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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Last Week's Highlights: News and Views........

Hello Troops,
Yes, we are celebrating the little things. We survived another week of camps. Here are the highlights........

1. We finished our third EdVenture Camp Monday - Wednesday. Highlights?
A. No Vomit. Oh what a blessing!
B. Only one of the 67 left the camp because of illness BUT she came back the next day.
C. One boy was extremely homesick. On Monday night he sobbed for his mother. Bracken brought him to the phone on my desk. He sobbed and pleaded in what seemed to be a never ending cycle. Each cycle of sobs and pleads renewed when his mother would insist she wasn’t coming to pick him up. This torrent of tears started around 11:30 P.M. and had turned into a full scale flood around midnight. All the children were down for the night. I sleep in my office in front of my desk. I wanted to go to bed but couldn’t because this little boy’s world was crumbling around him. I tried to encourage him to give up the cause and admit defeat by turning off the lights and laying down on my pad. It didn’t work. He sobbed even louder. I wanted the mother to just hang up. If she wasn’t going to pick him up give him one more shot of encouragement and hang up.
“Hello, Mom?” I heard him say into the receiver around 12:15 A.M. “Mom, are you there?” His words were broken by gasps for air like a swimmer in a heated race. I saw him hang up and then pick up the receiver again. He was in the process of redialing when I saw my chance. I jumped up and hung up the phone.
“She isn’t coming,” I said as I put a hand on his shoulder and started leading him out of the office and toward the boy’s sleeping quarters. Bracken met me right outside the office. I took five minutes reassuring him that he could make it through the night. I told him how proud his mother would be if he could do it. The sobs simmered down, replaced with a few whimpers and
the occasional wipe of the nose with the back of the hand. We took him to his cot. I knew he needed a bit more than a goodnight. I moved his cot closer to the Bracken and the other male staff. That seemed to reassure him. He went to sleep.
That boy made it through the entire camp without another problem. He loved the camp. There is a lesson to be learned by this. You figure it out.
D. We exceeded our 100 people limit for swimming at PG pool. The lifeguards were nice about it. I wasn’t charged extra.
E. I celebrated my 50th birthday on Tuesday. I want to thank the staff and campers for their rousing and somewhat heart felt rendition of “Happy Birthday to You”. Spending my 50th birthday at camp was kind of weird. Being at home would have been preferred but the schedule of the camps wouldn’t allow it. No one will ever say I didn’t give my best to the Center. There
is another lesson in that but I don’t want to figure it out.
F. Lorraine made a fantastic German Chocolate Cake for me. I missed four of the candles. What does that mean? Do I want to know?
G. We all went home Wednesday night exhausted. I fell asleep in front of the TV. There was a time when I could watch hours of TV. Now I’m asleep after 30 minutes. Am I turning into an old person? I fall asleep early in the night and awake well before dawn. I have the money to go places and do things but I don’t want to. Sitting home quietly seems to be more appealing.
This is frightening! I think Victor needs to get his Groove back! I’m going to get right on that - as soon as I remember what “Get a Life” means.
H. Our main projector in the Voyager went out. I bought a replacement. The replacement won’t display the image coming from our older iMacs. There is a word one would use in a situation like this but this blog is G rated.
I. The electricity in the Odyssey kept going out - right in the middle of a mission. One of the Odyssey’s electrical breakers kept popping. I thought this would the major catastrophe to bring us all down. Christine G. told me the electrical outlet near the 1st Officer’s Station was hanging out of the wall and every time the camper kicked it with his feet the power would trip off.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me!” I wanted to shout but didn’t . I think I said something sarcastic instead. I called the District Maintenance Yard. Thankfully they sent someone right out. He fixed the plug and all was well. I like repairs that go that easily. A thank you to Christine for keeping the campers assigned to the Odyssey busy during that ordeal.

Well, that was the camp. On Thursday we had our one night Overnight Camp. They are a breeze compared to the longer EdVenture Camps. The highlight of the Overnighter was Emily’s score for running the Magellan. Emily scored a perfect One in all categories. Do you have any idea how rare that is? There is a better chance that my Lincoln Town Car (the Battlestar) would get 30 miles to the $4.09 gallon of gas than for the Magellan to get a perfect One. There is a better chance Kyle would get all of his projects done on time than for the Magellan to get a perfect One. There is a better chance of the entire staff coming to work with their shirts tucked in than for the Magellan to get perfect One. Great Job Emily and her staff! We several private missions for the rest of the week. Here are other smaller bits of news:

1. The Voyager’s Captain’s Quarters finally has its bunks back. After one month they are in. That means I have sleeping quarters for 2 more in the Voyager. Kyle and Spencer R. had to damage the newly finished walls to get the beds in but at least they are in.
2 Alex A. got his Phoenix Pass from Megan. Alex is now a Phoenix Flight Director.
3. Matt P. finished the Odyssey Junior Controls. They are installed and undergoing debugging. They are looking good.
4. The carpet on the Voyager’s stairs is wearing out. Did I every tell you that I hate carpet?

Some other bits of News:

1. Bracken Funk received his mission call. He is going to the Houston East Mission! He will be in the same area as Casey Vokes (although different missions).
2. We’ve stared the staff Reward Card. All staff and volunteers should pick up their Reward Card from me the next time they come in. I’ll explain more in a later post.
3. I posted the July Working Schedule and forgot to include the EdVenture Camp we’re running on Monday. That is one of the stupidest things I’ve done all summer. I want to thank Emily for calling me Saturday night and reminding me. In her own nice way she called my memory a rusty, leaky old bucket.

I went to see WALL E. It is one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. Way to go Pixar. We all stand in your shadow. If you plan on seeing it - Great. If you aren’t planing on see it then you’re fired if you work for me.

Well troops, Its back to the trenches for Monday’s battles. Helmet’s on and bayonets fastened. It’s going to be another rough ride.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Space Camp Weekly Update. The Summer Carries On

News from the Front.
It is Sunday the 23rd of June. All is quiet along the front. The troops lay exhausted in the bunkers. A quiet, like the calm of a windless night, reaches across No Man’s Land to the position of our adversary. The sun rests on a blanket of red and orange clouds near the horizon. It falls slowly towards the peak of the mountains. Darkness seeps along the eastern sky. The temperatures drop with the sun, giving relief from the heat of a summer’s day. The darkening air is soundless.

One day ago the valley echoed the roar of battle. The Space Center troops engaged the enemy. The battle stretched through the night and into morning. It ended with the enemy’s retreat to its lines. The day was won thanks to the leadership of our Flight Directors and our Army of Immortals.

I look over the earthen wall into the darkness marking the enemy’s position. A darkness, feeding off ignorance,  bleeding hope and imagination out of the human soul. I think about Monday and the upcoming battle. We will be ready,  but until then we rest. Our evening meal is cooking, sending the smell of beans and pork to mix with the odor of earth. I climb down the wall and stretch out on our rich homeland soil. I watch clouds drift by in formation and think of home, and the battles left to fight before we sleep.

The week started with an EdVenture Camp. The crew arrived Monday night. It was a good group of 66 ranging in age from 10 to 14. Many of the kids I recognized from previous camps. The highlights of the camp:

1. Our scores are stabilizing. Every new story takes several tellings before it settles into a routine. I feel good about the stories we are telling this summer. Bracken is concerned about the Voyager mission. It has plenty of action but no monsters. His post mission conversations with his crews are causing him to loose faith in his mission. His crews say the story is missing the ‘scary’ element. Bracken feels he is being graded down because his mission doesn’t have a monster. He asked me if I felt he should change his mission to include a haunted house aspect.
I told him to continue telling the story the way it was written. Not every story needs a monster or alien. it works as long as the ‘alien’ plays a real role in the mission. It doesn’t work if the ‘alien’ is thrown in for a cheap scare. I’ve written many missions without the scary element. They did fine. We will see how things go this week.

2. The Phoenix, Odyssey, and Galileo are doing fine. The Magellan fluctuates from good scores to OK. Its new story is still gelling.

3. The meals are fantastic. Aleta has done well. This year we replaced the chicken dinner on the second night with Chinese food. A success according to the campers.

4. The classroom experience is in flux. It can take several sessions before we can get the classroom activities to perfectly match the camp’s crazy schedule. Lorraine helped Sheila and her husband with the class this camp. Lorraine will be our substitute teacher.

5. I’m still amazed at what gets lost during a camp. On night two a boy lost his sleeping bag. We looked everywhere and could never find it. Where do these things go?

The camp ended Wednesday night. We were exhausted.

Thursday was filled with private missions and another overnight camp. The one night overnighters are easy compared to the 3 day camps.

I left the Center to spend a few hours home on Thursday. Later in the day I returned to the Center to find the staff and private mission campers standing out on the lawn. I got out of my car and heard the reason - power outage. One of the power feeds into the school was down. Half the school’s power was on - the other half was off. The only ships still running were the Galileo and the Voyager. The crews and staff waited. Mark had come down to help. Roger, our custodian, was on hand as well. I knew the cause was out of our control. I sent Brent on a quest to find a Rocky Mountain Power truck to tell them of our dilemma. He returned fifteen minutes later. He found a power truck. Apparently one of the main circuits feeding electricity into the school had blown.

A few minutes later the power came back on. The missions resumed. Over the next few hours the damaged caused by the outage became apparent. The school’s walk in freezer’s compressor was blown. That was called in. I discovered the gym was getting warm. I got up on the roof and discovered the air-condition wasn’t working. That was called in. Just before the overnight camp I noticed the school’s new addition was warming up. I went into the compressor room and found the transformer was blown. That was called in.
The overnight camp came and went. we got through it without full air conditioning. On Friday morning the distict’s repairmen came to the school. Within a few hours everything was repaired and we were good as new. .

The Super Overnighter went well.

Now we ready for another week. We will have another 3 day camp and two 1 night overnighters. I’ll be sleeping at home Wednesday and Saturday nights.
Why do I need a home?   I might as well sell the house and move into the Center!
My Friends, Our Army of Immortals, there is something stirring in the dark out across the fields.  Ignorance is waking.  Rest a bit longer for soon the summer's battles will continue.  Onwards...........

Mr. Williamson

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Space Center Changes Lives

Dear Mr. Williamson and Space Center Staff,
I have unfortunately not been back to the Space Center for a few years now, but I still feel like I need to say thank you. As of today, I am an eighteen-year-old private pilot, with a NASA internship at the Ames Research Center for the summer, headed to Harvard in the fall, to study astrophysics. I can honestly say that none of that would be true, had I not, eight years ago, walked through the doors of Central Elementary for my first space camp. The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center has changed my life. As I leave my childhood behind, I realize that the Space Center was the highlight of it. It is where I developed my love for learning; it is where I developed my passion for the skies; and it is where I developed the confidence to push the limits of my own potential. Thank you for that. I owe so much of my success to the Space Center. So thank you to all of the people who have contributed their time and energy to the Space Center. You have changed my life and I wish there was something I could do to repay you. No matter what, the Space Center will always be near and dear to my heart. Thank you again, for helping me become the person that I am today.
Kristi Bradford

Monday, June 16, 2008

The First Week of Summer Camps

A New Simulator for the Space Center?!

The Space Center completed its first week of camps. Here are the highlights.

Monday, June 9th.
We had missions most of the day. At 6:15 P.M. staff assignments were given out.
We opened the doors at 6:40 P.M. I positioned myself in the gym. The campers picked up their name tags then stopped at my station to have them filled out. I didn’t think about the logistics of taking 66 campers so i short staffed my station. I was falling behind and the line in front of me was growing. Right in the heat of battle I head the sound of someone’s gut wrenching. Yes, we all know the sound of someone's meal being reintroduced into world of the seeing and smelling. That sound was followed by the sound of something different It sounded like someone was pouring partially set pudding onto the wood floor.
The splatters were accompanied by the gasps of scores of children - creating a chorus of sounds no audience would pay to hear.
I rushed over to Nicole, instructing her to take my station. I ran to the custodial office, donned my rubber gloves, grabed the mop and sprinted into action. I cleaned up the accident in the center of the gym and continued following it with the mop to the wall where it surrounded the trash can. From the trash can, the trail of partially digested matter led me to the girls rest room. It took a few minutes but we got it taken care of. Sign ins continued rather unconventionally. Later that evening I was cleaning up more of the delightful stuff in the hallway and girls rest room.
The summer season got off to a start with a baptism of vomit. We were later told by the child’s mother the cause of the outburst was food poisoning (not by our food but by something she ate before coming to camp). The camper went home and returned on day 2 feeling much better.

Tuesday, June 10th.
This day started normally. It was cold and a storm was moving toward the Wasatch Front. I was concerned because Tuesday evening are reserved for swimming at Pleasant Grove’s pool. I spent part of the day looking out the window and watching the weather radar on the internet. Later in the afternoon the clouds transformed from peaceful to ominous.
The wind decided to give the valley a good scouring. Temperatures dropped rapidly.
I need to do the responsible thing - I called PG pool and canceled swimming. That left a gigantic hole in our schedule. What was I going to fill it with?
I talked to the staff and a plan was hatched. After supper we took the kids into the gym and let them play the staff in dodgeball. That gave me time to help clean the cafeteria and put up the tables. I set up for Bingo. We brought them in from the gym and played a few games of Bingo, afterwards came the video (Titan AE) and then bed! We got through
Day 2!

Wednesday, June 11th
Up early, breakfast for the campers and right into their last rotation. I changed the mini-rotations by redividing the campers by age. The youngest campers were given two small missions of 2.25 hours each. The older campers were given another 5 hour rotation.
The camp ended at 5:45 P.M. We were dead tired.

I decided not to record the rotation scores for this camp. Each simulator surveyed their campers so the Set Directors could track their improvements but I felt it best to leave it at that. We will publish the survey results for the remaining camps.

Overall the first camp was successful. The staff performed very well giving the campers their best. Sheila and her husband, with help from Metta, gave the kids a truly unique and fun class experience. This year the kids are building things. I’ll write more about the class session in another post.
The rest of the week included many private missions and another overnight camp on Thursday evening. I’m trying to keep Friday nights open. We don’t get many Friday nights off because of the school year overnight camps. Giving the staff Friday nights during the summer is a nice change.
The Programming Guild held a Day Camp on Saturday. Brent, Bridger and Alex are teaching Revolution and Apple’s programming language. The turn out was better than I thought.
It is Sunday and I’m still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. I’ve got to get more sleep before the next camp on Monday or I’ll be a walking zombie.
I want to close this update by thanking the staff of the Center for always going the extra mile. I’m rarely disappointed and often times surprised by what they will do on their own time, to ensure our camps are the best they can be. The Space Center is a magical place because of the people that work here. You’ll not find a better bunch anywhere.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Attendance Record Set for 2007-2008

Mr. Williamson

The Space Center’s attendance numbers for the 2007-2008 are finalized.
Total attendance from the first day of school to May 31, 2008:

Our old attendance record, set the year before was 14,775 .
I didn’t think we could beat that old record. I didn’t think it was possible to work enough hours in the day. I have been proven wrong.

We are on our way to setting new attendance records for the summer months as well.

People enjoy their time at the Space Center. That reflects well for the staff and volunteers. I encourage all to continue your good work. Let’s keep our standards high. Let’s remember we are here to educate and serve.

The summer is looming ahead. Prepare........ we are going to be in the thick of it soon.

Mr. Williamson