Updated Wausau planetarium shines on
FOR USA TODAY NETWORK-WISCONSIN
Last month, I shared information with you about one of the "seemingly hidden gems" in the Wausau School District: the School Forest. This month, I would like to expand your knowledge of another gem: our WSD Planetarium at Wausau West High School.
Thanks to the vision of Chris Janssen, planetarium director, and the generous donation of the Walter Alexander Foundation, $230,000 was granted to modernize the planetarium. The Wausau School Board had a first peek of the completed project Dec. 19. To provide you with some necessary background information regarding the planetarium, the district supported Janssen’s request to begin a three-year pilot program to operate the Planetarium on a year-round basis including nights and weekends for our entire community.
The overarching mission was to
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have the planetarium be an interactive, educational destination; a space to elevate the community’s awareness about their universe and to create research-based "activation" experiences and inspirational moments to increase the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professionals in America. Our planetarium is a large, interior dome theater that uses projectors to immerse audiences into very accurate models of our universe. Historically, planetariums simulate space and visits to anywhere in the universe (including other planets and galaxies). More recently, trips inside the human body, as well as the Earth’s surface, have been added to the program.
For 45 years, the WSD planetarium has brought the wonders of the universe to the people of central Wisconsin. It has been well supported, maintained and upgraded by the Wausau School Board and district administrators as a hallmark program. Janssen has worked diligently to develop the renovation plan and to increase usage, to place Wausau on the map as a planetarium leader.
Henry Kopp, a former science student of Janssen and Wausau West alumnus, was the designer of the project, and Jim Jasper, a Wausau West parent, was the architect. With the recent upgrades, the planetarium is set to serve the community for years to come.
With the help from the Walter Alexander Foundation, the planetarium has the potential to be the best in the Midwest as a result of the following upgrades: installation of a high quality projection system; powerful, accurate and more realistic software; modernization of the dome with tilting capacity to bring the horizon closer to the audience; and new lighting and seating.
Needless to say, right in your own backyards, you will have a world class, planetarium theater layout where you can be inspired and travel the whole universe in real time without leaving your seats. Indeed, the WSD planetarium is poised to become an interactive educational destination for the Midwest.
For more information, please plan to visit the planetarium at Wausau West High School, 1200 W. Wausau Ave., or visit the website at www.wausauspace. org. Also, contact Director Chris Janssen at 715-261-0886 to schedule an organizational visit.
Kathleen Williams is superintendent of the Wausau School District.