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CAMPUS: Director offers educational experience for community at Planetarium

CAMPUS: Director offers educational experience for community at Planetarium

By Cristian Cordova
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023

During the Fall 2023 semester the TAMIU Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium offers several educational videos, mostly featuring STEM-related themes.

Texas A&M International University’s Planetarium works like a dome where anyone can go inside, simulating the sky, space or different educational themes. The topics back on Sept.15 included “A Starry Tale” and “Extreme Planets” and more by the end of the month. Later, on Oct. 14, a solar eclipse event was scheduled for the community but the weather didn’t cooperate.

One focus of “A Starry Tale” is the early mythology associated with some constellations about zodiacs. This tale includes legends for the four eras: Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages.

The TAMIU Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium
Miriam Salinas | Bridge
The Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium basks in the sunlight on Nov. 15.

What the community could learn from this show is a lesson of peace and trying to get along with others. The second, “Extreme Planets” looks for life outside the solar system and for places similar to Earth.

Planetarium Director Peter Davis has visited planetariums since he was young.

“It was exciting when I was a child coming to the planetarium,” Davis said.

The benefit of offering movies is to excite young people with learning opportunities. Some of the topics shown in the Planetarium include: biology, weather, astronomy and geology. The process of building these types of shows can take years.

Peter Davis portrait
Rolando Santos | TAMIU Public Relations
Planetarium Director Peter Davis

 “It takes two to four years if you have five people,” Davis said. “You are making [it project] over the shape of a big sphere.”

It incorporates multimedia into a single movie to show at the Planetarium. First, the process is to research. Next, to think of things people would be interested in.

“[They] write a headline, a script, knowing what visuals, narrator and lastly go into production,” Davis explained. “It’s a challenge.”

One reason these types of shows can be challenging is because the creators can’t always use a camera. It sometimes requires special software, and possibly virtual reality.

“We have a schedule,” Davis said. “[We offer] shows during different days that will be interesting for the public.”

He and his team offer the community different options to look forward to, such as upcoming videos: volcanoes, black holes, Maya and Aztec astronomy.

“We have public kids from 3-year-olds to senior citizens,” Davis said of those who attend. “We have all kinds of ages.”

Additionally, college, pre-school and high school students visit the Planetarium. Education has no age limit.

“[We want] to excite young minds to be interested in STEM fields: science, math and engineering,” Davis said.

This is part of the program’s mission. By offering movies for the public, community members can get a glimpse into scientific worlds. Families get to enjoy and learn together. This even includes parents, teaching them it’s never too late to gain knowledge.

TAMIU staff member Roland Ortegon took his family to see “A Starry Tale,” which he said was a “wonderful experience.”

“It was very educational, informative and [entertaining] for the kids,” Ortegon said. “It has a nice visual.”

Following the video, he said he was pleased with the outcome and learned about the various human civilization eras.

“It’s both entertaining and educational [visiting] with your family,” Ortegon said.

By bringing his kids to the Planetarium, this expands knowledge to another generation.

TAMIU business major Natalia Esparza has been a student worker at the Planetarium for about a year.

“It’s very educational and fun,” Esparza said. “It’s a different experience to be able to watch all the shows; they are interesting, but they have a bunch of facts especially for children.”

“We expect to get new shows, mainly in astronomical and educational topics,” Esparza said. “I love working here because it’s a student worker job and not only do I work, but I get to interact with new people.

 “I can be selling snacks, tickets, playing the show, but also get to finish homework, which works a lot for my school schedule.”

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