The ASSA amateur telescope making (ATM) class has been in continuous operation since its inception in July 1991. The first session was held in the historic Library building at the Johannesburg Observatory, designed by Sir Herbert Baker. Since this room was used for general meetings and had a wooden floor, it was not ideal, albeit conveniently at the ASSA Johannesburg Centre’s home. We were fortunate to obtain the use of the old CSIR weather station north of Randburg (now Kya Sands), which was informally dubbed SPARC (for Space and Atmospheric Research Centre). When that site was sold, we moved back to the observatory for a while, until Parktown Boy’s High School kindly offered their Design Technology centre as a venue. We are grateful for the use of this conveniently-located facility, which has served us well.
Out of this telescope making class arose ScopeX, the annual astronomy and telescope exhibition which has been held for 18 consecutive years. Hundreds of people have flowed through the ATM class to gain the skills and esoteric knowledge required to build their own instruments, many of which have been showcased at ScopeX, to audiences numbering in the thousands.
Due to the vagaries of Covid-19 lockdown, the ATM class is subject to intermittent temporary closures. We are able to conduct regular face-to-face activities at the school outside of these periods. Current status is reflected on our active Telescope Making SA FaceBook page, which all interested in the instrumentation aspects of astronomy are encouraged to join (see link below). Class members who subscribe to the ATM class WhatsApp group are also notified through that channel.