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

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fun Experiences in the Classroom

By Sheila Powell
Space Center Teacher

I had a fun experience in the classroom last week that I must share, too: I had just shown the kids the video clip of how the balance of nuclear fussion energy and gravity forms stars. I asked the kids if stars have so many nuclear fussion reactions at any one time, what keeps the stars from "blowing apart"? No answer from any of the kids, expect one. The kid was sitting right in front of me at the front of the class. He jumped up (scared me really!), waving and yelling loudly "GRAVITY!!!" I was a bit stunned by his excitement, and said something to the affect of:" I appreciate your enthusiasm, and yes Gravity is the correct answer". I gave him a marshmellow for his answer...he continued his excitement by doing a "high-five-I'M great-I'm good" dance in front of the class. I said, I appreciate your excitement for the answer (trying to calm him a bit), but then he responded: "You don't understand. I'm not the brightest kid in this class and when I get an answer right it's really a big deal for me!!!!!!" I started laughing, his teaching started laughing...the whole class was roaring with laughter at this kid's answer and announcement of his "place in the world." The kid was laughing too as what he'd said!! I thanked him for his answer and his honesty regarding his educational status in the class. We all continued to giggle for awhile and finally got back to business. But I do know this: That kid "beamed" so brightly, proud of his answer, that for the rest of the time, I didn't need to turn on the lights in the classroom. We/the space center helped that kid realize, if only for a brief moment, that he was smart, capable and equal to his classmate. Yep, that was a great moment...a "Mount Everest" teaching/student moment indeed!!!

Here's another fun story from the classroom:

As I was preparing yet another group for the scary transporting process, one young girl looked at me particularly frightened. She looked a bit pale in fact. I reassured her that the transporting process was painless, and would only make her "armpits tickle" for a moment and then she would be on the ship.."at the speed of light", I told her. She looked me dead in eye and said, "I trust you...for now", and stepped bravely into the transporter. As I quickly rotated the transporter tube and preceded to transport her to her Voyager destination, we all (those anxiously waiting to be transported) heard her yell LOUDLY , "Tell my mother I love her!" We all bust out laughing.!!!! I love the fine line we all walk-- moving the kids everyday between reality and sci-fi ---with these kids...too much fun!!!!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Weekly Update from the Director

February 24, 2008

Hello All,
I want to thank our staff and volunteers for another successful week at the Space Center. March is upon us. I want to remind our volunteers and staff that the March Call for Volunteers is posted. Please look over the working schedule and send your requests by email. I’d like to get the working schedule out to everyone by week’s end. March is looking to be a busy month so we will need All Hands on Deck!
I’m trying to put two supervisors on every Voyager and Magellan mission. Our Central School volunteers are filling many positions left open during the week. It seems our older volunteers are having a difficult time getting here on weekdays. I’m guessing the cause is two fold: busy schedules and the ever rising cost of gasoline. Our local Central School volunteers all live within walking distance of the Space Center. They enjoy working but are young and need supervision. Two supervisors on the larger simulators will help provide them with the supervision and training they require to become better volunteers.
You’ll notice an increase in the number of schools coming for after school field trips. March, April and May are full of school’s arriving at 2:00 P.M. and leaving at 6:00 P.M. They are sending two classes each day.
This means an addition ‘full’ field trip of classes, Starlabs, and missions.
Our daytime staff will need your full support. It isn’t easy teaching four of everything each day. The repetition can be mind numbing. I’m confident we will do exceptionally well because we have high standards and an awesome staff who always do their best to give our visitors the best field trip in Utah. Hats off to Sheila, Aleta, Lorraine, Metta, Megan, Stacy, Bracken, Jordan, Jon P., Brooklyn, Christine, Marc, Kim, and all the Central School 5th and 6th grade volunteers.
I’m reminded of something I heard from a young lady last week. A sixth grade class was finishing their training on the Voyager Bridge. The Right Wing Flight Officer was looking around the Bridge impatiently. She had mastered the look of a bored teenager - not bad for a 12 year old. She raised her hand.
“Is this all we’re going to do is sit here?” she asked. “I’m getting bored.”
“Yes, all you’re going to do is sit here so I’ll guess your going to be bored.” I answered. I wanted to say much more. You can’t imagine the will power required not to say more. The words were at the tip of my tongue already formed, fueled, and waiting for launch. A couple consonants and a vowel hissed out between my clenched teeth but quickly retracted and swallowed.
Her face collapsed into a production of distortions carefully rehearsed to convey extreme frustration at not being entertained. I could tell she needed something. My guess was her ipod - the pacifier of a new generation. This new generation goes from the rubber nipple in the mouth to headphones into the ears. I see ‘the young’ everywhere with wires running from their belts to their ears. Their brains seem to need constant noise and entertainment. The sounds of human voices and nature are no longer satisfying.
Some teens have such a distant look on their faces it makes me wonder what they are listening to. I can only guess; “Breath in and Breath out. Walk. Stop. Breath in and Breath out. Walk. Stop. Breath in and breath out. Walk Stop. Chew gum. Breath in and Breath out. Walk Stop. Chew Gum.”
I turned from the young lady and continued to work with the other children that had real questions. In the back of my head I wondered what her opinion would be of the mission.
I started the mission. Her face was square in the center of one of my TV monitor. I watched her reactions as the mission progressed. Tex’s speech did nothing for her. Her head rested on her hand. Her elbow was firmly planted on the desk. Her eyes were fixed upon the black ceiling. I wondered if she was praying for deliverance.
Soon I was lost in the mission and lost interest in tracking her reactions. At the end of the mission I remembered to look at her again.
“That was awesome!” I heard her telling her friend from across the room.
“Did you see...........? I saved the ship by............ My heart was beating so fast.........” She went on and on as she left the bridge. I sat back in my chair and began shutting off equipment. You know you’ve done a good job when you can change a teenagers opinion from “This is stupid” to “This was awesome!”
So..... several days late and in the quiet of my own home I stand and take a bow to the four walls of my living room. I’ve conquered a teacher’s Mount Everest.
Another week starts. Hundreds of kids are getting ready for the ultimate field trip. If you are one of those kids I want you to know that we are ready for you. We’ve been here 17 years training and preparing for you - just you.
My thanks to the students and teachers that visit us weekly. My thanks to a great staff and volunteers that make the Space Center the magical place it is.

Mr. Williamson

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Letter from a Happy Teacher


A heartfelt thanks for hosting us at the Space Center for our 6th grade field trip this year. I wish you could join us on the bus as we go back to the school so you could hear the comments the kids are making about the experience they had. They absolutely love how interactive/stressful and exciting the mission becomes. I appreciate the way you
interact with them during the mission and the "grown-up" feeling that they have as they have to do it all on their own, without "teacher" help.

The whole experience was so well planned, as it always is. Smooth transitions from place to place, interesting science lessons and wonderful star lab presentation. This year I had an ELL student with very limited English and he was able to participate successfully as a decoder. Tell me any other field trip that that would happen with....such a difficult spot
for a kid to be in, limited English, and he's able to fully participate and engage in the whole experience! Impressive.

The atmosphere at that school just screams "learn, learn, think, think" and I'm sure that's due to the presence of the space center. It just feels like you want to be there and be professional and become a scientist! All of the kids commented on the cleanliness of the school, the organization of the program, the patient and helpful way that the teachers interacted with them and the successful feeling that they had. The teacher
in the science room (stars, light, etc) did a brilliant job of sticking right with our core and showing them interactive experiments that we draw on all year as we complete our science studies.

I "brag you up" every year (this is my third year) and every year I'm more impressed as I come and realize the work that has gone into this experience for kids. Thanks for letting us come (we're Jordan School District) and participate in an experience that truly is that one unforgettable moment in the life of a sixth grader.

You're brilliant.
Tell all your staff I think they are the best.
Laurie Benson
Rosamond Elementary
Riverton, Utah

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Email from a Teacher

Mr. Williamson,
Thank you very much for the great experience my students from Emerson had last night. Everything about it was perfect for them and they couldn't stop talking about it. I'm sure you find that a lot, but I was just hoping that all of the students would get into it. It was so fun to look around and see all of them very busy and engaged and having a great time. The last time I came to your space center was about 15 years ago, and even though it was about the same idea, this was much better. All of your employees were also very good and helpful.
A great learning experience!
Thanks again,
Margaret A.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lunar Eclipse: February 20th

Upcoming Lunar Eclipse
Taken from Space.Com

On Wednesday night, Feb. 20, for the third time in the past year, the moon will become completely immersed in the Earth's shadow, resulting in a total lunar eclipse. As is the case with all lunar eclipses, the region of visibility will encompass more than half of our planet. Nearly a billion people in the Western Hemisphere, more than 1.5 billion in Europe and Africa, and perhaps another half-billion in western Asia will be able to watch — weather permitting — as the brilliant mid-winter full moon becomes a shadow of its former self and morphs into a glowing coppery ball.
Almost everyone in the Americas and Western Europe will have a beautiful view of this eclipse if bad weather doesn't spoil the show. The moon will be high in a dark evening sky as viewed from most of the United States and Canada while most people are still awake and about.
Moreover, this eclipse comes with a rare bonus. The planet Saturn (magnitude +0.2) and the bright bluish star, Regulus (magnitude +1.4) will form a broad triangle with the moon's ruddy disk.
Careful watchers will notice the moon changing its position with respect to the star and planet as it moves eastward through the Earth's shadow.
Saturn's position will also depend somewhat on your location. Seen from North America, the great ringed planet will be 3.5 degrees above and to the left of the moon's center at mid-totality (3:26 Universal time February 21st). At the same moment, Regulus will sit just 2.8 degrees above and to the right of the moon.
Some old-time astronomy buffs may remember from 40 years ago a total lunar eclipse with the moon sitting only about a degree from Spica — a gorgeous celestial tableau! More recently, in 1996, a totally eclipsed moon passed within 2 degrees of Saturn.
But this upcoming double event will be the only one of its kind occurring within the next millennium!
The eclipse will begin when the moon enters the faint outer portion, or penumbra of the Earth's shadow. The penumbra, however, is all but invisible to the eye until the moon becomes deeply immersed in it. Sharp-eyed viewers may get their first glimpse of the penumbra as a delicate shading on the left part of the moon's disk about 20 minutes before the start of the partial eclipse (when the round edge of the central shadow or umbra, first touches the moon's left edge). During the partial eclipse, the penumbra should be readily visible as a dusky border to the dark umbral shadow.
The moon will enter Earth's much darker umbral shadow at 1:43 on Feb. 21 by Greenwich or Universal time, which is 8:43 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the Eastern time zone, 7:43 p.m. Central time, 6:43 p.m. Mountain time and 5:43 p.m. Pacific time.

Life on the USS Voyager: An Officer's Journal Part 2

The Space Center's first simulator was the Voyager. These articles are the journal entries of a member of the USS Voyager's crew set in the same time frame as our missions. I hope this story helps our staff and campers get a better understanding of our universe and ships.
Mr Williamson

February 10, 2408 (Continues)

The Voyager’s sick bay lies at the end of a long, slowly turning hallway on Deck 5. From the starboard lift it can take a minute to reach it at a brisk walk. I approached the automatic door in hopes of finding an empty waiting room. My anticipation turned quickly to disappointment. Every seat was full. I don’t want to exaggerate, every seat means all four of them but when you are in a hurry, four might as well be fifteen.
I walked over the register and presented my thumbprint. “Hello Commander Williamson,” the monitor said in a calm female voice. Just the kind of voice you’d want to hear if you were coughing up a lung. “You have been registered. Please be seated. Your estimated wait time is twelve minutes.”
I wondered what my next course of action would be. Twelve minutes wasn’t enough time to do something else but an eternity when your standing in a room full of the sick and near dead. My choice became clear when the computer monitor invited Ensign Jackson to step into the DC (Diagnostic Center). I took the empty chair and picked a place on the wall to stare. My super ego, trained by years of service in the fleet, reminding me of the work I could be doing on my PSD (Personal Service Device). I took it out and scrolled through my messages. It is amazing how easy it is to delete a message without reading it when your not feeling well. I put it away after discovering it was too uncomfortable to read with my head locked to one side. I went back to my passive examination of the spot on the wall.
“How are your new recruits?” Lt. Marlow asked from across the room in a low, raspy voice. Lt. Marlow was new to the Voyager. A member of the ship’s security department. A survivor of the USS Baltimore. She was found alive in an escape pod two weeks after the battle. Her pod mates had died one by one. It had an effect on her I was told by those that knew her from before the war. She was once a ‘by the book’ kind of officer. The new Marlow was kind and quick to turn an eye from things that, at another time, would have sent her straight to the Captain.
“They’re a challenge. Raw material waiting for the refiners fire,” I answered turning my whole body toward her because of my screwed up neck.
“I see you slept wrong,” she said to continue the conversation. “I’ve done that before. They’ll get you squared away in no time. They’ve got this new muscle relaxer that will put you right as rain.” The conversation ended with a coughing spasm. She was called in right after that.
Twenty minutes after registering my name was announced. I pulled out my PSD and quickly messaged the cadets giving them a reading assignment that would keep them occupied until I could get there.
“Commander Williamson,” the monitor said again without any sign of annoyance at my delay. I stood up and walked toward the small hallway to the DC. At the end of the hall a door opened. I walked in facing a holographic doctor.
“Please describe your illness in detail,” the projection said. I gave it my symptoms.
“Please step into the Diagnostic Chamber,” the hologram said politely. I stepped in.
A light came on and the scanner began its work. A solid bar of light moved across my body from head to toe, front and back. I was asked to place any finger into the ring at the end of the hand hold. I felt a quick jab and was asked to remove my puncture finger. A small red dot marked the spot of entry .
The last step of the scan was the sniffer. Air was blown over my body and monitored. Smells tell a great deal about a person’s health I’ve been told.
“Please step away from the Chamber,” the holograph said. I looked into the eyes of the projection. They were looking at me but also not quite focused correctly into my eyes. Very real - yet not quite. I was directed to another small waiting room. I waited another ten minutes and in walked the Ship’s Doctor.
Dr Monroe was ancient by any standard. His records indicated an age of 126. Mandatory retirement used to be 100. Now, after the war, retirement is a thing of the past. All reserves are back in service. Monroe, as he wanted to be called, had a
no holds bar attitude toward everything. “Im too old to care about procedures,” he repeated to anyone that would listen. His dress and mannerisms reflected that attitude.
“When you’re 126,” I would tell my cadets upon their first physicals with Monroe,”You can say and act any way you like but at twelve years old you do it my way or there is always the air lock.” They understood.
“According to this report from the DC you’ve got a broken leg and low blood sugar,” Monroe said leaning against the wall chewing the end of a stylus. His face was unshaven and his shirt untucked. His white hair looked like it hadn’t seen a brush in years. He stopped reading and looked at my leg from the doorway. “Looks more like a broken neck. That damn DC couldn’t tell the difference between an apple and orange,” he snorted as he hobbled toward me.
“Not broken Monroe, just unwilling to respond to my real need to stand straight. As for the low blood sugar - just another false reading. Why haven’t the tecks fixed the DC? Last time I was in here you were using some pretty colorful language to describe its diagnostic abilities.”
He waved his hand in front of his face to say a conversation about the tecks would only be a waste of valuable oxygen. He ran his fingers over the back of my neck.
“Ow!” I reacted to his less than gentle examination.
“This will do the job,” he said. I felt a jab and a warmth flooded the back of my neck.
I lifted my head upright. No pain. “There, you don’t look like those jackass Breens anymore. We’re busy right now so come back in a few days and we will look ar your blood sugar. Most likely nothing but wouldn’t hurt to check it out again.”
“Thanks Monroe,” I said as he hobbled toward the next exam room. “Buy me a drink in the lounge next time I see you - its the only kind of thanks needed.” His voice trailed behind him as he disappeared around the corner.
I was off toward the lift and the waiting cadets.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Overnight Camp Camper Satisfication Inventory

Hello Troops:
Here are the results from the student survey taken by the campers at
the end of the Overnight Camp of February 15-16, 2008. This camp was sponsored by the the students of Cherry Hill Elementary and our Frequent Flyers. There were 42 campers.

Our Flight Directors were:

Voyager: Bradyn L. (Shadows: 10 campers)
Phoenix: Megan Warner (Olympia: 6 campers)
Odyssey: BJ Warner (Outlaws: 7 campers)
Galileo: Spenser D. (Parameter: 5 campers)
Magellan: Brittney V. (Red Storm Rising: 14 campers)

The first question: Think about your story in the simulators. Were
they fun? Did it have good characters? Did it challenge your brain or way too easy to solve?

Here are their choices:

A = 1
B = 2
C = 3
D = 4
F = 5

Here are the results. Remember, a 1 is a perfect score.

Voyager story's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.70)

Galileo story's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.60)

Magellan story's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.20)

Odyssey story's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.13)

Phoenix story's quality score: 1.33 (Last camp's score: 1.67)



The next question: How would you grade the Staff of the simulators? Think
about friendliness, helpfulness, and acting.

Voyager staff's quality score: 1.10 (Last camp's score: 1.20)

Galileo staff's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.60)

Magellan staff's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.00)

Odyssey staff's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.13)

Phoenix staff's quality score: 1.50 (Last camp's score: 1.00)


The next question: How much did you enjoy your job in the simulators?
Choices: (1 = Great; 2 = Good; 3 = OK; 4 = Not So Good; 5 = Bad)

Voyager job's quality score: 1.50 (Last camp's score: 1.60)

Galileo job's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.40)

Magellan job's quality score: 1.29 (Last camp's score: 1.40)

Odyssey job's quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.50)

Phoenix job's quality score: 1.67 (Last camp's score: 1.50)



The next question: Did you feel doing your job made a difference in the

The Camper's choices were: Yes(1) Maybe (2) No (3)

Voyager making a difference quality score: 1.30 (Last camp's score: 1.40)

Galileo making a difference quality score: 1.00 (Last camp's score: 1.20)

Magellan making a difference quality score: 1.21 (Last camp's score: 1.13)

Odyssey making a difference quality score: 1.14 (Last camp's score: 1.38)

Phoenix making a difference quality score: 1.17 (Last camp's score: 1.00)


The final question: Would you like to come back to the
Space Center again for another mission?

The Camper's choices were: Yes (1) Maybe (2) No (3)

Yes: 100% (42 students)
Maybe: 0% (0 students)
No: 0% (0 students)

The Director's Trophy: Overall Scores averaged:

Voyager: 1.18 LAST WEEK'S SCORE: 1.38
Magellan: 1.10 LAST WEEK'S SCORE: 1.15
Odyssey: 1.03 LAST WEEK'S SCORE: 1.25
Galileo: 1.00 LAST WEEK'S SCORE: 1.36
Phoenix: 1.33 LAST WEEK'S SCORE: 1.23

Overall Average: 1.13 Last Week : 1.27

The GALILEO is awarded the Director's Trophy! Super Job Spenser D. and his staff of one - Corbin, a Central student.


Our Satisfaction Scores for the Overnight Camp. Campers were asked the following question at the end of their survey.

1. How would you rate your overall experience for this overnight camp?

Their choices follow:

10 = The funnest thing I've ever done in my life.
5 = As Good as watching my Favorite Movie for the first time.
1 = The Most Horrible, Boring time I've ever had.

The students are asked to rate the overall camp experience on that
scale. They are given verbal instructions on the rating system to
insure comprehension.

Here are the results for today's overnight camp.

Voyager: This Week: 9.20 Last Week: 9.20
Galileo: This Week: 10 Last Week: 8.80
Phoenix: This Week: 9.67 Last Week: 8.00
Magellan: This Week: 9.29 Last Week: 9.80
Odyssey: This Week: 9.71 Last Week: 9.63

The GALILEO takes the Prize for Best Overall Score!

Overall Ranking by all campers for this Overnight Camp:
This Week's All Ship Average: 9.57 out of a perfect 10.
Last Week's All Ship Average: 9.09 out of a perfect 10

Thanks All for Another Great Overnight Camp!

Thanks for all you do to support the Space Center,

Mr. Williamson

Friday, February 15, 2008

Director's Log. February 15, 2008

I enjoyed the down time yesterday. With no missions I was able to catch up on my work.
We have several Flight Directors and Supervisors taking time off over the next two weeks so I spent most of the morning working on the working schedule. I published the first schedule around noon. An hour later Christine sent an email saying I messed up on her interning times.
She is an A day intern. I put her down on B days. I looked at the sticky note in front of me and saw she was an A day.
(You know, if you don't read the thousand sticky notes tacked over the face of your computer then why write them in the first place? If their purpose is to to shore up the multiple holes in your memory then I propose that sticky notes have a major flaw. What do you do to remember to look at your sticky notes? Do you write another and post it at the end of your nose?)
The new working schedule is out. Our staffing looks good for the next two weeks. I've decided to close a few of the simulators for a few days to help with the staffing problem. Once March rolls into view we will be back to normal.
Our summer flyer is posted to the web site. Kyle Herring worked hard on the new front page of the site. Let him know your opinion by sending an email. Registrations are coming in, the weather is warming and that all means summer is right around the corner.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Life on the USS Voyager: An Officer's Journal Part 1

The Space Center's first simulator was the Voyager. These articles are the journal entries of a member of the USS Voyager's crew set in the same time frame as our missions. I hope this story helps our staff and campers get a better understanding of our universe and ships.
Mr. Williamson

February 10, 2408
I woke up with a headache. Sometimes you sleep wrong. Your head gets all twisted up pointing at 90 degrees to the rest of your body. You wake up and for a brief moment all is well until you move your head to straighten it out and then POP! You know your next stop after a shower is sick bay. I sat up and gave the command "fifty percent lights". The room lit up with the feel of twilight. I stumbled into the shower. You learn quickly how to shower in 30 seconds on a starship. You get all wet, turn the flow to pause, lather up and rinse off. I air dried, again saving water by reducing the need for towels. My breakfast consisted of crunchy yogurt and orange juice. I sat on my small Starfleet standard steel gray sofa and crunched away. The sofa faces the window. Starlight was streaming by in long bands of vibrant color. The Voyager was at warp. My guess was warp 4 by the length of the light distortions. The gentle hum of the engines wrapped the ship in a soothing blanket of sound. I looked at the clock. 8:00 A.M. It was time to get moving. Another day was starting and cadets would be waiting for their morning paces.
I got a few hellos and some funny looks from crewmen as I walked down the hallway of deck 5 toward Sick Bay. There is something funny about a man walking with his head twisted to one side as if trying to carry on a conversation with his shoulder.