Out-of-this-World Upgrades for Williamsport Area Planetarium

WILLIAMSPORT -- Williamsport Area High School is just one of six high schools in the state to have its own planetarium. The equipment is now nearly 50 years old and students are looking to upgrade it.

Astronomy teacher Tara Yokitis gets good use out of the planetarium at Williamsport Area High School, but if you couldn't tell from the analog controllers, this planetarium is a little behind the times.

The once state-of-the-art equipment was built along with the original high school building in the 1970s.

"Every time I put it up, I'm just a little concerned it's just not going to be what it should be," Yokitis said.

"Our planetarium it's good but it definitely needs an upgrade," said senior Cameron Crossley.

A complete overhaul could cost upwards of $500,000. Luckily, Yokitis says some students are willing to take on the task as part of their senior project for much less.

"I thought it would be cool to give back to the high school," L.J. Boone said.

A portion of the $10,000 project is already backed by private donations and the WASD Education Foundation.

High school seniors L.J. Boone and Cameron Crossley have plans to update the planetarium using a new projector and mirror.

"We are going to take a mirror that is a quarter sphere and put it on the side of the dome and use a projector to project on the side of the mirror," Boone explained.

The new projector will cost them around $10,000 and will replace the old one from the 1970s. The old projector still works so they are going to keep it as a backup.

"I'm elated, I'm very excited and I'm very thankful," Yokitis said.

A new projector means better pictures but it also gives teachers a chance to use up-to-date software.

"Instead of just seeing the star map, they can actually visualize what the constellation is supposed to be,"

The school is still looking for funding to support the improvements. The students hope to have it complete by the start of the new year.