Visit SpaceCampUtah.org to learn more about the Space Education Centers in Utah. Visit SpaceGuard.org and ProjectVoyager.org for information on joining a simulator based school space and science club.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Space Center by Flight Director, Bracken Funk

Hello Troops,  
Bracken gave me permission to repost this essay on the Space Center written for his personal blog.  I enjoyed the read, except for the disparaging remarks about my state of mind and the extremely unflattering photo of me taken during one of my restorative sessions at my desk - necessary to maintain my calm and unflustered demeanor ; 
Mr. W.

And Now Bracken's Post

Last night, and into this morning, I worked an overnighter at the Space Center. These are my favorite of camps. I like the ability to establish the feel of being in an actual vessel, and crewing it. There is character development, and there is time to strike fear into the hearts of the crew. These overnighters are the best of our product, and I enjoy them so.


Crew of the Voyager during an Overnight Mission

The Space Center has given me tons of opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. I love to work with the kids, and watch them grow over the course of one of our missions. Just by way of information, here at the space center we do simulations in the universe of Star Trek. What you're looking at here is the bridge of the starship Voyager. She was built in 1990 by Victor Williamson, and if you want to hear me tell you why he's awesome, click here. He wanted to incorporate simulation into educational experiences. He was and is an educator, and he started doing this "simulational education" idea with his 6th grade class using paper and poster board controls. He would sit behind his desk on the floor, and play the voices of the computer, his engineer, and the alien characters the crew would encounter. His class loved it, and he wanted to evolve the idea to an actual starship set. Voyager was born, and since 1990, the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center has grown through 7 simulators, thousands of campers, and bulls forward today.

Today, the Center has 5 simulators, each with their own set of stories, controls, and ideas. We host nearly 1,200 kids a week, and teach them different problem solving, situational skills and social studies. It really is a joy to work with them, and even learn from them.

I found the Space Center in Elementary School. I had done missions in 5th grade, and came back multiple times with my friends. I was already in love with the place. When I was in 6th grade we came to do an overnighter, and I realized that I wanted to be here a lot. Back in those days, the volunteer pool wasn't overfilled, so I applied to volunteer a couple of weeks later. I remember that day well. It was a Saturday morning, about 11. My sister had a soccer game. I was in my cleats, and shorts and a t-shirt. Her game was at Central Elementary's field. I had a soccer ball, and I was kicking it around. I accidentally kicked it down the hill in the back, and when I looked over as I chased it, I saw Mr. Williamson outside taking out the trash. I ran over to my mother, and begged her to let me go talk to him (she had to give me permission to breathe as a child, which I appreciated then. It kept me from being kidnapped, or worse). She was against it at first, but I continued to beg. She allowed me to go, and I sprinted over to the door. Out of breath, I begged this powerful looking man to let me work at the center.

I can only imagine what it looked like from Mr. Williamson's point of view. This lanky kid runs up to you, in soccer gear, cleats, and panting asks "hey, Mr. Williamson, can I volunteer, here?" Knowing what I know of him now, I would say that his hesitation was annoyance, but he doesn't have it in him to say "no" to kids that have a desire to work here. He just doesn't have the heart for it. 


Victor Williamson in his natural habitat. Looking Distinguished

He stared at me blankly for a moment. I said, "please!". He said, "I'm sure we could find a place for you." And we entered through the door in which the brig is located, and came into the office to receive his schpeel on becoming a volunteer.

Once again, knowing what I know now, I doubt that he thought I would actually return these documents. Who could blame him- I was dressed in soccer gear, and didn't look all that responsible. However, within 4 days, it was back in his hands at the very same desk you see above.


Me, today, holding my original volunteer submission from 10 years ago.

I thought it would be fun to retype my original submission so that you can see how much evolution has occurred in my head:
Dear Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center,
My name is Bracken Funk, I love the Space Center; a very creative idea!!!
I love Star Trek, Star Trek The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager, I know a great deal about each which helps because that is what you based the Space Center on!! I want to work at the Space Center because I enjoy learning about different things about space!!
I also am a great leader, for example, any time we play German Spy Dodgeball; my team always asms ME who the spy is going to be. I accomplish my work and get good grades!
I have also worked in the Student Council at Barratt!! (I wish I were at Central!!!)
I really want to work at the Space Center!


Sincerely,
Bracken Funk

I laugh when I read this now. That describes me pretty well. I'm a little less in your face with everything, and I feel a little more mellow, but there you go. That was me. 
I asked Vic what he thought about this particular day in Space Center history, these were his words about it: 
I had no thoughts. You were just a kid, and you just asked to be a volunteer. 
What do you want from me?
So apparently he doesn't care about such things. However, that isn't the most concerning of things to me, he's become senile over the last few years, and his memory is failing him. That's ok. He has earned such rights.


Yes. Senility.

At least he doesn't show up for work late. Anyways, I have now worked here for about 10 years. I have enjoyed every minute of it. There have been rough spots, and tough people, but even that has been a learning and growing experience. There is no better place to work than the Space Center.

So here is to 10 years of volunteering/working/playing at the space center. Thanks to all of those who have stood behind me when I was obnoxious, worked with me when I was bossy, and helped me when I was beaten.

Bracken Funk
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