Skip to content


Science and Math Education Center
2014 Events - Past, Present, Future!

January 25, 2014 Portable Planetarium Certification
March 4, 2014 Educational Outreach & Spring Birthday Celebrations
May 18 & 26 Vertebrate Fossil Dig
June 24, 2014 Planetarium Re-Discovered


January 25, 2014 Portable Planetarium Certification
Since the planetarium is now under the Science & Math Education Center, the director takes every opportunity presented to learn more about these educational and entertainment theaters.  There are 16 planetariums in the state of Kansas.  Peterson Planetarium is the second oldest, and Fort Hays State University has the newest - a portable planetarium!  FHSU has a Science and Mathematics Educational Institute, which purchased a portable Digital Planetarium and checks it out for classroom and public science education in Kansas... as long as the person has gone through the training session for certification.  Dr. Paul Adams and his daughter and FHSU student, Megan Adams, are in charge, and I attended the late January session; more sessions are offered throughout the year (  The pictures below illustrate this 2 year old planetarium that has been enjoyed by 3000 people across the state.

     Training was held at the Sternberg Museum as a tall ceiling is a must!Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

    Planetarium in a bag?!   It looks suspiciously like a big tent!   Pulling the planetarium from a box!   
Photos by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

     Inflation is merely with a fan!    The fan inflates the portable tent-like structure through the tunnel.
Photos by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.  

...and in a matter of minutes - a resurrected planetarium!Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

    The digital projector and computer for video shows.Photo by S. W. Aber; 25 January 2014.

So there you have it!  A zipper is opened to gain entrance, and visitors remove shoes before entering. We sat on the floor and the projector is placed in the center of the dome. It is a wonderful service provided by a university in the part of Kansas that would rather take the planetarium to the people than expect the people to drive hundreds of miles to them!   Read more about Digital Planetariaum Brings the Stars to YOU!


Educational Outreach & Spring Birthdays

Bryan Longwell and Earth Science Club members went to Sacred Heart Elementary for Science Night, March 4, 2014. This educational outreach was about weather and the desktop tornado machine was demonstrated! 

                                Dry ice for tornado and cloud formation demonstration.      Cloud in a bottle!
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.

            Dr. Simons does chemistry!      Kids...look alive!  
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.                 

                  Tornadoes we can control...   Organs and questions...
Photos by D. Marie Barlow; 4 March 2014.


Spring birthdays and other reasons for celebration! 

Birthdays are a time to celebrate!  Birthday and unbirthday gifts! 
Photos by S. W. Aber; February 2014.

Also shown below are a few resources from our collection development efforts. 
Namely kenetic sand, a desktop skeleton, and solar powered constellation ball! 

Sand with an attitude!   They hit it off from the beginning... did I ever tell you about my wife?  Capt Morgan standing in the heavens!
Photos by S. W. Aber; May 2014.


May 18 and 26, 2014 Vertebrate Fossil Dig!

Upper Pennsylvanian Vertebrate Fossil Display from the Synderville Shale, Greenwood County, Kansas was the title of a poster presentation & display given at the Kansas Academy of Science Annual Meeting in April 5, 2014.  It was a preliminary report on a significant vertebrate fossil find by Naomi Peterson that includes, early amphibians, reptiles, freshwater sharks, and lungfish.  We organized a KAP and digging trip in May and now, one of our graduate students has taken on the site for his master's research.  A few pictures follow that are self-explanitory...

Gayla, Alek, and Bill - enjoying a morning of digging!   Gayla, happiest when getting dirty, looking for fossils, rocks, & minerals. 
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Tom & Mike...digging for fossils or cleaning a shoe?  Naomi, the keen eye and vertebrate fossil find started with her! 
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Rib bone...  Working and waving...
Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.

Shared the outcrop, but uninterested crew in the dig...Photos by S. W. Aber; 26 May 2014.


June 24, 2014 Planetarium Re-Discovered
Leadership Emporia Alumni and Emporia Chamber and Visitors Bureau partnered with the Science and Math Education Center to sponsor an Open House - Planetarium Re-Discovered!  This event was a family friendly evening of information, science education, and fun in Science Hall. 

The greatest information was the announcement of funding for a major upgrade in Peterson Planetarium video equipment and programming!  The Warped Media system will be installed this fall by Ash Enterprises International.  Our analog equipment will be retired and replaced with a digital hemispherical mirror projection system. The Spitz 512 Starball projector will be renovated along with enhancements to the dome, cove lighting, console, and programming. Watch for more information when our timeline is known.

The evening science education came in the form of continuous tours for the Johnston Geology Museum and Schmidt Natural History Museum.  Also, there were students and faculty from Physical and Biological Sciences as well as The Teachers College in the hallways with demonstrations, activities, gifts, and live animal specimens.

The fun kept up from 5:30-7:30 pm as we ate cookies and drank punch... and drum roll... hosted the main event - Planetarium Re-Discovered!  In fact, it was for many re-discovering the Night Sky over Emporia with no worries of stormy weather, light pollution, and biting insects - all happening before the sunset!  Peterson Planetarium was opened for tours and our talented student operators, Alyssa Floro and Chris Hayen, presented six consecutive shows.  People filed down the stairs or rode on the lift... found a comfortable chair and used their imaginations to see the warm colors of the sunset and feel the cooler air as the sun dropped beneath the horizon.  However, as the planetarians explained, the Sun does not really go down... but rather Earth turns away from our star, the Sun.  As Earth keeps turning, we see less sunlight and the darkness of space is total... while the stars and planets seem to shine brightly in the recreated Kansas night sky.

A special thanks to ESU students, faculty, and administration as well as our community sponsors who made this evening open house a success - we could not have done it without YOU!!  Another special thanks our audience of over 250 friends and family... those who came and participated making this an enjoyable, inspiring, and entertaining evening for us - we could not have done it without YOU!!!  Before our event, we were on KVOE - where you can see the Peterson Planetarium Re-Discovered flyer.  After our event, pictures arrived from Drs. James Aber, Marcia Schulmeister, and Kim Simons - thanks so much!

We are showing off science tonight!!

President Shonrock and SMEC Director, Dr. Susie Aber   
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Welcome to ESU and Science Hall!
Greetings from President Shonrock and Dr. Susie Aber!

Debbie Ash, President of Emporia Leadership Alumni
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.  

      Above Left... Thanks to Debbie Ash, current Leadership Emporia Alumni President,
for donating refreshments and helping to handle the publicity

Susie Aber, Kim Simons, President Shonrock   People arriving for the open house! 
Photos by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Above Left... Susie Aber, Drs. Simons (chemisty) and Shonrock (ESU's President).

Above Right... Kelly Wade, event organizer, and Jeanine McKenna, Chamber President,
welcome visitors!  (They are pictured above and below in the background.)

Above and Below right... The chemists take center stage and will actually end
the evening with a bang... a rather big bang!!

Dr. Andrew Miller gives chemistry demonstration!
Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

                Drs. Christine Morales and Andrew Miller represented Chemistry tonight!

It was purple and now its pink?   What -I can make worms, worms, worms?
Photos by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Purple on the top and what will appear below?Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.  Wait... it is green but wasn't it pink last time?Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Ah ha - Planetarium Re-Discovered!

The star of our show, Peterson Planetarium, was opened in 1959 and originally operated
by the Mathematics Department.  Oscar Peterson was the head of math (1928-1963),
Dr. George Downing, a math professor, was the first planetarium director.

Waiting for the next show... Re-discovering Peterson PlanetariumPhoto by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Spitz 512 Starball Projector is the star of the show!Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

After 35 years and a flooding disaster, the planetarium was remodeled and updated.
The optical-
mechanical Spitz A-2 Starball and circular seating was replaced with this
Spitz 512 Starball projector
and front-facing seating... re-opening in 1997.


Schmidt Natural History Museum but wait, there is more in this hallway too!

Students dissect a snake, which died froma car accident.  Just outside the Natural History Museum, are students with the rest of the story!
Photos by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Biology students had live snakes on display and dissected a snake that died from a vehicle accident.
Roger Ferguson, ESU Biology and Physical Sciences Laboratory Educational Technician,

gave tours of the Schmidt Natural History Museum.


Physics toys keep everyone engaged!

Student and faculty play with physics toys...  No it is not magic... just science!
Photo by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Jorge Ballester and his graduate student had physics toys to play with... I mean to
demonstrate physical science principles!


What about the Johnston Geology Museum?
Hey, Paul Johston is there too!! (, gray, white horizontal striped shirt!)

Dean Weaver speaks with Professor Emeritus Paul Johnston!Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Professor Emeritus, Paul Johnston, was on hand to give the rest of the story talk about
the geology museum he built!  He is pictured above speaking with Dean Weaver of The
Teacher's College.  Dr. Morales, the current Johnston Geology Museum
Director was also present passing out Triceratop's bone fragments.

browsing in the geology museum  Paul in museum
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Professor Emeritus Johnston recounts stories of creating the museum...  Have you seen the fluorescent mineral display yet?
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Great museum and yes, I am the auctioneer at ESU Glass Blowout.
Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.


Let us revisit the planetarium again...

Meanwhile, back in the basement... the shows go on!  The line never
thinned and our 38 seat planetarium was full for every show. Care for the planetarium
shifted to Physical Sciences in 1972 and the second
and third directors of the planetarium
were DeWayne Backhus (Physical Sciences) and Gerald Witten (Physics-director,
Dr. Ron Keith was the fourth director (1991-2007) and the
1996-7 remodel of the planetarium was initiated during his tenure.

   Meanwhile, back to the planetarium...the line is still forming!       Another sunset...another Night Sky over Emporia show!!
Photo left by J.S. Aber; 24 June 2014.         Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.


Earth scientists....rock!!

Ah, rumors of a tornado upstairs turned out to be true!  Hum... tornado in a box?!

Yet, another crowd is forming... did someone say tornado?        Dr. Sleezer knows how to turn on and off his tornado... machine.
Photo left by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.        Photo right by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Sleezer, an ESU alumni and the current head of Physical Sciences, from the Earth
Sciences and he enjoys teaching courses such as Severe and Unusual Weather! 
else would build his own tornado machine?!

                           Wow, how did you do that with dry ice?       Watch again...
Photo left by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.   Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

      Next to tornadoes, we had triceratop fragments and minerals galore!  If yo hold this up to the light...
Photo left by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.            Photo right by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.

Dr. Allison, Earth Sciences, was informing visitors on Kansas minerals, fossils, and rocks!

Things we find in Kansas...even a bit of obsidian in the southwest.  Dr. Allison teaches a course on rocks and minerals...
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

One of our graduate students, Bryan Longwell, talked about geology, but the crowd was back in
the Science Hall lobby watching those chemists again!!

Yes, halite is SALT! ...mined underground in Hutchinson and Lyons, Kansas.  Chemistry just keeps them mesmerized...
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.


The chemists hard at work!!

Dr. Morales was perfecting her worm creation skills, while Dr. Miller was...

Dr. Morales is still making worms...with a turquoise display in the background!  Put in a pinch of this and cover it with this...  I had no idea worms were transparent and pink!
Photos by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

wondering how his balloon would react to the tiny birthday candle?

What do you think will happen when I hold a candle to a balloon?  Wow, do not try this at home kids!
Photo left by Kim Simons; 24 June 2014.        Photo right by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Hum, after the rather spectacular reaction he mentioned it was neither
a mix of oxygen and nitrogen nor helium inside the balloon. 

This will make a noise!
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

Oh did I mention my balloon has hydrogen inside?!
Photo by J. S. Aber; 24 June 2014.

So that is what hydrogen does... and a tad bit of copper for color!!  The evening
went out with a BANG... A BIG BANG!!


Come back and see us!

We had a great time and hope you did as well!  President Shonrock and Dr. Aber
want to extend a welcome to you... to visit Science Hall museums and faculty anytime. 

We had a great about you?Photo by Marcia Schulmeister; 24 June 2014.

Watch the news for a second open house in the fall 2014 -
An Updated Peterson Planetarium - Coming Soon!!


Return to homepage, - Latest update 6/30/2014.