Ghana Planetarium Science Project

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In the Dome


Above: Dave Weinrich and Jacob in the dome.
Right: The MediaGlobe.
Below: Children in the dome.

Digital system Konica-Minolta : Mediaglobe - SCISS Uniview

The Dream

We had dreamt of creating a Science Centre and Planetarium for many years, but did not have a site or funds. Meanwhile we were in touch with Dave Weinrich, an Astronomy Educator in Minnesota, via email.

In 2006, Dave, who had once been a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, came back to Ghana at the time of the solar eclipse. We were then renting a premises with a large space at the back. Despite our lack of funds, Dave made a commitment to help us create a planetarium if we committed to building a dome.

Following these commitments, through Dave’s contacts and efforts, initiating, coordinating and organising, we were the beneficiaries of some major donations. In particular we received a refurbished Mediaglobe projector from an American planetarium and Uniview software from SCISS in Sweden. Jon Elvert and Carol Gikas of Irene W. Pennington Planetarium, Louisiana, donated the projector. Joanne Young and Mark Zellers, of Imagineering, organised the refurbishment of the projector. Ken Yager and Elumenati donated a laptop, and we had support from Joel Halvorson of Minnesota Planetarium Society, and Dave Burgess who organised an Astronomy Club donation.

Digging of the foundations began on Ghana’s Independence Day March 6th 2008.
A local builder helped with donation of concrete mix left over from another job. Work took place from dawn to dusk and beyond. The floor was made as dusk changed to dark. The wall was constructed with concrete blocks and the dome began to take shape with metal pipes forming the half-sphere, like the segments of an orange.

Dave Weinrich arrived in May as the domed roof was still being finished. Dave showed us how to use the Mediaglobe Projector and the Uniview Software, and organised the first domecast with a planetarium in America.

The metal spines were lined with wooden supports to hold sections of hardboard for the interior surfaces. The race was on to create a watertight cover for the dome before the rainy season and before Dave Weinrich returned to America. The first planetarium cover was not watertight and a replacement had to be made. The main structure was complete by June,

In October 2008 we had our first children’s group visit. Soon afterwards, our first volunteer, Laura, with a Master's degree in Physics, arrived from the UK and stayed for six weeks.

Dave came back for the official opening on 22nd January 2009 by His Excellency, The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Dr Nicholas Westcott. Others present were the French Ambassador to Ghana, the Chief of Nungua, Accra, and the Director of the British Council in Ghana.

Volunteers Fran and Pete, introduced by Laura, also highly qualified both in Physics, Astrophysics and Teaching, were with us for six weeks in January and February 2009 when we started having regular visits by classes of school children, ranging from age 4 upwards.

Among others, groups from a Special School derived great enjoyment from the shows and came back for more. Other groups were university students, teachers, astronomy club members, family groups, and work groups.

For their fantastic encouragement long before this building project started, we would like to thank Ray Worthy and Peter Bassett. Ray Worthy and his wife made our first portable dome, and Peter and Amanda provided projection technology for the portable dome. Their enthusiasm gave us great encouragement.

For making everything possible to create the Ghana Planetarium, we are forever indebted to Dave Weinrich, without whom none of this would have happened. We are particularly grateful to Jan Warnstam of SCISS for Uniview software, and to Joanne Young and Mark Zellers of Audiovisual Imagineering for refurbishing the Mediaglobe projector and to Carol Gikas and Jon Elvert for donating the projector.

Thanks are due to our exceptional volunteers, and to many others (not all mentioned here) including Joel Halvorson, Carter Emmart, Nick Barton, Stuart Gold, William Tackie, Mike Puplampu, the staff of Quality Distance Learning, members of our extended family, and the local volunteers who continue to offer their services on weekdays, weekends and vacations.

Photos by: Jane Ashong, Laura Youngson, Ikando, Dave Weinrich, William Tackie, Mike Puplampu.


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