What is an, "Astrolabe," might be your first question.
The astrolabe is a remarkable Medieval instrument designed to facilitate astronomical calculations. In that sense it is an analog computer, one that can solve a wide range of problems in trigonometry, Greek solar theory, astrology and problems involving time. It was probably developed in early Roman times and became extremely popular by the fourteenth century. I would hope that those who take the time to explore these pages will appreciate the ingenuity and mathematical skill involved in constructing such a complex and useful instrument.
Source: http://www.uwsp.edu/physastr/rislove/astrolabe/index.htm; Accessed February 10, 2010.
Visitors to the 2010 Winter Star Party (February8-13, Florida USA) who were lucky enough to hear Mark Friedman speak on the Astrolabe and attend a workshop he and his wife presented learned about astrolabes and each had the opportunity to build and use one. Your students might like to construct one, too. The Friedmans have referred listeners to:
http://www.uwsp.edu/physastr/rislove/astrolabe/index.htm with the following links:
The astrolabe can easily link science to other areas such as literature, religion, mathematics including trigonometry. For example, "The oldest surviving English-language treatise on the astrolabe was written by none other than Canterbury Tales author Geoffrey Chaucer," Source, http://www.uwsp.edu/physastr/rislove/astrolabe/index.htm; Accessed February 10, 2010. "Okay, literature, but, religion," you might wonder. Prayer times for Muslims and others relying on astronomical events to determine times, can be calculated with an astrolabe, even with the one students build!
Using other areas, such as history, religion, language and math can improve science literacy by engaging students. If a student is very interested in another area, he or she can develop a strong interest in science that overlaps with the area of special student interest, encouraging further reading and study in science.
Have fun building an astrolabe. I'll add some links for further reading:
http://www.giovannipastore.it/ISTRUZIONI.htm (In Italian)
Astrolabe shown courtesy of Matt Baum. Thanks, Matt!
(c)2010 J S Shipman