Last spring, Sixth Grade Science Teacher Frank Viggiani submitted a grant to the Bronxville School Foundation requesting funds to purchase a portable planetarium system, “Digitarium Zeta” from Digitalis Education Solutions, Inc, .
Less than a year later, the computer system has finally arrived and a few weeks ago, Bronxville School Elementary, Middle and High School science teachers spent the whole day learning how to use the system, which basically boils down to using a remote control.
“The Digitarium Zeta” is a portable computer that replaces the old-fashioned “StarLab” system with pin-hole cylinders that the school used to have. The new system is far more versatile and projects high resolution images that are students will be able to look at exact dates and times of the sky at any place in the world.
“With this system,” says Middle School Science teacher Karen Green, “we can capture the imaginations of our students, and teach not only astronomy, but also evolution, ecology, and so much more.”
The teachers spent the first part of the training learning how to use the controller, which looks just like a TV remote. They then learned how to inflate the dome and set up the computer, both of which are quick and easy.
With the push of a button, the computer projects the usual planets, stars, and moon phases, but because of the power of the computer; it can do much more such as simulate the sky from any point on earth or from other planets, show celestial phenomena such as meteor showers and eclipses, and show the outline, names and artwork of constellations one at a time or all at once.
The teachers were very excited about the ability to show constellations from multiple cultures as well.
Susan Monaco, an Elementary Science teacher remarked, “our students are familiar with the western interpretations of the constellations, such as the Big Dipper and Zodiac images, but now they can see the interpretations from the Chinese, Navajo, and ancient Egyptian cultures –just amazing!”
Science teacher Lee Ditullio added, “with this system, advanced concepts can be expanded to Earth Science classes in the High School.”
The system can also display ecliptic, celestial equator, meridian, and equatorial grids all at once.
“I could not teach these things in the StarLab because of the limitations of the cylinders,” said Frank Viggiani. “No portable analog system can demonstrate annual motion, such as retrograde planetary motion.
"The Digitarium Zeta will revolutionize teaching astronomy at Bronxville School. You can even play video shows with surround sound which are simply stunning,” he continued.
This new system was made possible through a generous grant from the Bronxville School Foundation and the opening of the new planetarium and dome is slated for January 2012.
Over 140 sixth grade students will be the first to use the technology and Mr. Viggiani plans to hold an evening planetarium show for the residents of the community to showcase what The Foundation brings to the Bronxville School.
For more information on the Bronxville School Foundation, you can visit their website at bronxvilleschoolfoundation.org.