Morristown-Beard first in the state to have Science on a Sphere
As another school year begins at Morristown Beard, students will have a fun new tool to play with, a massive display system globe that can be used to track weather patterns and other planetary data.Science On a Sphere is a system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a sphere that is 6 feet in diameter, giving the appearance of a giant animated globe. It was developed by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help illustrate the earth’s science to people of all ages.The carbon-fiber globe hangs suspended from the ceiling in the main room of Wilkie Hall, with projectors pointing at it from each corner. While the globe itself does not move, projections onto the globe give the illusion that it rotates just as the Earth does. The animations range from satellite imagery to radar to hurricane-tracking patterns.
The sphere comes with hundreds of data sets, with more continually added, which can be accessed through an app. Students and teachers are also able to create their own sets.“The best thing to do is give students the controls and just listen to them as they use it,” science teacher Jeff Yuhas said.Data that can be projected onto the sphere range from global wave patterns to a visual representation of the number of news articles written about a specific topic around the world.According to NOAA’s Science On a Sphere website, the estimated cost of the equipment needed to build the system is about $45,000. Morristown-Beard’s sphere was given to the school by an anonymous donor, according to the school’s news and information manager, Steve Patchett.A group of faculty and staff are trained to use Science On a Sphere. (Photo: Courtesy of Morristown-Beard)Morristown-Beard is the first in the state to have Science On a Sphere, according to Patchett. Only one other secondary school in the country has the tool. About 150 of them exist at the moment, but nearly all of them are at colleges and museums.“We are excited to introduce Science On a Sphere to Morristown-Beard School students this fall. It is pretty rare to see something like this in a classroom setting,” Headmaster Peter Caldwell said. “The science department has a vision of how it will be used, but the beauty is this will be used in all disciplines.”Science On a Sphere has been hanging in Wilkie Hall for a few weeks now, and the science department is already working on incorporating it into the curriculum when classes start Tuesday.The sphere will be used in several courses, from middle school geography to upper school environmental science. It was also be used for Morristown-Beard’s advanced seminar on planetary science and the school’s weather club, MB Weather Services.More: Morris events listings: Music, theater, kids' stuff, museums, parks, moreScience On a Sphere is also the focus of junior Michelle Corcoran’s independent study. She will develop a program using the sphere that can be shown to elementary school students.It will be open for all of the school’s faculty – not just the science department – to incorporate into their lessons, and can be used as a research tool for students. The goal is for the sphere to be used at all times throughout each school day. When it is not being used for classes, students will be allowed to explore it on their own.Caldwell said a long-term goal is to develop a summer program so students in the area have access to Science On a Sphere as well.Science On a Sphere will complement a new $12.6 million 25,000 square-foot math and science facility that will open on Tuesday, featuring several classrooms, labs, studios, and study spaces. The facility is part of a $20 million, five year campaign to renovate the school.Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@GannettNJ.com