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Physics Department Kicks Off PonyUp Fundraiser to Buy a Planetarium

The Department of Physics has begun a new 30-day fundraiser through PonyUp, the university’s online donation platform. The campaign will run from Oct. 5 to Nov. 4.

Brian Jackson, an assistant professor of physics, and research assistant Wesley Sandidge want to raise $10,000 to buy a portable, inflatable digital planetarium for the community on campus and beyond through the department’s STEM outreach program.

Portrait of Brian Jackson.
Brian Jackson

If the fundraiser is successful, Jackson and Sandidge will take the planetarium to schools, community centers, libraries and to rural areas of the state where access to science education is limited. That includes central Idaho, home to the country’s sole International Dark Skies Reserve. Students from Boise State in the School of Public Service worked with the Idaho Conservation League to help establish the reserve in 2017.

“Many of our citizens lack basic astronomical literacy and access to telescopes. This planetarium would be a tremendous resource for sharing the wonder of astronomy across the state,” said Jackson.

Capitol High School in Boise, the College of Idaho in Caldwell, and the College of Southern Idaho in Pocatello have “beautiful traditional planetariums,” said Jackson. “However, those installations are fixed, and so people have to come to them. We will be able to bring our state-of-the-art planetarium to the people.”

Portable planetarium

Digital planetariums consist of an inflatable dome, specialized mirror rig, high-definition projector and laptop. They are able to create high-quality imagery and animations akin to those of traditional planetariums, but for a fraction of the cost. A standard dome, which looks something like a big, puffy tent, can accommodate about 30 astronomy lovers, he added.

To support “Bringing the Universe to Boise State,” donate online through PonyUp.

As with all PonyUp campaigns, donors receive special thanks. In this case, $10 donors will receive personalized thanks on Jackson’s Twitter feed. Donors of $500 or more may be able to schedule a private planetarium visit, subject to some limitations.

The department has run two previous successful fundraisers through PonyUp. The first raised money in 2015 to refurbish the university’s observatory atop the Science and Education Building. The second supported a series of campus and community events surrounding the 2017 solar eclipse when Idaho was in the path of totality.

PonyUp also is hosting a fundraiser for the Boise State Baja Racing Club. The club wants to raise $2,000 to design and build an all-terrain vehicle to compete in the yearly regional competition hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers. That drive, which has already raised more than $600, continues until Nov. 2. Donate on the PonyUp website.