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Professors Showcasing Science Behind ‘Star Wars’ Technology as part of Indiana State Museum’s Science Nights Presentations

June 6, 2013

Optics and mechanical engineering professors are providing insight into futuristic technologies and the science behind science fiction movies as part of the Indiana State Museum’s Science Nights summer education series.

These three special events will complement the museum’s Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition. Each session will offer a real-world look into the science behind technology featured in Star Wars movies.

       Charles Joenathan   David Fisher   Zachariah Chambers
  Charles Joenathan, PhD
  David Fisher, PhD
  Zac Chambers, PhD

Charles Joenathan, PhD, head of Rose-Hulman’s Department of Physics and Optical Engineering, kicks off the series on Thursday, June 6, with a session on laser technology. He will reveal if light sabers could really exist in a galaxy near or far. Session guests will participate in hands-on demonstrations of lasers and holograms, a technique utilizing laser technology, interference, diffraction, light intensity recording, and suitable illumination to create three-dimensional images.

Joenathan will be assisted by faculty colleagues Galen Duree, PhD, director of Rose-Hulman's Center for Applied Optics Studies and author of the book, Optics for Dummies; and Sergio Granieri, PhD, who is assisting the department in a National Science Foundation-supported smart lighting initiative.

Mechanical engineering professor David Fisher, PhD, will be featured in a session on July 11 covering Fact or Fiction: The Droids from Star Wars. He will compare robotics technology presented in the movies with modern-day robots: C-3PO to the Honda humanoid robot ASIMO and hovering Droids to modern quadcopters.

Session guests will vote to see if their favorite Droid is movie magic or has a potential for reality, based on current innovations. Fisher is part of a faculty team that formed Rose-Hulman’s multidisciplinary robotics program in which students can earn special certification in robotics. The professor has two patents for his work at Roche Diagnostics, and has spent summers and sabbaticals working for Google Inc. and Apple Inc.

Then, on August 29, mechanical engineering professor Zac Chambers, PhD, will discuss future automotive technology in a session on the topic, Where is My Rocket Car? It will include a panel discussion by students participating in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future vehicle development competition, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Company. Chambers is director of Rose-Hulman’s advanced transportation development program.

Tomorrow’s vehicles will be more efficient, sustainable, lightweight, and durable than past models. These “Cars of the Future” will maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety—and may develop into the land speeders featured in Star Wars. 

Each session will be from 7-8 p.m. at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis. The cost is $10 per museum member and $15 per non-member. This cost also includes an opportunity to participate in the museum’s Millenium Falcon experience that’s part of this summer’s Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition.

A special Science and Science Fiction Summer Camp, June 10-14, will feature Duree among staff educators showcasing experiments with gravity, electromagnets, and light science. Camp sessions are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and cost $205 for museum members and $230 for non-members. Advanced registration is required.

For more information in this summer’s science education programs, contact the Indiana State Museum at 317-232-1637 or go to