Since its launch nearly 12 years ago, Explore Scientific has been on a mission to advocate for science, make exploration accessible and inspire curiosity.
“From the beginning, we’ve always sought opportunities to roll up our sleeves and get involved in outdoor and scientific outreach,” said Explore Scientific founder and president Scott Roberts. “With our gear and our team, we want to help people explore and discover in any way we can — whether that involves giving someone their first real look at the Moon during an impromptu sidewalk astronomy session or traveling thousands of miles to a remote observatory in Chile to help the Exploratorium and NASA bring the beauty of a total solar eclipse to millions of viewers around the globe.”
Roberts established Explore Scientific’s commitment to outreach on day one when he announced the formation of the company during the Astronomical League Conference in July 2008 and immediately volunteered to underwrite the organization’s National Young Astronomer and Leslie C. Peltier awards.
“I actually announced the formation of the company earlier than planned because I wanted to establish our support of these venerable programs,” Roberts said. “Programs to recognize astronomical achievement by young people and for lifetime contributions in astronomy fit perfectly with the mission of Explore Scientific. So although the announcement was premature, it was important to let the amateur astronomy community know that we will always be committed to supporting the causes and recognition programs that are important to them.”
Explore Scientific’s outreach efforts have taken off since that announcement. In addition to crisscrossing the nation to participate in countless star parties and conferences over the last decade, the company has donated gear to organizations of all sizes including providing telescopes and microscopes to each public school in its home district of Springdale, Ark. The team has organized and hosted astronomy and STEM events including the inaugural Starlight Festival — a free two-day celebration of science and astronomy that brought thousands of people together in Big Bear Lake, Calif., over Memorial Day weekend in 2014 to stargaze and interact with world-renowned scientists and space explorers. Explore Scientific has also served in a supporting capacity for the Exploratorium’s epic eclipse missions and participated in national celebrations such as last summer’s Splashdown 50 event at the USS Hornet celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Clearly Explore Scientific has always been involved in outreach, but recently the company has made a move to formalize its efforts under the umbrella of a new program — Explore Alliance.
“The Explore Alliance is an evolution of our long-standing commitment to education and outreach,” Roberts said. “We feel it is our responsibility to give support to the community that supports us, and this program has given us a new way to engage with those that drive everything we do. Through it we can foster relationships between people and the experts that can guide them on their own quests to understand the universe.”
The Explore Alliance is a program with multiple components that combine to create a community that encourages and supports individuals in their efforts to learn, discover and explore.
Recently as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world, the star parties, conferences, local society meetings and small brick-and-mortar shops that sustain the amateur astronomy community were cancelled or shuttered. To fill the void, Explore Scientific called upon the resources of the Explore Alliance to amp up our virtual outreach efforts and help people find solace and adventure in the open night sky.
The first step in doing this was to utilize the program’s ever-growing list of ambassadors to produce engaging online content that brings people together to discover and explore without leaving home.
This fits with the overall goal of the Explore Alliance ambassador network to connect people with experts and educators from around the globe to fuel scientific curiosity. These ambassadors represent a wide range of disciplines including astronomy, astrophotography, meteorology, ornithology and more.
“The ambassadors of the Explore Alliance are individuals who are enabling the general public to gain a deeper level of scientific literacy,” Roberts said. “In addition to being available for lectures and outreach, these ambassadors are there to answer your questions about their fields of exploration and expertise.”
Each ambassador has an individual page on the Explore Scientific website with details about their background and work as well as a contact link.
To solidify the company’s role as a conduit between these experts and the public, Explore Scientific produces a steady stream of free educational talks and demonstrations using the Facebook Live platform. Many of these presentations are then archived on the individual ambassador’s pages or Explore Scientific’s YouTube channel.
Once communities can safely reopen, the Explore Alliance program’s Experiences component will be back in full swing with planning sponsored events that include family STEM festivals, hands-on astronomy at historic observatories, star parties and more.
Through these events and experiences, the Explore Alliance already has been able to give people access to places — such as the Yerkes and Mount Wilson observatories built by astronomy legend George Ellery Hale around the turn of the 20th century — and explorers — such as comet hunter David H. Levy and Cassini project scientist Dr. Linda Spilker — that have been at the heart of ground-breaking discoveries for decades.
“These full immersion adventures are unique opportunities for exploration and education involving experts in the field, epic spaces and superior observing equipment,” Roberts said. “We hold these events in settings that inspire us and in venues that allow attendees to actually ask direct questions to those in the know.”
Rounding out the Explore Alliance is its membership component, which is designed to help further the company’s education initiatives while also providing tangible benefits to Explore Scientific customers.
“Each piece of gear shipped by Explore Scientific has the potential to help someone form a meaningful connection to the world around or the cosmos above, but unleashing that potential can take some extra guidance and care,” Roberts said. “Membership in the Explore Alliance encourages people to stay active in their explorations and provides new levels of protection for the equipment on which they rely.”
The membership program has three tiers. The top two tiers — Standard and Platinum — require annual dues. However, new members receive an Explore Scientific gift card equal in sum to their membership cost once enrolled. Members can then look forward to an annual appreciation gift of like value each renewal year thereafter.
Both the Standard and Platinum tiers offer extended care coverage that protects all of a member’s Explore Scientific products against defects as long as they remain an active member. At the Platinum level, this extended coverage has a no-fault component that protects against accidental damages as well. Platinum members are also eligible for advanced replacement service and free maintenance on select gear.
All levels of membership include special contests and prizes, VIP access to certain events and sneak peeks of new products.
To learn more about all aspects of the Explore Alliance, click here.