Public welcome to Grand Re-opening of Zacheis Planetarium

(08-29-2012)

Guests include NASA astronaut

Several free special events open to community members and public schools are planned as part of the Zacheis Planetarium Grand Re-Opening Celebration, Thursday and Friday, Sept. 6-7.

The activities are supported by Adams State University's $3.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Hispanic Serving Institutions STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Special guests will include representatives from the Space Foundation, NASA, and Agencia Espacial Mexicana, according to Marcella Garcia, project director for the grant.

Events begin with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the planetarium from 10-11 a.m., Sept. 6. The HSI-STEM grant supported a $400,00 renovation of Zacheis Planetarium. Over the summer the planetarium's theater was completely gutted, rewired, and repainted, followed by installation of a brand new, top-of-the-line dome screen, new carpeting, a modern digital, full-dome projection system, and finally, all new seating.

"With these upgrades and new presentations, Zacheis Planetarium will offer multiple opportunities to translate the emotional experience of wonder and imagination into a desire to learn more about science," Garcia explained. "ASU is now firmly positioned to make these connections for students of all ages and spark interest in STEM studies and careers."

Among special guests at the Grand Re-Opening will be astronaut Mike Good, who is NASA Liaison to Air Force Space Command, U.S. Northern Command, and North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs. Good served on the crew of STS-125, the final space shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. He completed his second mission on the crew of STS-132 to the International Space Station and has logged a total of 25 days in space and a total of 29 hours and 53 minutes on four spacewalks. Watch a video in which Good explains his mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and his educational background.

Sept. 6 Zacheis Grand Re-opening events open to the public include:

  • 10-11 a.m.
    Zacheis Planetarium Opening Ceremonies & Ribbon Cutting
  • 7-9 p.m.
    Community Festival at Zacheis Planetarium
    Featuring new planetarium shows

The San Luis Valley School Festival on Friday, Sept. 7, offers a number of Space Foundation activities and planetarium presentations for public school students. Activities for pre-K to 5th grade students are planned for the morning, with activities for middle and high school students in the afternoon. Topics to be explored include astronomy, comets, geology, and rocketry. Many sessions include hands-on projects.

SLV School Festival Schedule.

Additional public planetarium shows will be presented Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8. Click here for details.

Outreach sparks interest in STEM

The five-year grant, entitled Increasing Student Engagement and Success in STEM, aims to help more Hispanic and low-income students earn a degree in STEM fields. The goal is triple the number of STEM degrees Adams State awards to Hispanic students, according to Garcia. Adams State, with a Hispanic undergraduate enrollment of 33 percent, currently awards 18 percent of its STEM degrees to Hispanic students, comparable to the national average. By enhancing the Zacheis Planetarium and expanding its outreach, the university hopes to cultivate more interest in STEM careers and postsecondary education among area youth.

"Outreach, academic support, and student engagement are the three areas we will focus on to promote student success in STEM," Garcia said. The project will upgrade Adams State facilities and equipment to better serve students and support the new programming. Specific activities include summer programs, seminars, tutoring, a new STEM tutoring center, curriculum reform, and undergraduate research. More.

By Julie Waechter