Re: Planetaria in Lecture / Conference Halls
- Sharon Shanks' assessment is pretty dead on.
In the 60's and 70's school systems attempted to combine the school
auditorium with the cafeteria creating "cafetoriums." While adequate
as cafeterias, they were terrible auditoriums.
Every day, as a planetarium designer, I have to fight the issue of
using planetariums as classrooms. They are are always less-than-
perfect compromises. My biggest issue are folding desks in armrests.
If the chair backs could stay upright for this usage, it might work.
However, nothing is less functional than trying to write on a small
tablet desk when your seat is inclined 35 to 40 degrees. To make
matters worse, new seating code requires that the row clearances
include the distance from the front of the desk to the back of the
seat. This creates minimum, back-to-back distances of around 48".
This results in a lot fewer rows and fewer seats in the back-half of
the planetarium. Unfortunately to make up for the lost rows,
architects are forced to create more terrible-sightline-seats in the
front-half of the theater.
Forgetting the cost of projection systems, planetariums are expensive
classrooms because of the great vertical height they require. In the
same foot print, an architect can create 2 or three classroom spaces.
Getting back one of those classrooms in the planetarium is one of the
reasons why these bad compromises occur. The most successful design
is to have a dedicated adjacent classroom with equivalent capacity to
This allows classrooms to be classrooms and planetariums to be
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On Feb 10, 2013, at 12:24 PM, sharon.shanks wrote:
Kevin - well said.
I didn't bring up the tilt or the desks - in my facility, when we got
new seats during our remodel, there was debate about tilt for the dome
vs. tilt for the classroom (too much tilt, and it would be even harder
for the students to take notes and - well, stay awake). Not enough
tilt, and it was literally painful for planetarium audiences. We
compromised, and now it's not comfortable for either.
The desk arms, with 6 some years of use, are now noisy; ADD kids bang
them against the sides the the chairs. I've started having the field
trip students put them up; counter-intuitive, but quieter.
I also don't see the planetarium equipment being used to its best
potential for the Intro to Astro classes, and often hear students,
current and former, mention to me at public programs that they "only
got to see the stars a couple of times," or were shown only parts of
fulldome programs. The dome is mostly used for PowerPoint lectures.
A better solution is class in a lecture hall, moved to the planetarium
when its capabilities are needed. I think Ball State, among others,
However, because YSU does not have many lecture halls with 100+
seating, this means fewer students per class, and thus a smaller
"profit per professor" ratio. My situation will never change; all I
can do is make the best of it.
Note: this are my opinions, not those of YSU or my colleagues. :)
Even closer to Kevin's observations: the planetarium at Farrell High
School (western pennsylvania) - the dome is a better fit to the room,
but there are still seats that are under the lower ceiling. The desks
were state of the art 30 years ago, with push-button feed back systems
that stopped working decades ago. The chairs tilt back. And squeak.
Can you say rocking chairs?
In both cases, students see the equipment (at YSU, the projectors and
the dome; at Farrell, the push buttons) and assume - legitimately, I
think - that they will be using them or they will be used as part of
At Farrell, explaining that the buttons no longer work is all that it
needed. Telling them to sit still is harder and sets up a "crime and
punishment" scenario. At YSU, there is no explaining to Intro to Astro
students that the equipment that they are being charged a lab fee for
will be used for maybe a week in total out of a 15 week class.
Like Kevin pointed out, it's not a question of fulldome projection
being the province of planetariums. It's a question of trying to force
a square peg into a round hole - and the bottom budget line.
--- In email@example.com, KDConod wrote:
I don't think its an issue of being narrow-minded..remember this sort
of thing (sans the moveable dome) has been tried before. Spitz built a
number of classroom type planetariums. It was always my impression
that these were not all that successful. The chairs, which had to
tilt, made a lot of noise and often broke, plus school groups made a
lot of noise messing around with the folding tabletops. Then there's
the issue Sharon brought up.
Sometimes if you make to many compromises when it comes to
multipurpose spaces, you end up with a space that is not really good
for any of its purposes.
From: Charles Treleaven
Sent: Saturday, February 2, 2013 2:07 AM
Subject: [fulldome] Planetaria in Lecture / Conference Halls
The sooner we get out of the attitude that Full Dome projection is the
preserve of planetariums the better. We need to start thinking
sideways, and use the old marketing question - "what is the business
of the business"