If I could go to any con I could it would be.. well, it would be the San Diego Comicon! But then the next con would be… okay, it would be the Atlanta DragonCon. But somewhere on that list is definitely SEPA con! SEPA stands for the South Eastern Planetarium Association. And even though I don’t have a planetarium to call my own anymore, they still let me be a part. ‘Cause it’s all about what I bring to the table, man! I just love all the people, the programs, and even the workshops that are packed into the five days the con runs.
And this year the theme is something close to my heart — Storytelling! I take seriously the role storytelling plays in education. It is the most primitive form of teaching from the beginnings of our species. A well-told story doesn’t just educate, it rips open the mind’s creativity and passion. It makes the hard-coded, bulleted lists of our seemingly random informational bits a cohesive tapestry of flowing imagery that makes the bits make sense. It compels us to educate ourselves. (Wow, suddenly I’m inspired to write up a speech about how I feel about all that. hmmmm.)
The workshops, the presentations, and the special speakers are all just fantastic. (Especially the special speakers. This year we are honored to have Dava Sobel hanging out — woo hoo!) But that’s not the whole reason why I’m so excited. I’m excited over the unveiling of new technologies in the realm of full-dome theater! Every year the advances made leapfrog the year before. Two years ago I was stunned by the introduction of the Super Megastar II. Last year it was the ease of Sky-Skan’s proprietary software to place and then color-code lists of asteroids into a star field (okay, that doesn’t sound impressive at all. This is why one has to make the journey to actually see this stuff for himself!) So this year who knows what will emerge. I’ve heard that Evans & Sutherland are supposed to really wow us with a new demo. I await with baited breath…
Also this year I’ll be joined by Jeremy Lusk, making us the only two participants from Arkansas — instead of the usual one participant. All together there will be representatives from six countries and thirty-two states. I know most of those by name, and I think most of those would recognize me. It’s wonderful working in a field where you truly feel part of a larger good. Where the goals of the collective are to better each other. The methods I learn, the techniques I pick up, the stories my companions tell always inspire me to return to my job …and try very hard to inspire others.
But, as with all cons, the real stuff comes after 11pm, when everyone is relaxed and can just talk about what they truly enjoy, which is working in this educational field that brings new challenges every day. There’s where the real inspiration is. The after-hours camaraderie is where the lasting friendships happen. And those are the moments I remember best every year.
I’ll keep the blog updated daily next week.