join in the process of discovery, benefitting not only underserved learners but science as a whole by welcoming new minds and perspectives into the field.