Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dramatic Impact on the Sciences and Space Travel

By Michael L. Sampson

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Celebration, Black History Month, and beyond, we are invited to view Dr. King through a new lens, that of a man ahead of his time, as well as the incomparable freedom fighter we’ve come to know. He was the force responsible for inspiring a future generation of astronauts, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians; a new generation of space cowboys and cowgirls!

There is an interesting story told about how actress Nichelle Nichols, famous for playing Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, was influenced by Dr. King. Nichols had begun her career in show business singing with the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton bands. She believed the Broadway stage was her true calling until an unforgettable encounter with King convinced the talented actress to remain on the popular sci-fi show.

Nichelle Nichols as “Lieutenant Uhura” in the original Star Trek television show. fuzzyundertones.com

After informing Gene Roddenberry of her intentions, she directed her steps towards Broadway. Roddenberry was the brilliant creator and producer of the Star Trek series. Before leaving, however, she had a historic moment during a chance conversation with the noted civil rights leader. During the 1960s, there were no other Black females on television in non-stereotypical roles. Lieutenant Uhura, as the communications officer for the Starship Enterprise, became a role-model for African Americans. In addition, her unique Star Trek portrayal was an inspiration for women and other minorities.

King, an avowed Trekkie himself, explained to Nichols that she could not give up her positive presence on the award-winning television show. He exclaimed, “You can’t, you’re a part of history!” To Dr. King, her presence was influential, inspiring a generation of young people to shoot for the stars.

Thanks in large measure to her trailblazing television role, Nichelle Nichols gave hope to many that careers in space exploration and the sciences were dreams that were achievable. She became a successful recruiter for both NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the AMA (Analytical Mechanics Associates).

The first woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, and the first African American woman in space, astronaut Mae Jemison, were both recruited by Nichols. She also recruited Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator.

Other African American space pioneers include Dr. Guion “Guy” Bluford the first African American in space; Joan Higgenbotham, who has flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for over 12 days in space; Dr. Ronald McNair, who was tragically killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Stephanie Wilson, a flight engineer logging over 42 days in space where she operated her ship’s robotic arm.

Dr. King’s vision was a gentle nudge that continues to pay dividends for all of humanity. As we educate and utilize the skills and abilities of all, we confidently blast-off to a place “where no man has gone before.”

View the interview when Nichols recalls her conversation with Gene Roddenberry and the encounter with Dr. King.

Careers In Curiosity: Party On, Jodi!

OutdoorWeddingRentalsThough it’s not your typical Museum career, our Rentals Manger, Jodi Rettig, certainly has a curious job at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Boonshoft Museum’s Main Exhibit Hall can be housing dinosaur eggs that are millions of years old one week and then be decorated to the nines for an elegant wedding the next.

From laying out schematics to programming personalized slide shows, Jodi uses science and math to be a success at her job, in addition to utilizing Museum technologies in order to create one-of-a-kind events for her clients. Read more about Jodi’s curious career below and then check out some tips she has to create both a special and casual event.

 


 

JodiMy position as Rentals Manager calls for many different skills, including planning and organizing, working closely with chosen vendors, and communicating with staff from the museum. I schedule tours to show potential clients around the museum, which helps show the museum from a whole new perspective. From using our climbing tower as a place for a band to turning Science On a Sphere into a moonlit area perfect for a bride and groom’s first dance, I truly enjoy making our clients’ happiest days come to life by customizing our spaces.

We regularly host weddings and corporate events in the Planetarium and use the screen in the Dome as a blank slate for the client to create, and I also love outdoor ceremonies and events in our Amphitheater in the spring and summer. Working with our clients and seeing their event turn into an unforgettable experience is hands-down the most enjoyable part of my job, especially because I visited the Museum as a child. Seeing my clients and their guests enjoy the Museum as much as I do is really fulfilling.

Here are Jodi’s top tips for planning and implementing both formal and casual events:

If you’re planning a wedding, holiday party, fundraising event, or prom, don’t forget to:

Email us or pop by during house of operation. Emailing or stopping by a facility are the best ways to stay in contact with your venue and vendors, especially around the busy wedding/holiday season. Many vendors and venues are dealing with several clients at a time, and the best way for us to keep track of all the details is through e-mail. This allows you and the vendor to have the paperwork needed to make a check list.

Research your vendors. It never hurts to ask about vendors, especially when it comes to choosing just the right DJ, caterer, photographer, and florist. At the Museum, we have worked with many vendors, and with a unique venue like ours, we are able to refer you to vendors that know our space and will best fit your budget.

Utilize your venue. If your event is in a unique space, it also never hurts to ask about using those aspects of your venue. We allow guests to incorporate programs and exhibits into their event quite often and because our spaces are so versatile, the possibilities here are almost endless. Yes, we can bring animals out for your guests. Yes, your guests can use the slide. Yes, we can create a program on our Planetarium, solely for you. Never be afraid to ask!

Navigate Your Guests! Accurate Driving directions are great to have as well as a convenient list of nearby hotels. Contact your venue for a map or driving tips that you can relay to your guests. It can save time and it ensures that everyone has a wonderful commuting experience.

Plan ahead! Avoid waiting until the last minute. It is very easy to do when you are coordinating an entire event and things may slip through the cracks if you aren’t organized. Having a timeline and a “to-do” list are great to have and to pass on to your vendors and venues. At the museum, we will have several staff members working on your event. Whether it is programming your personalized hashtag on our Science On a Sphere, pulling together songs for your custom Planetarium show, or displaying your slideshow over our Tidal Pool exhibit, but we always work from a list of vendor requests, so it is a good idea to get the venue and vendors everything they will need a few weeks in advance.

What about birthday parties, family reunions, and anniversaries? If you’re planning one of these events, remember to:

Book it early! It’s always a good idea to call a few months before your big occasion. Though smaller spaces may be more readily available than a full-museum rental, they still book quickly. This is especially something to keep in mind if you have a birthday to celebrate because you may not be as flexible about the date of your rental.

Make use of everything that is offered! At the Museum, we offer admission for all of our guests after your rental. Maximize their experience by passing out our programming schedule for your guests so they can see some of our planetarium shows or participate in a Do Lab program. Our Museum Mascot, Odyssey the Otter, can make his special appearance just for the birthday boy/girl and personal animal programs for your party are available for an additional, but budget-friendly, fee. You can also play music and a slide show for your party guests to see. Make it a moment your guests and birthday boy/girl will always remember!

Give it a theme! Birthday parties with themes work really well for planning invitations and decorations. For example, science, animals, and space themes all work really well at the Museum. The experience your guests will have at the Museum ties in perfectly with these themes.

Ask away! Again, never be afraid to ask questions. If you have an idea in mind, pass it by the venue contact, as we always work to tailor each event to the client’s individual needs.

Manage your guest list closely! Most birthday venues have a guest minimum and a guest maximum. This is for the safety of both the staff and the guests. A headcount of event attendees will also help you plan for what you’ll need to have as far as food, plates, and party favors – which keeps you from overspending and you can stick to your budget!

If you would like to learn more about booking a rental at the Boonshoft Museum or SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological park, click here. To email Jodi about booking a private event or rental click here.

Careers In Curiosity: To Infinity and Beyond!

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Jason Heaton, Assistant Director of Astronomy

What was your childhood dream job? Ballerina? Fire Fighter? Marine Biologist? Everyone is different, but it is certainly a rarity to be so inspired by something that you make it your life’s work. Jason Heaton, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Astronomy, visited the Boonshoft Museum as a little boy and fell in love with the possibilities that the night sky provided.

For this month’s Careers In Curiosity post, our guest blogger and Planetarium expert extraordinaire, Jason, will talk a little bit about running a Planetarium, teaching children and adults about our Solar System, and much more. Check out his blog below:

armstrong

In 2003 I had the chance to meet Neil Armstrong

Hello, Nice To Meet You

My name is Jason Heaton and I am the Assistant Director of Astronomy at the Dayton Society of Natural History. The Astronomy department at the Boonshoft houses an observatory, a planetarium, and astronomy related exhibits.

How I Started in Astronomy

My career in astronomy began at the Boonshoft when I was a child. My parents enrolled me in the Boonshoft summer programs for many years. I

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The NASA sponsored Exoplanets exhibit, produced by the Boonshoft Astronomy Department

loved archaeology, paleontology, and the activities at SunWatch, but the planetarium was by far my favorite. An energetic and hilarious planetarium director named Art Goss inspired me and fueled my love for the night sky.

In school, science classes were my favorite. I went to college at the University of Dayton, enrolling in Aerospace Engineering. I began working in the planetarium as a part time job while I was in school.  During that time, I fell in love with astronomical visualization…making

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A planetarium audience rides an Ice Slide set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

the stars come to life in the planetarium. I graduated U.D. with a degree in Computer Animation. I have been working for the Museum ever since, for more than twenty years now.

The Best Part of Working in the Astronomy Department

We do many different things in our department. We build astronomy exhibits such as the Exoplanet exhibit which recently opened. We house the Apollo Observatory, a large telescope open for free to the public on clear Friday nights. We have many different types of events that happen in the planetarium, people have proposed marriage, live bands have played, and astronauts have lectured. We have created planetarium shows and astronomical visualizations that have been shown around the world.  However, my favorite thing about working in the astronomy department is presenting the live shows about the night sky in the Dome.

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Speaking of magic, the planetarium is also one of the main stages for Harry Potter Camp, where I play Professor Starbuck, the Hogwarts summer school astronomy teacher.

Someone once said that as people we all have one thing in common…we all look up at the stars at some point in our lives and wonder. The planetarium is a unique place. When I was a child, it was magical.  People come to our planetarium to learn about the sky and experience that same feeling of wonder and magic.

As a presenter, I have witnessed the same feeling of magic in the eyes of children coming to the star shows. They will often come back after the show and ask a million questions, it becomes obvious that they will leave the museum loving the stars the same way I have.

Future Generations

You never know who is going to come into the planetarium and become a future astronaut or astronomer. The first person on Mars may be someone who is in school right now. The astronomers who find the first Earth-like planet; the mission specialist onboard a future space station; the scientists that will help us get back to the Moon; all of these people have one thing in common: someone, or something, inspired them and their love of the night sky, perhaps in a planetarium like ours.

Careers In Curiosity: Saving the World — One Animal (and Habitat) at a Time!

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Melissa, the Museum’s Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for the Discovery Zoo, offers children a chance to get hands on with our Education animals during Free Night.

This week, we are continuing our exploration of curious careers! When you think about a typical Museum you may think of priceless art hanging on the walls, huge dinosaur skeletons, and display cases with artifacts that are thousands of years old. The difference between most Museums and the Boonshoft Museum is that we are also an accredited Zoo, with over 100 live animals – from mischievous Meerkats to Egyptian fruit bats.

Having so many animals to care for requires a lot of time and effort, so we have a Live Animals Department that keeps our animals happy and healthy! Each of our Live Animals staff members have different educational backgrounds, from Natural Resources to Zoology and Biological Sciences—but they all have one thing in common, they love animals!

Melissa Proffitt, the Coordinator of Animal Training and Programming for our Discovery Zoo, took a minute to blog about her awesome experiences with our Live Animals, the importance of conservation, and fills us in on how she ended up working with some of the cutest critters in the world! Read her guest blog below!

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