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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Space Center Open House Update and A Letter to the Editor

Hello Troops,
In a previous post I suggested a Space Center Open House for November 8th.  The response was so overwhelming it caused me to rethink the event.  The thought of hundreds and hundreds of people touring the simulators for pictures and reminiscing, within a few short evening hours, convinced me to suggest another option to our administrators.  The human traffic jams in the school's halls and in the ships would make a junior high school hallway between class periods, look like a walk through the park.  I will suggest a five hour Saturday open house sometime in November.  People will be able to come and go at their leisure, keeping the crowds manageable.  More information on a Space Center Open House will be posted once permissions are given. 
The following is portion of a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune concerning the article on the closure of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center which ran in the paper last week.  Many letters and emails similar to this are coming in from people from all over the country.  People are sharing their experiences from the Space Center, hoping to show how important this program was to them, and hoping it will continue far into the future.    
"The closing of The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center is a tragedy.....

While the space center is closed, dreams are being crushed, because they are not being allowed to form.

The McAuliffe center altered the course of my life. Because of it, I graduated from Harvard with degrees in astrophysics and Earth and planetary sciences. I then designed and built scientific instruments that went to the South Pole to study the beginning of the universe.

I am now preparing for doctoral work that will entail researching Europa, a moon of Jupiter that I first learned about 12 years ago on my first visit to the center. None of that would be true if it had been "temporarily" closed back when I was 10.

The space center helped me turn my dreams into reality, and mine is just one of thousands of stories......."

Kristi Bradford - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

New York City

This reminded me of an article I read in Scientific America in 1997.  The article discussed a study at Purdue University first published in 1993. Engineering students at Purdue were asked what motivated them to go into engineering.  The responses surprised the study's authors.  The number one reason given was Scotty, the Starship Enterprise's Chief Engineer.  I've quoted that study often when explaining to people how science fiction and science go hand in hand. 
I am another example.  My love for science and space sprang from my love of science fiction. Such is the power of science fiction when used as a motivational tool in educationThe Space Center understands this connection better than any organization. Carl Sagen, a renowned American astronomer, said it best in this short video presentation 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Questions and The Imaginarium (To Lighten Things Up a Bit)

 We were so busy worrying about other things we totally forgot to celebrate the season's first snowfall.
A quick rummage through the closet and  I was ready with my Winter Survival Gear

Hello Troops,
Wow, didn't that past week put us through the emotional wringer?   It is time to move on.   It's time to take a breather and enjoy Halloween Week!!!  Dust off your costume, plan your trick or treat route and finish that neighborhood survey to find out who is giving out the worshiped treasure of Halloween, A FULL SIZED CANDY BAR!

Before we get to the Imaginarium, let me answer a few questions sent in by one of the Space Center's Supervisors.   My answers to his questions are in blue. 

Connor L. wrote: 

I thought the question you asked on the blog was pretty cool, so you should do some more, here's some of my ideas of a couple you could try and my answers to them:

If you could relate any bad guy from any Space Center mission to Darth Vader, who would it be?
---Dr. Marcus from Supernova, he's big and bad and soft and caring in the end.
          I agree. 

If Mr. Williamson were to come on a Space Center mission in a ship besides the Voyager, what mission would you fly?
---Red Storm Rising in the Magellan or Currahee in the Phoenix. Red Storm is political and Currahee is very basic, yet very complicated.
         Good question.  I think I'd go for Red Storm Rising in the Magellan. 

Which Space Center Mission could be written into the best book/short story?
---Mercy Strike, very cool, somewhat complicated and very interesting
         I'd go for The Children of Perikoi.  I was writing the continuation of Perikoi on this blog.  It kind of got away from me.  Maybe I should finish it now that I have a bit of extra time on my hands. 

If Mr. Williamson flew another ship besides the Voyager what ship would it be and why?
---.......I don't really know :)
         I'd go for the Phoenix.  I'd like to Flight Direct a ship where I could see everyone at one camera glance.  

Which Disney movie, if properly translated into our universe, would make the best Space Center mission?
---Lion King! We already have one! Heir to the Empire!
        Hummmm.  A good question.  I'd like the challenge of converting Mary Poppins into a Space Center mission.  I'd call that the Ultimate Challenge!  Any takers?  

Its time to put on your sneakers and take a walk with me through Wonderland's Imaginarium.

 Imagination Award for best toddler Halloween Costume

This sign gets an A for advertising.
Great imagination.
I'd stop there and eat, meaning it did its job.

An imaginative approach to decorating your Halloween pumpkins.

Another great Halloween costume

Scary and imaginative with very little out of pocket costs.

I don't get it and I don't want to try.

Question.  "What would happen to the Imaginarium if the Space Center were to close?"

The Imaginarium, 5 years after the Space Center's closing.....


I'd sell a million of these if I could find a way to get them manufactured.

Imagination.  A

What happens when a human gets involved.

At your local ice cream shop.
Creativity.  A

A family that Zombies together, stays together.

My mother's menu the whole time I was growing up.

"They" are always watching.
Beware of big government and bloated bureaucrats.

The scariest house on the street!


I'm the national office's recruiting manager.  Contact me for membership information

There's a mind bender!

The Halloween decorations at the Nearly There Retirement Home
A bit too imaginative.  Very true to life, wouldn't you agree?

Here, take my money!!!  Get me one of these.

If I had the chance to change one thing on planet Earth with a wave of a magic wand.

I'm on board with this.

Have a Great Halloween Week!  Now go have some fun.

Mr. W. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thank you, Thank you and Did I Say Thank You?

Members of the Center's Programming Guild

Hello Troops,

The comments to this Blog have been pouring in.  I'm humbled by the gratitude being shown to myself, the staff and the thousands of volunteers who have worked at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.  Teachers call comments like these "Special Pay Days".  Its the extra 'pay', tucked away in our hearts, that reminds us we are making a difference.  You become a teacher to make the world a better place, one student at a time.   

I've always regarded the Space Center as my gift to the teachers and children of the Alpine School District and Utah. In 1989 I was half way through a BYU masters degree when the first round of grant money was approved for the building of this unique Space Center.  I realized I couldn't imagineer this one of a kind experience, teach my 6th grade class at Central School AND continue my master's degree program and remain sane and healthy.  Something had to go.  I chose to abandon my degree and give up my goal of becoming a principal to focus on creating this Space Center and making it the best it could be.  I know I made the right decision, even though having that master's degree would have made a huge difference in my pay over the last two decades.  Remember, all dreams require sacrifice.

Thousands of you joined me over the years as volunteers and staff, giving your time and talents to make what most people who come to the Space Center say is "The Best Field Trip in the State!"

"Mr Williamson, what happens to us now?  What happens to all our work?" a volunteer asked in an email.

The school district has released the following statement.   
The plan is to expand on the remarkable legacy of the Space Center as we learn from the past and look to the future..... The committee will be discussing all possibilities about both the location of the center, as well as the curriculum. There are no plans to discontinue the use of the simulators as part of the Space Center Program. The committee will have discussions about ways to add to the current curriculum.

The decision to close the Space Center was correct, there is no question.  Spending that amount of money to renovate the Center wouldn't be a responsible use of taxpayer's dollars.  I know it hurts to see the old place go, but it was necessary.  

The future now rests with this committee and the proposals it will make to the school board.  I am a member of the committee.  I will work to ensure the very best of what the Space Center was will continue into the future, whatever it may hold.  

I want to again thank all of your for your continued support of this, the Second Happiest Place On Earth!  (remember, we always bow and proudly take second chair to the holiest of holy places - Disneyland).

Mr. Williamson

P.S.  I'm working on plans for a final birthday party for the Space Center on November 8th.  It will be an opportunity for everyone to come and bid farewell to your favorite ships, sit in the captain's chairs for one last photo and relive great memories with your friends and family.  Keep checking back for news.

   Remembrances of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center

I'd like to take a moment and share just a few of the emails people have sent me over the last few days.  
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Mr.  W. 

Mr. Williamson,

I wrote this to help me and other space center fans/staff/volunteers remember the space center so it will never be forgotten.
Every night I take a walk, through a place I love: far away. I close my eyes and in my mind I see somewhere I yearn to stay, something that's a part of me. I wander through the empty halls, willing memories to reappear. Sometimes the halls are foggy and blurred by time. But mostly they are clear and I walk as I would normally do. My thoughts go from place to place as I go along, remembering the things that make this place special. I journey through every space I've ever been to, every ship, every room, ever moment, stopping at the doors I entered. The doors that took me away. My heart wants to go to the reality of this place, but it can not. "Someday again." I whisper as I push against the door and open my eyes, back to the real world. I will never forget and never stop remembering. For every night I take a walk through the stars, surrounded by the laughter, the screams, the voices: all echoes of the place I will always know and love.

Mr. Williamson

Oh, no. This breaks my heart. I have loved going to the Space Center, and I've watched my brother go there time after time. He loves it. This is one of the few places where he has been able to express himself and find people who understand him. He really feels at home at the Space Center. It has given him a wonderful opportunity to grow, learn, and have fun. Where else can we find anything like this?
My brother's dream was to become a volunteer, but he had to finish his Eagle Scout Project first. You don't know how hard he's worked to finish it, looking forward to the day he could apply to be a volunteer. He won't let me see him cry, but I know that's what he's doing right now. Please. There has to be some way to preserve this amazing place. So many of us are counting on it.

 Mr. Williamson

I wish to express my greatest appreciation for the Space Center and what it has contributed to my life. Without the space center I would simply not be anywhere near where I am today. I would no nothing of programming, and would have spent this summer so extremely bored at home all day. Instead I was able to get a job programming at a tax software company. I simply owe all my skills and my professional career to the Space Center.  One of the greatest things that drew me to the Space Center was, Space.  Space Exploration has brought on many technological advances, and there is a still a deep love shared by many people for Space. Lastly I would love to have a final staff party.


Oh my what a shame. I used to volunteer here about 4 years ago. I didn't have hardly any friends, but when I worked at the space center I did. It was a place of refuge for me. Im 16 now and go to PG Hkgh. I have a lot of friends now and everything's fine, but I thank Mr. Williamson and others for their hard work and kindness. This was more than just a "space center" for me. Thank you for your dedication and hard work, Mr. Williamson.

Mr. Williamson

I think I speak for everyone who has ever been to the Space Center when I say that we all want to do anything that we can to help save this place. The Space center has changed who I am, how I see the world, and gave me a fascination with the universe. No common core center could ever do that. I understand that the amount of control we have on this isn't very much, but I would give up anything and work for as long and hard as I needed to to raise the money, spread awareness, and keep the space center alive. This place affected the lives of so many people and brought a real sense of community, friendship, and created a family. I understand, that in its current state, the law doesn't permit it to remain open. I understand that we can't keep everything the exact same. But I also know that I won't something this unique and special and rare be slowly forgotten.

Mr. Williamson

Please. NO. Someone pinch me.  I am sitting in my room and my heart has stopped. I am crying so hard that the front of my shirt and my math homework is soaked with tears. I am with everyone of you. I was about to become a volunteer just as the center closed down.This place CHANGES LIVES. That's why working here was MY DREAM. I wanted others to feel the way that I do.  The Space Center can't close. Way too much is on the line. We aren't talking just the Space Center. We are talking about thousands of people..........

Mr. Williamson

I seriously started bawling my eyes out when I read this. Well first I screamed.... Part of my heart feels empty now... My brain hasn't registered this fully yet...still in shock...
I'm saying this because it's something I've learned dim the space center "if you dream it.., it can happen with hard work!" we need to do something..

Mr. Williamson

The space center gave me the most wonderful memories!! I will never forget the day I went on my first mission, it was the funniest ever! And then I went 6 more times. This place had given me so many amazing memories, I'm in tears right now. I do not want it to shut down, I love the space center, it's like my second home, and to hear that's it being shut down breaks my heart..... The space center is a magical place where you get to leave this world and explore new worlds, you get to fight pirates, aliens, etc. This place has helped me learn more then any math or science class you can teach..... I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that kids can experience what I got to experience.

Mr. Williamson

I had to go to an orchestra concert right after I found out... It wasn't my best performance, but I told a few people, and by the end of the night, people were asking where to put their signatures for a petition! And Baxter, sort of the same thing has happened with me. Before I came to the Space Center, I HATED science. Then I went, and I developed a passion. That was in fifth grade, and it lead me to win second at the BYU science fair. I went again last year several times, and it ignited my love even more. Had it not been for the Space Center, the Alpine School District's Science reputation would've been decreased. I was a national semi-finalist this year, and I know a boy who qualified and applied. Both of us loved science because of this place. We NEED to save the Space Center!!!

The Crew of the Phoenix

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Refunds for Overnight Camp Gift Certificates

Dear Patrons,
News of the Space Center's closing has been released. 
A refund check will be sent to those who opted to receive a Gift Certificate instead of a refund for a canceled August and September Overnight Camp.   I have your names and addresses.  Please expect a refund check mailed within the next four weeks.  If you do not receive a refund by the end of November, please contact the secretary at Central Elementary School.

Thank you,
Mr. Williamson

The School District has issued the Following News Release

 Hello Troops,
The Alpine School District released a statement on the Space Center. 

News Release

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center, which has been housed in Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove, has been closed due to safety reasons. The Fire Marshall closed the Space Center in early October because of electrical problems. Alpine School District Officials notified Central Elementary School as well as the Program Director that the Space Center will not be re-opened in its current location. Superintendent Vern Henshaw has directed a committee to explore options for a Space Center, which will then be presented to the ASD Board of Education.

Staff and volunteers, please send me an email list of your private property still at the Space Center.  I'll let you know when and where you can come pick it up.

It was suggested we throw a goodbye party for the old Space Center at Central School and let everyone see the ships one more time.  What do you think?  One final photo in the Voyager's Captain's Chair?  I'll let you know.

The Troubadour will continue as an online home for friends of the  Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.   News of the new science and math center will be posted here ONLY after it has been released by the school district.

Specific questions about the closing of the Space Center should be directed to Rhonda Bromley at the District Office in American Fork.   

Mr. Williamson

Space. In the News

Hello Troops,  Space News from Mr. Daymont is on the docket for today.  Space Center renovation news is always UP TO DATE to the right in the side bar ---------> 

What you see in the side bar is all I know FOR SURE.  There are many rumors out there.  Rumors are not news.  The only place to go for accurate news is the Space Center's own blog - which is right where you are now.

 Mr. W.  


Soyuz TMA-06M launches to ISS

Blast-off in Baikonur.

This morning a Soyuz rocket took off from the Russian space center in Baikonur, carrying the second half of the Expedition 33 crew to the ISS. On board were astronaut Kevin Ford, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin. They will join Expedition 33 commander Suni Williams, astronaut Aki Hoshide and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko who have been on the station since July 17.

Nice ascent to orbit.

As usual, the second part of the current expedition 33 will become the next expedition's primary crew once the current commander and crew depart. When Commander Williams and her crew leave in November, then Kevin Ford will become the Expedition 34 commander and his crew will await their second half in December.
The Soyuz is expected to dock with ISS at 8:35 a.m. Thursday.

Expedition 33 prime crew. L-R: Tarelkin, Novitskiy, Ford.  Evgeny Novitskiy commands the Soyuz to the ISS. Picture taken in front of the Soyuz TMA-06M capsule before it was integrated with its launcher. They are expected to remain on ISS for five months.

Recent Satellite Launches from Around the World

Technician works on the Orbcomm satellite. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.

The big focus for space enthusiasts lately has been the remarkable mission of SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the ISS. While the station resupply effort went well, the secondary payload on the Falcon 9 rocket ended in failure.  Due to a malfunctioning engine, other engines on the Falcon rocket overcompensated and burned longer than planned, resulting in the wrong orbital placement of the OrbComm satellite. Built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, Orbcomm was an engineering test vehicle to help establish a new network of communication satellites. This example was a prototype, designed to test how the system would react in its orbital environment. There are 18 small satellites planned for the system, all due to be launched on Falcon 9 rockets. Unfortunately, the wrong orbit placement caused the Orbcomm to fail its mission and it de-orbited. NASA and SpaceX engineers are investigating the failure while company executives plan a way to continue this mission.
Meanwhile, there have been other launches around the world.

Delta 4 launch from pad 37 at Cape Canaveral, October 4. On board was the GPS 2F-3 satellite. This was a replacement satellite for an older one in the GPS system we all rely on.  The satellite reached its intended orbit just fine. Credit: Pat Corkery/ULA.

A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off from the European Space Agency's French Guiana launch site on October 12. It carried a pair of satellites for the Galileo navigation system, which affects many drivers, airplanes, and ships around the world. Successful placement of satellites. Credit: ESA.

On Sunday October 14, China launched a Long March 2C rocket from the Taiyuan space facility. It carried two Shijuan-9 engineering test satellites into space to study new satellite test equipment. This photo is of a previous Long March launch. Credit from Chinese News Agency.

A Russian Proton blasted off from the Baikonur site in Kazakhstan on Sunday October 14. It carried an Intelsat telecommunications satellite into orbit. Credit: Krunichev.

By Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator

Monday, October 22, 2012

October is Nearly Gone. Have I Forgotten How to Start A Ship? And the Imaginarium.

Someone asked me what I do in my spare time now that the Space Center
is closed.  Well, I've found a new hobby!
I'll be at Lindon's Walmart Friday evening if anyone wants to join in the fun.

Hello Troops,

October is nearly gone.  The Space Center has been closed for nearly three months.  I can't believe the last time I flew a mission was May 30!  I'm worried I may forget how to start and run a simulator.  Let's see,

1.  Unlock the Voyager
2.  Turn on the lights
3.  Start my computer, then the sound system and the two sound effect computers
4.  Turn on the powered amp.
5.  Start the 2FX computer.
6.  Start the five DVD players and the Tactical computer.
7.  Turn on the lights in Decontamination.  Turn on the backlit panels.
8.  Load the correct programming on the Flight and 2FX computers.
9.  Load the correct flight program on the tactical.
10.  Run to the Bridge, start the Records and Science computers.
11.  Start the right Security Computer, then slide the plastic away from the
       left Security Computer and start it.  Slide the plastic back.
12.  Start the four computers on the Left Wing.
13.  Start the First Officer's computer.
14.  Start the four computers on the Right Wing.
15.  Start the Engineering Computer.  Turn on the Iso Chip light.
16.  Start the Telephone and Long Range Computer.
17.  Turn on the Borg Lamp.  Turn on the two side lamps
18.  Run back to the Control Room and do a Log In.  Hit the Log In button one
       million times.
19.  Do a Log On at the 2FX station and Tactical Stations.
20.  Test the sound effects.  Load the correct music.  Check the background
       engine sounds.
21.  Back to the Bridge to hit the Log On Screens for every computer.
22.  Back to the Control Room to do a System Reset, then Flash all the screens.
23.  Test the mic and the vocal mixer.
24.  Vacuum if necessary.
25.  Check the Crew Quarters.  Do a quick bathroom clean if necessary.
       Straighten the sheets on the beds if necessary.

AND I'M DONE.  There, I think I'm still OK.  I'm not as rusty as I thought.  I dare any of the Voyager Staff to look over the list and tell me if I've forgotten anything.....wait.

26.  Get the Iso Chips in their right configuration.

There.  I dare the Voyager staff to find something I've forgotten.

Have a Great Day Troops, and enjoy a quick walk through the today's Imaginarium.

Mr. W. 

Fast Food Movies

An A for Creativity!

                                                 A                                            B

I'm a B person.  You should see my fingers fly across a 10 keypad.
Ask any of my staff.  Careful though, they may get lightheaded as they
describe the spectacle.  I'm just that fast!

Alternate versions of the Harry Potter movie posters here in the

"Not very good," NASA responds.

See what a McDonalds can be?  Yes this is really a McDonalds
with a bit of imagination.

I curse gravity all the time when I trip on my untied shoelaces.

Imagination:  A
What a unique bike lock up.

I'm sure I've seen this problem in the 6th grade math books.
Yes, this new math is just like this!

Please tell me where I can buy this.  I'm going to go around my
neighborhood late at night and put them on all my neighbor's minivans
displaying the "other" version.

Somebody has found himself in the wrong neighborhood.

I'm convinced you'd still sell some of these because we
all know there is one born every minute.

And finally, how about an imaginative Halloween?