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Portable planetarium would inspire NCW students

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Here's a creative community project that could have a whole generation of North Central Washington students seeing stars.

Dirk Horton, a 70-year-young math and physics educator wants to bring the galaxy into the classrooms and other venues by way of a portable planetarium. 

Horton, who once was the director of a planetarium, knows firsthand how it can fire the imaginations of students. They are able to see in living color how the heavens change over time, both in slow motion and speeded up. Building a planetarium is an expensive proposition, but a Bremerton company has created a portable planetarium that can be set up quickly and make this kind of experiential learning accessible to people from Rock Island to Stehekin and from Plain to Mansfield. 

A digital projector shows the planets, stars and deep sky objects at any time in the past or future from anywhere on earth. "The potential for exciting students of all ages about math, physics and the beauty of our night sky is boundless," according to information on his web site.  

Horton is busy lining up a nonprofit  fiscal sponsor for the fundraising effort.  These planetariums, which are produced in Bremerton, don't come cheap. The price tag is $50,000, which is a lot of money but inexpensive compared to building a permanent planetarium. 

Afte retiring as an educator, Horton found a successful retirement career as a math tutor. His web site, Mathonmonday.com, has a wealth of information about the planetarium concept.

Horton,  an avid astronomer, said it's all about trying to leave a meaningful legacy for the next generation of North Central Washington residents. This concept seems to fit well with the movement in our region to develop more personal education for students by engaging them in meaningful endeavors. It also supports the drive for project-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. 

Horton has developed a creative funding concept that includes various rewards, ranging from tickets to shows for smaller donations all the up to having a company name on the dome and shows at your place of business for more generous givers.

Raising $50,000 for this as a community resource is a challenge but my guess is that this is the kind of effort that benefactors throughout the region will support. 

Learn more about the project by visiting Horton's web site  and clicking on Planetarium. 

Math on Monday

A video that shows how the planetarium works can be found at: 

Digitalis video

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