Inflatable Planetarium Helps Children Learn About Space

from The Press-EnterpriseAn inflatable planetarium at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California allows visitors to learn about distant galaxies and space travel.

The Discovery Dome was originally loaned to the museum by NASA for the month of March. More than 2,000 people visited the inflatable planetarium to attend the show entitled “We Choose Space!” The show is a 3D educational presentation about the International Space Station and the prospect of humans living on the moon in the future. The show is narrated by astronauts Scott Parazinsky, Tom Jones, and Gene Cernan and the late news anchor Walter Cronkite.

A survey taken before and after the show revealed that most viewers came out knowing more about space than they did when they arrived at the inflatable planetarium.

The show was so popular and such a valuable educational tool that museum officials decided to raise $30,000 to purchase their own inflatable planetarium in September. They began offering shows in November. The dome can also be used at schools on Mondays, when the museum is closed.

The dome measures 17 feet in diameter and is shaped like a giant igloo. It is inflated with an air blower and is constructed of lightweight, durable material. An airlock door allows it to retain its shape as visitors enter and leave. Twenty to 30 people can lie on beanbags or sit on folding chairs to watch the show. The planetarium uses digital technology and a Newtonian mirror system attached to a laptop to project images onto the dome.

Both children and adults have been captivated by the show at the inflatable planetarium. Museum officials and teachers believe it is a valuable tool to get children excited about science.

Doctors Without Borders Uses Inflatable Hospital to Treat Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

from Doctors Without BordersA team from Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres) opened an inflatable hospital in Tacloban, one of the cities in the Philippines that was hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan in early November. The hospital was erected in late November to provide medical services to the thousands of people who are struggling in the aftermath of the storm’s destruction.

The inflatable hospital was developed specifically to respond to natural disasters. It was used previously after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The hospital consists of four inflatable 100-square-meter (900-square-foot) tents and a fifth tent with an area of 45 square meters (405 square feet). It was set up on the grounds of the Bethany Hospital, which was seriously damaged by Haiyan. Setting up the hospital was challenging because the group’s volunteers has to clear the area outside the hospital and put up the inflatable rooms at night in the pouring rain.

The inflatable hospital includes an emergency room, a wound care room, a pharmacy, and up to 45 beds. It is equipped to provide in-patient and out-patient consultations and surgery. Additional care will be available once repairs have been made to Bethany Hospital’s surgical and maternity wards, neo-natal unit, and equipment sterilization unit.

Doctors Without Borders’ medical team in the inflatable hospital will assist the few other hospitals in Tacloban that are still operating and take on some of the work done by the first teams of rescuers, who are beginning to leave the area. They expect that most of the patients they will be treating from now on will have common diseases or conditions related to lack of access to medical care.

Couple Turn Their Home into an Inflatable Winter Wonderland

from Daily MailJim and Carol Cooper from West Moseley, Surrey, England have transformed their home into a winter wonderland every Christmas for the past 10 years. They decorate their house with over 40 sets of lights and 15 inflatable figures, including several Santa Clauses, reindeer, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, a merry-go-round with elves swinging from candy canes, and a snowman that jumps out of an igloo, as well as a snow machine.

They say both children and adults love the annual display, with many stopping by to see it every day from the time they put it up in early December until they take it down at the beginning of January. It takes them three days to put the together the winter wonderland.

The Coopers have spent thousands of dollars on the display over the years. The inflatables use fans to stay upright and are turned on every day at 9 a.m. The lights come on at 4 p.m. The Coopers don’t know how much the electricity for the fans and lights costs because they pay a fixed amount every month.

They began decorating their home at the urging of their daughter, and the display has grown every year. Seven years ago, they decided to go all-out for Christmas. They buy more inflatables every year and rearrange them to make the display look different from year to year.

After the holiday display was vandalized several years ago, the Coopers installed closed-circuit television to prevent further destruction. Now they watch people from inside the house and turn on the snow machine when unsuspecting viewers get close to the inflatables.

This year, the Coopers are collecting donations to benefit a local school for children with learning disabilities.

Inflatable Dancers Protect Fruit Crops from Pesky Birds

inflatableSome farmers across the country are using inflatable “dancing” tube men, which are normally used to lure potential buyers to car lots, for a new purpose – scaring away birds that threaten their crops. The dancers have been used at several vineyards and farms in New York, Michigan, Washington, and other states.

The $200 million bird problem is especially troubling to growers of grapes and blueberries. The chief culprits that damage the most crops are American robins and European starlings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is sponsoring a $2 million, three-year, multi-state study of bird-related damage to crops, a problem that has not been examined in-depth until now. The study has pilot-tested several bird-deterring strategies, including the inflatable dancers, recorded distress calls and predator noises, and kites decorated with pictures of raptors attached to poles placed in fields. Cornell University, which is participating in the study, was awarded $517,000 and is studying the effectiveness of the air dancers.

The inflatable air dancers seem to be working, but researchers want to conduct further testing to determine the extent of their effectiveness. They believe the dancers’ random movement is what makes them a better deterrent than traditional scarecrows, which stand still in one place. Birds can get used to the scarecrows after realizing that they are not a threat.

The inflatable dancers need power to move, which requires generators or another source of electricity. Companies in several states sell the inflatable men, which tower over 15 feet tall, to farmers to scare away birds that threaten their crops. The dancers come in multiple colors and with reflective tape, move randomly, and have noisy fans. That combination of factors seems to make the inflatable dancers a useful way for farmers to deal with their persistent bird problems.


Albuquerque Hosts International Balloon Fiesta

mass ascensionThe 42nd annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held from October 5 to 13. The event included 554 registered balloon teams, with 97 special shape balloons and five gas balloons. The participants represented 18 countries from around the world and 35 U.S. states.

An estimated 856,000 people attended the nine-day event, a significant increase over last year that is attributed to good weather and the introduction of the Music Fiesta, a country music concert featuring several big names on the last Saturday of the Balloon Fiesta. Film Fest winners were announced after the concert, with first prize going to the University of New Mexico.

balloon glowsFive teams, all Americans, participated in the America’s Challenge Gas Race, in which the team that travels the farthest distance wins. The winning team from New Mexico traveled 1,425.87 miles. A $10,000 prize was awarded in the hot air overall competition.

The Fiesta began as a gathering of 13 hot air balloons in 1972 and has grown into the largest balloon event in the world. Gas balloons began participating in 1981. In 1993, the Balloon Fiesta hosted the 37th Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, the world’s most prestigious gas ballooning event. In 1994, it held the 8th World Gas Balloon Championship. The following year, Mark Sullivan, winner of the Montgolfier Diplome, one of ballooning’s top honors, founded the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race. The Balloon Fiesta hosted the Coupe Aeronautique again in 1999.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held for nine days in early October at Balloon Fiesta Park. The 43rd event will be held from October 4 to 12, 2014.