Raven Baxter, '14, '16, is known as Dr. Raven the Science Maven.

Students Receiving 100 Telescopes Thanks to Buffalo State Alumna Raven Baxter


One hundred high-tech telescopes will soon be provided to middle and high school students, including more than 30 for Western New York students, as part of an initiative from the Science Haven, an organization created by Buffalo State alumna Raven Baxter, ’14, ’17. The 100 telescopes will be distributed between Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.    

Local students will arrive at Buffalo State University on a red carpet and be presented with the telescopes at the Science and Mathematics Complex before receiving training from the Buffalo Astronomical Association and learning about the night sky at the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium. The event, which begins at 6:00 p.m. Monday, February 19, will conclude with students using the telescopes outside for the first time at nightfall.

“A lot of people who are scientists, engineers, creatives—their journeys began with a telescope,” said Baxter, who is known as Dr. Raven the Science Maven. “You realize we’re all small in this big universe, so why not go for it? I had a telescope when I was a kid; I wound up being a biologist. So many things happen when you give a child a telescope.”

As part of the application process, area students in grades 5 through 12 wrote essays about their interest in astronomy.

“One child wrote that he wanted to be an engineer, but he didn’t think he could achieve that,” said Baxter, executive director of the Science Haven. “It’s not OK for that to happen; we need to do better. That’s why it’s really great to partner with Buffalo State on this. Universities like this have the resources and can provide inspiration; we’re hoping this can change at least one child’s life.”

The program, part of the Science Haven’s Stellar Dreams initiative, extends beyond the initial evening. There will be weekly challenges for students—for example, getting a photo of Saturn’s rings with the high-tech telescope—and collaboration in a Google Classroom setting. Virtual and in-person speakers, from groups like NASA and Boeing, will address the students in future weeks. The goal is to cultivate students’ interest in astronomy and science as a whole.

“As soon as Dr. Baxter reached out to ask if we were interested in partnering on the Stellar Dreams initiative here in Buffalo, I said yes!” said Kevin Williams, associate professor of geosciences and director of the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium. “It is great to work with an alumna who has such a passion for bringing astronomy to students from underrepresented backgrounds in science. I look forward to these students making a connection to the planetarium and to Buffalo State, and I’d love to see all of them as our students in the future!”