The Manitoba Museum's Planetarium has accepted the "Best Program" award from the Canadian Association of Sciences Centres at the CASCADE award ceremony for its Dome@Home live-stream program. 

On Thursday, October 13, the CASCADE awards took place. It is a juried selection process, where several nominated programs go through a pool and judgement to decide which ones make the final selection. 

Planetarium astronomer Scott Young describes the ceremony as the "Academy Awards of the Science Centre and Planetarium field."

"There's always some really exciting and innovative things going on all over the place and you pick up these ideas and you see all these things, but it's totally different when a program you worked on is nominated because then you feel, 'wow, we're at that same level as all of these great big places all across the country.' So it's humbling and also inspiring."

The category which Dome@Home received the award for was Category 4: <$50K, meaning less than $50,000 was used to fund the program. There were other categories, including individual awards.

Institutional CASCADE Award Results:

Category 1: $1M + - Science North: The Great Northern Ontario Roadshow

Category 2: $250K - $2M - Toronto Zoo: The CALL: Climate Action Learning and Leadership

Category 3: $50K - $250K - TELUS World of Science - Edmonton: Northern Science Partnership - Northland School Division and TWOSE

Category 4: <$50K (TIE) - Manitoba Museu: Dome@Home - a weekly online astronomy show AND Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum: April Archosaur Absurdity

Individual CASCADE Award Results:

Emerging Professional: Derek Ware, TELUS World of Science-Edmonton

Exceptional Project/Program Leadership: Pascal Simard, La Maison Léon-Provancher

Outstanding Career: Alan Nursall, TELUS World of Science-Edmonton AND Carol Pauzé, Musée de l’ingéniosité J. Armand Bombardier

Dome@Home was the outcome of creative brainstorming during the pandemic to try and keep people engaged in the world of science and space.

Young says that the only thing they knew was that they had been chosen as a finalist and the winner would be chosen over the virtual award ceremony.

"We knew we were a finalist, and so they made sure that someone from our institution was going to be present and of course, a bunch of the team all were watching the call because we were all excited about it, but we didn't know until our name showed up on the screen. I was a little bit surprised, I guess because you see the nominees list and there are a lot of really amazing projects. Everybody in the Science Center world had to really bear down during COVID and come up with creative ways to engage people that weren't allowed in our buildings. So, it was really exciting to think that, you know, we were, we were at the best of the best."

When asked about what winning this award means for the future of the planetarium, he says that it has encouraged the team to consider taking those risks that seemed too unpredictable in the past. To try things that are not just the same old thing, but to try something new to get the public more interested in science and space. 

"The thing that I really liked about the Dome@Home program was because it was an online program we had families that were separated by the isolation of the pandemic, able to do things together. They would both go out, watch the show together from their separate houses, and then go out into their backyards and using a call or whatever, watched the stars together, even though they were separated and couldn't actually be in the same place. We had people in different countries that were connecting with the stars in a way that they hadn't before."

Dome@Home has become a community of sorts where regular watchers tune in to the live stream and type in the chat box to other regulars, defying the boundaries laid out by country borders. Young calls these people the Dome@Home family and compares the live streams to checking in with old friends.

Young has even incorporated the guests into the show even more by having some as guest presenters or gathering together at Bird's Hill Park once restrictions lessened.

"In fact, I even had somebody at a gas station say 'oh, we watch your show every week' just as I was driving away kind of thing. So, it's pretty nice to know that you're reaching all these people in a positive way and giving them something that they value."

Dome@Home happens on the first and third Thursdays of every month at 7:00 p.m. on its YouTube channel and Facebook page.