High School Laser Shows! | Shiras Planetarium

We at Pangolin were recently reached out to by Becky, the director of the Shiras Planetarium, who wanted to share her experiences, and progress using our Pangolin BEYOND software, along with several Kvant Clubmax 3000 FB4.

Below is her story, along with some of the awesome laser content that has been made by her students.

“We started with a rental system, but then purchased a complete laser system from Pangolin. 

I am Becky LaBrecque, director of the Shiras Planetarium in Marquette, Michigan. I am here today with my technician, Jacob Phillips. We want to share some amazing things our students have been doing with our equipment from Pangolin.

The Shiras Planetarium has been serving the Upper Great Lakes region since 1965. The planetarium is part of a public high school. Our primary focus is on astronomy education and programs for field trip groups. In recent years that has become more difficult to serve the public as our digital projection system failed. We are using a tired star projector circa 1992. It still provides a look at the night sky but is struggling to keep up with the times. 

We have been working on fundraising for new equipment for several years, which is why we started looking at lasers. I had seen other planetariums host laser shows and wondered if it might be an excellent way to help us increase our revenue. We started with a rental system and soon realized that having lasers in our dome helped us fundraise and offered unique opportunities for education for our students. 

We purchased and installed 6 Kvant Clubmax 3000 lasers initially, but recently added two more. We started out using purchased content for our shows, and we still do that! Our audiences have loved the content we have purchased! However, we wanted students to create unique laser shows. We had seen some examples done in other places in the past, but they fell very flat. They simply had words scrolling across the screen.  We wanted more, and we quickly learned that the Beyond software could deliver anything we can dream up! 

I teach a class called Science for Inventors. This course utilizes CAD design, 3D printing, Virtual Reality, Coding, and Electronics to allow students to explore inventions and create things. It is an eclectic mix and a class driven by the students’ creativity and passions. There is a lot of science in building a laser show!  You need to understand color, light, timing, and so much more. The students watch tutorial videos from the Pangolin website to learn how to use Beyond. They get feedback from our technician along the way, but we do not spoon-feed the processes for anything we do in this class. Instead, we push students to blast through the walls that come up. Lasers have been no exception! 

Last year in February, we had our first student-created laser shows almost done, and we shut down due to the pandemic. Our school had to put primary focus on safety and education, so the planetarium was temporarily closed. We still had students very interested in being professionals in the entertainment industry someday. We have this beautiful system! So, this spring, we went to work again at getting student laser shows created. 

This year we had some great success. One group made a track for Rocket Man, which we will work into existing shows we do.  Another student worked on a Major Lazer track which also fits into shows we already do. It will be entertaining to feature student work within a presentation for our community. Students made these tracks utilizing the pre-made assets in Beyond, but we did have students push beyond that. Haven Seckinger is a sophomore who loves to draw and also loves K-pop!  She has learned how to draw assets and has used them to create an all-new genre of shows for us! Next fall, we are looking forward to debuting our first whole show created by a high school student! 

The last group composed an original rap song and did all the recording of that track themselves. They then created a laser show in Beyond to accompany it. This track is the first of several original songs for which they will generate laser shows.

We are so happy with our Kvant lasers and the Beyond software. The support from Pangolin has been top-notch. When other companies told us we could not do it, they told us - YES, YOU CAN!  And we are so thrilled they did! The future is bright!”

Student Made Laser Shows

These two K-pop tracks were done by sophomore Haven Seckinger. She has been drawing her own assets for making her tracks. We are going to work on hers next school year to add in some more effects. For now she worked on getting her drawings looking good in the lasers.

This group wrote the rap song and created it in Garage Band. They then made the laser show. They have several other songs they are working on. Our plan is to do a full show of their original music.

Louisville Holiday Laser Dome