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Florida college graduate receives donation from Tyler Discovery Science Place to continue kids science outreach program

The Discovery Science Place's StarLab portable planetarium will be repurposed for an outreach program called, "Scientist in Every Florida School.'

TYLER, Texas — Understanding the true value of something is really all about perspective. 

"It's a piece of equipment that we used years ago, a well-loved piece of equipment," said Chris Rasure, Executive Director at the Discovery Science Place in Tyler. 

According to Rasure, the museum's old StarLab planetarium, previously used to help teach kids about astronomy, had been collecting dust for awhile. 

"We were lucky enough to get this grant from the Women's Fund of Smith County last year to buy a brand new planetarium system. That's what we've been using. So, we didn't really expect to use the StarLab and out of the blue, we got an email from John." 

Since graduating college in Florida earlier this year, John Della Costa had been searching for a system of his own to continue a similar outreach program for kids in his state.

"I looked around for some other ones I could use as a part of this program, called 'Scientist in Every Florida School'...because I wanted to continue doing my science outreach with the planetarium," Della Costa said. 

After compiling several spreadsheets with hundreds of possible contacts, Della Costa found a match this past April in Tyler.

"Then Chris emailed me a couple of days later and everything just happened. The stars aligned and everything worked out." 

Because of COVID-19 limitations, the pair primarily communicated online to coordinate transfer of the StarLab from Texas to Florida. 

"Today is the first time we've talked to each other or seen each other and we're doing that via zoom. So, as bad as all the coronavirus and all the social distancing has been, it really has kind of opened-up some new channels for communication," Rasure said.

While the U.S. continues its reopening process, Della Costa said he plans to limit current outreach efforts with the planetarium to small groups, in addition to creating his own foundation.

"I'm already spinning up ideas of how to get him more equipment, better equipment, newer equipment," Rasure said. 

To learn more about the program, "Scientist in Every Florida School," visit their website