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April 24, 2018
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A science guy goes angling

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 6, 2018

STARLAB is a portable planetarium invented in 1977 by Philip Sadler and his class of middle school students. Today the STARLAB provides a plethora of opportunities to many people and this is where Ken Zschack comes in to play. Ken was involved with the Evergreen Parents Teachers’ Association and would enjoy science night at the school. However, the following year, Zschack inquired of Gaylene Elliot as to why science night was discontinued and because the gentleman that had been running it had moved on it no longer existed. At the time, Gaylene was the principal at Evergreen and encouraged Ken to start it back up. 

Since the STARLAB has to be rented from Sonoma State University he gave them a call and was told that unless you are trained for it, you cannot rent it. Ken didn’t give up and found a person who was teaching kindergarten in Windsor that was trained to do STARLAB. Ken took the plunge to get his training in order to keep science night in the public schools. Zschack called SSU to find out the schedule and proudly told them that he is now trained and can handle STARLAB. 

Zschack went and checked out the Multi-purpose room and knew that he could put the STARLAB to work with the students. However, upon seeing only pictures of rockets, etc. in the room and thought rockets are not that educational, he would bring in the STARLAB. Ken resurrected science night and now brings it to Thomas Page School and is recruiting other schools to let him conduct science free of charge. It has been very successful and Ken is like a little kid with excitement and has even invited the SSU Biology class to each science night so that students may put their hands on with bugs, skulls or whatever the biology class brings.

A new dimension has been added. The Santa Rosa Astronomer Society brings their large high- powered telescope and sets it up on the blacktop of each school. The rousing crowd enjoys it immensely as the rings around Saturn can be seen along with the hearing of many “ohs and aah’s.”

 Ken runs the science night for free and needs volunteers all of the time. He loves to show the students with hands-on projects called service tensions which is a floating paper clip. He has an affection for making bubbles with soap and dry ice.

If you would like to see some of Ken’s experiments, go to https://www.youtube.com/c/kidsfunscience. He posts weekly, so this would be great for your child to try something new. 

When we speak about the annual fishing derby in Rohnert Park, it is Ken that has been doing this for 35 years. Kids ages 0 to 15 are invited to come May 19 from 8 to 10 a.m. to Roberts Lake off Golf Course Drive behind Mary’s Pizza. Go to www.fishing-derby.org for more information. This is the longest running event in Rohnert Park. The City of Rohnert Park dropped out of the derby in 2003 however Ken took it over and the first year he ended up having a huge expense in order to stock the lake with fish. He will always accept sponsors to help him with this endeavor. Bring the little ones with fishing poles and enjoy coffee and donuts and even snow cones.