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:

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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

exoplanets

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.

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We’re Getting Our Geek On, How About You?

We’re about a month away from the Museum’s first ever GeekFest, so we’re taking some time to explore our inner geeks.  Before we could do that we had to fully understand what makes a true “geek”. Unique hobbies, gaming until your thumbs fall off, knowing the dialogue of your favorite episode of Doctor Who by heart—are these things that make you a true geek?

Geekdom and nerdology purists will tell you there is a huge difference between geeks and nerds (see the infographic below) and we here at the Boonshoft Museum celebrate it all—which really is the point; being that the Boonshoft Museum is a Children’s Museums, Natural History Museum, Science Center, Planetarium, and Zoo we had to look no further than our 90,000 sq. ft. of space to find some of the coolest geeks and nerds in southwest Ohio.

Geeks vs Nerds

Click to enlarge

Geeking Out: Our Staff Tell-All

By default you may think that knowing the ins-and-outs of a Planetarium or cataloging 2,000 year-old artifacts (and loving it) is inherently geeky, but there are a myriad of things that make our staff awesomely nerdy. So, in the spirit of GeekFest and for nerds everywhere, our staff has shared some of the nerdiest, geekiest things about them:

Sarah

One of our Guest Bloggers and Registrar extraordinaire, Sarah, is a major history buff. Not only does her job revolve around history, she plans her free time (and vacation time) around it! Visiting as many Museums as possible, Sarah loves history so much her desk is home to Wilbear Wright, an aviation Teddy Bear. And beyond her desk? 1.4 million pieces from our collections. Sarah is all history, all the time.

Sarah shows off Wilbear Wright

Sarah shows off Wilbear Wright

Angela

Everyone has a friend that is a collector—of art, coins, wine, the list goes on. However, Angela, our Guest Services and Gift Shop guru, collects cult favorites. From a plush Batman doll whose arms and legs fall off to a dress up big foot doll who is presently wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Angela has a little bit of everything. Some of which can be found in the Museum’s Gift Shop and some, like her Sharknado promotional table tent, cannot.

Moon walking Bigfoot is too cool for school.

Moon walking Bigfoot is too cool for school.

Jeff

Jeff White, Manager of Guest Services and Team Leader at our Springfield facility, is the first to deny being a little nerdy, but his love of cartoons, like Fat Albert, says otherwise. Not only does Jeff’s Saturday morning routine include an hour and a half of Fat Albert and hand feeding his Venus Fly Trap, he’s also a horror movie buff and loves visiting archaeological sites.

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Jeff has his eye on you!

Dawn

Dawn, our Director of Education and Exhibit Initiatives, started off by expressing her love of cooking gadgets (she makes wedding cakes!), but later she revealed that she plans her vacations around Renaissance Fairs. Not only that, she was kicked out of one in Tennessee–not because she stole someone’s “helm”, but because she was wearing a shirt that showed her midriff…that she bought at a different Renaissance Fair.

Dawn would have been valedictorian at Hogwartz and now runs Harry Potter Camps at the Boonshoft Museum.

Dawn would have been valedictorian at Hogwarts, but she was so smart she got promoted to being a professor almost immediately. She now runs Harry Potter Camps at the Boonshoft Museum.

Mark

Reptiles, amphibians, mammals, you name it—Mark Mazzei, the Museum’s Curator of Live Animals, has probably worked with it. He’s fearless in the face of poison dart frogs (p.s. they are only poisonous in the wild) and can definitely out run the Museum’s sloth. By far Mark’s favorites are the Monkees — and no — that’s not spelled incorrectly. Mark is a HUGE Monkees fan (he admits he’s probably a bigger fan that any individual should be) in addition to being a walking encyclopedia when it comes to 80’s new wave and punk rock. So hipsters beware, Mark has totally heard that rare Ramones cut way before you did and he probably has it on vinyl.

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Credit: Living Dayton, Mark hams it up with Sheldon on Living Dayton

Kristy

Kristy, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, geeks out about quite a bit, from politics to sci-fi classics like Doctor Who and the X-Files. Her biggest infatuation is from Area 51 and lies underneath the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base…supposedly. Kristy is a huge fan of conspiracy theories, no matter how ridiculous. Ancient Aliens? She watches it! Paul McCartney is really dead? Might be. You name the theory, Kristy has heard of it!

...because, Aliens!

…because, Aliens!

Mark

Mark Meister, President and CEO of the Dayton Society of Natural History (Boonshoft Museum Dayton and Springfield, SunWatch, and Fort Ancient) geeks out about something very specific, and very adorable: Hummingbirds! Mark loves these speedy birds so much that he arranged his hummingbird feeder to sit next to his dining room, so he and his little friends can enjoy a meal together. He also enjoys occasionally spotting hummingbird moth, deceptively similar to a hummingbird.

Mark Meister is unfazed by certain dino danger.

Mark Meister is unfazed by certain dino danger.

So what’s the moral of the story? Everyone has something about them that could be considered geeky, whether it’s a hobby or an occupation, so why not embrace the geekiness! If being a geek means you have a wide range of interests, a thirst for knowledge, and play games without cheat codes, we think that’s pretty awesome. So, tells us what makes you a geek by using the hashtag #getyourgeekon and tweet us or Instagram us @boonshoftmuseum—and while you’re at it, purchase your tickets for GeekFest 2015 at the Boonshoft Museum by clicking here.

Makers Are Getting Things Moving! Join In On All The Fun!

From problem solvers and upcyclers, to DIY robotics newbies—the “Maker Movement” is something everyone can get excited about. To be a “maker” is to be a visionary, a builder, an engineer, a creative, and much, much more. Makers across the country are getting things done in amazing ways—like Brittnay Wegner, who took home the Google Science Fair’s grand prize for developing computer programming technology that accesses tissue samples for breast cancer with 99% accuracy. Brittnay was 17 at the time she developed her invention. The organization, Girls Who Code, has myriad of testimonials from young girls, who, through training in computer skills, have built, modeled, coded their way to create wonderful things:

On graduation night at Google, I was approached with my first ever job offer. Today, at 15, I have two web design jobs to help make ends meet at home. I am teaching my dad to code. He’s now working to become an IT professional to replace his substitute custodian job. My sisters are next on the list.

Moms and dads are using “lifehacks” to kick-start their cleaning, home, and personal projects, teens are upcycling furniture for their dorm rooms and creating apps, and children are engineering robots and programming using their own open source hardware (like the very popular Raspberry Pi).

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FIRST LEGO League Teams create and program LEGO robots.

Even the White House has taken notice of how important makers are to the economy and the world! During the White House’s Week of Making, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield will be hosting public programming themed around “making”—and don’t forget, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield has a designated Maker Space that is filled with creative ways to complete projects. MakerMovement While diving into “maker” activities may seem intimidating, one of the best way to encourage your children to tinker and create is to complete a project with them—and because we at the Museum are huge Astronomy fans (I mean, we only have the coolest Planetarium in the region!) we recommend this DIY Constellation Light Box featured in Make Magazine. Not only do you get to paint, light, and measure, the end result is a beautiful night light for your little one’s bedroom!

LightBox

Credit: Makezine.com

To complete the DIY Constellation Light Box Project click here. To learn more about the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery Springfield click here. To learn more about the White House’s Week of Making click here.

Family-Friendly Brew For Your Whole Crew!

Craft beer is all the craze, whether you are a DIY home brewer or frequent your favorite microbrewery, the science, creativity, and taste that create craft beer is generating a huge buzz. While the Museum often offers special programs for families and children, we also try to strike a balance by providing adult programming that provides educational elements in a fun atmosphere.

Family-Friendly “Brewing”
butterbeer

Credit: thegloss.com

Boonshoft’s Brew School, a deliciously fun program for grown-ups, is just around the corner. Before grown-ups spend Saturday, May 23 having all the fun, we wanted to provide something for the whole family to do at home that is just as exciting (and tasty). Every Harry Potter fan has heard of the delicious beverage that every young wizard loves: butterbeer. This sweet treat can be made at home and enjoyed while watching a Harry Potter marathon with the entire family!

See recipe and instructions below:

ButterbeerNow, you’re probably wondering where the science is! Think about the classic root beer float—why does it get so foamy? It’s the same idea behind butterbeer! When carbonation comes into contact with the cold ice cream, carbon dioxide bubbles are released. Additionally, the pop helps to free the air bubbles trapped in the ice cream. Because ice cream contains a lot of heavy dairy it has a high fat content. The fat in the ice cream coats the bubbles—protecting them and allowing them to expand.

Our recipe requires that you blend the ice cream and pop, however note the chemical reaction when you combine the two in the blender. What happens? Does it foam? One thing we are certain of is that it will be delicious!