Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Visions of the Universe

By Phyllis Frenzel

Hickam Base Library was privileged to have been one of 40 libraries nationwide selected to host the travelling astronomy exhibit, "Visions of the Universe, Four Centuries of Discovery," from July 2 through Sept. 5. The display was sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office, the Space Science Telescope Institute, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA, and marks the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. It features photos taken by Hubble and highlights the development of technology and space exploration since Galileo’s time.

Our partners were Solar System Ambassador James Wallace and Joseph Barrett of Starbase Atlantis on Ford Island. Wallace’s knowledge of NASA was indispensible in helping Hickam Library navigate the application process. Barrett and his staff generously volunteered their free time to facilitate hands-on water bottle rocket workshops. Both partnerships resulted in programs that brought the information-rich, 12-panel content alive to all visitors and participants.

Wallace's indispensable knowledge of how NASA thinks was central to Hickam's selection to host. In addition, he generated public interest during the months leading up to the exhibit’s July 2 arrival. Starting with Mercury in January, working away from the sun, the topic of his last presentation on Sept. 17 was on nebulae and galaxies. He also shared his vast knowledge and unique ability to communicate to diverse audiences with four fourth-grade classes, a home-school group, and members of the Hawaii Library Association who visited on Aug. 29.

Barrett and his enthusiastic staff, Olivia Barrett, Lincoln Higa and Ythzel Harper, conducted four water bottle rocket workshops during August and September at the library. HLA members who visited the exhibit on Sept. 4 and 5 got to witness groups of 25 excited parents and kids design, build and launch durable, high-flying water bottle rockets, some of which made as many as 10 flights up to 100 feet. Each Rocketeer - from first to last - got an unwavering, enthusiastic countdown from Starbase staff, which ran two launch pads simultaneously on the grassy area outside of the library in the hot afternoon sun.

Starbase Atlantis is a Department of Defense program sponsored by the Navy on Ford Island. It is designed to help fifth-grade elementary school classes from local schools explore and experience the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math in an exciting hands-on 25-hour curriculum. For information about the Starbase program, call 472-7389.

The Solar System Ambassadors Program is sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an operating division of the California Institute of Technology and a lead research and development center for NASA. Volunteer ambassadors are space enthusiasts from all walks of life, who share their knowledge and love of outer space with the general public. Ambassadors now number 523 in 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Many thanks to Terese Leber and Amy Nogami for helping to organize the HLA event at the Hickam Library, and also to Ambassador Wallace and Joe Barrett and his staff for helping us pull together such a fantastic and well-received program. There’s no telling how many seeds have been planted as a result of our having reached beyond what we thought was possible. The exhibit panels and study materials are downloadable and available at

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