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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Commentary on The History of the Space Center. Ch. 2

Hello Troops,
David Andrus was a camper from long ago who has since grown up, married and lives a fairly normal respectable life. You see, it is possible for Space Center fans to grow up normally and live productive lives :)

David sent this comment on Bill Schuler's last post on the History of the Space Center. I enjoyed reading it and thought you might also.

Thanks David for taking the time to write.

And Now David's Comments.

I've got to comment on this one. The original run of the Canada mission was my second (of many) trip to the Space Center, and incidentally it was while working that mission that Kyle Herring and I developed a friendship that is still going strong nearly 20 years later.

I remember fondly being scared, yet also kind of amused in some weird way by the strict disciplinarian of Admiral Schuler. I believe he loudly questioned to my face (drill sergeant style) why I was smiling and made me do push-ups.

I'm also one of the few oddballs who somehow was able to do the Canada mission twice. Being a strict devotee of the enjoyment of the journey rather than being in a rush to reach the ending I never divulged anything about the mission to the rest of the crew, and did my part to act like I was just as clueless as anyone else. However I did make the decision to be the chief of security (back when it was at what is now the weapons station). Being the captain would've just been wrong.

I have fond memories of obsessively worrying about the slime devil popping out of the vents in the ceiling, and we had a very nervous communications officer covering a hole in the floor with her foot. I was one of the "lucky" people to find a slime devil egg nestled comfortably in my sleeping bag. That sock puppet was the source of some serious entertainment.

As far as those off-bridge activities go...I know that one of them was security training in the hallway with those buzzing lasertag headbands. I don't recall doing anything else.

I actually asked Vic about the "terrible" stars once and he said told me that they were from the very end of Star Trek 5. It was 5 or 10 seconds of footage that he looped over...and over...and over. I also remember that the visual that was put up on the screen when there was nothing else to show was a freeze frame from Star Trek 1 that was showing off the laserdisc.

The thing that really made me laugh on the Canada mission though - waking up to opera music with the computer explaining that we were listening to Admiral Schuler singing in the shower. Oh...and I accidentally shot Admiral Schuler at least once. That may have been revenge for the wake-up call.

I can't believe I remembered some of these details from 20 years ago. Maybe my memory's not as bad as I thought. Now where did I put my car keys?

David Andrus

Mapping your Position in the Imaginarium, the Google Way

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Early History of the Space Center. Chapter 2

Hello Troops,
Many of you commented on Mr. Schuler's last post on the Space Center's History. I asked Bill to continue the series. He grasciously consented. Today we read the second chapter in the series. I hope you enjoy reading about our early days. Please send your questions. I'll ask Bill to answer them.

Bill will find pictures of the early Space Center and get them posted soon.

Mr. Williamson

By Bill Schuler

Victor approached me about continuing with more installments of the early history of the Space Center. After seven years I figure its about time. With my position as Chief Pizza Picker Upper secure ( Have you ever walked into a pizza place to pick up 12 pizza’s while dressed in a full regulation Star Trek uniform?) It was time to move onto the fun stuff.

Before continuing I would like to build you a mental picture of the space center as it was then. First there was one ship only, the Voyager. Mission control contained 3 computers. The video system consisted of 2 VHS Tape players 1 to play the mission video the other to play stars, I don’t remember what we used for stars but it was pretty terrible. The main fixture of the video station was the laserdisc player. Just think of a laser disc as a really, really big DVD.

The sound equipment consisted of a Microphone, Amplifier, 1 tape cassette player with 2 cassette bays (state of the art then) and one of those new fangle CD players with 1 platter bay. If you wanted to record or edit music you had to do it on tape as consumer disc burning hadn’t been invented yet. The Tactical screen was projected using a monochrome LCD device connected to the Tactical computer. The device was then laid on top an overhead projector and the computer image was rear screen projected onto the Voyager’s tactical screen.

The Tactical Stacks were generated by Vic using Hypercard, with almost no animations. If you wanted something to move you had to click and drag, all the while Vic would give gentle encouragement. Now lets move onto the bridge. The bridge stations were old style Apple Macintosh all in one computers with a huge 9.5 inch monochrome screen. I think most of them had 20MB hard drives. We had a few Mac SE’s with massive 80MB hard drives. Who could possibly fill up an 80MB hard drive? The bridge computers were networked through their modem ports using the then radical Appletalk network parodical. Ethernet had not been invented yet. A program called Timbuktu was used in mission control to see the bridge computers. All the bridge computer screens were tiled onto 2 macs so the control room staff could see what the kids were doing. Mind you this is all on 9.5 inch computer screens! This system was far from elegant or streamlined but somehow it worked, if not particularly fast. Most of our flight director’s these days would refuse to work under the the conditions that we considered normal.

The overnight mission for 1991-92 was the “Canada” Some of you may think you have done this mission but the resemblance is transitory. Victor cobbled together video from Star Trek 1 and 2 into a rather crude mission video. No offense to Vic but using the consumer machines of the day with the generational loss of non-time base corrected VHS recording, crude was all you could really come up with.

An overnight mission was an entirely different animal in those days. The mission lasted from 6:00pm Friday night to 11:00am Saturday morning, and all of that time aside from meals and sleeping was devoted to 1 mission. This gave us an unparalleled timespan to develop the mission story. Unique to this time the crew did several breakout sessions meaning the crew would break up into several groups and do various educational activities under the supervision of the staff. I’m a little hazy on what those specific activities were, a few of them where exercise training, building robots. and designing circuits to do various things. While all of this is going on there is a skeleton crew up on the bridge. The ship is on course to a stable wormhole that is guarded by a Federation Outpost (and yes this was several years before Star Trek Deep Space 9 premiered).

Part of the bridge routine at this time shows a cargo ship on a collision course with the Voyager. Communications is supposed to call the ship and tell them to change course. Now that I am in charge of the phone, I think to myself: If I were the cargo ship captain, why should I be the one to change course. I filed an approved flight plan, I am following the most economical course to my destination so as to maximize profit for my cargo, any course changes are going to cost me money, Why should I change course! My cargo ship captain absolutely refuses to change course. This requires the Voyager to change course. Lets say the exchange gets a little heated. So a simple course change turns into an important story element.

I also introduced one of the most enduring story elements in Space Center history, The Slim Devil! Again, I’m the guy with the phone, remember. My job is to develop the second story line. In the beginning the slime Devil had no substance. It was merely a nuisance that gets loose from the Zoology lab. People from various decks call an report its location and security has to figure how to track it down and capture it. As I recall it was very fond of hanging out at the swimming pool where it frequently laid eggs. Despite having no substance the Slime Devil did make some of the kids nervous. One night on a whim I threw a stuffed tribble into decontamination, where a returning landing party was patiently waiting out their decontamination time. As I threw it in a made an appropriate snarling noise. This action produced a few well modulated screams, we knew we were onto something. That night when the crew was bedded down Vic and I were talking about the crews reaction to the slime devil. Vic off handedly mentioned how cool it would be if you could see two red eyes floating in the darkness. The moment I heard that I thought “Hey I can do that”.

That week I scoured the nearby Radio Shack for the necessary parts and created the first corporal slime devil. The beast consisted of 2 red LED’s soldered to a frame inside a brown sock and powered by a 9 volt battery. My first test subject was Mark Daymont. He reported that he was suitably startled. During the next overnighter the slime devil made his first physical appearance in decontamination with the appropriate snarls and growls. I don’t remember much after that as the entire landing party scattered while producing screams at the highest decibel level the Space Center had heretofore ever recorded.

The next step was to give the slime devil a longer reach. I believe Vic suggested we might have it spit venom. Easy to do, get a super soaker and let fly when nobody is looking. If a crew member got “slimed” they had to go down to sick bay for the anti-venom treatment, which took about five minutes. These days I cringe at the thought of spraying copious amounts of water without regard to the 20 some odd computers on the bridge.

The power of suggestion is a truly amazing thing. One girl who was slimed remembered how the venom burned her flesh, Yep PG tap water is pretty corrosive.
one camper recalled how the slime devil would grab his feet under the communication station. This never happened as there is no access to that part of the ship from the outside. But to this day he will swear that he was being attacked from under the desk.

Late in the year a new wrinkle in the slime devil saga surfaced. How would the crew react if the slime devil started laying eggs all over the ship. Easy, I picked up a half dozen wooden eggs from a craft store, painted them up an appropriately sinister fashion and planted them in various sleeping bags on deck 2. Oh the memories of watching little campers shake down all of there belongings to ride themselves of the embryonic horrors. I always collected the 6 eggs. But they didn’t know all of them were accounted for. It was enough to give a young Kyle Herring nightmares. Oh the bliss.

Although the Slime Devil is seldom used as a plot device these days, it is the hereditary ancestor of the Grishnocks, Zitherdons, Targs, Spiders, and flesh devouring insects now in use today.

That is enough for installment 2, my memory cells are starting to melt due to overuse.

Installment 3 coming up later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So Tempting...... Oh So Tempting.

From the Imaginarium, a picture waiting for a story. This is your chance. Your imagination is talking to you. Are you listening? What do you see? Who's finger is that and why does this person contemplate such a violation of the universal laws of physics?

The Imaginarium......Simple yet sublime so why aren't you writing?

Mr. Williamson

Our Flight Director Bracken Funk typed up a story to go with the picture. His contribution is below.
Thanks Bracken.

Bracken's Story to Accompany the Picture.

Vic slinked down the basement stairs to where the old microwave had been hidden, hidden for a very long time. Since Central had been opened is what he'd been told. The only ones who knew about it were Mr. Henshaw, the District Superintendent, and himself. He recalled the evening where Mr. Henshaw had shown the magical microwave to him.

"We don't know where this came from, Victor,"Mr. Henshaw told him sternly, "We don't know why it's here either. We don't know what it does exactly, and it's never been used. From what the owners manual said, that button stops time. It stops it as soon as you press it... But as far as exact sciences- we haven't the slightest idea. We are showing this to you, because you are doing something here that no other teacher has done. A simulator in a school, with all sorts of potential problems, and thousands of students promised to come here. Should anything go wrong, we want you to know where this is."

He smiled, that had been 1990, two days after the Voyager officially opened. He knew back then he wouldn't be able to resist nearly weekly use of the device, there was never enough time for anything. His mind wandered back to review the day.

"Mr. Williamson," it was the voice of Jon Parker that started his daydream.

Without giving a second thought, the tone of Jon's voice insisted that somewhere very nearby, trouble was lurking, Fortuna, the arch-nemesis of Victor Williamson was waiting to place a card in something that was supposed to be left alone. He looked at Jon, without saying anything to allow himself time to keep the imminent explosion of anger inside.

"It's the Dragon Lady... She's angry about everything again... The lights, the sound, the pet perrett... We don't know what to do..." Jon sounded sheepish, Vic could tell that Jon really wished he could've solved the problem on his own.

"I'll take care of it," He didn't even need to ask for the location of the problem. He headed directly to the Odyssey. Upon arriving, he found the dragon lady breathing fire across thousands of dollars worth of equipment, breathing threatenings with every burst of flame that protruded from her black lips.

"May I help you, Miss DL?"

"YES!! I'm trying to train my future dragons, and your raucous over here is much more than I can stand. The occasional yelp, the 30 seconds of loud music at the end of your mission. The every once-in-a-while hum of your alarms from this place is too much for me to focus. It ruins everything... Why... It's so noisy, I have a constant migraine."

"Well, we'll do what we can if you'll stop burning down my ship," Vic said wryly, watching her walk away still muttering about how she never has any say.

He had completed the first task of the day, but that wasn't going to be the end for sure.

Upon his first field trip flight, the projector went out, a typical Friday happening. The Voyager felt like it was closing night for it's performance- it had to pull it's pranks. And so, the projector died, frustrating him slightly, nothing he couldn't deal with.

Several minutes later, an angry woman with a phaser should up. She wasn't angry with him, just with the phaser. Had the phaser been an animated object, I'm sure she would have beat it. It had been left in a hallway.

Filch came in to tell him that he was the ONLY person that was allowed to move the curtains, seeing as how he had his curtain pass from a young age. This was going to cost him money.

Several students puked in the middle of the day flights- he hoped to get time to REALLY clean that up.

The Voyager, Magellan, and Phoenix sound systems decided to die in the middle of the private flights later, as well as several phone calls that he had to deal with, which generally consisted of mothers crying on the other end begging him to let their kids come to the overnighter. And... Several of the Voyager chairs broke.

With all of this, there were still several things which needed to be handled. He now came back to his senses, standing in front of the microwave.

"I must be the only human being who has a 120 hour work week... I hate Fridays..." He thought.

And with that, he pushed the button, stopping time so that he could attend to all the things that required his attention.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Day in the Imaginarium. Life is Never Boring.

Our work never ends at the Imaginarium. If it isn't moving large boulders its shaving the sea. Always something........ always something.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Last Chance to Get a Good Look at Mars Until 2012

On Thursday night, March 25, many people may look up at the sky and ask the question, "What's that bright star next to the moon?"

The answer for Thursday night is Mars, but that answer changes night by night as the moon travels along the night sky. If you ask the question again on Monday night, March 29, the answer will be the ringed planet Saturn. Such conjunctions of the moon and planets are regular reminders of how rapidly the moon moves across the sky.

This will be your last chance to get a good look at Mars until it approaches the Earth again in 2012.

The Good Ole Days

Write query, attach stamp, post and wait. Google's Good Old Days (or not). Its just another day of imagining at the Imaginarium.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Wall Brought to you by, The Imaginarium.

Take your common, everyday red brick wall, then call our experts at the Imaginarium. Leave the rest to us.

Imagineering at the Imagainarium: Making the common, uncommon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Space Center History. The Early Days

Bill Schuler holding the Silver Chalice of Zod awarded
During an Honor's Night in 2003

By Bill Schuler
The Space Center's Oldest Volunteer.

I started reminiscing with Mr. Williamson about what it was like to be a volunteer in the old days when the Space Center opened. Vic suggested I write a post concerning my early Space Center experiences as a historical prospective. Realizing this will require a substantial amount of commentary, It has been decided to break it down into several separate installments.

The Start of the illness!

Mark Daymont actually introduced me to the Space Center. One day in the fall of
1990 he picked up a local paper her never reads and found an article about how this 6th grade teacher went and built a spacecraft simulator in his school. Mark was so
intrigued he actually sought out the strange teacher, to meet him and see his work first hand. Immediately Mark thought "How can I help with this". Then he thought "How can I drag my friends into this." A week later Mark, myself, and Dave Wall sat in on our first student missions as visiting admiral's. The three of us, for various reasons had acquired Star Trek uniforms from "Star Trek 2 The Wrath of Kahn". The uniforms were not very functional but looked fantastic when compared with the pajama suits of the first Star Trek Movie. These were exact copies made from the same fabrics used in the film uniforms and tailored to the last detail, no shortcuts!. Mine withstood almost 3 years of continuous Space Center use.

Vic conducted the mission from the Bridge rather than in mission control. The
mission consisted of the Voyager, represented by the movie version of the USS Enterprise leaving space dock, and no they couldn't steer out of space dock any better back then than they do now,and set course for the planet Mars. On arriving at Mars various features of the Planet were described, primarily through the cutting edge video technology of the Laser Disc Player. While preparing for the trip back to earth a Romulan Ship uncloakes and some admiral or other swore he would destroy us. Remember, Vic is on the bridge so the voice of the evil admiral is coming out of a 5th grade volunteer in Mission Control and is about as intimidating. Use voice distorters in the Voyager was still some years into future. Fortunately Voyager made her escape to earth and safety.

On completion of the mission Vic talked to us concerning the Space Center and its possibilities. Before the day was out we booked the first ever adult overnight mission. On the appointed night the crew assembled, in full uniform and the mission began. The mission itself was written by Mark Daymont and would become the template for which all previous missions are based.

The crew wasn't a bunch of Star Trek nerds living in their parents basements. In fact the majority of us were full time or Reserve Air Force personnel or had had some sort of previous professional military training who also happened to admire Star Trek. As such the ship was set up according to established military protocol's. I was the first officer and as such I was responsible for seeing to it that the ship and crew were ready for the captain's immediate use. This meant job allocation, training, watch schedules, meal schedules, drill's, personnel evaluation etc. Vic was somewhat taken aback by the professional demeanor of the crew.(remember this was the first adult mission plus the fact that most of the crew had real military experience) and at first was a little unsure how to handle the crew. Despite the primitive state of the ship, after about 45 minutes the entire crew had suspended their disbelief to the point where we saw what was happening on the ship as reality. Easy to do with kids, harder to do with adults. Never since have I enjoyed a mission so much.

Wasn't this epistle about volunteering! Oh Yea I was so exited by the possibilities of the Space Center I couldn't get it out of my head. I thought about all of the possible things I could do to make the space center a better experience, from props to decorations to acting. My head was spinning with possibilities. A few weeks later I was in serious withdrawal and badly needed another Space Center fix. So on a Friday night in February 1991 I packed up my StarFleet uniform and showed up at the Space Center doorstep asking if I could assist with the overnighter.

I'm not quite sure what Vic was thinking but he looked at me with that look he gets when you tell him the toilet just overflowed. After a pause he said Well---ok. So Admiral Schuler was born. I had a great time and couldn't wait till the next week. I'm still not sure what Vic's reaction was.

Well fate has a way of stepping in and changing your view of the world. When I
got home that night I found a note on my bedroom door. (This was when cell phones weighed ten pounds and cost a fortune to use.) "Bill, Sergeant Watson called. Your Reserve Unit has just been activated, report Monday morning. Thus I was integrated into the first Gulf War. At that point I had no idea where I would be sent, so one tends to think about things one does not generally think about. Turns out we remained at our home station in California so we could properly carry out aircraft repairs instead of doing it in a ad hoc manner at some off shore location. So by night I fixed C-5 Galaxy's and by day I thought about the Space Center. Even though I was several states away I sill couldn't stop thinking about the place and what I could do for them in my present circumstances. I turned to my "keep me sane" hobby of plastic modeling as a way of helping the space center. I built models of Starships, missiles and research aircraft to decorate what is now the Space Center office. I would build them, pack them in boxes filled with air dry popcorn and send them to Vic. Some of them are still on display in the glass case in the hall. That doesn't seem like much but when you are on a war footing, having something like the Space Center to contribute to is very therapeutic.

I know!!! I wasn't dodging bullets but we were still under enormous pressure to get airplanes in and out of the repair dock. You must understand aircraft very dangerous things to work around, especially when you are under pressure and in a hurry. I remember on one particular occasion, working in the landing gear bay, pressure was applied to the hydraulic system (2500psi). Unfortunately the Hydraulic Shop boys neglected to reattach several hoses and the hanger soon filled with a fog of highly flammable Spec 4 hydraulic fluid. One spark and the whole hanger would have gone up, mind you I am standing in the landing gear bay, in the midst of a fog of highly volatile petroleum distillate and right above me is the lit turbine engine that is pressurizing the hydraulic system! But I digress.

Contributing to the Space Center even in that limited way made the whole thing
much easier to take.

After six months of active duty and 3 months summer tour directing I was back in
Utah and the Space Center. At this time I was determined to take a larger part in the
Space Center, though at this point Vic knew nothing about it.

On a Friday afternoon in September 1991 I show up again and Vic kind of shrugged
again. After my appearance as the Admiral I am sitting in mission control (During this point in Space Center history there are something like 3 or 4 student staff members, Jr High age or younger) Vic hands me the phone and says "See what you can do with this" and thus was born the "Second Story Line".

I still felt like an outsider looking in, then I noticed on every overnighter Vic had to arrange with the mother of a student to pick up the Pizza (In the old days all overnight missions included dinner.) which I noticed was a hassle for him. This is where initiative comes in! I thought to myself "This is it! My chance to become indispensable. I offered to take responsibility to pick up the pizza every Friday from then on thus freeing Vic from a bothersome chore. He accepted my offer and from then on I was the pizza guy.

Seeing a need and filling it gets you noticed. Admittedly being the pizza guy was not the end but it was the means to give me a chance to do the good stuff.

This concludes the first installment of the "Historical Document" Next installment will include the secrets behind the "origins of the slime devil and the miracle of the 48 hour mission!

The Power of Imagination

Students of the Imaginarium understand the power of imagination, a power we all carry within us. We use it daily, sometimes as a distraction and other times as a release from the here and now.

Learn to harness that power to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thoughts on the Week as We Blaze Forward..

Hello Troops,
It’s 58 degrees outside! I think we can nearly, almost if not certainly proclaim - without too fine a point, yet steadfastly with room for doubt, but firm with conviction without getting too carried away that Winter weather is behind us. Wouldn’t you agree or nearly so, perhaps?

The Space Center is getting more private mission bookings and the last two overnight camps were full - all of which makes me happy. Happy is defined as a steady stream of money coming in and not as much going out; such a situation means we are running well into the black. We need to raise as much money as possible so I can purchase a $27,000 new portable planetarium to take the place or our aging Starlab. That poor dome is so full of holes you’d swear you were looking up into the night sky from some alien planet.

Oh, I can’t forget the remodeling of the Voyager. New computers, new front screens and new chairs.... sigh..... Speaking of chairs, the nice modern chairs I bought for the Voyager nearly ten years ago are breaking one by one over a steady stream of months. We lost one yesterday when the Engineer step down from the Engineering section onto the Right Wing chair and broke a section of the plastic off.

It seems like every week something new breaks but that is the nature of equipment under heavy use.

We had network problems in the Odyssey and Magellan during the overnight camp and Saturday private missions. That’s something else that needs to be addressed. Numont University in Salt Lake City nearly finished the new Odyssey controls before their term ended. Matt Long and the Programming Guild will take what they’ve done and finish them up. I’m hoping new controls on a stable platform like Cocoa will eliminate many if not all of the Odyssey’s issues.

I want to thank all the new volunteers that recently finished their five observations and are now eligible to volunteer at the Center. I signed another young man in yesterday afternoon. These new volunteers are full of drive and enthusiasm. I need you old timers to stand close to them and hopefully some of their energy will transfer into you. And once again a pat on the back to our current volunteers. You guys keep the Center open with your many hours of unpaid time.

Their are several factors responsible for the Center’s success. Among the top five are the outstanding volunteers and staff, all of whom (including the paid staff) donate hours of volunteer time each month. I’m grateful and urge you to keep coming! We are moving into our busiest time of the year and, well, you know. We can’t do this without you.

And now I’ll stop because If I write too much I’ll lose half the Blog’s readers (many of my staff continue to remind me that I write too much and when I do they won’t read it. What is with this younger generation? So many, but not all as I've been reminded, seem to have the attention span of a goldfish!)

Mr. Williamson

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Expedition 22 Completed

One of several Russian helicopters flown to the landing site. It looks cold... BRRR.

With the landing of the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft in Kazakhstan this morning, Expedition 22 of the ISS has come to a successful end. Jeff Williams and Max Suraev arrived safe and sound.

Russian rapid transit in the steppes.

Actually they arrived in the freezing steppes in Winter. NASA's photo of the day showed a capsule landing in a giant frozen field of snow. Watching the Russian camera footage, one really gets a feel of how different our two space programs really are. The Russian program works, and works well, but at times it almost seems comical or amateurish. Mostly this is because the Russian cameraman did not do a good job. As the space voyagers were carried from their capsule to waiting chairs, the camera view constantly cut off people's heads, he could not for the life of him think of getting both crewmen in the same view, and at times didn't even bother to aim the camera at anything other than the ground- and upside down.

Get used to this view, folks... Once the shuttle retires and all we have left are overpriced trips on the Russian rockets, we won't see our high definition, good quality camerawork that we are used to. We'll be dependent on landing our astronauts in frozen or desolate wastes, with poor Russian camerawork, and it will be a long time until we return to the American way.

ISS in orbit. View of the Central Truss and solar panels.

Meanwhile, ISS Expedition 23 begins with the Soyuz departure. The change of command ceremony was held yesterday, and Russian Commander Oleg Kotov takes over. There are currently three ISS members, and they will be joined by three more on April 4. The Expedition 23 expansion crew will arrive by a Russian Soyuz. The shuttle Discovery will launch to the ISS on April 5th to bring up more equipment.

By Mark Daymont

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A National Geographic Special. Asteroid Impact!

Could an asteroid impact with Earth wipe out the human race? Known Universe explores what is being done to prevent such an Armageddon by heading to the first line of asteroid defense: the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Arizona. Here we see the technologies used to monitor the skies for near-Earth objects, including a football stadium-sized rock that will pass close to Earth on Friday the 13th, April 2029. Scientists predict it may be so close that gravity could cause a catrophic collision.
Be sure to watch this Known Universe show on the evening of April 1st on the
National Geographic Channel.

I know I'll be watching :)

Mr. Williamson

Marshmallow Pirates in the Imaginarium.

It's True. You'll never know what you're going to get in the Troubadour's Imaginarium.
Tis a wonder to Behold.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wednesday Imagination Challenges

Imaginarium Challenge #4
A packet of ketchup
A tomato

You have five minutes. Engage Imagination.......

The Winner

No Imagination: Welcome Back to School. School Starts Sept. 4
That's what 95% of the nation's children read when they started school this year on their school's marquees.
Imaginarium Challenge #5. Say the Same Thing but With Imagination.

And the Winner is: Cloverdale Primary School

OK Troops,
Expand your Horizons. Think......

Mr. Williamson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Tuesday. A Happy Day at the Space Center.

Hello Troops,
We had a great day at the Space Center. We hosted the Sixth Graders from Fox Hill Elementary School. They were briefed on Midnight Rescue. They were great kids.

You know what I love about my job? I love working with groups of students that come to the Center well briefed on their mission. I love working with students that are quiet and focused on their jobs and really work hard to win the mission. I love working with Captains, Ambassadors and First Officers that are teachable and willing to take sincere criticism of their work and then improve.

That's what we had today. Two great sixth grade classes that worked hard to win their missions. I had two great command crews that listened to my criticism and really worked hard to improve. They were all awesome.

There are days where I really love this job. Of course there are those other days we all have where at the end of the day we question whether or not we should have rolled out of bed. I'm please to report those days are rare at the Space Center.

The Space Center is a happy place full of people that have fully developed imaginations. Our staff use their imaginations to make our magic happen.

Disneyland is very sure of itself when it says they are The Happiest Place on Earth. Perhaps some day we may challenge them for ownership of that slogan (And I'll confess, I'm one of Disney's greatest fans).
I'm sure such a challenge will end up in the Supreme Court.
It could very well be the Trial of the Century.

From the Space Center's Imaginarium,
I'm Mr. Williamson

From the Traffic Engineers at the Imaginarium

Taking the everyday and making it extraordinary. That is all we ask of our students at the Imaginarium.

Imagination, use it or lose it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

From the Imagination in Design Department of the Imaginarium

There are bridges, and then there are bridges designed by graduates of the Imaginarium, a place where students are filled with A Sense of Wonder fueled by Imagaination.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Remember Daylight Savings Starts Sunday.

Hello Troops,
Yep, you loose one hour of sleep on Saturday night. Be sure to set your clocks one hour. Blahhhhh.....

Mr. Williamson

Two Stars Orbit Each Other every 5.4 Minutes!

James Owen

for National Geographic News

Published March 12, 2010

Two extremely dense stars in an intimate dance are spinning around each other in just 5.4 minutes—making them the fastest known stellar partners in the galaxy, astronomers have confirmed.

To have such a speedy orbit, the stars must be moving at about 310 miles (500 kilometers) a second, the team calculates.

The whirling duo, known as HM Cancri, also has the tightest orbit of any known "binary" star system. (Related: "First Proof 'Tight' Double Suns Can Have Planets.")

Both stars are white dwarfs—the dense, white-hot remnants left behind when sunlike stars die. The stellar corpses are separated by no more than three times the width of Earth.

In such tight quarters, hot gases flow between the two stars, releasing huge amounts of energy.

"This is the most extreme example of one of these double white dwarf systems we have so far," said study co-author Danny Steeghs of the University of Warwick in the U.K.

Titan's Slushy Interior. Astronomy News

Kate Ravilious

for National Geographic News

Published March 11, 2010

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is perhaps best know for its unique, hazy atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane.

But a new look at Titan's insides reveals even more oddities: Beneath the brittle crust of ice lies a layer of slush. Deeper still is an underground ocean over a solid core of rock and ice.

This new picture is based on measurements of Titan's gravity field. The measurements were made by clocking the speed of the NASA-ESA Cassini orbiter with extreme precision—gaguing how many five-thousands of a millimeter the craft traveled per second.

"The ripples of Titan's gravity gently push and pull the spacecraft. By studying the velocity changes we can calculate the gravity," explained study leader Luciano Iess, of Sapienza University of Rome.

Subtle differences in Titan's pull on Cassini suggest that the materials inside the moon are a mix of ice and rock with no clearly defined rocky layers.

Titan's Icy Insides

Until now, scientists had thought Titan's interior would look a lot like the inside of Jupiter's moon Ganymede: Both bodies are large, have similar densities, and are made of roughly the same materials.

Under Ganymede's thin, icy crust lies a well-defined upper mantle of warmer ice, an inner mantle of silicate, and a molten iron core. (Related blog: "Comets 'Melted' Jupiter's Biggest Moon.")

But the new gravity data suggest that Titan and Ganymede had very different evolutionary histories.

"It is really quite a surprise, and it tells us that [Titan] never got hot enough to separate out into a core, mantle, and crust," said Ulrich Köhler of the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, who wasn't on the study team.

Instead, Iess and colleagues think that Titan's ice and rock remained together in a relatively lukewarm mixture.

This mixture took a leisurely million years or so to settle toward Titan's center—"plenty of time for heat to escape" and for the moon to cool into its present state, Iess said.

The team's calculations support the idea that Titan today has a subsurface liquid ocean from which methane bubbles up through an icy crust, constantly shrouding Titan in thick smog. (Related: "Methane Rain Formed New Lake on Saturn Moon.")

The study's notion of a relatively warm, spongy ice layer beneath a thin, hard outer shell would also explain Titan's lack of major mountains.

"Large mountains can't exist on Titan," Iess said. "They would simply sink into the ice."

Findings published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Ahhh....Friday. Overnight Camp Tonight. I Need Time in the Imaginarium. Gotta Recharge.

So That is how it all started. So what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Yes, genius. Imagination at its best.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Relaxing at the Imagainarium on a Quiet Thursday

You Imagination should be exercised daily. Your free Imagainarium membership is included in this Blog.

And Your Thought for the Day...
Space. What Doesn't Come with That? So by Definition, the Space Center just about covers everything....... Right?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Few Openings on the Overnight Camp

Hello Troops,
We have a few openings on Friday's Overnight Camp for our Blog Readers and Frequent Flyers. The Special Price for our Blog Readers and Frequent Flyers is $38.00 per person.

Nearly all of the students attending are coming from Cherry Hill Elementary . They will be 5th and 6th graders so I'm limiting the age on this camp. You must be 5 - 7 grade to take one of the five spots.

If you're interested (We have 5 openings) please send the following information.


The first 5 to respond will get it.

Mr. Williamson

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Second Grader's Observation of an Old War Horse of a Teacher

Last Thursday I came face to face with a creature without feeling or empathy. This creature says what is on its mind without regard to manners or decency. This
creature is small in stature but has the ability to terrify some adults just by being in its
presence. This creature looks sweet and innocent on the inside but can be carnivorous
in appetite for the taste of an adult. This creature has a name. It is called a 2nd grader.

I finished my last flight of the day. It was a long week. I was tired. I'm still working 70 plus hours a week but do my best to always look presentable. I mean one tries one's best - doesn't one? The last flight was a rough one. The kids were too excited. Running a mission like that can be as painful as sitting in the chair of an unskilled dentist sporting a mouth full of cavities and being told that there is no Novocain. The mission ended at 1:35 P.M. I rushed to help the staff ready the ship for the next missions and left the Voyager.
I stopped in the Briefing Room to check a few things. I glanced at the clock and moved toward the Briefing Room door. I decided to make a stop in the Discovery to grade a few of math papers from my advanced math morning class.

I was stopped in the Briefing Room's doorway by a class of 2nd graders all walking nicely behind their teacher with arms folded and halos somewhat firmly attached to their heads. The procession of ducklings stretched down the hall so I looked for a gap. There is always a gap in these school lines. Just look for the student with the attention
disorder. He is the one looking everywhere except at where the line is going. This student is usually several steps behind the person in front of him. He is also the one that has the little girl in spotless clothes and pearl white skin prodding him from behind telling him to move it or the teacher would be informed of his inattentiveness in no less than 1000 words once they returned to the classroom.

I glanced down the line looking for the gap. There it was, the boy whose eyes were
everywhere, looking with renewed interest at objects and bricks he's seen thousands of times before. Behind him was the girl with the curled up nose and the finger poking him in the back. Yes, I called it right!

I waited for the right moment and darted through the gap. My sudden movement startled the boy and drew his attention. He looked up into my face. I could see his eyes focus. Clarity returned to his face. He was back with us.
"Mister," he said as I walked beside him heading to my math class.
"What can I do for you?" I responded trying to remember if I'd every seen this one
before. My mind drew a blank.
"You really look worn out," he said. His eyes never left mine. I was surprised by his frankness. I slowed down to avoid any further conversation with this child of darkness. I watched from behind as the class moved further ahead.

"Don't you know who that is?" Miss Perfect asked him with a finger in his ribs.
"That is Mister Williamson. He runs the Space Center. You shouldn't of said that.

At that moment I felt the wrinkles widen. I ran my fingers through my hair to try to return it to some form of order. That's when another hair from my head drifted down to the floor.
Gone - the rich head of hair. Now the forest is thinning.
Gone - the pearl white teeth. Now off yellow is the best I can hope for.
Gone - the memory known to be as sharp as a tack. Now I rely on a steady stream
of sticky notes.
Gone - the days my students wanted to be like me. Now they wonder if teaching
really can do this to someone.

It's OK. To be honest, I'm glad I'm where I am. There is a sense of accomplishment in looking worn out. It is the look of a honest life's work. So I wear my "wasted" appearance proudly but have a favor to ask you readers.

Let's not bring the subject up again. Now I'll drift back to sleep in my comfy office chair. Be sure to wake me up for my next mission and REALLY be sure to wake me up when its time to go home.

Mr. Williamson

Its Tuesday at the Imagainarium.

This is what happens when students and administration can't come to an agreement on the definition of a Snow Day!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another Near Miss by a Space Object........ A Good Read.

You can see the object in the center of the screen (little round dot)

Most North Americans slept through the morning of January 13, 2010 as near-Earth object (NEO) 2010 AL30 silently moved across the night sky. Its path brought it to an altitude of about 122,000 km, which is one third of the distance to the Moon. 2010 AL30 is an asteroid approximately 10 to 15 m across. As shown above, Patrick Wiggins followed its passage using a 35 cm telescope and CCD camera. 2010 AL30 is estimated to be part of a NEO population of several thousand similar objects. On average, one 10-15 m diameter asteroid passes within one lunar distance of the Earth about once a week. If 2010 AL30 had entered the Earth's atmosphere, it would have created an air burst equivalent to between 50 kT and 100 kT (kilotons of TNT). The Nagasaki "Fat Man" atom bomb had a yield between 13-18kT...............

Click on the link below to read the rest of the article and see the video of the object.

Click Here(Near Earth Object)

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Week in Review.

Hello Troops,
We had a good overnight camp on Friday. The Cherry Hill kids were well behaved and did well in the ships. The staff performed brilliantly as usual.

I was under the weather battling the onset of another cold, and with that another sore throat to take the place of strep throat from two weeks before and the Cold of all Colds I caught just after Christmas. There must be generations of germs lurking at the Space Center. You scrub everything with Lysol wipes only to find you’re getting sick again. I’m thinking more drastic action is required. Perhaps gasoline and a match might do the job :)

I want to thank the staff and volunteers for overlooking my abruptness during the camp. I can be sharp with I’m not feeling well. It’s not easy being hyped and all smiles when all you want to do is crawl into bed. I also should apologize to our programmers. I had a meeting with them Saturday afternoon. They attempted to show me their latest programming creations written in Cocoa for the Galileo. They spoke while I tried to listen. I did my best to look enthusiastic but couldn’t keep my eyes open the whole time. It’s kind of discouraging when you’re proudly showing off your the results of your hard work and your boss keeps drifting away into a stupor.

The Fire Alarm

Saturday morning around 9:15 A.M. Bracken kicked me out of the Briefing Room so he could lead his Odyssey crew on an away mission into the Voyager. I went next door into the school’s library where I had two pillows on the ready for a quick lay down (that’s where I go for the 5 to 15 minutes it takes for either the Odyssey or Phoenix to do their “Landing Parties”).

I layed down near the Library’s door, closed my eyes to recapture a few minutes of shut eye lost during the overnight camp. I usually only get 4-5 hours of sleep, add a full 12 hours on Saturday and I need a few minutes from time to time. Just as I bridged the gap between the real world and unconsciousness I was pulled back to complete alertness by the sound of the school’s fire alarm.
“Bracken!” I shouted, knowing what had happened. Bracken went overboard on smoke from the Voyager’s smoke machine. The smoke from a smoke machine can set off the school’s alarms if you don’t have the smoke detectors covered correctly.

I jumped up and ran into the school’s office. I punched in the code on the alarm box to silence the alarm and that was just the first step. As all the campers filled out of the school in their Space Center uniforms I picked up the phone and dialed Pleasant Grove’s fire department to tell them to ignore the alarm. If I didn’t catch them in time we’d have the entire fire dept, police dept, and most likely the community orchestra on our doorstep making for a very embarrassing explanation.

The next step in canceling an alarm was to call the alarm company and give them the school’s password. After that I was back in the office punching in the code to rearm the sensors throughout the school. After that, I unlocked the central fire panel and complete the three steps to reset the alarm in the building. The reset stopped the flashing fire strobes throughout the building.

I was not a happy Space Center Director. I gave Bracken a few of those special looks a boss has in his inventory of “I’m not happy about this situation” looks.

Bracken, in his defense, apologized and explained that he didn’t use any more smoke than I use during the day missions. Jon appeared with the cracked cover used to cover the detector in the Voyager. It appears the damaged cover let enough smoke through to trigger the alarm.

As much as I hated to do it, I had no choice but to let Bracken off the hook.


  • The old Galileo is gone as stated in an earlier post this week. The cafeteria has room enough to hold the field trip classes for lunch. No more feeding them in the Discovery!
  • I heard back from the Nigeria Space School. They are interested in sending some of their teachers to the Center to learn about our simulators.
  • We had our largest classes in this week from Westfield Elementary. We needed to use the Galileo two days in a row for field trips.
  • We did a few repairs on the front of the Odyssey. The new Galileo is having its torpedo launchers installed. Just another cool feature of this new awesome ship.

Well, We start a new week at the Space Center.

Are we ready?

Mr. Williamson

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Home Shopping at the Space Center's Imagainarium! The Food Lift. Buy Yours Now.

Hello Troops,
Something new from the Space Center's Imaginarium and Center for Wonder Studies. Buy your Food Lift now at the Space Center's extensive Gift Shop. I have one and can't imagine returning to the old way of eating with a knife, fork and spoon. Come on, our traditional eating utensils were used for hundreds of years. It's time to modernize. We preach the 23rd Century. Well its time to take eating to the technological age.

Imgaination running amok at the Imgainarium. Mine sure does.

Mr. Williamson

The Galileo is Gone. RIP

Hello Troops,
Just a quick note that I'll write more about later. The Old Galileo is gone. Last night the purchasers arrived during our 2:00 - 6:00 P.M. field trip. They dismantled the Galileo and removed it piece by piece from the cafeteria (causing damage to the door and door frame I might add).

It is the end of an era. Kind of sad in a way. We wish the old ship well in its future escapades throughout the galaxy and we are happy we have the new Galileo to take its place.

On a brighter note, with the new Galileo gone we can start feeding our field trip students in the lunchroom again. There's room to put down two more tables. No More Using Discovery as a Lunchroom! No more muck on the carpet! No more spilled milk!

I'm smiling about this.

Mr. Williamson

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Openings For Friday's Overnight Camp

Hello Troops,
We have openings for this Friday's Overnight Camp that just came up. The Camps starts at 7:00 P.M. and ends Saturday at 10:00 A.M. Normal cost is $43 per person. Cost for our Blog Readers is $38.00 per person. The Camp is open to anyone between the ages of 10 and 14 years old.
If you'd like to attend please send the following information:

Camper's Name:
Phone Number:
Email Address:

It is very short notice. I'll need your response no later than Friday morning, 9:00 A.M.

Mr. Williamson

From the Inagainarium's Amazing Science Dept. How the Chilean Quake Moved an Entire Planet

By Richard Harris

March 3, 2010

The magnitude 8.8 quake in Chile this weekend apparently changed the length of the day — and shifted the way the Earth wobbles, according to scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Not that anyone noticed. Here's why scientists figure that the Earth changed the way it rotates: It turns out our planet doesn't spin like a perfect top; it actually wobbles a bit.

"The consequence of that is that the rotation pole actually moves, and it moves over the area about the size of a tennis court," says Richard O'Connell at Harvard University. This is called the Chandler wobble. And back in the mid 1970s, O'Connell wrote a paper that showed how big earthquakes keep kicking the Earth and by so doing keep the Earth wobbling.

The Earth's Wandering, Wobbly Axis

Now we know that earthquakes aren't alone in keeping that wobble going. It's also propelled by sloshing ocean waters and by huge air masses like typhoons. All this shifting around can also change the speed at which the Earth spins. And that of course affects the length of a day.

So how much difference can an enormous quake make? Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory figure that the shift caused by Saturday's quake in Chile should have shortened each day on Earth by about a millionth of a second. They also figure that the Earth's wobbly axis should have shifted by about 3 inches within that tennis-court-size area where it tends to wander.

But did it? It's Brian Luzum's job at the U.S. Naval Observatory to keep tabs on the Earth's rotation and orientation. And he says even the best instruments in the world can't measure a change in day length as small as a millionth of a second.

The Wobble Doesn't Show Up In Data

It is possible to measure the Earth's wobble pretty precisely. But considering how many things affect that wobble, it's hard to see the effect of the quake as well.

"So on a day-to-day basis, we actually will see changes on the order of 2 to 3 inches happening every day, and to try to pick out this signal in and among all the other signals, is just not really feasible," Luzum says.

The one hope was that the quake changed the wobble so abruptly that it would show up on the data.

"That's what you'd like to see to give you that eureka moment, but when we do look at the data, no such jump exists," Luzum says.

Theory says it happened, but the observations thus far aren't good enough to back that up.

Melting Ice Also Moved The Earth

But if these planetary effects are trivial on a day-to-day basis, they can really add up over geological time. Adam Maloof at Princeton University notes that ice has been melting over the past 12,000 years, as we come out of the last ice age. That's changing the Earth's orientation by about an inch, each and every year.

"You can imagine that as the ice melts you are redistributing the mass on the surface of the Earth," Maloof says. "So all this water that's caught up in the ice in poles is melting and moving into the oceans at lower latitudes."

And if you go way back in time — like to a period 800 million years ago — this kind of movement was dramatic. Over the course of a few million years, the land mass at the North Pole shifted monumentally: It slid south by 50 degrees.

"That's basically like taking Paris to the equator," Maloof says.

Nobody knows why this happened, though Maloof says one idea is that a huge volcanic plume, like the one that created the Hawaiian Islands, developed near one of the poles and that lopsided mass forced the Earth to rotate.

"It would have had major ramifications for sea level, climate, landscape, equilibrium, all sorts of effects like this," he says.

As for the effect of one quick catastrophic event: It's fair to say the Chilean quake touched hearts around the world more tangibly than it changed the spin of our planet.

A Taste of What's To Come in Utah.

Hello Troops,
Once again we battle ignorance in a never ending quest to move our civilization into the last frontier of space. Today's battle may be our most difficult yet. Arriving at 9:30 A.M. comes the dragon of we feared most of all. A creature we knew existed but dared not speak its name. It is the beast called Massivo - the beast with over 32 heads! Today we see our largest classes yet at the Space Center. Westfield Elementary School in Alpine will be coming with two sixth grade classes of 36 and 37. Tomorrow we have the same.

Classes this big are difficult to control in the classroom and even worse when they're crowded into the Starlab. Their missions take longer to tell because of the extra time it takes to load them into the ships. We open the Galileo for all classes larger than 32. Running the Galileo during the school day is a beast unto itself. The Galileo competes for the crew's attention with the explosion of noise coming from Central School's cafeteria at lunchtime.

With educational budget cuts, and a legislature terrified of raising taxes, our class sizes will grow next year. Classes larger than 32 will become the norm making the teacher's job of individualized education impossible. Education suffers thus shortchanging our kids future. Its called stack 'em deep and teach 'em cheap.

We will make do at the Space Center as we continue to provide the best field trip in the State of Utah (at least according to the majority of teachers and students that attend).

I want to thank you volunteers and staff for your continued support of the program. I want to thank your parents for their support by letting you work and the miles driven each month transporting you back and forth. We couldn't do what we do without you and all the donated hours given to the Center and our visiting guests.

I want to thank the staff for always going the extra mile even on very little pay.

Now, its to work

Mr. Williamson

Oh, I almost forgot to include this from the Space Center's Institute of Wonder. Another picture from the Imaginarium.

I call this, The Statue that Got Away.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From the Imaginarium's "You've Got to be Kidding Department"

I thought at some point in my life I could honestly say that "I've seen it all." Well Perhaps today is that day........Ridiculous.

Of course wouldn't we all want a potty that flushed automatically and gave you a good cheer at the end? You know, a good self esteem boost issued periodically throughout the day?

Mr. W.

P.S. this was one of those Facebook ads found on my page. Is Facebook zeroing in on my age or did they pull this from my years at BYU.....hmmmmm?