Science Dome reaches out to local schools, community groups

Dome with HillaryIn the fall of 2012, Pierce College opened the South Sound’s first science dome, and has hosted field trips for more than 15 elementary schools and 800 students in the past year alone.

This success comes as no surprise to Science Dome Coordinator Hillary Stephens, who has been a part of the Science Dome since before it was even built.

“I think it would be awesome for this place to be busy all the time,” Stephens said.

When she was hired at Pierce College she took on three roles: physics and astronomy professor and the Science Dome coordinator.

“It wasn’t just me being the coordinator of something that was already there,” she said. “I was there at the beginning when there was no Science Dome.”

Stephens was able to help with the designs of the Science Dome and the process of what goes in there.

The Science Dome has two projectors in the front and back that together make up the shows that are featured on the dome screen.

“Before the shows we do an alignment to make sure the displays don’t overlap and show two stars where there should only be one,” said Jessi Smith, a student employee at the Science Dome.

There are three different computers that run the shows in the dome and a seven-foot sound system. Digistar 5 is the software program used to run all the projections and shows.

“Digistar 5 can play anything we want on the dome. We can screen any movie for a club as long as it’s not a public event,” said Katie Iandanza, physics and planetarium technician.

The Science Dome also helps non-profit organizations in the community. Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS) rents out the Science Dome to host their events. TAS also helps Pierce with their science fact or fiction information and has been to every one of the Dome’s events.

An important aspect of having the Science Dome is creating community involvement at Pierce College. “Part of the mission of the Science Dome is to bring science to the community,” Stephens said.

The number of visitors to the science dome keeps getting bigger and Stephens hopes to keep it that way.

“My goal is to get more people in, and double the number of what we had this year,” Stephens said. “Last quarter we had two to eight field trips every week.”

The Science Dome doesn’t only host events for elementary, middle and high school students. It also hosts events for youth community groups such as the Tacoma Rescue Mission, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Story by Holly Buchanan

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