Campus news

Media Advisory: Astronomy meets gastronomy for local Girl Scouts

By Media Relations

Contact: Robert Sanders
(510) 643-6998

ATTENTION: K-12 education reporters, regional editors, assignment desks


Oakland Girl Scouts who are part of an after school astronomy and game development program will get lessons next week from East Bay chef Robin Low on how to make healthful, tasty and astronomically correct dishes at a summer institute program in Marin County. The 20 middle school and high school girls are involved with the Universe Quest program, which is headed by the University of California, Berkeleys Space Sciences Laboratory and the Girl Scouts of Northern California.

Universe Quest, funded by a $1.5 million development grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), aims to teach astronomy and information technology through development of online immersive astronomy games.


3:30 6 p.m. Thursday, July 1


Camp Bothin, a Girl Scout camp 30 minutes north of San Francisco, near Fairfax. Call Jean Fahy (contact information below) for directions.


Robin Low, chef at Post Meridian restaurant in Kensington, Calif.
Carl Pennypacker, principle investigator for Universe Quest and an astrophysicist at UC Berkeleys Space Sciences Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Heather Vilhauer, program manager for the Girl Scouts of Northern California
Jean Fahy, program director for the Girl Scouts of Northern California


In 2009, Pennypacker teamed up with the Girl Scouts of Northern California and the ASA Community Science Center in Oakland to develop an afterschool curriculum that inspires sixth to tenth grade girls to build a personal connection with science and technology through use of astronomy and game development. The goal was both to empower the girls with skills they need to succeed in education and in life, and to increase the number of women entering technology careers.

With backing from the NSF, Universe Quest has moved beyond its pilot stage with a small number of Oakland Girl Scouts to two middle schools in Oakland serving 38 girls throughout the school year and an additional 5 to 10 during the summer. The girls in the program meet twice a week to discover and explore astronomy through hands-on and cyberlearning activities, connect with college students and professional role models, and generate projects that make a difference in their communities.

At the July 1 afternoon cookout, Low will teach the Girl Scouts how to make bchamel sauce and layer it with different kinds of pasta to illustrate how objects are stretched or spaghettified when they fall into a black hole. She will also help the girls assemble a fruit and whipped cream dessert illustrating the layers of a yellow dwarf star like the sun.

The cookout is part of a week-long summer institute for the girls that includes visits to NASA Ames Research Center and the Exploratorium, and an outing to share their astronomy games and Stellarium, a sky simulation program, with people at the Alameda County Fair. After Thursdays cookout, the Universe Quest girls will show camp staff how to use night sky and astronomy activities with their campers this summer.

For more about the Universe Quest program, link to

Sources: Media interested in attending the July 1 cookout and star party or other summer camp events should contact Carl Pennypacker at (510) 486-7429 (work), (510) 708-9700 (cell) or, or Jean Fahy of the Girl Scouts of Northern California, at (510) 562-8470 x246 (work) or (510) 813-9187 (cell).