Planetarium and Museum of Earth Sciences sneak previews highlight CSAT Science Exploration Day

Professor Skip Watts and Roselyn Dayton work with one of Radford's squadron of UAV's.
At Science Exploration Day, Professor of Geology Skip Watts and Roselynn Dayton work with one of Radford's squadron of UAVs.

At Science Exploration Day, the Radford University Center for the Sciences (CSAT) opened its doors and members of the College of Science and Technology (CSAT) faculty celebrated the joy and fun of learning April 23.

The daylong CSAT open house featured tree-walks, cryptology clinics and sessions on bug biology, starring Roachzilla; anthropology and virtual anatomy, featuring the university’s new Anatomage table; and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight school sessions, starring the university’s squadron of seven unmanned aerial vehicles. The new Radford University Planetarium and Museum of Earth Science (MES) hosted sneak previews.

"Today is a great way to introduce people oall ages to the building and share exciting opportunities to explore science and technology with our award-winning faculty," said College of Science and Technology (CSAT) Dean Orion Rogers.

Science Exploration Day is part of a series of CSAT outreach efforts, such as Summer Bridge, Camp Invention and Science Days that bring area school children to take classes with CSAT faculty and students. 

Roselynn Dayton, a precocious 9-year old Buchanan Elementary School student, accompanied her mother, Elizabeth Grandy, to Science Exploration Day.

"I love stars and space, so the planetarium was great. The roaches felt tickly and were kind of cool," said Roselynn, who said it was too early to tell what she wants to be when she grows up.

Observing Roselynn’s enthusiasm was a treat for Grandy, a junior biology major.

"I love to see her so excited. I had to pull her out of the planetarium." Grandy said, as they headed to the cryptology session after UAV flight school with Professor of Geology Skip Watts.

Young students take the stick under Geology Professor Skip Watt's direction at the College of Science and Technology's Science Exploration Day.

Geology Professor and MES Director Steve Lenhart was also delighted as the museum’s doors were opened to the public for a sneak preview prior to its scheduled October official opening. Unofficially, the MES passed a milestone at the sneak preview with its 25,000th guest since its 2009 opening.

"There is still plenty to do, but we've come a long way since we sent two students out in rented dinosaur and cave girl costumes to walk through campus during Homecoming for its opening then," Lenhart said.

In place now are MES fixtures like the cave bear, the replica Tyrannosauras Rex head and its new quarrying display from the Smithsonian Institution. Additional MES jewels – its gemstone, mineral and fossil displays  – will be installed for the MES Grand Opening in October.

The Planetarium, across from the MES on the Center for the Sciences Main floor, was completely finished and shaken down for its Science Exploration Day public.

Under the watchful eye of Planetarium Director and Professor of Physics Rhett Herman, physics students Josh Carroll and Jesse Basham took a full house "up into the solar system to show you around a little bit."

The planetarium has 55 modern theater-style seats, all-digital projection and surround-sound systems and a full catalog of shows and educational presentations. The Planetarium upgrade completes its 16-year run in the basement of Reed-Curie Hall that was visited by more than 40,000 visitors.

The planetarium will celebrate its official opening this weekend with a series of lectures by Michelle and Shane Larson. Michelle Larson is president and CEO of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, the western hemisphere’s oldest public planetarium, that last year hosted almost over a half million visitors. Shane is research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University and a member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.

Apr 27, 2016