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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

James Loves the Little Green Alien. Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Christa McAuliffe Space Center Ambassador? Find Out. From the Archives: Another Power Outage. A New Way of Running Landing Parties. How to Run a Simulator Before the Days of Electricity. The Worst Field Trip Ever. Theater Imaginarium.

     Everyone who worked in the original Voyager should remember my little green alien.  One of the Center's young volunteers won him at Lagoon during our end of summer season staff trip back in the day.  I don't remember who it was who won him but I do remember having to carry it around the park for awhile. At the end of the day he gave the little guy to me considering I was the one tasked with his care at the park.  
     Leave him at the Space Center or take him home? That was my decision when we got home from Lagoon. In the end I put him in the Voyager Control Room and made him our official mascot.  He sat there for years and years overlooking our operations in his role as our official quality control director. After all, who knows the ins and outs of space travel better than an honest to goodness little green alien who has found himself shipwrecked on Earth?  Today I believe the Little Green Alien sits in the Magellan keeping an eye on the ship's new staff and volunteers. 
     What I didn't know was how attached James Porter has become to the little guy; something I discovered on my last visit to the Space Center.  A poster hangs in the school's lobby showing Central Elementary School's staff funny photo.  And in that photo I found James Porter clinging to the little plush toy. I'm glad James has found someone he can turn to for emotional support during those days when everything seems to be going wrong.  You can't escape them as a Space Center director. 

     I have once concern. That little green alien was, from time to time, given to the youngest of our overnight campers to help them through bouts of homesickness in the wee hours of the morning.  Its green fur has been washed in hundreds of tears over the years.  Knowing that, and the possibility of nose droppings accompany the tears, James may not want to cuddle the little guy so closely.  
     Thank you James for caring so much for our mutual little friend. 

Mr. Williamson  

Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Christa McAuliffe Space Center Ambassador?

The New Central Elementary School and Christa McAuliffe Space Center

     The Christa McAuliffe Space Center is looking for individuals who are so enthusiastic about the new planetarium and simulators that they're ready to put their shoulder to the wheel and become CMSC Ambassadors. As ambassadors you'll help the CMSC reach a wider audience with updates about the new Space Center. If you have been positively impacted by our program we hope that you'll apply to become an ambassador and spread the joy.  Application:
     Those selected for the position will have the option to buy a discounted $10 ambassador kit equipped with space center T-shirt, pin, and lanyard. That way you can catch the attention of friends and co-workers to share their excitement.

     Additional materials will also be provided. Ambassadors will also be provided a ticket to the CMSC's sneak peek event before the grand opening, being some of the first to see the new facility.  
     As always thanks for your support as we continue on this exciting adventure to bring additional educational resources to our community.
James Porter,
CMSC Director

From the Historical Archives.  The Space Center Journal. February 2003
Another power outage affects the field trip. A new way of doing hallway landing parties for the Overnight Camps.  After camp Bombardment. 

There I am looking through the Alpine District phone directory while enjoying
my Dt. Dew. 2008

     Can you believe another power outage! This was on Thursday!! I was in the middle of the morning mission when the lights dimmed and then went out. Two weeks in a row! Up to the last two weeks I've only had to send a class home once in 12 years due to a power outage.      It was 11:15 A.M. The principal was gone so I stepped up to the plate and made a few decisions for the school concerning lunch and other procedures. Once again I want to thank our awesome daytime staff (Lorraine, Rio, Chris, Tear, Julie, Josh, and Shelley) for handling our guests while I was busy with the school. We fed both classes at the same time as a way to buy time as we waiting for the power to come back on. I made the decision to phone for a bus to take the students back to Orchard Elementary if the power wasn't on by 12:05 P.M. The power came on at 11:55 A.M. There was time to run the afternoon schedule. We stared up the simulators and had the kids loaded and running by 12:10 P.M.   Lorraine was at a disadvantage with the afternoon class -She had an extra 20 minutes of teaching time to fill. Luckily we have that fantastic "Hyperspace" DVD series. 

BJ and the Magellan Overnight Camp staff ready for their bridge capture
BJ Warner in the Magellan Control Room ready for another bridge capture

     Barratt Elementary School's student were our guests for the overnight camp. The Voyager ran Greenpeace with a new twist. Bryson Lystrup and I sat down at 5:30 P.M. to figure out a hall scene to stretch the mission from 2.5 hours to 5 hours. The ideas flowed and we found a truly successful, novel, approach to the hall scene using dice, red dots on the hall walls, and plenty of M and M's for the casualties. I won't take the time to explain it here but it worked very well. The kids loved it, the staff loved it and it took the time needed to make Greenpeace a nice overnight mission. 

Metta Smith, the best Magellan supervisor hands down.

     The rest of the ships reported good missions. After the overnighter we had the usual Gym "Bombardment" session. At noon the Voyager Academy met so many of our volunteers could earn class hours. We are off to another busy week here at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.

Mr. Williamson

From the Historical Archives.  The Space Center Journal. February 23, 2003
A thought exercise; how you would run a simulator in the days before electricity.  I tossed and turned on the Overnight Camp.  The Galileo's network goes down on the Overnight Camp. I jiggled a wire or two and a miracle happened. The worst field trip mission ever.

Magellan volunteers:  ?,  Galo, and Brad Smith
     Have you ever wondered how we could run a simulator without electricity?  My imagination is starting to run with the idea. Let's take the Voyager for instance. 
     Bridge: Desks, chairs, paint, carpet - all possible but very expensive. Lights - kerosene lamps or natural gas. If we used natural gas lamps we could control the light output by adjusting the flow of gas. That would provide the dimming for attack scenes. Red lights are 
also possible with natural gas lamps is you used colored lamp shades. 

Warren Nuila in the Magellan Control Room.  Warren was gold.
Tysen Kaylor, another fantastic Magellan volunteer. His mother was Mrs. Kaylor who taught sixth grade
at the time.  2008

      Now, what about ship controls? The bridge of a non electrical ship would be quite bare by our standards. I'm seeing a large table with maps and star charts spread every which way. I'm see calculating tables and other such devices. There would be a captain's chair, perhaps a stool in front of the large wooden steering wheel controlling the ship's course with a large galactic compass pointing the way. Blow tubes would run down the wall of the bridge to the various sections of the ship providing communication to the galley, ship stores, and engine room. 
Scott Slaugh. Scott was one of our programmers back in the day.
Scott is Vicki Carter's son in law. Vicki is an assistant superintendent in the Alpine District
     Decorating the set would be an interesting challenge. I would use a nautical theme with lots of polished brass. Music, now there's the problem but still possible. We would have a piano behind a large canvas painting of a large 17th century ship with full sail navigating 
the Atlantic. The pianist would have a large selection of music on hand for all scenes and moods. That takes one back to the days of silent cinema. As for the main computer - well without electricity there wouldn't be one but then this entire journey of the imagination wouldn't be real anyway so back to the question: How do we do the computer? Two ideas, one would be a person in a mechanical costume that would walk around under steam 
power. Another idea would be a person in another room that speaks into a megaphone onto the bridge. OK, we are almost done without 19th century Voyager - all that is missing is the main view screens. No electricity no television so we would use the 19th century version of a slide projector projecting glass slides onto the wall. All of which would have to be prepared ahead of the mission. Don't laugh - sitting on the floor with an overhead projector is how I started in 1983! 
     Wouldn't you enjoy going on a mission in our Victorian Voyager?

Who can forget Bridger Maxwell, another of our outstanding programmers.
Bridger is currently a software engineer at Facebook
     The Overnighter was a mixture of public and school. Barratt Elementary provided half the campers. We had a pretty good crew overall. We celebrated three birthdays Friday night during ice cream time - Chris Call, Josh Dye, and Shelley Osterkirk. I didn't sleep well Friday evening. Some overnighters I fall  asleep quickly; others I'm tossing and turning and awaking to every nose. It doesn't help to have snoring nearby or a young staff member that sits up every half hour and talks in his sleep. I fell asleep around 3:00 A.M. and that make me cranky on Saturday morning - just ask the staff. 

Bridger and Scott in the Magellan Control Room working to keep the old gal running
     Part way through Saturday morning's mission I was told the Galileo's network was down. Shelley came into the Voyager's Control Room with the news. She said Alex DeBirk had restarted the simulator several times and still no solution. I told her to put someone in the ship to watch the kids work the controls and call them out to the guys in the control section of the ship. After a few minutes I realized that wouldn't work. Alex and Shelley haven't had any experience doing a mission that way. I got my crew in the middle of a "retake the bridge from the bad guys" scene and walked to the cafeteria. I found Alex on the floor looking at the network box. He had Kyle Herring on the cell phone. I jiggled a few wires and it came on. Alex asked me what I'd done. I said something to impress him but in reality I just jiggled a few wires. Those ships can sometimes sense when I'm just in the mood and know they had better straighten up or else it's the emptiness of a space junk yard for them. 
     I'm happy to report that Kendal Duclos. has successfully passed off all of the simulators! We haven't had anyone do that for a year or two now. He got his last pass (Odyssey) this overnighter. Richard Orcutt also completed his Falcon passes giving him his Ranger shirt with one bar on Honor's Night Thursday.  
     I want to remind everyone of Honor's Night this Wednesday evening. We will be retiring Jason Hills as he prepares to enter the MTC in a week or so. 

Stacy, Metta, and Richard hanging up Magellan uniforms after the overnight camp.


     I wrote the above stuff on Sunday. This is Monday and we just finished our day program. I had to comment on the rough afternoon crew my staff and I suffered through. You know, if even 30% of our crews were like that I'd quit and walk away from this place right now. The captain was one of those chosen by the students ( the most popular kid in the class). Now, this usually isn't a problem but this kid was something else. He spent most of the training time sprawled out, nearly flat on his back, in his captain's chair. He had this look like he was the most bored person God had ever created. His face had no emotion at all. A complete look of apathy. I thought perhaps after the mission started he would come 
around and perk up. Not a chance! The mission started and he continued in his "Whatever" attitude. His answers and comments were barely understandable. I told him on his headphone that he needed to get into gear and get things moving on the ship because they were running out of time. He told his crew with a smile,"This guy's getting pissed at me," and pointed to his headset. That was it; if he didn't care then neither would I. 

Casey Voeks flying the Phoenix while enjoying a snack.
     It was the ambassador's turn next and she was almost as bad. Nothing was taken seriously - all of it was a jokeI can't remember a mission commanded by someone only 12 years old but with the attitude of a 14 year old jock. I should have stopped the mission and asked the teacher to replace him. I didn't because I saw the teacher didn't seem to mind his attitude. She sat there on the stool next to the Ambassador talking about whatever. The bridge staff overheard the captain talking to the left wing officer during one of the tense moments of the mission asking him if he was coming over to his house after school!!!
     That mission was one for the books. Once again, I can't even remember the last time I had a captain like that. Any other flight directors have captains like that on any of your missions? I'd like to hear about it if you have. 
     Well, the emails are pouring in for the March volunteer positions. I'd better get started on those.

All the Best and have a good week.
Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Gifs of the Week From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Matt Robinson Retires from the Space Center to Become a Real Captain. Orion Given a Time Out and Yellow Flag. Our Time Lord Writes a New Story (and it's shockingly good). Tabitha Really Gets Into Her Missions. The 11 Year Old Facebook Picture of the Overnight Camp Staff That Won't Go Away. Imaginarium Theater.

Matt flying the Galileo

     Who would rather captain a real airplane when you can fly a starship? Apparently Matt. This will be our first Saturday without him in a long time as he has moved to Arizona to pursue that piloting career.
     Matt has been a part of our Space Center family for many years. First as a volunteer who traveled all the way down from Logan. (Now that is dedication, or addiction, one of those) Matt has more recently been a flight director in the Galileo and Magellan for field trips, private flights, and camps. Perhaps having rare access to the program is what drove him to provide the very best experience he could, with the thought in mind that each flight might be their only chance to share something he loves. Matt made the most of every moment and the crews benefited immensely.

     So as Matt moves forward to his next adventure we appreciate that he shared so many great ones with us. Good luck Matt and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

     Oh, and if you haven't seen the quality work he did with our instagram account you should go see what skills he applied with his public relations degree from BYU.

James Porter
Space Center Director

The Magellan Staff Greet Matt as he Arrives to Fly his Last Mission
Matt finishing his last flight as a Space Center Flight Director

     Matt Robinson's dedication to the Space Center amazed me. During my time as CMSEC director, Matt was our true long distant volunteer.  Here was this young teen who somehow convinced is parents to bring him down from Logan just so he could either fly or volunteer in our simulators.  
     Now here he is cutting the strings and literally flying away. Matt has gone to Arizona to learn to fly airplanes.  Soon it will Capt. Matt Robinson as the friendly voice welcoming you aboard for a future cross country flight.  
     Matt sent the following email thanking me for creating the Space Center. In the email he detailed how the Space Center had changed his life.  I asked Matt if I could put the email in this post as a testimony to our young volunteers and their parents.  Volunteering in one of Utah County's Space Centers can be life changing as it was for Matt.  And for the parents of our volunteers I think it is important to understand how important volunteering and working at the Space Center can be. The Space Center is a safe haven where important job skills are taught and life long friends are made.


I wanted to take a second to write you a quick email and tell you thank you for starting the Space Center. I believe I talked with you about this when I saw you at the grant assembly, but I have moved on and I am now living in Phoenix starting flight school tomorrow working towards becoming an airline pilot, and I really have your program to thank for it.

I knew the Space Center played a significant role in my life (obviously for how long I stuck around), but as I was preparing to move to Phoenix and was going through everything in my room to declutter I realized just how huge of an impact the Space Center had on me and the direction I ultimately ended up going in life. I found so many memories, pins, journal entries, etc. and they all played a role in helping me end up right here in Phoenix, Arizona following my dreams.

For as long as I can remember I have always kept my eyes looking up at the sky. Whether it be planes, the moon, or the stars, I could never get enough of staring at them and longing for the opportunity to be there. The real world tells us that it's not realistic to have such high hopes, and that we should settle for the ordinary; but your program taught me that anything is possible through hard work and making your dreams a reality is important.

Working as a volunteer and eventually a flight director and supervisor gave me so many hands-on skills that I will be using in my future career. Working in a team, communication, multitasking, focusing on customer experience among many more are crucial skills that I am so grateful to have going forward.

I've had this conversation with many staff members because so many of us feel the same way, but we all need the Space Center for different reasons. We may need a place to get away from difficult experiences in the real world, we may be there for the friendships, for the experience--whatever we need it for, the Space Center has been there to fill that need. I'm grateful I discovered the Space Center despite living far away in Logan initially because it gave me a place to be myself and explore areas that truly interested me. I may not have realized it at the time, but my first Space Center experience truly became one of those critical moments which put me on the path to eventually seeing the vision who I wanted to become one day.

I hope to stay in touch and will share updates as I progress through my training, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for this program and all of the shared experiences we have had.

Wishing you all the best,

Matt Robinson    

Thank you Matt and be sure to visit often.  Oh, and the occasional barrel roll as you fly overhead would be very much appreciated, although your passengers might not think so.

Victor Williamson

News from the Christa McAuliffe Space Center
Telegraphed from Troubadour Gossipteers Audrey Henriksen and Mason Perry with Cleverness Laced with Snippets of Wit from Yours Truly

Jon Parker Gives Orion Bowers a Time Out for Loving the Galileo Too Much

Orion at the Galileo's helm. What a multitasker; able to text and fly at the same time!
(Note: the picture was staged. He wasn't really flying. I just needed a picture)

     Orion Bowers received his Flight Director Blues in October  from Galileo Set Director Erin Williams and has enjoyed flying The Little Ship that Could ever since.  He loves the Galileo.  "My crews are trapped in that little ship and can't get out unless I let them," he replied when asked why he loved the Galileo so much. "Finally people have to listen to what I say!"  
     I find there is a lot of truth to what Orion says. Many of the couple dozen flight directors in the Space EdVentures network of simulators would say the same thing if you got them to be honest.  It's a bit of a power trip. 
     Let's get back to Orion.
     When Orion isn't flying the Galileo you'll find him hovering over Jon Parker in the Magellan Control Room. He calls it 'job shadowing'. He's learning to fly the Magellan. That's where I found him yesterday, sandwiched between Jon and the rest of the Magellan staff.

You can't actually see Orion in this photo. He is concealed directly beside Jon.
     Orion had a clipboard for notes. Strangely there were very few notes under the "Tips" column but plenty under the "Recommendations for Jon on the Proper Operation of the Magellan" column.  I'm told by my sources that Orion shares his recommendations with Jon during the mission; giving an idea here and there, suggesting a better piece of music or a criticism on the way Jon played a character.  
     Jon is a patient man but there are limits to what one man can endure under the stress of live theater.  When Jon's patience tank is exhausted he clears his throat and mutters Mason's name followed by "Time Out".  Mason (blue shirt in the photo above) stands and kindly escorts Orion from the Control Room to his time out spot in the Discovery Room. 
     "What did I say?" Orion always asks. "It's all true. I'm only trying to help. You know he needs needs it." 

     Yesterday I found Orion sitting in his Time Out spot under Josh Anderson's watchful eye.
Josh was helping Orion understand that the simulators do some things differently. Each ship is different in size and the stories it tells. Josh does an excellent job refereeing disagreements and enforcing Magellan rules and standards. He is the go to man for such things because Josh Anderson is a high school football referee; just one his many side jobs. 

Josh Anderson (end of the line) at one of the high school football games 

     Josh threatened Orion with an unsportsmanlike penalty he if didn't stop filling Jon's email inbox with essays on good flight directing.  

     Orion would have none of that. "You have no power here," he said sarcastically.  Josh reached into his back pocket, pulled his yellow flag and threw it.  Orion picked it up, sat it beside him and said with a grin, "You're not getting this back." 
     Luckily I was on hand to calm things down with cookies and donuts.  I reminded Orion that he was in diapers when Jon started at the Space Center and a bit of respect wouldn't go unappreciated. Orion when back to his typing. 
    Now there is the chance I may have my facts wrong with this story. Orion may have been in the Discovery Room because the Magellan Control Room was too crowded and thus too warm and not because he was being disciplined. And the notes on his clipboard may have notes to improve his flying and not Jon's. I suppose what I saw could be interrupted that way, but then I wouldn't have a good story to tell so I'll stick with what I've got typed and leave it at that......  

Mr. W.  
Mason Perry, The CMSC's Resident Time Lord, Shocks Mr. Williamson by Writing a Story that is Pretty Good. At Least According to Natalie Anderson   

Mason with his new Time Lord Time Calculator Fresh Out of his Tardis and Reporting in for Duty
at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.

Mason's new iTime12S Time Calculator
     I could fill volumes with stories of Mason's exploits as a registered and certified Time Lord - some of which have been relayed with extreme accuracy in previous Troubadour posts; but those are stories for another day.  Today I want to share a little know fact about Mason; he can write a pretty good mission, at least that's the scuttlebut floating around the Odyssey Control Room.  Case in point, yesterday I stopped in to visit the Odyssey and found Natalie Anderson flying Mason's new mission "Lost and Found".  
     I asked Mason for a short but concise summary of the mission. 

     About a month ago, starfleet detected an energy discharge in a solar system near their deep space border. The government which inhabited the solar system assured starfleet that everything was fine. After a week or so of them assuring us everything was fine, we lost contact with the government in the solar system, and detected a large magnetic cloud surrounding the system, blocking all signals in and out. The Federation sent ships in, only to lose contact with them immediately.
     Now, it's the Odyssey's job to find these ships, explore the expanding cloud, and deal with the endless swarms of robotic drones that patrol the solar system.
     Rumor has it "Lost and Found" isn't fiction.  I'm told by my sources on Gallifrey that Mason has taken one of his assignments as a Time Lord and converted it into an Odyssey story.  

The Magellan's Whiteboard, Where Orion Likens Himself to Banksy, the Great Graffiti Artist.  

     Apparently Orion likes to leave drawings on the staff whiteboard hoping somebody will take his art seriously.  Mason was kind enough to send a selection for The Troubadour's readers.  What do you think? What would you be willing to pay for an Orion masterpiece painted on your backyard fence? 

      Audrey was inspired by Orion's work and left a drawing of her own for the Magellan staff's enjoyment. 

Then on Matt Robinson's final day, everyone had a party drawing a bunch of bugs on the Discovery whiteboard. 

The Magellan's Ghost Captured by Audrey 

Audrey as Zoe

I was at work in the Odyssey playing Zoe in the staff favorite "Outlaws". Just by chance I happened to walk onto the Magellan Bridge. The ship had been shut down after the last flight of the day, and the Magellan Ghost decided to have some fun with the lights, making them flash white and orange. 

     Who knows what it will do next, print ghostly messages, tap on the walls, or maybe even start up the ship and take it for a few joy rides through the galaxy!


The Odyssey's Tabitha Really Gets Into Her Missions. Think How Much Fun it is being a Member of Her Crew. 

Rachel Harken's Facebook Picture that Just Won't Go Away Even After Eleven Years.

     Eleven years ago Rachel Harken drew this picture characterizing the usual Space Center overnight staff. It went nuts at the time on Facebook resulting in scores of messages back and forth and back and forth. 
     Eleven years later Jon Parker digs the photo out from obscurity and reposts it for all to enjoy. 
With the picture I included a few of the most recent comments from Facebook.  
     Thank you Rachel for drawing it. Thank you Jon for reposting it.  And thank you to the greatest staff a Space Center director could want for the overnight camps.  We got to know each other very well. Remember, we did an overnight camp every weekend year round (except the odd holiday weekend here and there).  

Mr. Williamson 
P.S.  Why am I pictured with a scowl on my face?  Was I really that disagreeable? 

Jon Parker Just In case anyone forgot this existed....Now you remember :P



Brett Jamison Why am I pointing and talking to someone that looks like Caity but is tagged as Sam...?

Wyatt Lenhart For Christmas I was going to frame this picture and get all the comments printed in a nice book for everyone


Emily Paxman Easy, that’s a lot paper.


Wyatt Lenhart I decided against it because I don't have that kind of income and the Earth doesn't have that kind of paper

David Kyle I miss everyone. You are all are very incredibly talented and kind. It was an honor to teach and work with each of you.


Megan Warner Beej, it looks like a few of the tags have been removed or changed for some reason. Not sure why. You are definitely talking to Caity.


Victor Williamson Love this. You know where it will be going next.

Wyatt Lenhart There are over 10 years of comments here. I don't know if the world is ready

The Imaginarium

The Best Gifs of the Week From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.