Population counter new to state museum | NevadaAppeal.com

Population counter new to state museum

Maggie O'Neill
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Ray Geiser, left, and Dave Shipman exhibit officials at the Nevada State Museum, set up an exhibit in the history gallery Tuesday that demonstrates how rapidly the state's population is growing.

When the Nevada State Museum lights go off at the end of a day, all the exhibits but one, are dark.

At the top of the stairs on the second floor, eight bright-orange 1-inch-tall numbers silently mark Nevada’s growing population.

The “Nevada Today” exhibit, installed Tuesday, adds a person every 10 minutes, which is the rate the state’s population is currently increasing.

“It wasn’t going to happen, it wasn’t in the budget,” said Ray Geiser, museum exhibits manager. “Fortunately, the timing was right, and thanks to (the builders) we have a population counter.”

After a company gave Geiser a $2,000 estimate for a counter, he tried another route: Wendall Gates, then an electronics instructor at Western Nevada Community College.

Tuesday afternoon, Gates, student Pedro Garcia and electrical engineer consultant Kurt Christner watched the population counter be installed.

“What pleased everyone was the local community effort,” Geiser said. “It’s a plus for everybody.”

Gates, Garcia and Christner, who wrote the computer program for the counter, finished the project a week after the spring 2004 semester.

They started with scratch.

“I think (Garcia) was shocked when he saw me walking out of a back room with my arms full of junk,” Gates said.

The counter is also adjustable to higher rates.

If Nevada’s population ever increases to 10 million, the counter is capable of handling it – an additional digit, now a 0, has been placed in the tens-of-million spot.

“I just said when you display things, you need to have a little margin,” Geiser said. “And it cost almost nothing to have it. That way if we have a spurt of growth, we’ll be ready for it. Always give yourself a little extra.”

As the men stood nearby, the population increased by one to 2,343,997. Just 30 minutes to go to see a change in four digits at 2,344,000.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.