Rob Sparks works at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory as a Science Education Specialist. He works on many educational programs including Hands-On Optics, Building Information Technology Skills Through Astronomy, Promoting Inquiry Through Science Education (PRISE), Astronomy from the Ground Up, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope. He is a member of the Galileoscope Committee for the International Year of Astronomy. He has given teacher workshops all over the United States and in several foreign countries.
Rob earned a BA in Physics from Grinnell College and his M.S. from Michigan State University. He taught high school physics, math, astronomy and drama at the Good Hope School on St. Croix, St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Bradenton, Florida, and the Prairie School in Racine, Wisconsin. During the 2001 - 2002 school year, Rob was working on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Fermilab, as a recipient of the Fermilab Teacher Fellowship. In 2001 he received the Space Telescope Science Institute IDEAS Grant as a co-investigator. Rob spent the summer of 2003 at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia as part of the Research Experience for Teachers studying radio frequency interference (RFI) with the Green Bank Telescope.
When not working, he can frequently be found running and getting ready for his next road race. He also performs regularly with the Tucson based improv troupe Not Burnt Out, Just Unscrewed. He works with the Redondo Music Theater in Tucson and has performed at the Apple Holler Dinner Theater and Over Our Head Players in Racine, the Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora, Illinois, the First Street Playhouse in Batavia, Illinois, the Manatee Players in Bradenton, the Island Players on Anna Maria Island and the Players of Sarasota, Florida. He performed at Busch Gardens, in local commercials and television shows, and can be seen briefly as an extra in Ocean's 11.
At present Rob is a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Astronomical League. He lives in Tucson, Arizona with his three cats, Hale-Bopp, Alamo, and PC who have recently realized they outnumber him.