Inside a Sonoma Valley High School senior project: Lizza Moore

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Sonoma Valley High School student Lizza Moore is building a radio telescope for her senior project. Her passion for the project, she says, was largely inspired by her physics teacher, Dean Knight.

“Mr. Knight has been my favorite teacher since freshman year,” said Moore. “His love for the topic of physics is incomparable. He would get so happy when we got our transmitters to work. I have not seen any other teacher show that sort of excitement for something they are doing in class.”

Moore began her freshman year at Justin-Siena High School in Napa where all freshman take physics. When she decided to transfer to Sonoma Valley High, her new physics class was all upperclassmen, as SVHS freshmen typically take biology.

In that class her freshman year, Moore and her classmates built a transmitter which was her first introduction to wiring and picking up signals. Sophomore year, she chose to participate in the high school’s engineering, design and technology academy, where she says she found herself enjoying the process of building, then watching, transmitters picking up and broadcasting sound.

As she began thinking about her senior year, she asked Knight for senior project ideas and he suggested that she build a radio telescope. The device is an instrument used to detect radio emissions from the sky, whether from natural celestial objects or from artificial satellites.

“I was intrigued not only at the electronics but also that I would get to observe the sun with a device I built myself,” said Moore.

She is currently in the process of building one FM transmitter and one audio generator. She will need two of each for the telescope.

“You would be surprised that household items like paper clips, twist ties and cardboard, combined with some little resistors and wires can create a device that finds and broadcasts signals from the sun,” she said.

She is also hard at work on her research paper, which focuses on how unprepared the population is for a solar flare to hit Earth.

“A coronal mass ejection or solar flare holds the ability to knock out power grids and leave us months without power,” she said. “While they are not common, if they happen, we don’t have back-up power grids.” Her essay centers on how little the public knows about this problem.

Moore is an unabashed fan of Dean Knight.

“Though he’s strict with rules, he makes me laugh and smile,” she said. “He’s inspired me to see the exciting part of physics and figuring out how the world works. He’s probably one of my biggest inspirations, I want to be able to find a job that makes me as happy as I see he is.”

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