Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Space Foundation unveils 'first big toy'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM


click to enlarge The Space Foundation Discovery Center’s Science On a Sphere®. - NATHANIEL KELLEY
  • Nathaniel Kelley
  • The Space Foundation Discovery Center’s Science On a Sphere®.
Blossoming hurricanes swirl over shifting oceans. The scene shifts to Jupiter, where rivers of red rush across the surface of the planet. Those are just two of the more than 300 data sets for the Space Foundation Discovery Center’s Science On a Sphere®, a "quadravisual" projection system developed by Dr. Alexander (Sandy) McDonald, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System.

The Space Foundation Discovery Center is a nonprofit that promotes space awareness, runs educational programs and holds industry events such as the annual Space Symposium at the Broadmoor hotel. Founded in 1983, it's headquartered on Arrowswest Drive, with another office in Washington, D.C. 

The installation of the Sphere is just part of the center’s renovation and expansion effort; it reopened after Labor Day, with more construction being completed for updated infrastructure and more refined, interactive displays.

The carbon-fiber sphere, 55 pounds and 6 feet in diameter, hangs from the ceiling, with four projectors lighting up the globe with rotating moons, spiraling galaxies, and chaotic weather patterns. “It’s our first big toy,” said Carol Hively, director of public relations & team communications.

The current phase of the Discovery Center, which opened in June, is focusing on science, technology, engineering and math education. Through bringing in teachers and working with school districts all over the state, administrators are trying to get hands-on projects and lessons into the classroom that promote a basic interest in space.

Teachers are able to go back into their classrooms to teach students how to build rockets and simple robotics from household items, and the fundamentals of physics.

At a young age, it’s just a general interest we aim for, Hively says. “‘Here’s how things work. Here’s what’s up in the sky.’ Depending on the age level, very basic things.”

The Center works with students all the way up through college, letting them use their robotics lab and acting as a conduit for mentoring younger students with battlebots programs.

This past summer, the Center offered a “Summer of Discovery” program, 10 weeks of differently themed events and guest speakers that highlighted topics such as “Women in Spaceflight.” As a way of reaching out to the community, introducing what their mission is, and what they do, as well as gauging interest and demographics, “it exceeded our expectations,” says Kevin Cook, vice president of marketing & communications. “We weren’t sure what to expect, but we see the same families coming back week after week.” 


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