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Workshops, Master Courses, and Panel Descriptions

Pleiades National Planetarium Conference 2017

Oct. 10–14, 2017 | Saint Louis Science Center


Conference Workshops, Master Courses & Panels

All conference workshops, panels, and master courses will be held on Wednesday, October 11, 2017.


Pre-Conference Mini LIPS Workshop

Karrie Berglund
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 Location: Seiler Instrument headquarters (with provided transportation from/to the conference hotel) Time: Approximately 9am to 4:30pm (8:30 am to 5pm including transit time) Cost: $30 add-on, which includes round trip transportation between the conference hotel and Seiler, lunch, and two breaks Limit: 60 participants (first come, first served) Note: Participants will need to provide information for security clearance about ten days before the workshop and must also bring identification with them to the Mini LIPS. These requirements are due to Seiler Instrument's sensitive government projects.

This one day LIPS (Live Interactive Planetarium Symposium)-style workshop will provide a glimpse of what the full LIPS covers. LIPS specifically focuses on live, interactive planetarium lessons: connecting with your audience, enhancing performance skills, classroom management techniques, sample activities; etc. It is applicable to planetarians using digital systems or starballs, in portable or fixed domes. Mini LIPS sessions will include story telling, kinesthetic astronomy activities, and a discussion of the Data to Dome workshop presented at LIPS 2017.


Session #1

Staying Fit in the Planetarium (Workshop)
Keith Davis and James Albury
Wednesday 8:45-9:45am (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

This workshop will focus on the key ways you can stay fit and eat healthy while working in the planetarium.


Laser Lumia in the Diode Laser Era (Workshop)
Brian Wirthlin
Wednesday 8:45-9:45am (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

There are basically two types of laser effects used in planetariums. There are scan effects that everyone and their brother does today, and Lumia effects that hardly anyone uses today. Lumia are the ethereal refraction/diffraction effects that haven't survived the transition to cheap lasers. In this workshop I will show how to make the classic effects from the good old days work with inexpensive diode lasers, and introduce an example of an inexpensive modular Lumia projector design. Participants will learn how a build a beam "torquer" and how it will make a Lumia projector their friend. Tips and techniques for creating Lumia effects, building projectors, FDA requirements, and sources for materials will be part of the program.


Challenges and Opportunities for College and University Planetariums (Panel)
Led by Ann Bragg and Stephen Case
Wednesday 8:45-9:45am (60 minutes). Limit: No Limit Cost: Free

Directors of campus planetariums face a unique set of challenges balancing research, teaching, educational outreach, and technical and administrative duties. Despite these challenges though, planetariums on college campuses have unique opportunities to train undergraduates and interface with other college departments or disciplines. This panel discussion, led by four directors of campus planetariums, will offer a venue for brainstorming and sharing experiences, challenges, and opportunities faced by planetariums in university settings.


Session #2

Freefall Trajectory – Planetarium Improv Without a Net (or a Dome) (Workshop)
Mark Webb
Wednesday 10:15am–11:15am (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

Based on previous workshops from LIPS, this hour-long crazy-fest is a creativity, confidence, and resourcefulness builder. With no time to consider the impossible, you and your collaborators will build an amazing show from scratch and then present it to your peers, despite the artificial obstacles and unrealistic constraints imposed on you. This workshop will be more fun than any other activity at the conference, and if you are willing to believe that, then this is the place for you.


Let’s Play: Interactive Gaming in the Planetarium (Workshop)
Talia Sepersky and Heather Fairweather
Wednesday 10:15am–11:15am (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

Last year the Charles Hayden Planetarium brought gaming into the dome, creating immersive visual environments to accompany the play of the text-based adventure game “Space Station” in a unique evening event. Join us to find out how we did it, get a taste of what playing this game in the planetarium was like with a quick demo, and help us conceptualize variations for a new adventure game that makes greater use of planetarium visuals and current science.


Communicating Controversy in the Dome (Panel)
Led by Dan Tell and Carolyn Collins Petersen
Wednesday 10:15am–11:15am (60 minutes). Limit: No Limit Cost: Free

There are a number of science topics that arouse controversy or have become politicized in recent years. Such topics as evolution, Planet 9, Climate Change, and the Big Bang can and have been forbidden to discuss in some museums and science centers. In addition, the U.S. is currently experiencing a wave of anti-science sentiment from the political and religious realms. As representatives of the science outreach community, fulldome theaters and planetariums are in a crucial nexus point for communicating controversial topics and breaking through the anti-science statements. The questions are: how do we do this in a reasonable way that communicates science properly, accurately, and in an approachable way. This panel discussion features several participants who have experience bringing such topics to audiences and “selling” the idea to their administration and donors. We will also open the discussion to the floor after the panelist presentations to “workshop” ideas from a diverse array of participants.


Session #3

Intro to Fulldome Production with Blender - B.Y.O.L. (Bring Your Own Laptop) (Master Course)
Waylena McCully, Daniel Tell, Chris Janssen, Ron Proctor
Wednesday 12:30–3:00pm (2.5 hours). Limit: 20 Cost: $5 per participant
It is recommended to bring any form of camera you use for production but is not required to have purchased or own one at the time of this course.

Description: Blender is one of the most successful open source software projects. It is free and is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. Blender is also one of the most useful 3D creation suites at any price and can be used for modeling, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, video editing and more. The first 2 hours of this course will introduce using Blender specifically for fulldome video production. Participants will be given a quick tour and guided through several progressively challenging exercises, step-by-step. The last 30 minutes will be a Q&A session for participants to ask specific questions on approaches to making content not covered in the earlier activities.


Each participant should bring their own laptop and an external mouse. For laptops without numeric keypads, an external keypad is highly recommended.

Participant Laptop Operating System requirements:

  • Windows Vista, 7, 8 or 10
  • Mac OSX 10.6+
  • GNU/Linux -most recent distributions work fine.


Fulldome Videography and Photography Master Course (Master Course)
Derek Demeter, John French, Shannon Schmoll
Wednesday 12:30–3:30pm (3 hours). Limit: 45 Cost: Free
It is recommended to bring any form of camera you use for production but is not required to have purchased or own one at the time of this course.

Description: The twenty-first century planetarium is more than just a place to explore the night sky; it is the ultimate immersive theater/classroom where guests can travel through time, to any locale on the planet, and traverse the Universe. Planetarians have many resources available to them to create such content which include the Ricoh Theta, Go Pro HERO, and DSLRs. In this course we will introduce participants to several types of cameras, how to capture content, and post processing footage for use in the planetarium dome. We encourage you to bring your own devices but it is not mandatory.


Using WorldWide Telescope to Create "Science Shorts" (Workshop)
Doug Roberts
Wednesday 12:30pm-1:30pm (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

In this workshop participants will learn how to use the American Astronomical Society's WorldWide Telescope program to create "Science Shorts." Science Shorts are 1–2 minute presentations highlighting recent scientific discoveries. The short presentations can be used in fulldome, virtual reality, and flat screen video. You will learn how to produce shows quickly with suggestions on where to find source content. Additionally, you will learn how to share your productions with other users.


Making STEM Attainable for All (Panel)
Led by Paulette Epstein
Wednesday 12:30pm-1:30pm (60 minutes). Limit: No Limit Cost: Free

In our ever-expanding technological world, the demand for people entering STEM fields is increasing. To meet the demand, and to keep up with the rest of the world, we need to reach out to communities that are currently under-represented in those fields. This panel will discuss how we engage different types of communities and some of the challenges we face to diversify STEM fields to better reflect the world around us.


Session #4

Live/Interactive Presenter Training (Workshop)
Tom Arnold
Wednesday 2:00–3:00pm (60 minutes). Limit: 45 Cost: Free

This workshop will focus on hiring and training live presenters in the dome.


Revenue Generation with Your Planetarium (Panel)
Led by Renae Kerrigan
Wednesday 2:00pm-3:00pm (60 minutes). Limit: No Limit Cost: Free

Planetarians everywhere are tasked with making budgets balance, and often have to justify their expenses to administration. This panel discussion will explore ways our planetariums have endeavored to generate income with creative events. Representatives will share their perspective from planetariums in a school district; university; children’s museum; and art, science, and history museum. We will share what worked and what didn’t, challenges unique to each, budgets, and pictures. We will then open up the discussion for others to share what has worked in their dome, as well as ideas for additional opportunities.