After causing an uproar of laughter on Twitter, the Del and Norma Robison Planetarium has received a surplus of visitors to its shows. The student worker behind it all? Senior Elisabeth Blotevogel.
Blotevogel began working at the planetarium in spring 2016 and took over the planetarium’s Twitter account the following semester. She said she decided to work at the planetarium because she needed a scholarship job and “space is neat” which has become a catchphrase at the planetarium.
Blotevogel said the planetarium formed the Twitter account to create awareness about the shows it holds.
“Definitely getting news out about the planetarium has been our biggest challenge,” Blotevogel said. “Trying to get it off the ground. You know, as a gigantic round building that says planetarium on the outside, a bunch of people still don’t know that it’s a planetarium.”
Planetarium Director Jared Young has been the acting director since the fall 2015 semester. He said he has always had an interest in space because he likes technological things like SpaceX, Tesla and whatever else Elon Musk is doing these days. Young also watched “Star Trek: Voyager” growing up and said he is a Trekkie at heart.
Young said people generally overlook print advertisements, so social media was the best way to get people engaged in the planetarium’s content and realize the building was there.
Young said the planetarium was once mistaken as an aquarium by students who were terribly disappointed with the selection of fish. Since then, the planetarium has added a full dome aquarium video.
Young said the planetarium workers are always looking for new ideas and events to get people to attend shows. He said the Twitter account was a good idea because it gave outsiders a peek into the building’s environment.
“The Twitter account in particular has been able to give the planetarium a personality, instead of it being just this building that you go to,” Young said. “There’s a deeper understanding of the realms of planetarium life that exists within.”
After creating the account, Blotevogel noticed more student interaction at the planetarium than before. She said events partnered with different student organizations or departments boosted attendance more than anything else.
Blotevogel said the charm of the planetarium is that it’s an educational experience not attached to an obligation. She said the shows share a commonality by providing opportunities to learn for enjoyment and increasing awareness of the world around us.
“There are definitely many educational experiences that you can have through classes or certain student organizations, but that’s typically adding eight different things to your schedule,” Blotevogel said. “Given how stressed out and busy Truman students are, it’s really easy to forget that every learning experience comes with a set of related obligations. It’s really easy to kind of lose sight of the joy of learning for learning’s sake, which is something that is pretty integral to the liberal arts at Truman.”
Young said the planetarium is distinct because of the number of subjects that can be taught in the building. The planetarium often hosts events for field trips, student groups or other educational events. He said he is excited for the future of the planetarium.
“Overall, for the planetarium, I am excited for what the planetarium is,” Young said. “I’m excited for what the planetarium can be. I hope it remains an integral part of the University for a long, long time, and I think it will.”
The Twitter account has been one of the ways student workers become invested in growing the planetarium’s presence on campus. Blotevogel said her time running the Twitter account has been wonderful. Young was a motivating factor in her interest for the Twitter account and promised to give her a pony if the Twitter account received enough followers. However, Young found a loophole in their deal and plans on buying Blotevogel a My Little Pony doll.
Young said the workers are what made the planetarium what it is today.
“The student workers that have worked at the planetarium over the past few years have been fantastic and are taking some ownership in what the planetarium does,” Young said. “So it’s more than just show up, put in your hours and go home. It’s something they dedicate a little bit of their time to, which has made it so much better than what I could have done with the time myself.”
Young said more than 5,000 people came to shows in 2017, and this year will match that attendance. He said the planetarium will continue to host shows every Saturday at 2 and 3 p.m. because, as they like to say, “Space is neat.”