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West grad inducted into WSD Hall of Fame

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Shawn Laatsch, Wausau West Class of 1988, is the latest local graduate to be inducted into the Wausau School District’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

Shawn is an International Planetarium Leader and is director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He also serves as President of the International Planetarium Society, the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals.

Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He has presented numerous planetarium shows, led educational workshops, and has been an invited guest lecturer on astronomy and planetariums in Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, and Russia. He is recognized as a pioneer in the use of digital dome technology and innovations in the field. Shawn installed the world’s first 3D stereoscopic planetarium at the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii. He has consulted on the planning and building of numerous planetarium projects worldwide and recently evaluated the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town, South Africa, for its digital upgrade.

Shawn serves as President of the International Planetarium Society, Inc., the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. In 1998 he was inducted as an International Planetarium Society Fellow for his work in promoting astronomy education.

Shawn started his planetarium career in 1984 at the Wausau West High School Planetarium, where as a student he built telescopes and became president of the Astronomy Club.

Shawn Laatsch (left) is inducted into the Wausau School District Hall of Fame by School Board President Lance Trollop. (Photo courtesy of Wausau School District)

Shawn has extensive planetarium experience in public, school, and university facilities. He served as planetarium director for the Arthur Storer Planetarium in Maryland, the Gheens Science Hall & Rauch Planetarium in Kentucky, and the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii where he worked to bring new astronomical datasets into the planetarium environment. While in Hawaii he hosted a weekly radio program called Stargazer on Hawaii Public Radio. His most recent position before coming to Maine in January 2016 was as director and site manager for the Infoversum, a 3D digital dome in Groningen, Netherlands, where he was recruited to supervise its construction, installation of technical equipment, and train staff for opening the center.

In 2004, Shawn was selected as a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador. In 2006 he was asked by NASA SEARCH to be a special presenter on cultural astronomy education at COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) in Beijing, China. In 2008 he received the International Planetarium Society’s highest honor, the Service Award for dedication to the planetarium field. In 2010 he was elected to the Board of Directors for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and received the Tanaguchi Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Shawn initiated and led the production of Two Small Pieces of Glass, a planetarium program for the International Year of Astronomy which has become one of the most distributed planetarium shows in the world. In 2011 he was appointed chair of the Mauna Kea Observatories Outreach Committee.

Shawn has taught undergraduate astronomy courses at the University of Louisville, East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo using traditional and online methodologies. Additionally, he developed a number of special techniques for using the digital planetarium to teach undergraduate astronomy in the dome.

Shawn has a passion for cultural and historical astronomy and sharing the wonders of the universe with people of all ages. He currently writes a weekly blog for Bangor Daily News called Eye on Maine Skies ( sharing information on the night sky. In his free time he enjoys the great outdoors and traveling with his wife, Kim.

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