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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leadership Camp 2010

For those of you that only read the first line of every post, the Leadership Camp was amazing. Now that I have that aside…

This years leadership camp was in planning for at least 8 months. I was brought onboard when Adam, Ben, Wyatt, and Jon told me about their plans for it: creating a brand new race (or, in this case, group of races) to battle against. It gave us something fresh to start with, instead of having to follow along with conventional races, like the Dominion from last year. We could use our creative muscles to imagine something new. They had a basic idea of each of the races, and a few of the rotations planned.

As January rolled around, we finished fleshing out the details of these new antagonists, how they used to live in the Delta Quadrant until they got kicked out by the Borg, and their fanatical ‘manifest destiny’ to live in the Alpha Quadrant, etc. The missions themselves had begun to take shape too, but as far as I know, only a few of the ones made up in January actually made it to the camp.

A lot of effort was put into this camp in the months before hand. We scripted and filmed a few of these commercials, and posted them to the internet (FYI, between all 3, we have about 1,100 hits). This commercial also served as the introduction to these new aliens. We had to craft brand new space ship controls for a captured alien vessel. Jon put together a fantastic book of all Starfleet ships, as a reference for the captains. All the while, the rotations were being revised and rewritten. The Flight Directors were part of this process from the beginning, and their contributions definitely made the different missions more interesting and entertaining.

Finally, the actual day of the camp arrived. From what I could see, everything was in place and ready. Mr. W said that he would be in charge enough to make sure things were safe. The rest of the camp was up to Jon and me. On top of that, we had more than a dozen campers from last years Leadership Camp, and a few space center staff as well. The pressure was on.

The classes for this year were taught by three outstanding instructors: Emily was teaching applied leadership in the Voyager simulator, Bracken had public speaking, and Casey explained how people’s psyches can affect leadership. At first, I wasn’t sold on these class choices, but as the camp went on, I could see the campers using the information they learned to help them in the rotations. The campers were very engaged in each class, and definitely brought something away from them. Heartfelt thanks to our amazing instructors.

Jon and I finished up the first night with the briefing of the entire campaign, and then, to honor tradition, Jon read a very moving speech (On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs - Dave Grossman) The room was very still as his words finished. We tied the whole thing together, wrapped it all up, and then sent everyone off to bed. They would need their sleep.

The next morning, everybody seemed to be loving today. Their was excitement as the crews piled into Discovery. We explained each of the rotations to the crews, assigned captains, and then sent them on their way. The crews received no training; they had to figure out their own stations. Once that was done they were on their way.

First rotations was probably the roughest for the campers. There were a lot of deaths, the refugees they were supposed to save were killed, and the Voyager and Odyssey were destroyed. The campers were still light hearted, until Jon said a few words (More like chewed them out) Tension was high as they began their next rotation.

2nd rotation ended with the Magellan’s capture, and the crew being branded as failures. They were supposed to evacuate, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They tried to get their bridge back, but failed. During dinner, there was a lot of question about their consequences. Some said send them home (which was out of the question, but was considered), other said take away their hours. Finally, it was decided to make them part of the ASA.

We sent them swimming; I went with to manage some business when it was over. Bracken got caught up in the middle of an epic basket ball game with the boys vs. girls. There were only 5 girls on the whole camp. Epic.

Meanwhile, back at the space center, preparations were made, assignments passed out, phasers organized, and staff costumed.

Swimming was over. I gathered all the campers around. Magellan crew was segregated; they were prisoners of the DC. The rest were organized into strike teams. We planted each of the strike teams at different corners of the school, told them they were taking Magellan back, and let them at it. We called it the ASA.

Last year, the ASA was a complete failure. This year, we decided to make it a little easier, but a little harder at the same time. We gave them specific objectives, but their objectives depended on each other. They completed it successfully, later than we wanted, but no more than we had planned. Back off to bed.
Third rotation was slightly shorter than the others, and there really isn’t a lot to write. Lunch on Saturday featured the appearance of Hauck’Toaei, the disgruntled Klingon Chef who was forced to serve Pakled food (which turned out to be a messy ordeal.)

Fourth rotation took a leaf out of last year’s camp. Mass Chaos was a Galileo/Odyssey joint mission where they had to blow up several targets. They got to plan and choose their targets together as they received messages from intel telling them where Dominion fleets were located. We tried to copy that this year, but instead of two ships, we would have five.

It didn’t work out as well as planned. The rotation began alright; Jon walked in, seemingly ready to brief when suddenly alarms played: Magellan was under attack! Chaos ensued in the hallways. Staff were bloodied up as if the station had exploded on them. Doctors ran through the halls tending to them. Screams pierced the halls. Campers ran to their ships as fast as they could.

Meanwhile, the captains were supposed to plan out what they were going to do. We had printed a huge map of the sector with a dozen targets. We planned on this section lasting 30 minutes. It lasted 5.

This was the most intense communication we have ever had between simulators. A chat system was set up so flight directors could always be on the know about where the ships were and what they were doing. Long range messages were sent through chat too. It was amazing how well that worked.

In the end, the Odyssey found the DC’s weakness, while all the other ships had re-docked with Magellan. We all waited in anticipation as the Odyssey told Magellan where they were…

And Magellan went to transwarp to the wrong place! All the flight directors were in the Magellan freaking out about it! Eventually, they did get the message, readjusted their course, and made it there in time to hit the DC where it hurts. An ambassador (Jon) came aboard the Magellan, an armistice (big word meaning peace treaty) was signed, and the camp was over.
A few things I noticed at the end: the communication and cooperation between ships and campers was fantastic. I also felt like the campers came together in a way I had never seen in a space camp. I don’t know how well they knew each other before, but they really couldn’t stop talking to one another after the camp.
I would just like to thank a bunch of people who made this happen.
First, the campers. We got the camp filled in April, much earlier than last year. They were fantastic kids (teens?) and great sports about everything. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Second, the staff. We had around twenty of the Space Center’s finest. First, thanks for being so awesome. We wouldn’t have had you on the camp if we didn’t think you could do it. Second, thanks for pulling through without complaint. I could see that you guys were tired by Friday night, but you still pulled through all the way to the end. I suppose that deserves a congratulations as well.

Third, to the Flight Directors, Supervisors, and everyone else who contributed to the planning and carrying out of the camp. We never could have done it as well (at all) without your help.

I would like to personally thank Jon for being a fantastic host for the camp. He organized it from start to finish and it almost seemed like he knew what he was doing the whole time. Thanks for giving us all the opportunity to do this. It definitely wouldn’t have happened without you.

Finally, thanks to Mr. Williamson. Because of a crazy decision you made 20 years ago, we can all make crazy decisions today! The Space Education Center isn’t just for teaching the campers that come. It teaches the staff too. I for one have been taught countless things while working here. Thank you for actually doing your job as a teacher, instead of just working for a living.

Will the leadership camp happen next year? Maybe. I don’t know yet. But if it doesn’t, I know we have done it justice. If it does, the bar has been raised. Lets just see what the next year brings us.
As always, it is a pleasure to work with everyone.

Alex Anderson.
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