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December Spotlight on Service – Andrew, Grade 11

For the December Spotlight on Service, we feature the work of Andrew (Grade 11) on Zooniverse, an online platform that allows individuals to participate in research through “online citizen science projects.” Here, Andrew tells us about his contributions to the creation of historical archives for the Every Name Counts project and to the classification of galaxies for the Galaxy Zoo initiative.

What is the mission of the “Every Name Counts Project” on Zooniverse?

The mission of Every Name Counts is to create a digital memorial to the victims of Nazi concentration camps, forced laborers under the Hitler regime, and displaced persons. The memorial will serve as a way to remember those who have passed as well as help to provide closure for the people who knew them.

What kind of work do you carry out online for “Every Name Counts?”

I digitise photos, as computers cannot register what is written. I look through photos and pick out the information that the researchers want and type it into the boxes provided. The contents of the photos are prisoner registration documents from WWII, and I go through the boxes that Zooniverse provides, typing in the information found on the registration document. The objective of this project is to create a digital archive and memorial for those who knew people that went into the camps but never knew if they made it out. 

You are also involved in classifying photographs of galaxies on Galaxy Zoo.  Can you tell us more about this project?

Galaxy Zoo deals with photographs from space. It shows you a single image of a galaxy and lists a bunch of buttons that you can click on, depending on what features you see in the galaxy. Its aim is to help researchers understand how galaxies are formed based on their distinctive features, which include shape, whether there are spots, if the galaxies seem to overlap with other galaxies, colors, swirls, and more. This project is perfect for those who are interested in understanding space.

How did you first learn about these online service opportunities, and what led you to participate in each?

I discovered Zooniverse through my Duke of Edinburgh award. They recommended it as a reliable service opportunity, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic going on. I then had to choose a research option, and I decided to start with Every Name Counts as it is a project that I felt was the most important to me. I then alternated between Every Name Counts and Galaxy Zoo as, even though Every Name Counts is an important topic to me, it is a very heavy subject and it is difficult when there is a date of death on the forms. 

What have you found most challenging and most rewarding about your service?

It is hard to stay on topic when you are online, so it is always tempting to watch YouTube or message your friends, but it is very rewarding as there are rooms that you can go into to chat with other volunteers and to hear and understand their reasons for doing the project. Zooniverse is completely free and you can work on as many projects as you like. The setup is also really easy to do, and each person can find a project that interests them.