by Joe Wiercinski, Herald Staff Writer
Remodeling the final frontier
Ted Pedas keeps Farrell students seeing stars
After introducing a generation of students to the wonders of astronomy and space technology, the planetarium at Farrell High School is going through a major remodeling.
With rewiring and updating of the major projection systems finished, the planetarium will be renamed Wednesday in honor of the outstanding teacher, writer and lecturer who has charted its course since 1970.
I'm very proud of this honor, said Ted Pedas, planetarium director who divides his time between Farrell and Youngstown State University where he is the planetarium specialist. I'm really proud of what we have for educating our students.
Pedas credited Richard Pirko, YSU planetarium producer, for doing all the hard work of rewiring the control system and upgrading the computer-controlled projectors that beam views of the sky onto the domed ceiling of the teaching room. Further refinements should be finished by late summer.
We'll be able to do a lot of shows, Pedas said. We'll be able to create moving panoramas and wonderful special effects. We can fill the entire sky but our all-sky projection system can also make people think they are at places on Earth like the Grand Canyon. This is something few planetariums have.
Pedas has donated about $30,000 of the $50,000 remodeling cost, but school directors in Farrell had many other reasons for naming the planetarium after its generous benefactor. He has twice been nominated as Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year.
Pedas and former Farrell student Tim Kuzniar were selected by NASA in 1962 to produce All Systems Go, a planetarium show that told the story of America's first 25 years in space. The production has been shown around the world to more than 7 million viewers.
Pedas has helped more than 1,000 Boy Scouts to earn their merit badges in astronomy and space exploration. He has conducted seminars in astronomy and science education for 1,500 teachers.
Since 1970, he has returned 20 percent of his salary to the district in cash and equipment purchases.
To date, those contributions have topped $140,000 but Pedas said he considers the gifts an investment that has given him a rich return.
Nothing pleases me more than to pick up a newspaper or magazine and read about something that a former student from Farrell has done, he said. Students have written to thank me for the experience that the planetarium gave them and I value that more than anything.
Seven former students and student teachers who did their practice teaching in Farrell have become planetarium directors. Other Farrell graduates have gone on to careers in engineering, architecture, teaching, and the newly emerging field of space art for other planetariums.
Pedas emphasized that the planetarium is a valuable learing tool that can help the entire community understand the increasingly complex world we live in.
I think it's important for people to understand why we're exploring space, he said. Everything that we have learned has been applied on Earth to make it a better place. Science and technology have gotten so complicated that many people not just students are saying that it's too hard to understand. I hope we can instill some understanding and some of the wonder and inspiration the ancients felt when they looked up into the sky.
Ted Pedas helps motivate students to reach for the stars
by Patricia Osborne, Herald Staff Writer
Ted Pedas has given others the opportunity to explore the sky and beyond.
An astronomer, Pedas gave Shenango Valley students a facility where they could travel as far in space as their minds would allow. The planetarium in Farrell School District opened in 1970 and was dedicated as the Ted Pedas Planetarium in the spring of 1991.
So far, his monetary contributions to the school district have exceeded $150,999. His next contribution of $12,700 will fund the fourth annual Student Motivational and Self Improvement Awards; support the Achievement and Recognition awards and the Farrell Area School Alumni Association; and enhance the planetarium.
Pedas, who has been planetarium director since 1969, established the Student Motivational and Self Improvement Award for two graduating seniors. The awards, he noted, are for students who have displayed the greatest positive change, imporvement and motivational drive during their senior year. The district's Pupil Support Team directs these awards. A $1,000 award is presented to the winning student and $500 to the runner-up at commencement.
Pedas said this award, which was first awarded in 1989, is important to him. Recipients are often what he termed, the forgotten kids, or those who weren't especially outgoing, in the popular crowd or honor roll students.
We have so many kids that are not motivated and can't keep up gradewise, but they want to make an impact their senior year, Pedas said. This (award) is not based on grades. It's for the kid that thinks he or she can't make it.
Pedas himself is an alumnus of Farrell High School. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a bachelor's degree in history and Michigan State University, East Lansing, with a master's degree in planetary science.
Incidentlly, the 52-year-old Pedas said he attributed a professor's emphasis of the importance of the Sputnik launch during an astronomy elective course as the catalyst for his career in the field.
Pedas conducts an informal program at the planetarium in Farrell. It is most beneficial for many students, he said.
Calling the planetarium his hobby, Pedas said it was a place where many of the forgotten kids found an opportunity to express themselves and to use their talents. Oftentimes, students put their artistic, musical and craft talents to produe planetarium shows and displays.
The planetarium programs and awards he sponsors may be just the catalyst that a student needs to begin further education that he or she may not have otherwise attempted. It's easy to realize why students and adults alike have gained so much from this astronomer, who discusses his many experiences with zest.
It all started in 1970 when Pedas attempted to organize an "eclipse festival' in a small town Eclipse, Va.
Unfortunately, the city fathers feared a repeat of Woodstock, and refused Pedas' request. In the aftermath of their decision, the seagoing astronomer decided the eclipse would be better viewed by sea.
He researched the idea, and voila! In his words, it came about as a lark in 1970 when he was thinking of going to Virginia to plan the festival. He, his sister and brother-in-law, Marcy and Phil Sigler, organized a solar eclipse cruise aboard the Greek Line Olympia. In 1973 three ships traveled to the caost of Senegal, Africa, to view what Pedas called, absolutely incredible.
Altogether, Pedas said he has traveled to more than 100 countries (many more than once) and sailed on many cruises. He is recognized as the innovator of cruising with an astronomical and educational theme.
These cruises are for the curious, said the science travel consultant. It's for people who want to do something unusual.
Since that first eclipse cruise, Pedas has worked with several other cruise lines organizing trips to see comets, eclipses and other remarkable sites. His favorite trips are to the ancient civilizations.
While not traveling or working as planetarium director in Farrell, he is planetarium and science education specialist at Youngstown State University; an astronomy columnist for The Vindicator newspaper, a free-lance writer for various publications and a guest lecturer. Pedas also has been a merit badge counselor for more than 1200 Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts.
Through all his travels, Pedas never has forgotten his hometown, and his hometown certainly hasn't forgotten him. He's to be honored Sept 2, Buhl Day, for contributions to the community, He has received many honors and awards including Ted Pedas Day in Farrell in 1978 and the Education Award from the Farrell American Legion Post 160 in 1979. He was a finalist of Pennsylvania Educator of the Year award in 1979 and 1981.
To be very honest, I have received more than 50 honor awards, he said, But it (designation as a Buhl Day honoree) was more meaningful than others I received because it was local. I was very touched to have hometown people recognize me.
SundayOctober 11, 1981
Planetarium Marks Decadeby Harold Gwin
Vindicator Sharon Bureau
FARRELL The Farrell Area High School Planetarium celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and while similar facilities across the country are closing, this planetarium remains alive and flourishing.
There are now about 900 high school planetariums in existence across the United States, and Pennsylvania alone has 204 of them. Unfortunately, only 40 of them were operating as of last year, said Ted Pedas, director of the Farrell facility.
Pedas also serves as a planetarium lecturer at Youngstown State University and is astronomy writer for The Vindicator.
Pedas, who has developed the reputation of somewhat of a philanthropist when it comes to the planetarium and science, has served as director of the Farrell Planetarium since it was erected with the new high school 10 years ago.
It was an impressive facility then and is even more so now, thanks to a supportive administration and school board and the generosity of Pedas, his brother, George, and former students.
My goal has always been to make this the finest high school planetarium in the world, Pedas said. In accord with that theme, plans are already under way to totally automate the facility with the use of computers.
That's the big operation planned for our second decade, Pedas said, explaining that the facility will be able to make use of one of the computers the school district recently pruchased.
The groundwork is being done now, and students will get directly involved in the program next year. It won't make the planetarium program more impersonal but will have the opposite effect because students will be encouraged to formulate their own programs and special effects, according to Pedas.
Perhaps student involvement has been the key to the success of Farrell's program where others have failed.
While other facilities don't allow students to handle equipment, Farrell encourages direct participation. We've trained four people who have gone on to the university and have now gone out and are running their own planetariums, Pedas said, a fact that makes him proud to be associated with the program.
That's why we encourage student participation, he noted, adding, We try to get the students involved wherever possible.
Automation isn't the only recent improvement at the planetarium. Work is being completed on a new sound system and a new television training hookup will soon be ready for use, Pedas said.
There is a loyal following from a six-county region, Pedas said, pointing out some people regularly come from as far as Ashtabula to view programs. In 440 separate showings over the years, 19,000 people have come through the facility.
To commemorate a decade of service, the planetarium will open a special anniversary program on Oct. 19. Traveller will take the viewer on a space tour, converting them into cosmic tourists to explore the universe.
The travelers will embark on three imaginary journeys an earthbound survey of man's astronomical roots, a voyage through the planets and a maiden flight through the stars.
The original script was written by Pedas and Tim Kuzniar, a former Farrell student and graduate of Youngstown State University. Kuzniar also handled production design, original artwork, models and photography for the program. George Pedas put together the facility's technical and electronic control systems.
A special sky almanac depicting objects visible in the fall sky will precede each showing of Traveller.
SundayApril 7, 1991
by Harold Gwin
Vindicator Sharon Bureau
Ted Pedas has given a lot more than just his time to the school district's planetarium program.
FARRELL The Farrell Area School District is billing it as A Night with a Star.
The play on words is appropriate, because the man who challenged so many Farrell students to look at the stars is being honored Wednesday as the district officially names its planetarium the Ted Pedas Planetarium.
Pedas, 52, of Farrell Pennsylvania has been a part of the planetarium at Farrell High School since it was built 21 years ago.
He's the planetarium director but he's done much more than just teach about astronomy.
His desire to see the planetarium to be the best it can has prompted him to make more than $140,000 in cash and equipment donations over those 21 years. Some of that has gone into science programs but most has been channeled directly into the planetarium. In fact, the planetarium is nearing completion of an estimated $50,000 renovation now and Pedas is picking up 60 percent of the tab.
GIVING BACK: It's his way of giving something back to the community, he said.
It just gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see former students wind up working in museums, science centers and working for NASA, Pedas said.
He said he turned down a suggestion in 1976 that the planetarium bear his name, arguing that he had been with the district for only six years and such a move would have been presumptuous.
After 21 years, I felt I had accomplished what I set out to do, he said, explaining why he agreed to have the planetarium named for him now.
Students that passed through Farrell went on to work in the fields of astronomy and science, more than 1,000 Boy Scouts have earned astronomy merit badges here and, in 1982, NASA approached Farrell to put together All Systems Go, a look back at the agency's first 25 years in the space program.
BUSY FELLOW: Pedas teaches part time at Farrell. He is a planetarium specialist at Youngstown State University, has written a weekly astronomy column for The Vindicator for 25 years and has traveled around the world in recent years chasing eclipses and teaching astronomy on cruises.
A lot of people have heard about the Farrell planetarium and have traveled here from as far away as Greece and Japan to get some tips on how they can set up similar operations in their own schools, Pedas said.
People have become environmentally and ecologically concerned about the Earth since the 1960's when astronauts sent back photographs from space showing just how small and fragile the world is, according to Pedas.
I think studying other planets can teach us a great deal, he said, citing specific examples such as the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus.
THE PLANETARIUM: The planetarium can serve as an informational point for people otherwise overwhelmed by the rapid advances in science and technology, he said.
The improvements being completed now will give the planetarium a state-or-the-art ability that will carry it through the next few decades, Pedas said, crediting Richard Pirko, technician and producer at Youngstown State's planetarium, with handling the technical end of the renovation.
The Farrell Area School Board voted in May 1989 to name the planetarium after Pedas, but the official dedication was delayed. Pedas was ill for part of last year and then the decision was made to remodel the facility.
That work is nearing completion and the school district will host a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday followed by the premiere of a new planetarium show at 6:45 p.m.
The Ted Pedas Planetarium Dedication Ceremony
April 10, 1991 6:30p.m.
E-mail: Ted Pedas