MAPS 2017 Officer Elections

As a member of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society, you have the privilege to vote for colleagues who will serve as your representatives on the MAPS Board. MAPS encourages your participation in this key activity that has a lasting impact on our organization.

MAPS members – check your inbox in January for your online voting invitation. All votes must by submitted by January 31, 2016. We thank you for your participation in this election and in MAPS overall.

Election information from MAPS By-Laws

  • Officers shall be elected on a mail-in or electronic ballot by the membership in January.
  • Terms of office shall be for two years.
  • The President-Elect, Secretary, and Treasurer shall be elected in odd-numbered years, and the Board Members elected in even numbered years.
  • Officers will assume their positions at the conclusion of the annual business meeting.

Review the candidates’ bios for the positions of President-Elect, Secretary, and Treasurer for MAPS 2017 Officer Elections in the table below.



Candidate Statement


Greetings Esteemed Colleagues of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society.

As most of you know, I have served as your Secretary on the Executive Board for the last three terms and hope to earn your vote to remain within the organization in the new capacity as your President Elect. I bring with me 30 years of experience as a planetarian both at the Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium in Buffalo, NY as well as (much more recently) the Williamsville Space Lab Planetarium in Williamsville, NY. Throughout my years I have used both optical-mechanical and digital equipment as well as many outreach opportunities teaching under the authentic sky at local summer camps for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. An advocate of both new and vintage technology with traditional educational values, I believe that, first and foremost, a planetarium should replicate the experience of viewing the night sky under perfect conditions. In other words, the stars should always be central focus of any planetarium and that enriching the lives of the visitors, through deepened understanding of the skies above, is of key importance.

My background is somewhat unique. I have been around my hometown Planetarium for my entire life. When the Buffalo State College Planetarium opened in 1964, my father Robert, a physics professor, was asked to be co-administrator of the new facility. Two years later, the late Dr. James Orgren replaced my father and accepted the newly created position of full-time Director. During the many times when I would travel with my father to campus, a visit under the dome with "Dr. O". was always a highlight. As a young teenager, I began to learn the night sky and, after the summer of 1983, I set my goals on seriously studying astronomy. It was inevitable that I would again cross paths with the rebuilt and renamed Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium when I began my first semester of college at Buffalo State in 1986. I joined the Astronomy Club and held many key positions throughout my college years including Vice President and President. In 1987, I was formally trained as an operator/educator and I have been working at the planetarium ever since. Being in a small university dome, I've had to wear many hats over the years. I have created curriculum, authored and directed several multi-media presentations while also working as production designer and illustrator. My greatest passion associated with this field, though, is music/soundtrack scoring and I have served as music director on most every show with which I have been involved. I have also composed original music for 8 planetarium productions (both locally and abroad), two independent films, web content and podcasts and always welcome the challenges associated with bringing diverse space science topics to life sonically. In the mid 1990's, Paul Krupinksi created a planetarium show production company called Ancient Eyes Productions and I worked with Paul on a major release that was distributed all over North America which I co-wrote, co-illustrated and scored called Mister Frost and the Skies of Winter. Paul and I continued working with creating and introducing a line of educational items for gift shops (such as astronomer pencils & erasers and our best-selling "Moonphaser" pencils.) For the last two years, I have co-chaired the MAPS subcommittee for our grant program with Kristen Chon and Susan Button. We evaluate the grant submissions and decide upon the level of funding to offer. All of these diverse experiences have made me an extremely well-rounded candidate because I have worked within many facets of this field.

But President Elect is a much more involved title. It's a six year commitment that buds into the Presidency (in years three and four) and finally a mentoring role as Past President (in years five and six.) Therefore, it's all about leadership and I bring to the table more than three decades of experience. Since I was 18 years old I have held key adult leader positions within my Boy Scout Troop (prior to age 18 I held numerous youth leadership positions including Senior Patrol Leader and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster.) Currently I am the Scoutmaster, a title I have held for more than 23 years. I have also served as chair for special events such as the 1998 Klondike Derby (which attracted 580 people) and the 100 Year Anniversary Camperall (which drew over 1700 people) in 2007. Organizing large scale events is a critical role of the MAPS President Elect and my experience will certainly help to make the future MAPS conferences as fantastic as possible. As an adult leader I have earned the District Award of Merit, Silver Beaver, Scouters Key, Training Award, Scouter Award of Merit, Order of the Arrow (Brotherhood Member), Wood Badge (and served on 3 courses as Staff) and, in 2011, I was named one of the Top 50 Scoutmasters in the United States and honored at the National Convention. Additionally, over the last 9 years, I have created and continue to mentor the boys in a comprehensive youth leadership training course. I don't mention all of this to brag. Far from it. In life, I am humble and modest. That said, real, hands-on experience in leadership is not always found and I feel that few can match what I can bring to the table. As an Eagle Scout and a 40-continuous-year member of Scouting, leadership is as much a part of me as astronomy.

Being on the Executive Board is an opportunity to be a part of something where I can make a difference. Believe me, if any of you have ever spoken to me during the conferences and voiced praise, concerns, constructive criticism or provided ideas to improve the organization, that I have always communicated such feedback to the Board. Most importantly, is that I see MAPS as a community. I have enjoyed learning from you in your talks and presentations, conversing with you at banquets, meeting with our ever-supportive vendors and also sharing with all of you over these past years (while both on and off the Executive board) my presentations such as "Are We Obsolete?", "Props in the Dark" , "Scoring for Science" and "Correctness in Astronomy Education." I hope that you will elect me so that I may continue my involvement with MAPS: an organization which I care about so deeply. I feel that I have a lot more to give to this team and hope you will feel the same way. I will represent well the mission statement of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society and you, the membership. More than that though, I want to work with you to keep our organization growing and evolving.

Thank you in advance for your continued support!


Brian Koehler graduated from St. Joseph’s College (NY) in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Secondary Education. In October of 2010, Brian started working at Mystic Seaport, and spent three years as the Manager of Overnight Programs. After working at the Treworgy Planetarium during the summer of 2013, he was promoted to Planetarium Supervisor in November of that year. Through Brian’s development of new in-school and on-site programs, and his vigorous effort to market the planetarium to general visitors and special interest groups, the Treworgy Planetarium has risen to previously unachieved visibility and attendance numbers. Brian continues to work every day toward fulfilling the planetarium’s mission of science education, and inspiring visitors to draw connections between our maritime history and the world around us.

A member of both the Live Interactive Planetarium Symposium (LIPS) and the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society (MAPS) since 2013, Brian credits much of his early success in Mystic to the networking opportunities that these prestigious organizations have presented. Being able to meet experienced colleagues in the field and share ideas, success stories, and hurdles is invaluable to the professional development of someone who is new in the field. With the early years under his belt, Brian is now eager to increase his leadership roles in these groups. It would be an honor to serve and to give back to the colleagues who have helped him, and to foster the development of a new wave of MAPS members. Having already hosted the 2014 LIPS gathering in Mystic, and looking forward to hosting a MAPS Regional Meeting in 2017, Brian is seeking the office of President of the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society.


Patrick McQuillan is Vice President of STEM Education at Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey. He manages a staff of over 40 educators who are tasked with developing and providing the formal educational programming for k-12 both in and out of the science center. Currently he is lead on the team that is converting Liberty Science Center’s 27M IMAX film dome theater into an all-dome digital video planetarium and theater. This will be the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere when it opens in December 2017.

Patrick earned his B.A. in Physics with a Minor in Math from the College of William and Mary with a thesis project entitled: Determining the Light Curve of Alpha Auriga via Photoelectric Photometry Method; his first M.S. in Secondary Education with Emphasis in Museum Education with a thesis project entitled: Interactive Astronomy Lessons for Planetarium using Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development; and his second M.S. in Teaching Earth Science with a thesis entitled: Developing Interactive Museum Exhibit Content With a Geographically Dispersed Museum Educator Cohort Using Cooperative Learning.

Planetarium Experience
My first experience with a planetarium occurred on a field trip to the Fels Planetarium in third grade. It was the best part of that field trip (even beating out the giant walk through heart).

My professional experience with planetariums began just before graduation senior year of college in 1987 with a part time Planetarium Lecturer position at the Virginia Living Museum as Planetarium Lecturer. I learned many of the tricks of the trade under the mentorship of Jon Bell and Dave Maness, moving up to full time Planetarium Educator and eventually Assistant Director of Astronomy.

From January 1995 until August 2005 I was Director of the Alexander Brest Planetarium at the Museum of Science and History, and Director of the Duval County School System Challenger Learning Center in Jacksonville, Florida. During this time I organized and hosted the 1999 Southeastern Planetarium Association Annual Conference. That year the SEPA conference had the largest attendance to date by 25%.

I then worked at Challenger Learning Center Headquarters in Washington, DC. Working under Dr. Bill Gutsch, we designed the Next Generation Challenger Learning Center (the first facility opened in Seoul, South Korea). Two new missions: Journey to Jupiter and Sojourn to Saturn, included over 80 hands-on interactive space science activities using real data sets and some of the first 4K animations of Jupiter, Saturn, Saturn’s rings, and the Jovian and Saturnian moons.

After Challenger, I was Informal Education and Public Outreach Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). You may remember me presenting at numerous MAPS Conferences on how to incorporate Earth Science live data sets in your planetarium programs.

Late Spring of 2015, I accepted the position of Vice President of STEM Education at Liberty Science Center. Among the many tasks under my direct management includes the renovation of our IMAX Film Theater into an all-dome video, digital planetarium. With a 27M dome, this will be the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere when complete.

I have been a member (of one, or more simultaneously) of MAPS, SEPA, GLPA, WAC, and/or IPS depending on where I was working/living/presenting since 1987. I have seen many trends in the planetarium field with hardware going from totally manual to fully digital, and programming going from live to pre-recorded.

We live in a time when choices for a potential visitor are almost infinite while the time they have free to explore those choices is minimal. It will continue to be a challenge to convince people they should spend their limited time and resources exploring planetarium programming.

We have a short window of time in the next few years to hook people on planetarium astronomy. With the August 2017 total solar eclipse, more people will be able to experience a solar eclipse than ever before. We need to capitalize on this once in a lifetime opportunity. Also, with the Next Generation Science Standards either adopted or being considered by over 50% of all states, school districts will be scrambling for Earth and Space Science Educational programming to fulfill those standards.

I would also like to see a focus on increasing membership in MAPS, and increased attendance at the Annual Conference. Professional Development opportunities need to be dramatically increased at the annual conference so that attendees can engage in presentations that authentically increase their educational knowledge.

I am honored to have been nominated, and I look forward to working with the Executive Committee to help make MAPS a valuable educational resource for MAPS members, schools, and the general public.


April Whitt wandered into the planetarium profession, quite literally, lost in the wrong building searching for a college class. The planetarium was hiring, and the rest if history.

A graduate program as a Morehead fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill finished with a master’s degree in education, and a completed internship in planetarium education.

April has served as in planetarium education at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, and is currently at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta, GA.

She has served as President of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association and the Southeastern Planetarium Association, and is currently an associate editor for the IPS journal Planetaria, contributing quarterly “Reviews” and “Last Light” columns.

The Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society is well-known for its education programs, and it would be an honor to serve the membership.



Candidate Statement


Amie has been a MAPS member for more years than she can count (but not as long as Steve Russo). She is currently director of the Planetarium at Raritan Valley Community College. She prides herself on being the only person she knows who has worked in 3 planetariums without having to hire a moving truck. I guess we have lots of planetariums in our area. Amie enjoys going to MAPS meetings to meet up with friends and colleagues. She is delighted to always walk away with new information and ideas that she can incorporate into her planetarium immediately. Amie looks forward to being a more involved member by taking on the responsibilities of Secretary of our esteemed organization (should you vote her into that position). I feel like I need to end this with a resounding cheer: Go MAPS!!


I first joined MAPS in 1986 when I become planetarium director at Maryvale Middle School. I joined IPS and GLPA at the same time. I continued as a planetarium educator until my retire-ment although classroom duties increased and dome time decreased. i made sure that my stu-dent and any others who wanted to experience the wonders under a dome were welcome. In my final few years teaching Paul Krupinski and I ran the astronomy club with ever increasing interest on the part of the students. I retired having a full dome of students almost every week.

I started with a 20 year old Spitz Nova, wrote a grant to upgrade to a Star Lab projector and re-cently sat with the committee to up grade to their new digital projection system. Upon retiring I took on the task of bringing a Challenger Learning Center in tandem with a portable planetarium to the Western New York area. We are completing the CLC this year and will open for student missions and public planetarium programming in 2017.

I have served as secretary for the Maryvale Teachers union (6 years), Erie Canal Task Force Committee (5 years) and Board Chair and secretary of the CLC (8 years).

I have served as secretary in many of my organizations. The two longest terms were with the Maryvale Teachers Union (6 years) and most recently with the Erie Canal Task force Committee ( 5 years). Until last year I served the dual role of Board President and secretary of the CLC. (8 years) I am looking forward to becoming more active in this great organization and will do my best in performing the duties of secretary for MAPS.



Candidate Statement


Dear Fellow MAPS Members-

Ever since I was young and witnessing my first aurora display, watching Cosmos on PBS with my family, and visiting the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, NY, I became fascinated with the stars, planets, and space exploration. My oldest brother began working at the Ferguson Planetarium and the observatory at Buffalo State in 1980, just after it re-opened from a devastating fire. My father made it a point to know when aurora displays were near, comets available for viewing, and never lost an opportunity to teach us about astronomy when it presented itself. In 1987, I began my career in the planetarium field by watching other student operators, learning from Dr. James Orgren, Art Gielow, and Paul Krupinski, how to instruct young students in science by 1988 on a Spitz A3-P projector. I served as an officer to our student Astronomy Club, and continue today as Treasurer to our Alumni Astronomy Club. When I graduated in 1993, I had spent six months as the student intern, writing and producing two of my own in-house shows, and joining MAPS as a young, impressionable college student and visiting places like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Portland, Maine. I then left for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and found a neighboring planetarium at Amherst College that also housed a Spitz A3-P where I could help with the local public programs. I returned to Buffalo in 1998 and have not looked back since. I even earned my M.B.A. degree in hopes that someday I could be smarter about the administrative aspects of planetariums and science centers, or assisting with an organization such as MAPS.

Since 2005, I have been part of creating and producing over 12 in-house video productions, 15 live topical programs, and co-coordinating special events and open houses in Buffalo, and several outreach programs into the general community. I am now working to create full-dome productions, and I have had the chance to work closely with my colleagues on many of these projects, and have developed more relationships beyond the dome while bringing awareness to science and astronomy education at-large.

While our toll and technology have improved, and most of what we used to be called upon is now easily accessed from the internet, or from a show on one of the many science channels available on most cable and satellite providers, I believe we must still be certain that we remain focused on the awe of the stars and surroundings we can provide in our special classrooms, not solely the technology; for one thing has not changed despite the advances: the wonder of the universe around us. In casual conversation with any individual, the subject can arise, and it is a great feeling knowing that in an instant, you can change a person’s outlook (young or old) on how they perceive the universe. I always try to conduct myself as an educator with a bit of inspirational flare, but never stop learning how to improve my delivery methods from lessons taught by my colleagues of MAPS. I am now serving my seventh year on the MAPS Web Committee, and sixth year as Chair, where I have strived to ensure that information is current and relevant to our organization, its members, and vendors. I was also a member of the Audit Committee where I was counted upon to work with election results.

If elected as MAPS Treasurer, I will work to ensure that we remain a viable resource to others in our field, keep our mission in focus, reach out to other institutions to expand our membership base, and continue making contributions as I have over the last seven years. Since MAPS is a professional development organization, we should be utilized not just by planetarians, but also by the administration of these institutions to foster more efficient communication between academia and public awareness.

Thank you for your time.


Hello MAPS! Let me share a bit about myself. I was born and raised in southeast Massachusetts (where the skies are semi-dark) and got my B.A. in Astrophysics from Wellesley College (where the skies are not dark at all). After several summer research positions (including one in upstate New York where I finally, at the age of 19, saw the Milky Way for the first time!) and a stretch teaching astronomy for college credit, I realized my true love was talking to other people about space rather than doing research on it myself. I followed college immediately with an M.A. in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University to better hone my ability to communicate science topics to the public. After graduate school I spent a couple of years working as a research assistant, using data from Cassini to create a detailed map of Saturn’s rings. In 2011 I landed my dream job when I joined the team at the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science, Boston.

Planetarium Experience
After realizing that teaching people about astronomy and generating interest in space science was what really fired me up, getting a job as a program presenter at the Charles Hayden Planetarium was a perfect opportunity. To this day, teaching programs in the dome is a central focus and my favorite part of what I do at the Museum of Science.

Although I started out primarily as a presenter, I gradually accrued other jobs and duties as my time at the Planetarium increased. In 2012 I created the Museum’s evening astronomy lecture series, Beyond the Telescope, to bring in local astronomers (of which Boston has a surprising amount!) a few times a year to give presentations in the Planetarium dome. Some of these presentations have been successfully reproduced at the Adler Planetarium and the National Air and Space Museum. I am responsible for creating the Planetarium’s weekly schedule, coordinating the theater’s timetable with the calendars of each of the eight individual Planetarium staff members. I became the Planetarium contact point for multiple inter-departmental projects happening throughout the Museum. In acknowledgement that my actual role had outgrown my original job title, I was promoted to the newly-created position of Planetarium Coordinator in September 2016.

Growing into the Coordinator position has ensured that I have developed proficiency at keeping track of large amounts of data, managing projects, juggling schedules and priorities, and working with individuals and teams within the Museum, within the greater Boston area, and in other planetariums and museums around the country. I even have some experience with planning conferences! I feel that all of these characteristics would serve me in good stead as MAPS Treasurer and Head of the Membership Committee. Most importantly, I love planetariums, I love space science, and I love education, as all MAPS members do, and it would give me great pleasure to do my part to help our membership share their passion and drive with one another to help us all be better at the very important task we carry out.