Student-run planetarium is ‘out of this world’

Published by , Author: Taylor Akers - Rocket Contributor, Date: November 15, 2018

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, students and faculty members gathered in the Vincent Science Center in light of the inauguration of Slippery Rock University’s new president William Behre. Macaroni bites, “Meteor Meatballs,” cake and iced tea were all served before an hour showing of skydiving, underwater investigations and an educational video on dark matter.

While the 17-day celebration has been in full swing since the first of the month, the planetarium shows have always been around, cycling through various educational videos every Monday and Thursday beginning at 8 p.m.

Fifteen years ago, the planetarium was constrained to a large star projector and plastic chairs until the department decided to take a more modern take. Daniel Arnett, a robotics student at the time, stepped up to the task in 2012.

Working with Dr. Manuel Valera, Arnett slowly upgraded the room into a series of working projectors that blend their individual pictures into one thanks to the domed ceiling. This student labor as the planetarium shifted from an analog system saved the University roughly $20,000 in costs.

After graduating from SRU, Arnett is now a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and currently works with Adam Rittle, a 2016 graduate.

When asked about how the planetarium affected him after graduating, Rittle said, “I teach kids how to program robots now and [working on the planetarium] gave me the technological experience. Now, I come and hang out whenever Cody [Brant] needs help.”

Cody Brant, a junior physics major, currently acts as the manager of the planetarium after being involved since his freshman year.

Other students like Wyatt Rosenberger, Gabrielle Kizer and Joe ‘The Freshman’ Uleau also make up the planetarium team as the service is 100 percent student-run.

“It’s interesting to work here,” Rosenberger said. “We play cool videos, it’s a soundproof room and I can just listen to music as loud as I want.”

Brant agreed, saying, “It’s free and awesome to come and relax. We play whatever we want usually. Most are about space but we also have a feature film about biology and one where Google has tried to get people back to the moon. There’s a variety of subjects that go into this because diversity is what we need to get people to shows.”

Indeed, the planetarium is currently trying to grow and expand their reach to SRU students.

“It’s a marketing thing and that’s what I’m trying to do with the radio station with [Gabrielle],” Brant said. “I’m a physics major, not a communication major. It would also be nice to get people to make their own videos for us to use.”

The planetarium is also open to fill positions, as Uleau, a physics and pre-engineering major, would know.

“In my FYRST Seminar, Cody asked if anyone was interested in running the planetarium and so I just signed up,” Uleau said.

Although the students currently involved are engineering, biology or physics majors, the planetarium is open to all majors in all years.

“You can come talk to anyone here and fill out a position,” Brant said. “Just show up once a week and you just do your best.”

The planetarium will present shows every Monday and Thursday at 8 p.m. If interested in a position, email


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