Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Outreach events


Public Observation Nights:
The Public Observation Nights (PONs) we host inRequarth Observatory have been one of our most popular and enduringoutreach activities. After significant work on revamping the telescopesin the summer of 2007, Professors Watson, Miller, and Werner along withstudents Bobby Arn, Andrew Schenk, and Shae Trumpy, began to hostPONs in September, 2007.  This group held PONs through 2008, and sincethen Dr. Watson has continued the tradition with the help of many otherSPS students, including Rick Bearce, Matt Dahlman, Rob Mentzer, BillKersten, Kevin McNelly, Nick Polley, Joe Page, Corey Page, KaylaLongwell, and Derrick Simmons.  Thanks to all of their efforts, PONshave now provided thousands of people on Millikin's campus and in thesurrounding Decatur community with access to some of the bestastronomical equipment in the state, including the largest publiclyavailable telescope in Illinois.  PONs have provided guests with viewsof distant galaxies, giant star clusters within the Milky Way, binarystars like Albireo, red supergiants like Antares and Betelgeuse, bluesupergiants like Vega, not to mention outstanding close-ups of the solarsystem, including our Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and its fourlargest (Galilean) moons, Saturn's rings and two of its largest moons,Uranus, Neptune, and even the dwarf planet, Pluto.


The Planets Observation – October 25th, 2008

TheMillikin Chapter of the Society of Physics Students joined up withMichael Luxner and his concert, “The Planets”. After attending theconcert featuring Gabriel Cabezas, attendees got the chance to seeJupiter, king of the planets and currently the brightest object in thenight sky, along with its four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, andCallisto. Prior to the concert, Dr. Watson, along with students AndrewSchenk and Shae Trumpy delivered the evening’s Concert Preview “ThePlanets: Our Solar System and Beyond”.
Eyes on the sky: Visitors to Millikin observatory find a lot to love in night sky, October 2nd, 2008



Halloween Spooky Observation Night – October 31st, 2008

Onall Hallow’s Eve, strange things could be found haunting Millikin’sObservatory. From afar, strange sounds were heard coming from within theobservatory, as bizarre objects dangled and glowed from the prep room.Observers were treated to stellar sights, as the night was cold andclear. A special thanks to Dr. Joe Stickles and Dr. Dan Miller forputting this event together as well as SPS members for spookifying theobservatory.


AAPT Winter Meeting, February 12-15, 2009

SPS Members Brock Alldredge, Shae Trumpy, Bobby Arn, and Andrew Schenk along with SPS Co-advisor Dr. Dan Miller spent the weekend in Chicago for the American Association of Physics Teachers winter meeting.  Andrew Schenk presented a poster on "Building an Active Student Group to Complement Undergraduate Physics Education" while Bobby Arn, gave a lecture on "Expanding Science Education through Astronomy Outreach.  If you missed Bobby's presentation we recorded it and posted it here. Pictures of the poster session and other misc parts of the trip are here.  A special thanks goes to National SPS for providing a travel grant and Dr. Miller and Mrs. Miller for accompanying the students on this trip.

Taylorville Middle School Students Explore the Natural Science at Millikin University, November 10th, 2008

Monday evening, November 10, 2008, several school bus loads of students from the Taylorville Middle School visited our campus for an "Exploring the Natural Sciences" event. Millikin University faculty and students in the Natural Sciences and Math Division provided opportunities for hands-on experiences, engaging games and experiences in the Leighty-Tabor Science Center.

Activities included:
(1) a game of "Museum Mania" led by Dr. David Horn and Allison Savage in the William Andrew Kuhnke Museum. During the game, participants will learn about the diversity of life and adaptations that animals have for survival by observing and describing specimens within the museum.
(2) "Mathamagic" by Dr. Joe Stickles and Rachel Morrison, experiencing and proving magic tricks using math.
(3) The Association of Computing Machinery and Dr. Michael Rogers provided a hand-on experience in sorting numerical labeled tiles to learn about implementing algorithms and efficiency, a concept at the heart of computer science.
(4) Dr. Paris Barnes and Dr. Clarence Josefson provided demonstrations of the wonders of Chemistry.
(5) Dr. Casey Watson and Professor John Werner hosted a session about how galaxies evolve.
(6) Dr. Daniel Miller and the Society for Physics Students featured the telescope in the observatory.

Congratulations to the Natural Sciences faculty and students for providing this excellent opportunity for these young visitors from Taylorville. Perhaps they will return as Millikin students in a few short years.
Way to go!

A special thanks goes to Dr. Dan Miller for arranging, planning, and coordinating this event! 

Millennium Girls and DAAC Astronomy Jamboree, October 4th, 2008
The Society of Physics Students was busy this past Saturday with two huge events.  The day started out at State Farm HQ in Bloomington, IL, for the Millennium Girls Symposium. State Farm brought in many local companies, organizations, and services to provide an opportunity for 5th through 8th grade girls to learn more about the technology industry and its career choices.  Dr. Dan Miller led many members of SPS as well as math majors, Erica Lindamood and Sarah Dial, in giving these Millennium Girls an opportunity to look at the sun (using special filters) through several telescopes. Dr. Casey Watson explained about solar activity and other interesting facts about the star that we orbit. Within only a couple hours, over 200 girls saw two different layers of the sun that was only possible through the use of white light and H-Alpha filters. Many of them were curious about the equipment being used and how the sun really shines. This event was an exciting time for all involved.

A special thank you goes to

Dr. Miller for arranging for SPS to be at this event and to State Farm for inviting us.

After all the excitement of  State Farm, SPS’s day was not over yet. Over the past year, SPS has been teaming up with the Decatur Area Astronomy Club (DAAC).  DAAC’s largest event of the year is their Astronomy Jamboree: a night filled with astronomy workshops, contests, raffles, food, and observing at Friend’s Creek, IL. Dr. Miller and SPS members helped out during the evening, manning telescopes for the observing session. Over 175 individuals attended the Jamboree and were exposed to views of star clusters, exploded stars, planets, and much more.

SPS would like to thank the Decatur Area Astronomy Club and Bryan Maple, President of DAAC, for inviting us to join them in this great event.

First Christian Church Tours Observatory - April 23, 2008

Elementary students of First Christian Church stopped by the observatory on Wednesday evening to learn a little more about the galaxy that we live in.  Dr. Casey Watson guided them through an online quiz before taking them up to the observation deck for some sight seeing of the cosmos!  The students were able to see the rings of Saturn as well as a handful of stars before the evening was over. 

Boy Scouts Explore the Solar System - April 9, 2008

On Wednesday evening a boy scout troop came to Millikin University to learn more about the stars and planets.  Dr. Watson and Dr. Miller presented some general information to the boy scouts and answered questions before leading them up to the observatory for some hands on activities.  Despite the mostly cloudy evening, Saturn, Mars, and the Moon were visible for the scouts.  A special thanks goes to Dr. Beck for coordinating the trip for the boy scouts.  

MacArthur High School & Red Hat Ladies - April 2, 2008

On Wednesday evening MacArthur High School students and the Red Hat Ladies came to Millikin to tour the Physics and Astronomy Department.

The first stop on the tour was the laser lab for a brief explanation of three projects that are being carried out there by students.  Then both groups proceeded to the roof for a look through the 20" telescope.  Despite the patches of clouds the Orion Nebula and Saturn made appearances for the visitors.  Following the short stargazing session both groups watched a video about the Very Large Array (VLA).

A special thanks goes to Dr. Watson and Dr. Miller for presenting to the groups.

Girl Scout Lock-In - March 7, 2008

Local girl scout troops had a sleepover in LTSC.  They started their evening by listening to some presentations from different departments with the Physics and Astronomy department kicking off the evening.  The Physics and Astronomy department took the girl scouts on a three station tour of the building starting in a ground floor lecture hall with a brief talk by Professor Casey Watson on the Universe.  The girl scouts then visited either the observatory on the 5th floor for a tour of those facilities or they went to the advanced physics lab in the basement for a demonstration of the levitron and charge to mass ratio experiments. 

Total Lunar Eclipse - February 20, 2008

The Society of Physics Students held a very special event on February 20th. Viewable from North America was a total lunar eclipse. This is a rare event, which will not occur again until December 2010.  A total lunar eclipse is when the sun is directly on the opposite side of Earth from the moon. The Earth there by creates a shadow on the moon before it reaches totality, or the point when the Earth blocks most or all sunlight from reaching the moon. A video of the eclipse is available here.

This night, the weather cooperated with our plans.  It was a clear night, allowing for a very amazing event. Though the temperature was slightly chilly, over 200 people joined SPS out on Millikin's Track and Field. When the moon entered totality, the view of Mars, Saturn, and the Orion Nebula was spectacular.

In addition to a viewing session, a webcast of this event was made available on the internet. Over 40 people tuned into this for a chance to see the eclipse from a (hopefully) warmer location.

A special thanks goes out to Drs. Martell, Watson, Miller, and Professor Werner for their assistance in hosting this huge event. Another special thanks goes to Craig Janssen for making it possible for us to host thewebcast.

Red Hat Society – January 15th, 2008

SPS kicked off the new year in an exciting way. Ladies from the Red Hat Society came by this afternoon to tour the observing facilities as well as experience a solar viewing session. Though it was a tad bit chilly, these ladies didn’t mind the cold as they were able to see various sunspots. Dr. Watson explained all about solar activity and how we are near a solar minimum. Afterwards, sophomores Shae Trumpy and Bobby Arn took them inside the dome to look at Millikin’s 20” telescope. The group was very impressed and couldn’t wait to come back. A special thanks goes out to Dr. Watson for organizing this event.

State Farm, Research Division-November 15, 2007

On Thursday morning several physics students and professors headed up to Bloomington, IL to take a tour of State Farm's research labs. After a late start everyone made it up there and were treated to a nice lunch courtesy of State Farm. Students from Illinois Wesleyan were also in attendance however there was not much time built into the schedule to interact with them.

Dr. John Werner the director of the research division and also an adjunct professor at MU kicked off the event. Following John were several State Farm employees who presented information on the type of research that is done at State Farm and how a plethora of it relates directly to the physics field. After this informative session the Millikin students parted ways from the Wesleyan group and the Big Blue students headed over to State Farm's vehicle labs. At that lab we were able to see first hand some of issues that State Farm faces. A new and complicated problem is the use of carbon fiber in automobiles. Currently carbon fiber is really only used in Ferrari's because of the speed benefits it provides. However the issue is that carbon fiber cannot be repaired in the traditional methods that steel and aluminum can be. This has forced State Farm to find new methods to repair this unique building material.

The final stop on our tour was the structural labs that State Farm has. These labs are focused on issues that pop up in insuring homes. Electrical engineers address problems that start electrical fires. Structural engineers analyze the stability of walls versus the varying forces that they are pitted against. Hail and airborne debris threaten the exterior of a house and materials are being researched to strengthen and fortify the house from outside damages.

In conclusion, the trip to State Farm's research division showed that physics can truly take you anywhere. Just when you think that there is something that physics is not in you find that the shingles on your roof have been studied and tested with physics concepts to determine their durability, the stove in your kitchen might have a fire extinguisher built into it, and the car you are riding in predicts when a crash is going to happen and prepares the vehicle to maximize your chance of survival.

A very special thanks goes to Dr. John Werner and the State Farm team for hosting these tours. Also a special thanks goes to Dr. Watson and Dr. Miller for driving.

Pinckneyville Elementary School-November 6, 2007

On Tuesday morning Dr. Miller, Amy Tegethoff, and Andrew Schenk travelled south to visit the fourth graders of Pinckneyville Elementary School in Pinckneyville, IL. Mrs. Tegethoff, Amy's mother, teaches the class and prepared her students for the Millikin visitors by discussing topics such as the planets of our solar system, constellations in our night sky, and meteorites. Dr. Miller further explained how stars are born and how they die. He also explained several current projects that are underway in the astronomy community. Mrs. Tegethoff's class was full of questions which was a testament to how well their teacher had introduced the subject of astronomy to them. Before lunch, everyone had a chance to look at the sun through one of Millikin's eight inch telescopes with the appropriate solar filter.

A special thanks goes to Mrs. Tegethoff for feeding us lunch and to her fourth graders for being such a great audience!

Science Night-October 29, 2007

On Monday night the Leighty-Tabor Science Center opened her doors to 125 Taylorville Junior High students. These students rotated between five different venues within the science building listening and participating in brief science talks ranging from computer science to chemistry. SPS was the host of the chilliest stop of the night. SPS treated Taylorville students to a range of telescopes on the roof of LTSC where students were able to look at the stars and ask questions about the equipment. A special thanks goes out to all the faculty presenters and to the astronomy lab students for helping out!


Impromptu Stargazing-October 28, 2007

After poor weather conditions made stargazing a no-go on the October 25th Public Observation Night, SPS members decided to hold an impromptu stargazing night on Sunday evening. About 30 visitors stopped by between the open hours of 8 and 10pm to look through 1 of the 2 eight inch telescopes or to view the heavens through the 20 inch telescope. Even though the night air was chilly guests stayed for a long period of time soaking in astronomy knowledge from SPS members.

The next formal stargazing event is the November 8th Public Observation Night scheduled to begin at 8:30pm in Leighty-Tabor Science Center, room 001.


State Farm, Millennium Girls-October 13, 2007

On Saturday morning several SPS members drove up to Bloomington, IL to set up an exhibit at State Farm's Millennium Girls event. The Millikin exhibit was comprised of several 8" telescopes that SPS was planning on using to observe sun spots and solar flares with. However, the weather was overcast so the Millennium Girls had to settle for reading the fine print off signs a quarter mile away. In total 230 individuals visited the Millikin booth and caught a glimpse of what Millikin is all about.

After the Millennium Girls left SPS members packed up all of the equipment into Dr. Miller's car. Then Bobby Arn, Shae Trumpy , and Andrew Schenk stayed behind to attend a luncheon hosted by State Farm. The luncheon consisted of a dialogue between attendees about the shortage of women and minorities in IT careers. Also State Farm discussed what kind of work environment State Farm offers.

A special thanks goes to Dr. Miller for setting up this event for SPS, Megan Sims for helping out with the exhibit, and State Farm for inviting us.

Homecoming Weekend, Class of '77-October 6, 2007

Homecoming weekend was an exciting time especially for Alumni of the class of '77. They came up to the observatory to do some stargazing courtesy of SPS. Millikin Alumni and family were treated to a wide variety of astronomy objects that included the planets Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus, as well as globular clusters such as M13. Guests also were able to view many binaries and open clusters.

Perhaps one of the most admired sights of the evening was not the stars but of the facilities themself. Many Alumni had graduated before Leighty-Tabor Science Center was built in 2000. So it was an interesting chance to explore how the Big Blue has grown over the years. All in all a good time was had by all sharing stories of years past and seeing some of the most magnificent sights in the Galaxy.

East Peoria High School-September 18, 2007

East Peoria High School was hosting an open house to celebrate the opening of their new observatory and Millikin was invited to come and check out their new setup. The physics and astronomy department immediately jumped on the opportunity and four students as well as Dr. Miller loaded up the truck with 3 eight inch telescopes in preparation for our jaunt over to Peoria. After arriving about an hour early we had set up and greeted other visitors with views of Jupiter and some of its moons. East Peoria HS gave a nice astronomy presentation to the crowd numbering somewhere around 100 and afterwards everyone toured their dome. A special thanks goes to East Peoria High School for inviting us, Dr. Watson for arranging travel plans, and Dr. Miller for driving and ice cream!

Decatur Public Library-June 18, 2007

Even during the summer months, Millikin is bustling with activity. Through the Decatur Public Library's summer program Mission Read: To the Library and Beyond, 60 students ages 1st-grade and up visited Millikin University to get a lesson in astronomy. Students were exposed to a virtual tour of the planets, a tour through Millikin's facilities, an astrophotography presentation featuring photos taken by Millikin students, videos which took a tour through the universe, and a general astronomy quiz which gave interesting facts about the universe around us.

Unfortunately, the weather did not work in our favor. With a heavy overcast and scattered showers, the students were not able to use the telescope. Instead, they learned how to do astronomy on their own, without any big or expensive equipment. Looking out into the crowd of students, it was easy to see that most were really interested in astronomy.

Camp Cilca-May 9, 2007

Last night a group of SPS members accompanied by Dan Miller and John Werner scuttled over to Springfield to host a stargazer’s night for some 6th graders at Camp Cilca. After packing up five 8" telescopes and equipment we hit the road (Special thanks to Dr. Watson for helping us load up). After some setup time and swarms of unwelcome bugs, we had everything ready to go for our inquisitive campers.

After showcasing Venus, Saturn, double stars, some galaxies, and some clusters, we packed up the truck in the dark and headed back to Millikin. Overall it was a great learning experience for everyone and we are looking forward to doing many more events like this.

Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL