National Reptile Awareness Day

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

National Reptile Awareness Day

Do you know your reptile neighbors here in Northern Colorado?

Colorado is home to more than 50 species of reptile (lizards, turtles, and snakes). The majority of reptiles in our state live below 6,000 feet, though there are some exceptions.

In Colorado, there are a variety of environmental challenges that reptiles had to evolve to deal with. Many prairie streams and ponds dry up entirely in the summer, reducing safe water sources; in winter temperatures can drop below zero. Drought in summer is a frequent problem as well. But our reptiles adapt well to arid environments like northern Colorado.

All reptiles are “cold blooded,” or ectothermic: their body temperature is controlled by the temperature of their environment rather than producing their own heat internally. Reptiles regulate their body temperature by moving from shade to sun, changing their body orientation to the sun, or even changing color. They also vary their activity patterns with the seasons.

At this time of year, reptiles are getting ready to hibernate through the cold Colorado winter. They drop their body temperature to just above freezing. Lizards curl up under logs or in crevices for the season. Turtles will burrow underground to get below the frost line, either on dry land or in the mud at the bottom of ponds or lakes. Snakes have communal winter dens that they return to each year. While these animals hibernate, their body process slow down. They live off water and nutrients stored in their bodies, and don’t even wake up to eliminate waste.

Reptiles in Colorado are now facing new problems: human neighbors can make things more difficult for reptiles. Development reduces the habitat and resources that reptiles need to survive. We bring pets like dogs and cats that can hunt and kill native animals. Reptiles may be killed by traffic when they try to warm themselves by seeking out warm surfaces – like asphalt roads, which are often warmer than their surroundings.

Scientists do not know at this time how abundant or wide-spread reptiles are in Colorado, but some species are clearly in decline here. Reptile species listed as of special concern in Colorado are: triploid checkered whiptail; midget faded rattlesnake; longnose leopard lizard; yellow mud turtle; common king snake; Texas blind snake; Texas horned lizard; roundtail horned lizard; massasauga; common garter snake.

Reptiles are key parts in the landscape around us. Reptiles are food for many of the larger predators in the area (e.g. foxes, raptors, coyotes). Many of them also predate on and control the population of smaller animals – often those considered pests by humans – such as insects, rodents, and even prairie dogs.

For National Reptile Awareness Day this year, take some time to appreciate our reptile neighbors. Come visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and see our live reptiles. Or, spend some time in the wild spaces near you and keep an eye out for our scaly friends.

When observing reptiles out in the wild, try to follow these guidelines:

  • Be careful: know what venomous animals live in the area. In Fort Collins area, there is one: the Prairie Rattlesnake. If you do spot one of these rattlers, move away slowly and leave it alone. They will only bite when they feel threatened.
  • Be respectful of all animals and their homes. Give the reptile or other animal space, and move slowly and quietly. Try not to damage the habitat they live in.
  • Do not bring home live animals. Take photographs or draw pictures of them instead.

 

Tara, FCMOD’s resident Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata), is keeping an eye out for a tasty mealworm to eat. Ornate Box Turtles are native to Colorado and are a protected species. They get their common name from the colorful patterns on their shells.

Photo courtesy of  Alexa Leinaweaver.

Continue Reading

Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Member Spotlight: Bevin Walker

Post written by Bevin Walker, museum member.

Thank you for joining us tonight in adoration and support for Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Iʼm Bevin Walker, proud mother of the 5 amazing kids featured in the FCMoD film. The kiddos true colors were presented so beautifully. I hope you enjoyed  viewing the film as much as we enjoyed making it.

I would like to take a moment to thank FCMoD for asking our family to be a part of this special night and for the privilege to speak about how this wonderful museum has enhanced our childrenʼs education.

A special thank you to my husband Jeramie for his unwavering love and support. It is his dedication that gives us the freedom to homeschool.

8 years ago, when our eldest was kindergarten age, we began our homeschooling journey. We wanted our children to have ample time and opportunities to pursue their interests and learn to self-regulate.

Our choice to homeschool has granted us many luxuries; one of which is the ability to tailor curriculum to our childrenʼs needs. We use a mixed media approach for core subjects but our pedagogy is mainly oriented by everyday life and our childrenʼs interests. Curiosity and learning are innate human abilities and few places have piqued our childrenʼs curiosity more than the Museum of Discovery.

Our first visit to the museum had very little to do with education; we simply needed to get out of the house on one of those, “these are my monkeys and this is my circus” kind of days. Since then, frequent visits have facilitated our childrenʼs acquisition of knowledge through invaluable hands on experiences.

During discovery labs our children have performed dissections and experiments that would be difficult to replicate at home. Museum take overs, summer camps, and special exhibits have intrigued and inspired.

One of our favorite exhibits thus far was the National Geographicʼs Photo Ark. I hope you all had a chance to view the breathtaking photographs! The stories behind those photos inspired our daughter Juliette to become passionate about photography and conservation. She was so moved by the exhibit that she zealously raised donations for the Wild Animal Sanctuary here in Colorado.

Our eldest daughter Jennavieve is an aspiring aerospace engineer and geologist. Moon month and the aviation museum takeover ironically correlated with the beginning of her Aerolabs course. The spectacular film ‘CapCom Goʼ fueled her ambition for an aerospacecareer. If you havenʼt seen the film yet, I highly recommend it.

Beyond the amazing exhibits and educational opportunities I have already mentioned; The museum has also graciously hosted the WOLF sanctuary for our Girl Scout troop and is currently working with Jennavieve on her Girl Scout Silver Award. Their collaboration will bring STEAM programs to NoCo Girl Scouts right here in Fort Collins. A huge thank you to Angela for making both possible! As a homeschool mother I strive for educational value in everything we do. We visit the museum almost weekly and it remains one of our favorite places to learn and explore. From the tot spot to the Otterbox dome theater and everything in between there is a plethora of knowledge to gain and fun to be had. What I personally love most about the museum is that I can tend to our younger children as they discover while allowing our elder daughters to be auto didactic in an engaging and safe environment.

None of this would be possible without your generous contributions.

As Pam noted the FCMoD has a $15,000 goal tonight. By making a donation you not only help us achieve that goal but ensure that access to science and cultural education remain a priority for our community!

In efforts to stimulate your inner child, we have made it both easy and fun for you to donate tonight: participate in the Silent Auction, play Heads or Tails, and as you can see over here, we have 3 of the Donation Stations spread throughout the museum. Please visit one and youʼll be able to pick out your own colorful accessory to help light up our night and spread the word that you believe in FCMoD. Thank you for enriching the lives of our children and the lives of so many others whom visit the museum.

Your donations color their world!

The museum relies on the generosity of you – our community – to do everything we do. Please consider donating to support explorations in science and culture for all.

Continue Reading

The Griffin Piano Lounge

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections.

There is a lot of space to explore at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery; visitors of all ages can spend hours experiencing the exhibits, jamming in the Music & Sound Lab, taking in a show in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, and more. But even with just a few dozen steps through our front door a visitor can encounter something unique: the grand piano, with its distinctive Curly Birdseye Maple veneer, which occupies a large corner of the museum’s Griffin Piano Lounge.

This piano was produced by William Knabe & Co., of Baltimore especially for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It is apparently one of only two such pianos produced by Knabe, and its eye-catching appearance and distinctively mellow tone are said to have caught the attention a group of fair visitors from Fort Collins, who determined that their community needed the grace and culture it could provide. This group consisted of Abner Loomis, Frank Miller, Sr., F.W. Sherwood, and Peter Anderson –names that loom large in our community’s history, and echo in the names of our streets and local landmarks. These men brought the piano back to Fort Collins and it was placed in the Old Town Elks Lodge, on Oak Street, where it remained until the that building was demolished in 2008. At that time the piano was first sent to Finger Piano Restoration of Niwot, Colorado for a complete evaluation and restoration, and then delivered to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

This history is not the only thing that makes the Knabe piano unique among the artifacts displayed and preserved at FCMoD, whose preservation requires that they are protected from all touching and use. Experts agree that the working mechanisms of musical instruments like the piano are best preserved when played on a regular basis, by experienced musicians aware of its age and delicacy. So, for the health of the piano and for everyone’s enjoyment, visiting musicians and trained museum volunteers play the piano during special events and when possible during regular museum hours.

Come visit the 1904 World’s Fair Knabe Piano in FCMoD’s Griffin Piano Lounge. You’ll experience a legacy gifted to our community over a century ago, and you may just get the chance to hear it played.

Image courtesy of Malcolm McNeill

Continue Reading

Happy #MoonMonth!

Post written by staff members at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Happy #MoonMonth!

“Your mission is ours.” This is the mission statement of Colorado company Lockheed Martin. In June, the Archive & Collections received a donation of 2D prints of aerospace technology that Lockheed Martin Denver assisted in building for NASA. Today, we’re sharing information on that donation as well as exploring Colorado’s connection to the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which took place 50 years.

Who is Lockheed Martin?

Lockheed Martin was formed in 1995 after a merger of Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta, which both had decades of aerospace experience behind them. (Martin Marietta was formed in 1961 in a merger of Glenn L. Martin Co. and American Marietta Corp.) The companies’ aircraft have set records and achieved milestones in aviation and space exploration. In fact, Lockheed Martin is the largest provider of IT services, systems integration and training to the U.S. Government.

Lockheed Corp.’s projects also included the Hubble Space Telescope, the Apollo launch escape system and the Corona surveillance satellite series. Martin Marietta was known for spacecraft such as the Viking Mars landers and the Magellan Venus spacecraft.

In aerospace, some of Lockheed Martin’s major projects today include the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter plane, the C-130 Hercules military transport, the P3-Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter (with Boeing), according to Encyclopedia Britannica. In space, Lockheed Martin is known for the Titan IV and Atlas launch vehicles and the Trident II submarine-based missile. Lockheed is also part of the joint venture International Launch Services, along with Russian companies Energia and Khrunichev.

The Apollo Project

Project Apollo was announced by NASA in 1960. Many companies were contracted to design and build parts of the Apollo spacecraft, including the Lockheed Propulsion Company. Lockheed Propulsion Company designed and built the solid propellant launch escape motor and the pitch control motor for the Apollo spacecraft. 50 years ago, Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The space race had been won, yet in many respects had only just begun.

Lockheed Martin’s contribution to the Apollo Project

Years later, on April 12, 1981, the space shuttle Columbia launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its first official mission, beginning an era of manned spaceflight unlike any before or since. Columbia looked more like a sophisticated plane than the bubble-with-legs design of the Apollo moon landers. The space shuttle missions were also quite different. This was no race to the moon—this was to be sustained science and space exploration.

For decades, space shuttles were the symbol of space exploration and innovation, and they were fueled by an iconic burnt-orange external tank that was designed and built by Lockheed Martin.

The structural backbone of every shuttle takeoff, the tanks were the largest component of each shuttle at 154 feet in length—longer than the Statue of Liberty—and were composed of nearly a half-million parts. The external tank that launched Columbia’s first mission in 1981 weighed nearly 76,000 pounds, but by 1998 Lockheed Martin had developed the Super Lightweight Tank, lowering the weight of the external tank to approximately 58,500 pounds. This change in design and the shift to a lighter aluminum-lithium alloy made it possible for shuttles to carry greater payloads, a breakthrough that allowed the shuttle to deliver to orbit the construction modules that became the International Space Station.

Lockheed Martin & NASA Partnership Today

Today Lockheed Martin still partners with NASA. Currently, Lockheed Martin is working on the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft to reduce a sonic boom. Lockheed Martin has designed X-59 to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph. On July 2, 2019, NASA will test Orion’s launch abort system. This test will verify the system can steer the crew module and carry astronauts to safety in case of an emergency during launch. Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor building NASA’s Orion, the only spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep space human exploration.

Lockheed Martin & the Archive & Collections at FCMoD

Members of our Fort Collins Community have contributed to many space exploration projects over the years through their work at Lockheed Martin. One Fort Collins family had multiple generations working there, and the museum was thrilled when they donated models and prints documenting this work. Through this multi-generational family influence the museum is able to display some of aerospace’s greatest achievements in history. We’ll be displaying some of these prints in the Archive, as part of our exhibit commemorating #MoonMonth. The display will feature posters, photos, and more from the history of the lunar landing and will be on view until July 30, 2019. Visitors may view the exhibit during our open hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.

3…2…1 BLAST OFF 🚀 It’s #MoonMonth at FCMoD!

Continue Reading

Looking Back on the First Moon Landing

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Looking Back on the First Moon Landing

July 20, 1969 marked a monumental day in history as millions gathered around their televisions and watched as two American astronauts did the seemingly impossible. These two astronauts experienced something the world had never seen… Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” –  Neil Armstrong

 

Blast from the Past

Russia launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957. The United States followed suite and launched several of their own satellites. It was a space race to have the first humans in space.

In 1961 the first human was launched into space. Russia won the race and Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Less than a month later the U.S. launched Alan Shepard into space. NASA was challenged by President John F. Kennedy to send a human to the Moon.

On July 16, 1969 the spacecraft Apollo 11 prepared for launch into orbit and into history. Only four days later, Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. We went to the Moon!

 

World History, Our History

How did Fort Collins celebrate this incredible moment? In lead up to the lunar landing, check out the Coloradoan’s headline!

Then, on July 20, 1969, this headline from the Denver Post celebrates the epic Moon Landing (even if the headline is less-than-enthusiastic).

Lunar Landing day was celebrated by local banks with a day off from business.

There was also a sale on any ’69 cars in town.

And, deliciously, the local dairy queen celebrated with an aptly titled Moonday special!

 

Looking Forward

Ten astronauts would follow in the footsteps of the Apollo 11 astronauts. While the last manned mission to the moon was in 1972, our understanding of space and exploration of it continued in other ways.

Last year, Fort Collins’ very own Dr. Serena Auñón-Chancellor launched to the International Space Station. Today, NASA’s research includes studying the effects of human space flight, like in their Twins Study, as well learning more about planets like Mars.

As discoveries continue to be made and space exploration advances, we encourage you to stay curious and to never stop exploring.

Join us at the museum this July as well celebrate #MoonMonth!

 

 

Continue Reading

Happy #PollinatorWeek!🐝

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

🐝Happy #PollinatorWeek!

What Is Pollination?

Pollination is the process of bringing pollen (male sex cells) from one plant to the flower (female organ) of another plant of the same species. This is how flowering plants reproduce and evolve. When pollen is transferred to a flower, that flower is fertilized and develops seeds and fruit.

Flowering plants have co-evolved (developed along with) their pollinators over millions of years. Plants have several varied ways of attracting their pollinators. Some use visual or scent cues, many offer food, and some can mimic or even trap the animal pollinator. These techniques can be specialized to an individual animal species, or aim to attract a broad range of pollinators.

Less than 20% of flowering plants are able to achieve pollination without an animal to help.

What Is A Pollinator?

Animals that assist plants in reproduction are called pollinators. The most common include ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths, small mammals, and wasps. Most pollinators are insects – there are estimated to be 16,000 different species of bees alone, all of which play an important role in pollination of plants around the world.

Why Is Pollination Important?

Plants are vitally important to human survival. All plants use up carbon dioxide, which animals (including humans) exhale, and produce oxygen, which we breathe. Flowering plants help purify water. Plants also prevent erosion, decreasing damage from events like floods or avalanches, and they improve the quality of the soil. The water cycle also depends on plants to release water into the atmosphere.

Pollination allows plants to survive. Most plants require a pollinator to reproduce themselves and maintain genetic diversity. Pollinated plants also develop fruits which provide food to a wide variety of species, including humans.

Nearly all fruits and vegetables that you eat have to be pollinated by animals before they develop into something we can eat. Visits to our agricultural fields from pollinators results in both more flavorful food and higher crop yields. In the U.S., the value of pollination done by animals is estimated to be $10 billion each year. Globally, that value comes to more than $3 trillion! Without pollinators and the task they do, humans would have a lot of trouble surviving.

Learn More:

NPS: Pollinators

US Fish & Wildlife: Celebrate National Pollinator Week

USDA: Our Future Flies on the Wings of Pollinators

Smithsonian: How to Protect Your Local Pollinators in Ten Easy Ways

 

Bumblebee (Bombus fervidus)

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Photos courtesy of Alexa Leinaweaver

Continue Reading

The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

Post written by Laurel Baltic, Grants Coordinator.

The Museum of Tomorrow, Today

At FCMoD, it’s not hard for us to imagine what the future looks like. Every day, hundreds of people stream through our front doors. They tinker with hands-on exhibits, spark new connections in a Museum Takeover program about germs or trees, or dream big (and Big Bang) during a Space Explorers summer camp.

Inquiry, ideas, and the connection between the two are the drivers that transport us from now to what’s next. The future may be 2 minutes away: what changes when I try this? Or it may be decades away: what invention can I dream up that would make my life – and the world – better? We also spend a lot of time looking to the past, helping us spin stories about how we got from then to now, and how we’ll get to that future we’re imagining.

These days, it feels like everyone is forward-focused. Preparation for what’s next is a central outcome of formal and informal education. The phrase “21st century skills” echoes through the hallways of schools, businesses, after-school programs, and – of course – museums.

It wasn’t so long ago that talking about the 21st century required visions of hovercraft cars, colonies on Mars, and robotic pets retrieving your newspaper. Hello, Jetsons! But now, two decades into the 21st century, we have arrived.

What have we learned? Well, our parking lot is full of cars that still roll on wheels, our animals are still furry, and the closest we’ve come to the Jetson’s was our groovy 60s-themed Night at the Museum event last fall. The future may be impossible to predict.

But one thing is certain: our world – and the skillset it takes to thrive in it – is always changing.

When we talk about 21st century skills, we are not talking only about what is needed to prepare for future jobs or face upcoming challenges; we are thinking about the present moment. Our deeply held belief is that every person who walks through our door has these skills already. Our museum, our exhibits, and our programs are designed to activate them.

Because of this belief, it’s easy for us to think that 21st century skills are self-explanatory. You know, 21st century skills! The ones everyone is talking about? The ones that everyone knows?

Except… does everybody?

We recently read a blog post by one of our board members, John Williams, who leads the Global Services division at Advanced Energy. It was inspiring to read about how AE is investing in education and equipping talented people for careers of the future. Maybe they’ll be the ones engineering those hovercrafts!

John closed his post with a challenge: “What further investments can we all make in our future to ensure that the emerging workforce has the skills, motivation, and inspiration needed to continue to improve both our products and the world at large?”

Okay, but we’re a discovery museum. Our mission is about learning, reflecting, and having fun while exploring science and culture. What does this have to do with an emerging workforce?

Everything, actually.

That mission is our “what.” Every exhibit we build, every program we offer, furthers that mission. Look a little deeper at our vision, our “why,” and there’s more: to inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future. That is the heartbeat of our everyday work, and where we rise to John’s challenge. Everything we do at FCMoD, we do looking toward the future. And when we look toward the future, it’s one rich with questions and learning.

Let’s break down what we mean by inquisitive: it’s about asking questions, constantly. The only way to move effectively into the future is to ask questions, and believe in our individual and collective ability to answer them, and then ask more.

Why? Why not? How?

…what if?

That is why our “what” is so important. To learn. To reflect. To have fun. We delight in the opportunity – the gift – to remind kids and adults how much fun learning can be. How good it feels. How asking questions and admitting what we don’t know doesn’t have to feel scary. If we admit how much we don’t know we can embrace how capable we are of knowing more. If we imagine the possibilities, we won’t spend so much time dwelling on the limitations. We really prepare ourselves for the 21st century.

This is how FCMoD invests in our future.

This is how we change the world. We’re excited to continue sharing our process – and our partnerships – with you. So, we’re going to use this blog series to break down the 21st century skills that we’re all so excited about. We want to share with you, with our partners, with our community, how proud we are of the ways that people learn at our museum.

Check back each month for a breakdown of a new 21st century skill, and how our team infuses it into specific programs and exhibits (that you can come experience for yourself!). Sometimes, they’ll feel familiar, like our next two posts: problem solving and collaboration. Sometimes, they might be a little jargon-y, like cross-disciplinary thinking or information literacy. Don’t worry: in every post, we’ll share how we define that skill, and how accessible it’s development is to anyone, right here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Continue Reading

Happy Earth Day!

Post written by Alex Ballou, Marketing Assistant.

Pedal and Paddle on into FCMoD this Earth Day!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to show support for the protection of the environment. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in over 190 countries. Earth Day is a day dedicated the environment and finding sustainable solutions. Today, FCMoD would like to share some of the ways that our community can be rewarded for being environmental stewards.

Sustainable modes of transportation

Transportation alone is responsible for about 25% of energy related CO2 emissions and about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Because of this, cycling is one of the most effective ways for individuals to minimize their role in adding to global warming. Bikes have an important role to play as sustainable transportation. Cycling creates a healthier planet, and for each mile that someone bikes instead of driving, they can keep one pound of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. Other modes of sustainable transportation include carpooling or use of public transportation. Those who carpool or bus significantly lower CO2 transport emissions. Walking is another mode of healthy and sustainable transportation. According to the CDC, if the destination you are walking to is within 1 mile you are more likely to walk to that destination, however, if the destination is between 3-4 miles there is still a likelihood of choosing walking as the main mode of transportation. FCMoD would like to encourage all guests, if physically possible, to consider choosing a sustainable mode of transportation to the museum.

To show our commitment, we have recently partnered with the Pace app in order to create a friendly and welcoming environment for those who would like to bike to the museum.

Our commitment to you

Since parking at FCMoD is limited and we strive to create a sustainable environment, if you bike, tube, walk, or take public transportation to get to FCMoD, we’ll offer 10% off your total admission for the day. We value the environment and we want to reward those who take great initiative to be environmental stewards.

Learn more about cycling

Next month, FCMoD will host Discovery Distilled: Beers & Bikes. This is a fun way to learn about biking paths and tune-ups. This is a great opportunity to chat with bike experts around town, drink some beers, learn something new, and have fun exploring the museum after hours. What’s more Fort Collins than beers and bikes? To find out more about the upcoming Discovery Distilled visit: fcmod.org/discoverydistilled

Interested in Biking to the Museum?

Here are the quick steps to use the pace app:

  1. Find your Pace (Use the Pace app to find a nearby bike)
  2. Make quick stops (Tap “Hold bike” in the app and lock up in order to have the bike waiting for you)
  3. Lock and end ride (Close the built-in lock and secure with the cable. Tap “End Ride” in the app)
  4. To find out more information about Pace click here https://ridepace.com/fortcollins/

Fort Collins community strides to be bike friendly. Fort Collins also offers an array of other bike share options. This Earth Day, let’s pedal our way around town to show our support of the environment.

Continue Reading

FCMoD at SXSW 2019

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Dome Theater Manager.

FCMoD at SXSW 2019

This March, thousands of creatives gathered in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). While many are familiar with the SXSW music festival, this annual series of festivals and conferences is designed to celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Founded in 1987, SXSW features leaders in each of those areas to come and present about various topics and emerging trends.

This spring, I was invited to participate on a panel discussion hosted during the SXSW Interactive conference. The panel, titled “Do it in a Dome! The Planetarium as an Arts Medium“, was organized by Dani LeBlanc, director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science Boston. Along with Dani and myself, the panel included Monica Bolles, an artist developing experiences for dome environments, and James Wetzel, co-producer of adult programs at the Museum of Science Boston. Each of us had the opportunity to tell our stories of utilizing planetarium domes in new and innovative ways to engage with the arts. With most modern planetariums now operating with digital projections, the possibilities for what can be shown on the dome screen are no longer limited to stars and other celestial objects. This has enabled the creation of some truly impressive immersive art experiences.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston

At the Museum of Science Boston, Dani and James, along with the rest of their production team, have begun to program some very interesting events for adult audiences. Though some are surprised that a science museum would be hosting a live band or screening an immersive art piece, the team believes that in order to stay relevant to today’s audiences, science museum’s should be experimenting and broadening the horizons of what they can offer the community. Similarly to us here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), one way they’ve found to engage with their local creative community is through hosting live music performances in the dome that utilize the space in new and unique ways. Hosting live music under the dome creates a completely different experience than you would get at a more traditional venue; the experience becomes about the interesting ways the dome is used to compliment the live performance. Another use of the planetarium Dani and James have explored is hosting drag performances. The shows started as a surprise pop-up performance after their “Lady Gaga Experience” show but has since become a mainstay on its own. The producers at the museum work alongside local drag show producer Ian Diver to create these unique immersive performances, and have received a lot of support and a great response from the local community and media.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston, Jonathan Beckley

At first glance it may seem strange that planetariums, historically used for educating the public on astronomical topics, are now branching out and offering new experiences like live music, drag shows, or immersive art performances. While the mission of planetariums is to communicate science and astronomy to the public is absolutely vital, many institutions are beginning to branch out. Through these unique events, organizations like Museum of Science Boston and FCMoD are finding new ways to attract audiences that wouldn’t normally consider the local museum a place for them. Using planetariums for arts not only expands what was previously thought possible in these spaces; it is also changing the ways in which people are interacting with them. As these new audiences are finding that these spaces are for them as well, they are then becoming not only audience members but co-creators.

Here at FCMoD, we hope to encourage future dome artists and creatives through our DomeLab program. DomeLab is a regular meetup that offers the opportunity for anyone to come to the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, learn how to create immersive experiences, and work with other creatives on projects to showcase there. This free program is open to anyone who wants to flex their creativity, whether they are a filmmaker, storyteller, musician, painter, photographer, or work with another medium; all are welcome. Come participate in creating the next generation of immersive experiences in the dome!

DomeLab meets every-other Tuesday at 7pm. For more information, follow us on Facebook or visit the museum’s event calendar.

Continue Reading

Geek Week: Gaming in in the Dome

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Digital Dome Manager.

Gaming in the Dome

Video games have certainly come a long way since they first began to become popular in the early 1970s. The first truly successful home video game was of course Pong, released in 1975 by Atari. The game consisted simply of a square icon that bounced from side to side on the screen as opponents blocked it from going off-screen with cursors that moved up and down to block it’s path and bounce it back to the other opponent. Controlled simply by a couple of knobs that each opponent would turn to move their cursor up and down, the game was simple yet extremely fun and engaging, especially as it sped up as the game progressed.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: mbiebusch

These days video games are not only much more advanced from a technical standpoint but also take into consideration things like narrative storytelling, the soundtrack and audio experience, multi-player experiences, and many more factors that create more and more immersive gaming experiences. With the rise in virtual reality these experiences are taking gaming to a whole new level by not only showing the players a different world, but seemingly transporting them there in person to experience all that a game and it’s virtual world has to offer. Probably the most popular VR game right now hearkens back to the days of Pong with it’s simplistic, yet completely addicting, game-play. This game of course is Beat Saber, the game where you are armed with two lightsabers slashing objects coming towards you all set to fun, dance-inducing music. Also, by incorporating whole-body motions like ducking under obstacles, this game fully immerses the player, and so many people get into it that it almost becomes a fitness workout. Games like this and other VR experiences create a powerful compelling alternate reality by overcoming your field of vision so that you can believe you’ve been transported to that reality instead of just viewing it on a screen.

Photo courtesy of Youtube: Ruirize

Here at the museum we have the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, a 360° Dome theater that is a very similar experience to virtual reality, except for an entire audience! The Dome’s screen wraps all around and above the audience whose seats are reclined to be able to comfortably look up to take in the virtual worlds presented on it. Equipped with state-of-the-art high resolution digital projectors, the Dome can transport audiences anywhere the imagination can take you from deep under the ocean, to the farthest known reaches of the universe, to completely fictional worlds. There is truly no limit to where you can go in the Dome. One common remark we get after people experience the dome for the first time is “wouldn’t it be cool to play games on this!?” Well, you can!

During Geek Week, a week of programs that we hold here at FCMoD each year over Spring Break, you’ll be able to experience immersive gaming, and more, right here in the Dome! On Tuesday, March 19th from 10am – 3pm we’ll have a number of games available that have been created just for the Dome so that you can stop by, grab a controller and experience the future of immersive gaming in the Dome for yourself. Some of these are retro-inspired games like Space Invasion (inspired of course by the classic arcade game Space Invaders), but remade for the impressive 39-foot diameter dome screen. Others, like one game titled Xur, uses common game mechanics but with a 360° twist to make it even more challenging and fun to play on the Dome. Be sure to join us for this totally unique gaming experience, as well as the other days of Geek Week where we’ll be flying around the universe, holding Harry Potter Divination classes, and learning about the astronomical origins of superheroes.

Photo Courtesy of Evans & Sutherland

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Gamers Save the World on March 19.

Continue Reading