The Tri-Cities should have a planetarium by fall, after Columbia Basin College completes its fundraising campaign today.
CBC will announce today that the Community Enrichment Foundation has made the final donation needed to break ground on the project in June and complete construction in October.
The planetarium on CBC's Pasco campus will be the third leg of its astronomy program, complementing the Moore Observatory, also on the Pasco campus, and the Pacific Northwest Regional Observatory that is being developed near Wallula Gap.
But it also is seen as a way to hook much younger students on science.
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CBC President Rich Cummins said he wants visiting elementary and middle school students to "get a sense of the magic and mystery of science and the wonder of the universe."
The planetarium also will be available for community use, adding a venue for guest lecturers who want to make use of its 30-foot dome that acts as a projection screen and other multimedia events such as laser shows.
The CBC Foundation's fundraising for the project kicked off with a $50,000 donation last fall from the Community Enrichment Foundation, a joint venture between HAPO Credit Union and Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities/Kennewick.
"It was an honor for us to kick it off, and it's an honor for us to wrap it up," said Dave Schulz, HAPO chief executive officer.
The Community Enrichment Foundation is donating $50,000 more today, bringing the CBC Foundation's total to $433,000 for the project. The college will come up with the rest of the $1.2 million needed for the project from its capital remodeling money and a small loan.
CBC plans to add an addition to its D Building, which now has classrooms and offices, for the planetarium. The planetarium's projector will be connected to computers that can capture images from observatories, including the Moore Observatory and possibly the Wallula Gap observatory, which will be the new home of the telescope from the former Rattlesnake Mountain Observatory.
It can give students a chance to see how the stars are aligned in the sky from computer images when cloudy weather would not allow them to do so through a telescope. And it will offer them a chance to see the night sky as it's seen from other points on Earth or as it looked at a certain time in the past.
CBC and Heritage College launched a degree program in 2011, a bachelor of science in combined science with a specialization in astronomy. Having the planetarium will bring the package of resources needed for the program together.
It also will help build a pathway for degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, helping students start thinking about those careers at an early age.
If you ask adults if they went to a planetarium as a child, they usually can tell you about specific memories of the occasion, Cummins said.
By bringing elementary and middle school children on campus to visit a planetarium, they can see that learning about science is something they can do and college is a place they belong, Cummins said.
The project was attractive to The Community Enrichment Foundation not only because of its support for education, but also because the foundation could see its money would be used in short order for a tangible result, Schulz said.
"At the end of the day, they will see a building and a long-term asset for the community," said Tom Harper, chairman of the CBC Foundation board.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org