(TNS) — GLASTONBURY, Conn. — Planetariums were once places where people would come and stare at the universe. Brian Czapla, director of the school system's educational technology program, would like to see that change a bit.
"Right now we have a passive system," Czapla said about the Glastonbury East Hartford Elementary Magnet School's planetarium. "You come in, you sit, you watch. We would like to go to a system that is more interactive. A system that actually integrates the iPad technology into controlling the planetarium where students come in and create their own cosmic journeys and cosmic content."
Czapla recently presented his annual technology report to the board of education and included $75,000 for hardware upgrades to the system in 2017-18 school year and $120,000 for a new projection system in 2018-19.
Czapla noted the current system that controls planetarium programming is showing signs of failure. During the past school year, there have been numerous systems failures at the Planetarium which is used by both magnet and Glastonbury students. The failures resulted in show cancellations.
"The projectors have failed twice and limitations of the systems capabilities have become apparent," Czapla said. He noted the current system is highly proprietary and limits access to free and current content available from NASA, NOAA and other governmental agencies.
Czapla said his department has researched possible solutions and has determined that an upgrade would result in a more stable and reliable system. He noted the new system would allow the planetarium to access free content, develop their own planetarium shows, provide interactive programs and share resources with other planetariums.
The planetarium is also used when school is not in session and offers programs to the public including shows and music concerts. The facility is rented for birthday parties and corporate events. Czapla said he can envision creating a summer camp where students learn 21st century programming at the planetarium.
A new projection system would remove the bulky center structure and mount it on the wall. The new system would also be clearer and have a higher resolution. Czapla noted the planetarium is very popular especially for birthday parties for children.
"We are selling out, not every night, but we do large shows," he said. "The birthday parties have been a big hit with sometimes 3-4 on a Saturday. We are seeing a lot of use, but we are at that ceiling where we would like to take it to the next step and make it more of a hands-on, community interactive facility rather than a passive one."
©2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.