Tuesday, September 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on PBS
Space Center Educator
National Geographic Bee
Tuesday, September 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on PBS
Kira Johnson - Daily Herald | Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2009 12:10 am
With the neon blue glow of overhead lights purpling her lips, the low ceiling making her look abnormally tall, flight director Emily Perry grins at 11-year-old Colin Collyer who's currently perched in tactical.
"What we do is we take people just like you and we give you guys a mission objective and we send you off into space and each one of you has a position," she says. "We give you these jobs so that you and your team can fly around and blow stuff up and you save the universe."
Perry, 20, a Provo resident studying history education at BYU, is giving a tour of the Galileo Mark VI, The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center's newly commissioned mobile flight simulator, which is two weeks shy of final completion. The Galileo Mark VI, built with the help of a team of BYU students, is meant to replace the Galileo Mark V at the Christa McAuliffe space center, located at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove.
The space center staff spent this past week on its debut flight, a trip to the Utah County Fair in Spanish Fork.
"We needed to test the moveability of the center," said concept creator and manager David Kyle Herring. "We thought it would be a great opportunity to test it and show it off and maybe even raise some money to help finish the project." The space center is still about $5,000 short of their final goal.
Collyer, his Dad, Brian, and his two sisters, Regin and Bryn, are seated in leather chairs bolted to the floor facing a large flat-screen monitor mounted in the front bulkhead. At each of the stations where the Collyers sit, brackets mark where future touch screen monitors will convey information pertinent to each simulation. Behind the bridge of the ship is a short compartment flanked by a pair of padded bunks.
It's a tight space, made to stimulate the imagination and approximate what it feels like to serve onboard a space shuttle.
Originally the Galileo Mark V was built in 1999 with a life expectancy of three years, said set director Stacy Carrell. Ten years and nearly $40,000 later, the center is finally ready to replace the original with a lighter, more tech savvy version. With the help of a team of manufacturing engineering technology and mechanical engineering majors at BYU, the space center team has designed a module that can be taken off campus.
"The simulator is the most sophisticated one that we have so far," Carrell said. "We're using a lot of new technology that we've never used before, upgrading things and advancing things, taking what we've learned building other simulators and bringing them to this one."
The BYU team of seven students who built the frame began the process last September as a capstone course.
"When we were finished we had a structural skeleton that could be taken apart and put back together so it could be loaded on a trailer and hauled around," said Terri Bateman, a part-time faculty member in the mechanical engineering department.
Bateman was the faculty mentor for the capstone team that constructed the frame.
"When we first started working on the space ship program, Kyle told our team that we should experience the missions ourselves," Bateman said. "I recognized right off the bat how complex this program that they've put together is," she continued. "There are TV screens that are telling you what to do, there's lights and sound. Each child has their own computer. It's really complex all the things they've put together to make it a multi-sensory experience."
The Galileo is the only one of five simulators at the center that has the exterior representation of a space module.
The other four are built into the school campus, one of which doubles as a computer lab during the day.
When finished, the Galileo Mark VI will take the previous module's place in the school's cafeteria.
Together the five simulators can handle up to 60 students a day.
This trip to the fair was the first time the ship had been disassembled, moved and reassembled, and already the team is learning that the new model poses its own set of challenges.
Victor Williamson, the center's director, said the Galileo is merely an extension of a student-driven program that has been working for years to enhance the learning experience by simulating real-world situations.
"Instead of a unit taught out of a book, now there are simulations where students are thrown into experiences that are as close to real life as possible," Williamson said. "It takes longer to teach in a simulation, but the learning stays much longer than when it's taught in traditional methods."
The space center has hosted nearly 220,000 students, teachers and parents over the past 19 years.
"We put these kids in these adult roles, and they have adult situations," Herring said. "We do a really good job at throwing problems at them and doing it in such a way where we don't overstress them out. We have made kids cry before. There's a lot of stress on one of these missions because they have to work as a team."