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Billy Hix, associate professor of education at Motlow College, uses a planetarium to visually teach multi-curriculum standards to third and fifth graders, as well as middle school students, throughout middle Tennessee and north Alabama.
“During the past year, we have visited 51 schools and engaged over 7,300 students and teachers,” said Hix. “I have a trailer that I load the planetarium into, and I pull it with my pickup truck.”
When students enter the planetarium, a 24-foot blowup dome, the experience simulates moving through the solar system and the universe. Hix controls the projection inside the dome using special software on a laptop. The software can simulate different dates, planets and solar systems.
“My original dome was borrowed from the U.S. Air Force,” said Hix. “Some potential donors saw the stories about our project in the press and decided to donate the funds for the Motlow College Foundation to purchase one.”
The planetarium is so life-like with its simulated motion, that Hix warns students and teachers before entering that if they are prone to motion sickness, they might feel a little uncomfortable when the show begins.
“Most folks are fine as long as they sit down,” had added. “I have had people insist on standing before, and when the motion is turned on they almost always lose their balance. The experience is very much like flying through space, and that’s why it is so effective as a teaching tool and so popular with students.”