Starlab for Teaching and Outreach
The Institute for Astronomy has an important new tool for education and outreacha
Starlab portable planetarium. Victoria Ward, Limited supplied the funding to
purchase the Starlab, which will be featured at the IfA-Manoa's April 26 Open
The Starlab is an inflatable dome that can be set up anywhere there is a 21-foot
by 21-foot area of floor space and a ceiling height of at least 11 feet. It
accommodates about 30 children or 25 adults. When folded up, the dome and associated
equipment fit in a minivan.
On February 1, Andrea Pisacano, of the Kauai Children's Discovery Museum, visited
the IfA to train nineteen astronomers, staff members, and K-12 teachers
in the use of the Starlab. The participants learned how to inflate the dome
and to place the cylinders that display the stars and Moon phases. Curriculum
Development Specialist Mary Kadooka, who organized and attended the first training,
held an additional training/practice session for several graduate students and
third-grade teachers on March 1.
Also in February, Dr. Karen Meech used the Starlab for her advanced laboratory
course, Astronomy 399, to assist students in learning the celestial sphere and
the location of variable stars for their projects. Dr. Joshua Barnes, who is
teaching the inaugural Astronomy 110 laboratory course (see "Private Gift Equips New Laboratory Course"),
will use the lab to teach celestial coordinates after students have learned
to locate stars in the sky. Other IfA faculty members are investigating the
use of Starlab for introductory astronomy classes, but the logistics of setting
it up in a standard-size classroom and accommodating all the students in a large
class have yet to be worked out.