Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Starship Falcon's Logo Is Released. See the Competed Flight Stations for the New Ship at American Heritage School. Meet a Few More of The Space Place's Young Astronaut Squadrons. In the "Things I Didn't Know" and "So That's How They Do It" Category - How Today's Space Center Starts a Camp Compared to "Back in the Day"

Hello Space Center Fans,

The CMSC's Falcon simulator has a logo.  It was presented on the Space Center's Facebook page.  All six simulators are logoed up now.  The Falcon is the one non-Starfleet ship in the CMSC's fleet.  The ship's crews get up to mischief on occasion, but generally are out to make a buck or two.  

American Heritage School's Starship Flight Stations are Complete

Alex Debirk is the director of the soon to open space center at American Heritage School in American Fork.  He and his high school students have been busy in the school's Creativity Lab designing and constructing the starship's furniture.  This week Alex announced the completion of the front two flight stations.
They are very Star Trek in appearance and beautiful to behold.
I'm excited to give them a trail run once the starship opens in January.  

Meet a Few More of The Space Place's Young Astronaut Squadrons at Renaissance Academy

Every weekday afternoon one of The Space Place's Young Astronauts or Voyager Club squadrons meet from 3:20 - 5:20 P.M.  There are 19 squadrons participating in this school year's program.  Squadrons range in size from 8 to 10 students in grades 3 - 9.  Meetings include lessons in astronomy and current space news, team building activities with Major Vidina (Renaissance Academy's middle school science teacher), and flight time in the Starship Voyager.  The missions in the Voyager are episodic with a specific mission designed for each of the 7 grade levels.  We call these missions "Long Duration Missions" or LDM's for short.

Here are a few more squadrons in our Young Astronauts Program.      

The 3rd Grade Lion Squadron

The 3rd Grade Dragon Squadron

The 5th Grade Tiger Squadron

In the "I Learned Something New Department".  How the CMSC Gives Out Camp Volunteering Positions

Back in the days of my directorship of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center I met with the volunteers and supervisors before the start of every overnight, super Saturday, and day camp to assign camp working positions.  We met on the steps of the stage in the old Central School's gym.  At the end of the meeting I'd say "Loading Stations" and everyone would disperse to their assigned places.  The Loading Stations were:
1.  Friendly Door Greeter  (Welcomed the campers at the school's front door and directed them toward the Gym).
2.  Hallway Greeter (Directed the campers down the hallway to the open Gym door).
3. Gear (two were assigned to stand in the gym to show the campers where to put their sleeping bags, pillows, and overnight bags).  
4.  Signing In (three or four were assigned to sign the campers in and give them their rank lanyards).  
5.  Me (I usually sat at a table of my own and checked the campers names against the camp list before having them sit on the steps and wait for the camp to start). 

Yesterday I was the Cassini's flight director for a CMSC Explorer Day Camp. I got all set up in the Cassini Control Room and headed for the gym when I saw the volunteers gathered in the hallway listening intently for their ship assignments and start of camp pep talk.  It was a meeting I didn't know happened so it fell into that bottomless pit I call "Things I Didn't Know" and "So That's How It's Done These Days".  

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Thoughts on the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's 31th Birthday. November 8, 1990 - November 8, 2021. The New Christa McAuliffe Space Center's One Year Birthday. Imaginarium Theater.

Hello Troops,

I remember November 8, 1990 very well. I was nervous. I had doubts. I questioned whether I knew what I was doing and I knew there were others who thought the same.  It was a risky endeavour, something no teacher in the Alpine District had done before - add an addition to a school and start a entirely new district wide program. 

Honor's Night. Look at all those earning their one year volunteering pin

The vision of creating a 'Space Center' started with my 6th grade Young Astronaut Club and a 1986 Young Astronauts conference trip to Japan. During that convention I met the director of the Kino Learning Center in Tucson Arizona. Her school had a rather large space shuttle simulator in the school's library used for simulated space missions. If she could do it then so could I. The dream was born.  I envisioned our Young Astronauts poster board classroom starship simulator (the USS Pegasus) could have a permanent home of its own in the classroom where today's Odyssey and Phoenix sit.  The dream expanded from a small simulator to the Voyager addition to the school and the CMSC as it is today.

James Porter passed off as an Odyssey Flight Director by Dave Wall

So many people were drawn into the project. Special gratitude is given to Stan Harward, Central's principal at the time, and Dr. Luana Searle, Asst Superintendent over elementary schools. Money was raised and many hours of volunteer manpower were given. This new program had to succeed. Failure wasn't an option. I didn't sleep well those first years. My health suffered. My poor heart never completely recovered. The anxiety attacks, I'm happy to say, lasted three years and ended.

A great group of young Blue Shirt Rangers

I originally envisioned the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center to be a science lab on board a futuristic spaceship but that idea never took hold for a multiple reasons.  I opened the Space Center by experimenting with a scientific mission to Mars. There are people who remember that first school mission. We flew at warp speed using HyperCard controls I programmed. Once there we used a Mars laser disc for special effects. We flew around the planet learning about its climate and features. I stood on the bridge next to the Tactical screen. My 6th grade staff (2 kids) sat in the control room listening and waiting for clues on when to play and pause the laser disc player and VCR. How primitive it was compared to what we do now.

Tanner Edwards with the Galileo

I felt something was missing after we ran a week or two of the Mars mission field trips . The students showed little excitement. They sat at the computers listening to me. There was very little work for them to do. My Hypercard controls lack depth and purpose. I was in command giving the captain orders on where to go and what to do. The presentation approach with a science only curriculum wasn't working.

A few of the teen staff

I thought back to my days in the classroom with the overhead projector, boom box, and paper controls. Then the idea came – do what you've proven successful - introduce some drama. Using two of the school's VCR's and my Star Trek movie collection, I edited a new ending to the Mars expedition. The mission ended with a Romulan warbird showing up orbiting Mars. It approached in a threatening way, fired, then warped away. It was a crazy idea but crazy ideas are the lifeblood of the Center. 

Another Honor's Night in the Magellan

The idea of adding the Romulan scene at the end of the mission worked. The kids got excited to see the Romulan ship. The little battle thrown into the end of the Mars mission was successful. It convinced me that my original idea of taking a class on an EdVenture into space would work with the general public like it did with my captive 6th grade class.

Dustin Robinson and Megan Warner in the Voyager Control Room

I sat down and wrote another mission called "Epsilon". It was a story of a planet in the Klingon Neutral Zone. Half the planet was under Federation control and the other was under Klingon control. The treaty, allowing joint control of the planet, was up for renegotiation. The planet would be awarded to the government which demonstrated it could best care for the planet's population.

The Overnight Camp Program. 1990-2012

The story had the Voyager entering the Neutral Zone bringing a new kind of wheat to the planet. This new wheat was genetically engineered to grow well in the planet's harsh climate. The Voyager had a few close calls on the way to the planet and a few others while in orbit. At the end of the mission our classes left the Voyager so excited. I knew I had found the formula; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now here we are 31 years later. The one ship is now a fleet of 14 located at the CMSC, Renaissance Academy, Lakeview Academy, Canyon Grove Academy, and Telos U. Two new starships will soon open at American Heritage School in American Fork. The CMSEC inspired spin off companies like Dream Flight Adventures and IndiniD with simulators in several other states and outside the country.  Our stories are more complicated. Our simulators are more sophisticated. I'm getting older and gray but the magic is still there. 

Randy Jepperson and Mark Daymont with the Falcon.

Someone once asked me If I would ever truly retire. I tried once in 2013. I'd done my 30 years for God and District at Central Elementary and the Space Center; I needed a rest. My rest lasted a grand total of three months. Renaissance Academy in Lehi wanted a starship simulator of their own and came calling.  The offer of building a new Voyager along with getting to go back into a 6th grade classroom to end my educational career sealed the deal. Retirement could wait. There was magic to perform. 

The Crew of the Voyager

At 31 years it is easy to sit back and take a journey down memory lane of the many good times we've all had at the Space Center. During my time as director I'd often wait to go home until the staff and volunteers were gone and the ships were empty. I'd walk onto the Voyager's Bridge and sit in the Captain's chair under the dim lights and listen to the voices of 300,000 children swirling around the room locked in the very walls of the ship. I look over at the left wing and see the original staff training crews by hand before the days of training tapes and mp3 players. I see Jacob Bartlett over in the corner asleep when he should be doing his job as a bridge staff. I hear Russell Smith downstairs playing the blind doctor. I watch a much younger Mr. Schuler coming up the stairs in full Star Trek uniform. A young first officer voice shouts, "Admiral on the Bridge!" . I still see that silly mask popping up over the loft to frighten Security. I see our many young volunteers growing up in that simulator from elementary school to junior high to senior high and then jumping ship into life. I hear the screams, the laughing, and the quiet that came from failure like when Blossom, the beloved Paklid captain, died in a fiery crash into a planet so many years ago. They are good memories. 

James Porter entering the ranks of the Green Shirt Adult Staff

Eighteen years ago I wrote..
Perhaps some day video game technology will become so evolved that children will do one of our missions at home connected to some kind of virtual reality machine. The computer will play my part, telling the story and reacting to the kid's decisions. The class will sit with goggles covering their eyes showing them the bridge of some futuristic ship. Gloves will give them the feel of working the controls. Perhaps the Voyager will still be around when that day comes. It may be a museum this future generation will visit with their grandparents. As they tour the simulator the sounds of our voices and the blaring music with red alerts will mix with their grandparents' stories of when they flew the original Voyager, Odyssey, Magellan, Phoenix, and Galileo long ago to far away places.
Thank you everyone for 31 Years. Thank you volunteers for the hours of time you give these programs each month. Thank you to the staff of all the space centers for always going above and beyond the call of duty. We are all involved in creating lasting memories that will stay with our students forever.

With Warmest Regards,
Victor Williamson

The New Christa McAuliffe Space Center is One Year Old


     One year ago several dignitaries gathered with the Space Center staff to officially open the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's new home.  The event was held in the Space Center's planetarium.  Tours of the planetarium and six simulators were given to the invited guests before the dedication program.  I was on hand wearing three hats:  1) As a financial donor to the new Center and 2) As a member of the Space Center's staff and 3) As the founder of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center all those 31 years ago. 

      That morning I entered the new Center and made a beeline straight to the lower deck to see the new simulators docked at Starbase Williamson.  They were beautiful.  What a facility!  

     There are many to thank for continued support, but a special thank you must be given to Rob Smith and Vicki Carter from the District Office for spearheading the fund raising for the new Center.  And of course a very hardy "Well Done!" to James Porter, CMSC Director and Ryan Wells, Central School's Principal for the work they did to make this a truly one of a kind facility in the entire world.  Please enjoy these few photos of the event.

Alpine School District Superintendent Sam Jarvis at the dedication

Asst. Superintendent Rob Smith Spearheaded the Fundraising

And Now, the Simulators

The Magellan
The Magellan

The Falcon

The Falcon

The Falcon Hallway

The Cassini Bridge

The Hallway to the Phoenix

The Phoenix Bridge

The Phoenix Bridge

The Friendly Staff Welcoming Guests to the Simulators at Starbase Williamson

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

The Galileo

The Starbase Lobby

The Cool Lava Floor Tiles

Entry Hallway from the school

The computer server racks

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Meet More of the Young Astronaut and Voyager Cadets Who Prepare for Their Future at Renaissance Academy's The Space Place. Learn More About this Outstanding Club. The Imaginarium Theater


Last Week's Young Astronaut Launches
The Space Place at Renaissance Academy is home to Utah's largest after school space club.  This year there are 170 cadets in grades 3 through 9 enrolled in the Academy's Young Astronaut and Voyager Club. In my last post, I introduced you to a few of the cadet squadrons. Today I will introduce you to a few more - the ones who launched the USS Voyager last week towards the edges of the galaxy.   

Meet the 4th Grade Dragon Squadron.  They successfully launched the Voyager on Tuesday. It was touch and go but they achieved excellent marks for their work and completed all tasks before the 30 minute deadline expired.  

You should see these younglings operate a complicated starship control system. Of course they need help from our older cadet volunteers, but their attention to detail and cooperative attitude comes out when they all work toward a common goal - one of the primary educational goals of the Young Astronaut Program.   

Pictured above is another of the Young Astronaut's finest squadrons, the 5th Grade Lions.  They are one tough team to beat and wanted the other 5th grade squadrons to know that from their pose.  

The 5th Lions have the highest launch point totals for their grade level.  The XO (first officer) was named MVP for the meeting for his attention to detail and outstanding leadership skills.  Many of these young men are younger siblings to veteran Voyager Club cadets who have graduated from the program.  They know what is expected and work hard to continue their family's legacy in Starfleet service. 

Last Week's Voyager Club Launches.

Pictured above is the Friday Middle School (grades 7 - 9) Tiger Squadron under the command of Captain Tavi and XO Jackson.  The Middle School Tigers have the launch record for quickest time to complete all launch tasks and get underway with a course set for The Fortress and final destination - unknown. They will receive their orders when they arrive at destination.

The Tigers completed a nearly flawless execution of tasks.  That is expected considering their ages and experience in Starfleet service.  Several of the cadets have been in the Voyager Club for several years. 

Aaron and Isaac make up the Defense Department.  There was an unfortunate phaser fire while docked with Outpost 14 that led to a squadron point loss (oops).  The Voyager is a place where you learn to pay close attention to details and learn to follow exact procedures to accomplish tasks.  Mistakes happen regularly and the cadets learn from them. 

Ammon and Lehman are the Tiger's Maintenance and Repair Department.  Above you see Ammon working in the Voyager's Engineering Bay in a different section of the simulator away from the bridge  and down a ship hallway  - through one of the revolving blast doors.  Ammon uses a walkie talkie (communicator) to received instructions from his partner on the bridge.  

Brian and Acacia are showing XO Jackson information from Brian's sensor screen.  Brian and Acacia are the Tiger's NavConn Department.  NavConn is responsible for navigation, thrusters, engine controls, ring deployment, and sensors.  

XO Jackson is patiently waiting for Cadet 2nd Class Enoch to open a communication line to Outpost 14.  Permission must be granted before the ship can depart.  Enoch and Fenix are the ship's Operations Department.  They control all communications inside and outside the ship.  They monitor the ship's engines and handle the ship's cargo and inventories.  

I am fortunate to work at Renaissance Academy. I teach math and history to 83 sixth graders during the school day and work with an outstanding Space Place team in the running of the Young Astronauts and Voyagers after school.  We work in a forward thinking charter school which values experiential education.  Renaissance Academy demonstrates that commitment by budgeting for a full time Space Place director - Bracken Funk. And let's not forget the Starship Voyager. They don't get any better than Voyager simulator with its multiple rooms and hallways.

Contact Bracken Funk for more information on how you can enroll your RA student in the space clubs and / or book the Voyager for private parties. 

Victor Williamson 

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience