observatoryThe Trottier Observatory and Courtyard to be built on the Burnaby campus just east of the Academic Quadrangle.

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The Sky’s the limit: SFU announces Trottier Observatory and studio

January 09, 2014
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Simon Fraser University has unveiled plans for a $4.4 million observatory on its Burnaby campus dedicated to engaging children and youth in science.

The Trottier Observatory and Courtyard and the newly opened Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education have been established through the vision and financial support of the Trottier Foundation, headed by Lorne and Louise Trottier.

Together the facilities will offer a wealth of hands-on science activities and provide a permanent site for outreach programs that already attract 5,000 children, youth and other visitors to the campus annually.

“These facilities will help SFU realize its goal to be Canada’s most community-engaged research university,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. “Thanks to the Trottier Foundation, the University will be well equipped to offer thousands of young people across the country opportunities to learn about and participate in the study of science.”

Dean of Science Claire Cupples adds: “Our faculty has a long and proud tradition of bringing exciting science to children, families and schools. Now we can do so much more. The sky is, quite literally, the limit.”

The Trottier Observatory

The observatory, to be completed by August 2014, will be located at the east end of campus near Strand Hall. It will feature a six-meter-diameter dome housing a 0.7-metre diameter reflector telescope that is capable of tracking distant galaxies billions of years old.

The telescope will also provide a digital feed and can be remotely accessed and deployed by community groups and schools across Canada.

A viewing plaza will offer sundials and space for people to set up their own telescopes next to the dome.

SFU’s physics department plans to offer undergraduate astronomy courses as well.

“When people look through our telescopes I want them to feel the mystery and the excitement of the universe,” says SFU physics professor Howard Trottier, founder of SFU’s Starry Nights star-gazing program, which has attracted thousands of star buffs of all ages since its inception in 2007.

The Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education

Meanwhile the studio’s first visitors—a class of nearby Highland elementary school students—helped to open the facility, located in the chemistry wing of the Shrum Science Building.

The studio’s flexible space can engage up to 70 children in hands-on science workshops. The space includes an independent lab with a fume hood, a food preparation room, and a state-of-the-art audio-visual system that includes cameras, a 3D projector and two large videoconferencing screens.

Instructors can now conduct workshops with classrooms across Canada and beyond.

Lorne and Howard TrottierLorne and Howard Trottier

The Trottier Family

Lorne Trottier’s passion for science and technology began at age 11 when he built his first crystal radio. Curiosity over how it worked quickly morphed into an insatiable desire to learn more about the findings of modern science, including those related to the solar system and how the universe works.

His passion led him to become an electronics engineer and to cofound Matrox, a company that made specialized computer graphics and video products.

That passion for science and astronomy was passed on to brother Howard, who looked up to Lorne as both brother and mentor. Besides becoming an SFU physics professor he spends his time as both an amateur astronomer and award-winning astro-photographer.

The brothers are among four siblings whose parents were determined to given them a university education, something neither parent had the luxury to pursue. Brother Elliot is an actuary while brother Marc is a retired child-care worker.

Howard’s 20-year-old son Alexandre is carrying on the family tradition.

“He has blossomed into an unabashed geek about computer and internet technology, and is driven in his technical studies in a way that reminds me of his uncle Lorne when he was studying electronics engineering at a similar age,” says his father.

Through the Trottier Foundation the brothers hope to grow their science outreach, among young people in particular, to help others develop and pursue a passion for the field.

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