with John Dobson 1998, part 1: Hawaiian Kids and Scopes
John Dobson and I arrived at Keahole Internatinal Airport on the Big
Island of Hawaii on December 13 to participate in a Telescopes for Kids project, offered up Aloha style by members of the
Mauna Kea Astronomical Society. This project was the brainchild of a local amateur astronomer, Lutz Hoffman. He approached
a resident rich guy on the island about funding a program whereby 50 kids would be given the opportunity to make their own
mirror, and build their own Dobsonian inspired mount using materials available on this remote island. Earl Bakken, inventor
of the pacemaker lives on an exclusive cove north of Kona, and was the angel who sponsored this program. His only neighbor
on the remote cove is Paul Mitchell, another rich guy who makes shampoo. Mr Bakken was presented with a proposa l(which included
many pictures of lots of kids making telescopes from some of my Project Astro activities) and a few months ago he offered
to fund the program. I set about immediately pricing optics – that’s the part I was responsible for.Newport Glass
offered pre-generated F8 6 inch pyrex mirror blanks and glass tools at an incredible price. They generated the curve for free
(normally this part costs $10 per tool and $10 per pyrex blank. That alone saved us $1,000. Around Thanksgiving 50 mirrors,
tools, assorted abrasives and medium burgundy pitch were airborne on their way to the flank of Hualalei Volcano, the site
of our workshop and guest residence, and the most underrated volcano, and yet the most likely to blow, on the big island.
Ed Erbeck located “1 pointsomething” inch secondaries for me. Ed Falk – another TACo who made a truss style10
incher in our Sidewalk Astronomers fall telescope-making class at the CalAcademy of Sciences sliced one inch dowels at a 45
degree angle to hold the little secondaries. 50 of them. All were airborne to Hawaii in late November. Shortly after that
John and I were airborne ourselves. We arrived as the mirror grinding session was underway. A one-day session was led by
ATM Paul Sears from South Point. Some of you may know Paul from his active involvement in Meteor Group Hawaii. The Kona
Imin Cultural Center in the farming village Holualoa was magically transformed into a telescope making workshop. A dozen
tables were spread with newspapers, 6 inch pyrex blanks with matching tools, which were taking on smoother and smoother curves.
Three to four kids at a table were working their way thru finer and finer grits. It was quite organized for so many kids.
All tables kept at the same grit, the nall was cleaned up, and the kids changed shirts, and started with the next grade of
grit. Since the curves were pre-generated, the rough grinding was dispensed with, and the kids worked their way through 220,
320, 500 and 12M abrasives. From 9 a.m. to 3p.m. they pushed glass – 40 kids big and small, mostly middle and high schoolers.
Some from private schools. Some home-schoolers, most public school kids. They were selected for this project by their teachers,
and their own initiative. The kids who would most likely benefit from the telescope making were selected. They had to do
the work to qualify for the program themselves, so those with most initiative were chosen. At least a third of them were girls!
And a few of their teachers made mirrors too! At 3 PM all mirrors and tools were packed up and went home with their student.
Kids and telescope would reconvene one week later for pitch lap day. Now it was my turn to do some stargazing and sightseeing.
Next Scopes for Kids Day was a week away. That week’s adventures will be continued in Hawaii, Part Two: Dumpster Diving