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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Now, the Realistic (within budget) Plan

Hello Troops,
We had a chance to see and comment on Alex DeBirk's $5,000,000 Dream Center in an earlier post.   This morning, Alex Debirk sent a realistic trimmed down design for a center that might be built within the expected budget of around $2.5 million. 

Alex's notes on the design
I have come up with a basic design that is almost within budget, but it requires the following caveats:

Required budget: $2.6 million
Simulator space is priced at $175/sq ft.
Non-simulator space is priced at $125/sq ft.

The total square footage of the building is 18,155, with 5,930 sq. ft of simulator space, and 12225 sq ft of non-simulator space.

It should allow four classes to attend field trips per day, and provide enough room for overnight camps. I'm not sure the Assembly area would be large enough to house a cafeteria and allow for extended summer camps, but I was stretched to the max as it was.

Note that the outer walls of the curved hallways have portholes that look into a starry background. This is optional. If it is removed, the square footage of the building falls to the around point where it can be built for $2.5 million based on price per square foot. Also note that the circles inside the large simulators denote turntable doors. Also note that this design is ADA compliant as far as I know, and requires no elevators or anything like that.

Let me know what you think.
An area for our Starlab Planetarium is one problem I see with this proposal.  Remember, a field trip encompasses one one hour in a space science class, 30 minutes in our Starlab Planetarium and 1hr 45 min in a simulation. 

This design allows up to 33 students in a class and four classes per day.  We need to find a way to boost that to 37 in a class to meet the needs of some of the school district's larger classes.

Your comments are welcome.  You may comment at the bottom of this post in the comments section.

Your Comments and Questions
Josh B. wrote:
Hi Mr.Williamson,
I was just reading about your suggestions on the new center, and I just thought of 2 more...
 1. What if we had a Borg Cube ship, just for missions? (In my opinion, it would be small, )
 2. It would be awesome if you could take and elevator to the shuttle bay
      Anyways, thank you for your time.
Allie T wrote
The new dream center ideas are great! I think we should have a gift shop and more ships and every thing the council has said, except for the no overnighters.They should stay, they were the best!
The hallways should look futuristic like the ships. At the school it wasn't as cool to be thrown from a starship into a school in the middle of a mission. And with the hallways, something that really bothered me about the away missions in the school was the windows! A lot of the away missions are on other ships, and when you can see the sun shining on a playground outside, it makes it pretty obvious that you aren't in space. So i don't think we should have windows in the hallways at the new center. And if we do, we should have cool window covers that look maybe like keypads or something. We can't forget the nooks and crannys for the staff and campers to hide in while shotting each other. And it would be cool if they're was secret passages and stuff in the walls for the staff to hide in.
Annonomous wrote
Only problem i see with the laser tag is that sometimes the "aliens" are supposed to take over the bridge and that might become more difficult if its lazer tag because there is usually more crew than "aliens"                                               
Staff Member 14 wrote
Four questions...
1. Where exactly is this new space center going to be?  We don't know that yet.
2. When do you think it will be finished and we can go back to work? Sorry but we don't know that either.
3. By no overnighters, do you mean camps, or just plain old overnighters?  Both.  The decision must still be made.
4. What do you think, Mr. Williamson, about maybe no overnighters? 
Overnight Camps are a large source of income.  The School District would be required to give the Space Center a yearly budget if the camp program were discontinued. 
Some Silly Staff wrote
When is the big district meeting? Is it the 28? or today on the 27?
Also, staff and campers should come to it right? And if we should what time should we be there? 
The meeting is open only to those on the committee.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Best Guard. Your Questions. Your Comments on the New Center

Hello Troops,

It was 3:35 P.M.  I was standing outside of Shelley Elementary wearing my hunter orange vest. I stand outside every afternoon and monitor the mad rush of hundreds of students pouring out of the school and homeward bound.

"Mr. Guard," one dark haired fourth grader said while tapping me on the shoulder.

"What can I do for you?" I asked.  I recognized him from the lunchroom.  He can't remember my name, and I can't remember his.  I call him Bud.  He calls me Mr. Guard.

"You're the best Guard at our school."  His compliment seemed sincere.
"And I know why you said that."  I was sure I knew what he was thinking.  "You like my ultra cool safety vest with this embroidered Space Center Logo, Don't you?  I'll bet you want me to give you this ultra cool vest?  Well, it ain't gonna happen?"

Bud's friend began pulling on his arm to get him to move toward the waiting car.
"You're just friendly and cool," he answered before running off. 

My pride prompted me to stand a bit straighter.  I directed my gaze at the waiting cars and wondered if anyone knew that I had just been proclaimed the 'Best Guard' at Shelley Elementary.   I stuck my chest out with pride, cleared my throat, and wished a few passing third graders a good night.   

"I'm the first one out!" A young 2nd grader ran by screaming at the top of his lungs, I don't know how he came to that conclusion.  The dismissal bell rang 5 minutes earlier; the front lawn was covered with kids. 

You've got to love what kids say.

"Mr. Williamson?!"  I heard someone say with an older voice.  I turned around.  One of the Space Center's most awesome campers and soon to be volunteer stood in front of me.  Dakota attended Shelley when he was in elementary school.  He was there to give something to the principal. 

We spoke for a few minutes, before he had to go.  We both agreed how much we missed the ole Space Center.

For twenty-two years, thousands and thousands of children attended the Space Center.  Many of them returned for camps and classes.  Its easy to forget most of them, but campers like Dakota are never forgotten. 

Just seeing him reminded me of the importance of doing whatever possible to resurrect the Space Center so hundreds of thousands of new campers can have the same experience Dakota had. 

Thank you to everyone for your continued support, and if you happen to be a Shelley Elementary at 3:30 P.M.,  stop and watch the Best Guard at the school in action.

Mr. W.

 Your Questions

Nathan Wrote:
As I read the blog, it seemed like many people were under the pretense that the new (Dream) Space Center would run 9 ships: The Galileo, the four small and the four large. Would the Phoenix and Magellan be discontinued as part of the program?

We would keep the names, but the ships at Central would be discontinued. 

Jakob Wrote:
I have been reading the blog and have learned about the proposed new building. Me and my friends LOVE coming to the space center, but we live in Cache Valley and can't come often. Is there anything we could do to help besides volunteering (like raising money, etc.)?
Live Long and Prosper,
Keep reading The Troubadour for opportunities to help us as we work toward a new Space Center.  Spread the word.  The Space Center will come back!
Mr. Schuller wrote
Here is the link for the Evergeen Aviation Museum in Oregon. They have a pretty extensive education and volunteer program (take a close look at their aviation ambassador program).

Your Thoughts on the New Space Center

Matt L. Wrote:
I'm going to go back to our original design for a new building that we drew up a year or two back. I really like the idea of having a central medical center that is shared by all the simulators that also coordinates all of the away missions. It would have TV's showing cameras of the away mission areas and have communication with all the control rooms.
As for the simulators needing to be different, we discussed giving each a square room and then each Set Director is given freedom to customize the ship as they see fit, keeping in mind that the simulators have to have X number of stations in them.
One of the things I would also love to see would be a shared engineering room. This room would contain all of the activity panels that would be used in 'manually' fixing the ship. If we did it right, we could make the panels nearly maintenance free, and any required maintenance would be very easy. Since the medical center would be shared, the engineering room would probably have to be on a separate floor, accessible from the bridge of each ship.

Away from the simulators, I also really liked the idea of having a waiting room/lounge near the entrance that parents could wait and watch/listen to the crews on the simulators.

And don't forgot, we want spots to put iPads/iPods, as it will be very easy to link those up to the rest of the ship controls.

Staff Member 14 Wrote
I love it! The designs are great and I think the flexible space is great for away missions. But, I think we should still have overnight missions. Those are one of my favorite types, as a camper and as a volenteer. We are still doing camps right? If we are, we need to remember a place for the campers to sleep. I think we could just set up cots in the flexible space like we did before.

Unknown Wrote:
#1-I know that this is more of an after thought but I think that there need to be someway that flight directors can communicate with other staff members. As a volunteer it was hard to run from ship to ship asking questions.

#2-I think that there needs to be hallways separated from the main hallways for staff to get to the "stage" area. As a volunteer I would have to hide from crew on away mission when I was in hallways trying to get from place to place.

#3-I know that there is storage but is more by the class rooms I think that there needs to be closer to the general area of the simulators to put costumes, props, and to store crew uniforms and phasers when not in use.

#4-(Question) would there still be summer camps at the new space center?

#5- I know many staff members are leaving for lds missions, college, and such and new staff members need to be trained. And I think that would need to happen sooner rather then later.

Caitlynn Wrote
One of the biggest issues I have had with overnight camps is the food provided because the donuts always made me quite sick and the fruit was never ripe (no offense, I am very picky with my food). I love all the ideas flying around relating to the physical side of things and all I can think of is the food. :)

Unknown Wrote
I just thought that I would share some thoughts that came to me when I was reading the blog,
9 Simulators!?!?!?!
9 Simulators would be great!!! IF we could make them work... 
These are the things I thought that should be noted when designing the center:
1.  They each need to be built in a different design so each simulator is a different ship, they should all fill different
2.  They need to be spread out, the sound problem is a big problem, crews will panic if the ship next to them is blowing up, with there crews screaming at the screens trying to get away from the Borg Cubes...
3.  The thing I LOVED about the voyager is how it was built, it made me fill like it was a real Federation ship.  Cant we build like a basement or something?
4.  I think the halls are going to be very, very full all the time!  So lets try to keep the ships away from the main halls, for example, the small hall leading to the stage and the voyagers entrance.  This will help with the sound and will make it easier to get into the ships.
5.  And last, do we have enough room?

Issac Wrote:

I thought a programing class would be GREAT!  I know .HTML and a small bit of java, if you want, I would be more than willing to help teach some classes.
Other rooms and comments,
I think we should go with the flexible space, just put in a room for away teams, or engineering etc.
And I think some more floors would be not only really nice, but needed!  If we can afford it, I think that's the first thing that should be on the list...
Also, I'm working on my "blueprints" for the new space center, is there a deadline for when we need to send them in by?
I really realized how much I'm going to miss the space center reading the blog... A new space center would be really cool, but I still am going to miss the origanal simulators...
thanks for all you do!

Adam Wrote:
I think the laser tag would be a great idea. I think the crew uniforms should have sensors like laser tag vests, but still look like Star Trek uniforms. I think it will help the crew get into it more, it's much more realistic than having someone say,
"You, right wing officer. You're dead." It just brings you more into the future if you find out you're dead yourself.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Answers to Your Questions and Your Comments and Suggestions on the New Center

Hello Troops,
I've had several responses to the dream center design submitted by Alex DeBirk.
They are all being read and considered.

I'd like to begin tonight's post by answering more of your questions posted as comments to the blog or sent directly to my by email:

David C asked:
I was just wondering, if or when the space center reopens will the attending age of campers be raised?
I think we are leaning in that direction for field trips.  We'd like the new Center to have something for all grades 1 to 12.   Remember, there is a question on whether or not overnight camps will be a part of the new Center.  The district committee will decide and make a recommendation to the school board for their decision.  
Anonymous wrote:
Are there any more pictures of the falcon? What was it like?
Sorry, I've posted all I have.  Perhaps someone out there has more they would be willing to share with all of us.  
I never ran the Falcon.  I'll ask two of the Falcon's flight directors to write about the ship and post their essays on the blog. 

Anonymous wrote:
Im confused.... Is the district in the favor of moving us or keeping us here?
I'm guessing you mean keeping us here at Central.  We can stay at Central if the lot next to the school is big enough for the new Space Center building and a parking lot.  There is some doubt it is big enough. 

Some Silly Staff Wrote:
Keep in mind that we may still be able to run certain ships during the re-build... Does that mean we could pull in some more money for the building? 
Yes, if we can get a few ships open and we can have access to them.  Right now, I'm having trouble just getting into the Space Center.  It is getting very frustrating when the Director of the Center (me) has to justify why he wants into the Center to the custodians who have the key.  They may be afraid I'll stick my fingers into one of the electrical sockets :)     

Anonymous wrote:
When we get a couple ships open at Central should we rename a ship the USS Victor Alan? Or the USS Williamson?
Thank you for the compliment but I'm not so sure that would be a good idea.  Our simulators are named after NASA space probes.  I'd like to continue that tradition.
Your New Center Ideas

Having the planetarium in the center will be an issue because of noise and class movements in and out. We also need a much larger classroom space to accommodate all those kids when not in the simulators. The class/planetarium are just as important as the simulators to the field trip program. The cafeteria needs to be large enough to fit a minimum of half our field trip capacity at a time. I've got my own plans somewhere I'll send in.

I like the variety in what Alex is suggesting- that is, building two large ships and four small ones in addition to keeping the Galileo. What is a magnet school, though, and why is the district so in love with the idea of expanding the CMSEC into a magnet school?

I would love to see programs for 7-12 graders, because the magic can't just stop when you hit 14. :) I love the new design. Very Modern and it incorporates space well. I really like the idea of many more ships. We should try to save the Odyssey or at least rename one of those ships (If this will be the design) the Odyssey or Voyager. :D

I really like the new layout, but something worries me. I think that each of the simulators should have a different shape (or at least different furniture placement...) If all the simulators were the same it might remove the incentive to try the other ships. It is impressive to think that there might be eight simulators working at the same time! I also like the flexible space because it would allow each ship to do their own away missions without worrying if another ship's crew is in the hallway. Anyway, those are just my two cents...

I have to agree with the idea of having different simulator shapes. Or maybe not even different shapes, but make every one unique in it's own way. And this is just an idea, but maybe we could design some or all of the "flexible space" to represent a starship. Central's hallways were a bit of a shift from a high-tech spaceship. And programs for 7-12 graders is a GREAT idea. Emphasis on GREAT.

2 things: Although I would love to see stuff for grades 7-12 I think that if faced with a choice between the two the focus should be on the yonger people. And also, since the Galileo is moveable, will it be at the new center or stay at Central?

Yeah, I think the ships should be different. Maybe you could still incorporate the design of the old ships, like recreate them as one of the new ships. It's gonna take lots more volunteers!

I liked how the ships were different sizes and all were really different on the inside too, but you might have a reason why they are the same size, thanks for all you do!

I love the layout, but I'm a little nervous about having 4 small ships all squished together. There are times when the crew on the Odyssey can hear the crew on the Phoenix, and having 4 ships simultaneously running may have strange moments of sound bleeding through.

Be sure to look at traffic flow patterns- and noise flow patterns. It would save eardrums if different ships and planetariums and classrooms didn't have to compete. I like the spoke pattern as a basic flow plan, but why does it seem biased towards the simulators, with the classrooms added as an afterthought? (The staff lounge areas seem bigger than the classrooms) How about one quadrant be the educational section, with a demonstration room instead of a 4th large simulator (it can be modified eventually, but begins more like a cooking show demonstration lab with cameras set up to show experiments from multiple angles) and the plain classrooms and a set of bathrooms. I like the quadrant with the shuttle and shop and reception area. That corner seems like the best place for the parking lot.

The use of space should be aligned with the mission and purposes of the new center. If we're still teaching merit badges and programming, space needs set aside for that. What are the mission and purposes of the Space Center?

Just a few thoughts from a long-time observer,
Good luck.

That new design idea looks great; there are so many things that we don't have now that would be great to have in the future! I know one thing that we often had to deal with was running into crews who were just entering the school while our own crew was on an away mission (or the staff was getting things ready). It looks like the crew could get to the "Flexible Space" areas, which I assume would be used for away missions as well as other things. Would there be any way to get the staff to these locations without walking through the main hallways?

I really like what you want to put into the new center, but I'm kinda iffy on the placement (also 9 simulators!!!!). I think there should be more of a clear split between where the simulators are and where the classrooms are, so that there's less chance of them running into each other during away missions (and it'll help with sound problems, especially with the planetarium right in the middle of 4 simulators, unless you want 40+ screaming kids being heard in the middle of a presentation).

I'm also a bit worried about having the 4 small simulators clustered right next to each other. Loading and unloading will be really chaotic, and again with the 4 large simulators, it'll be really loud. I think you should spread the simulators around.

And, like the previous poster, make all of the simulators unique. It'll be a bit boring with only 3 "different" ships that you can be in. A few related notes, will there be areas to do briefings? Where will the brigs be for the large simulators?

Finally, make the new center feel like a starbase in the Federation. It'll really help people get into the mood.

Make note that the following is purely based off of my own speculation, and in no way is confirmed or is an actual list of what is needed. This just shows a ballpark range of what is needed if the new space center is based off of this design and all 9 simulators are opened at once. - M. Ricks

Assuming that each of the large simulators will each be the size of the Voyager: 9 to 11 crew, and each of the small simulators are the size of the Odyssey: 6 to 8 crew, plus the Galileo in the Shuttle bay: 5 to 6 crew, that evaluates to be 65 to 82 campers for a full camp. In order to staff this camp, you would need 9 flight directors, 8 supervisors, 5 volunteers per large ship, 3 volunteers per small ship, and 2 for the galileo, + the Director + anyone else that sticks around mainly M. Ricks, the onsite technician, that evaluates to be around 53. That's about 135 people for a maxed out camp. That isn't including any classroom sessions going on. That's a lot of people. Assuming that everyone eats 2 donuts and 1 cup of milk/orange juice, that would be over 20 dozen donuts, and over 8 gallons of milk and orange juice every overnight camp. Plus the banana's, clementines, and the gogurts.

The total amount of computers on the bridge of a small ship would be 7 assuming there is 8 crew members. In the control room of those small ships, you'd have to include the core, a potential auxcore, the sound fx, the music, the tactical, and possibly a video computer. Which turns out to be an average of 5 computers per control room for the small ships. For the big ship control rooms, you are going to have around 9 computers in those control rooms, and on the bridge of those ships, you will have an average of… well, Magellan has 30 on the bridge, and the Voyager has 17, so a reasonable amount I would say would be 20. So you'd have 20 computers on each of the large ships. The Galileo has a total of 10 computers. Then you'd have one computer for the staff, as well as a few prop computers, we'll say 5, and also the computer possibly in the gift shop, and the computer for the reception area, and the computer for each of the classrooms, one for the Director, and at least one computer for the guild hall, and one server for the entire space center. So in total, just for computers, you'd have around 186 active computers doing a purpose of some sort, and 1 server. Hardly any of these computers should be accessing the internet, but they should all be on the same network. Currently, concatenating all of the computers the space center (just the ones that we would be able to transfer over to the new center, so nearly all the voyager and Magellan computers will not be included) we would have about 50 computers that we would be able to bring over from the old center to the new one. These are not all top of the line computers, many of them are old ibooks, or the white iMacs. Assuming that to get the mac minis that we need (not the new ones because our programming would not fit that) my guess would be $500 each for a refurbished mac mini with the correct operating system and the correct amount of ram and such that includes a monitor. That is about $68000 in computer costs alone. That doesn't include programming, or any other hardware required for the computer to even be used such as keyboard and mouse.

DVD Players:
Flat out, we'd need 35 DVD players, but we probably have that covered already.

Sound Systems:
I'm not an expert in sound systems, but from what the space center currently has in supply right now is not enough. We have 8 sound boards in total. We'd need at least 4 new sound systems if the old ones are going to be reused.

These are probably the most fluid of all because it's all up to the design of the ship, but if each simulator ran with 1 TV, we'd need about 25 TV's in total which includes 1 TV on the bridge of all simulators, a preview TV in the control room, a TV for the staff, TV's in the classroom, as well as a few other misc. TV's such as in the reception area, or the gift shop. The space center currently uses 10 Flat Screen TV's, 17 CRT TV's, and 3 Projectors, totaling to be 30 about 30 TV's in active use. As for storage, we have 1 flat screen, and 2 Projectors, and many Mini CRT TV's (used to be used in the Magellan)

With nearly the entire programming department leaving for LDS missions within the next few years, you would need to get things solidified right now so they can work on it as much as possible, or higher other programmers, as well as train new technicians to handle the computers and video and sound systems, and the network. This just might need a full blown district technician.

The following is what I would I think would be a valuable addition to this design of the Space Center.

A Museum - to show all the history of the space center, from it's grass roots to the current simulators, and all the people, thought, and technology that has gone into the space center over the years.

A second floor - I think a second floor is not necessary, but would be highly convenient. This second floor could allow for the flexible space to have higher ceilings to allow for possible large projections to be placed on the walls, a fly system to by put in place, variable lighting, variable floor levels and movable walls etc. The 2nd floor would also be nice to have as a way for staff to quickly get from ship to ship without having to duck, dodge and sneak our way through away missions that are being held on the lower floor. The simulators could have raised ceilings, and as a result, the lighting fixtures of simulators could be accessed from the 2nd floor, as well as any vents or secret doors that would allow for the Slime Devil to enter and scare the crew. The 2nd floor can also be used as an "Observation Deck" with darkened glass or one way windows for parents or other observers to watch the simulation without crowding flight director in the control room. The 2nd floor could also house additional classrooms, sleeping areas, or planetariums.

The sickbays - The sickbays are secluded from the rest of the ship, which may mean that the camper may feel secluded from the action of the main story. If possible, the sickbays should be brought more towards the action of the main bridge. I would suggest this, or make the sickbay incredibly open, or have 2 medical officers. The medical program has to be carefully integrated so it doesn't become a dreaded job. This may be harder also if we try to integrate the medical station into IIFX. In the Voyager, right now a dedicated supervisor is assigned to the medical officer. We may have to do some experimentation with the medical station, but it is incredibly delicate. This probably should be discussed with the Medical Supervisors though.

All in all, I love the design. I love the idea of eventually having 9 ships. There will need to be a lot of barricades and such built for use in the flexible space, but I feel it is the best design for our needs and it provides plenty of space for future expansion if needed.

Why so much wasted space? we really don't need a sick bay in every ship we don't need all the dorms if we don't offer over nighters and we have worked fine with the space at the space center anything more than that is just being wasteful

If possible, I think the new space center should have at least 2 floors. It would be cool to have the hall ways look futuristic so that students can do away missions. Each simulator should be a different shape, size, and have different technology to make them each a different learning experience. You could make the Planetarium on the second floor above the simulators to avoid noise. The new space center would be cool if it involved grades k-12 and if it offered classes that other school don't offer like programing classes, engineering, and robotics. It would be sweet if the space center had different rooms for people in the simulators to explore, like a room that looks like a engineering bay, weapons room, or like mars with dirt and rocks.

Here is some ideas I have.. although some might not be realistic
• The new space center should be built with the intention to expand later on.
• Have 2 Floors

• Planetarium on the second floor
• A Simulator with 2 floors, or 2 floors with a opening. (kinda like a balcony)
• Make it a school and offer classes through k-12
• Offer different classes, such as programing classes(HTML, JAVA, Visual Basic, etc), Engineering, and robotics, etc
• Make each simulator with a different shape, size, and with different technology
• Use newer(touch screen, iPads) and classic technology(computers)
• Lazer Tag?
• Make the Hallways look like Hallways of a space station/ship and provide away missions
• Have another rooms for each simulator, or rooms for all the simulators to go to such as a engineering bay, weapons room, mars(room with rocks, and dirt that could be used to teach geography)

Preserving all of the Space Center's camps and programs should still be considered a priority. Cut-paste the current infrastructure into the new building, as-is, then use all extra space that would otherwise have been a hallway or "flexible" space as added living space for overnighters or room for away missions. It's a simple solution across the board. Of course, we could always add more ships with extra "free space", but wouldn't you want to use that space for away missions? Best not to try to fix something that isn't broken--so to speak--and keep what works and capitalize on any leftover space for what it would have been used for if the current Center had been allowed to stay open. By doing all of the above--you would skip a lot of unnecessary headache in the planning process for moving the current Center into the new building.

It's always a good idea to add more "decks" to a larger simulator as possible for added station numbers, realism and authenticity. The Magellan was in the process of getting its own "Deck 2" or "Engineering". It would make sense to incorporate that idea if there is space to capitalize on for that ship/space station. It really wouldn't make much sense to give the smaller ships more physical decks. No need to rename anything, but we could build more small ships to supplement larger groups for longer camps and programs.

With the new space center layout idea, I didn't like how the simulators were the same. What was fun about the old one is that each sim. is different. The Phoenix is different than the voyager, and not just by the missions. It makes it feel like you are a rotating officer on star fleet, and not just assigned to one ship. But that's just my opinion. I do, however, like the idea of a gift shop. I just wish they had that when I went.

I too have a layout idea, I just have to draw it out. 

Hope you get it up and running soon, I want to work again.

Hi Vic,

Here are my thoughts and comments about the new "dream" Space Center.  Feel free to share them on the blog as desired.

Being smart with space
As Alex pointed out, big ships lead to higher expenses, both in upfront construction and ongoing maintenance.  However, I think there are lots of ways to use space creatively to get the most bang per square foot.  For starters, the ships don't need to be as big as depicted in Alex's design.  It's hard to tell the exact dimensions, but each large ship looks like it's about 35' x 70' or a total of about 2,400 sq ft.  In contrast, the simulator I'm building in Pittsburgh is about 20' x 25' or a total of 500 sq ft, and it still fits 16 students with room to spare.

That said, my ship doesn't include a separate engineering area, sickbay, or dorm.  These areas aren't required, but they do go a long way toward making a missions more awesome.  A possible option is to build vertically, with these extra areas underneath the bridge.  All you'd need is a multi-floor building (or a warehouse style building with high ceilings) to pull it off.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Another design I had when concocting my own visions of a "Space Center on steroids" is a large multipurpose area for away missions.  The area could be shared by multiple ships (only one using it at a time, just staggering the away missions so they don't overlap), and it could be decorated to suit whatever settings the missions call for.  The same could be done with the "extra" areas like lower decks, sick bay, etc... let two adjacent ships share these by staggering their use.  It would take a bit of careful scheduling, but it could reduce the overall space requirements.

Bigger isn't necessarily better
Even though the ship I'm building can sit 16 kids, if I had my druthers I'd probably prefer two 8-person ships.  The two ships could run separate missions, or they could be networked together for collaborative missions.  The software I've created for my simulator support networked ships, so that opens up lots of cool new possibilities.  The other advantage to smaller ships is that they offer higher utilization—Little Johnny's may not have 16 friends, but he can still have his birthday party in a smaller ship... and if someone brings an entire family reunion, they'd just use several small ships at once.

My Own Dream
Ever since I was a kid attending the Space Center for the first time I dreamed of building my own... and making it huge!  Disneyland scale!  It would be designed like a giant space station and each simulator would have an airlock or shuttle taking you do it.  Oh, and best of all, there'd be a roller coaster that would pick people up in the parking lot and bring them inside.  If none of my other suggestions end up being helpful, please at least try to install a roller coaster to and from the parking lot.  :)
Gary G.

I'm going to go back to our original design for a new building that we drew up a year or two back. I really like the idea of having a central medical center that is shared by all the simulators that also coordinates all of the away missions. It would have TV's showing cameras of the away mission areas and have communication with all the control rooms.
As for the simulators needing to be different, we discussed giving each a square room and then each Set Director is given freedom to customize the ship as they see fit, keeping in mind that the simulators have to have X number of stations in them.
One of the things I would also love to see would be a shared engineering room. This room would contain all of the activity panels that would be used in 'manually' fixing the ship. If we did it right, we could make the panels nearly maintenance free, and any required maintenance would be very easy. Since the medical center would be shared, the engineering room would probably have to be on a separate floor, accessible from the bridge of each ship.

Away from the simulators, I also really liked the idea of having a waiting room/lounge near the entrance that parents could wait and watch/listen to the crews on the simulators.

And don't forgot, we want spots to put iPads/iPods, as it will be very easy to link those up to the rest of the ship controls.

An Update on Alex's Proposed Space Center Building.

Hello Troops,
Some clarification is needed.  The building Alex designed in yesterday's The Troubadour post was the 'dream' Space Center.  This proposed Dream Center would cost $5,000,000 at $200 per square foot.   
Current realistic thought is a 2.5 million dollar building.  Alex has done a bit more work and sent the following information for your consideration.  As you consider all options, what are your thoughts and plans for a 12,500 square foot building (112 feet square) at 2.5 million,  in addition to the dream center of 25,000 feet square at $5,000,000?
Alex's Email on the smaller building within current budget estimates.     
Mr. Williamson
A 2.5 million dollar building at $200 per sq ft gives you 12,500 square feet, or 112 feet square.  If you'll look on the drawing of the center that I sent you yesterday, you'll see that the circular "pod" of four starships, if you make each ship 35 feet deep with 8 ft hallways (about what Central Elementary has) and a 40' diameter planetarium,  is more than 12,500 sq ft.

So I think this means one or more of the following:

1. $2.5 million at $200 a sq ft doesn't give enough space for a functional larger space center, let alone any of the other things being suggested (like a robotics center). $150 a sq ft would give another 2500 sq ft--not much, but maybe the difference.

2. Building four Voyager-sized starships may not be feasible. I think you should design the field trips so that you can absorb the numbers with a combination of 2 large Voyager-sized ships and four Odyssey-sized ships, with the Galileo as some emergency overflow. Frankly speaking, you don't have space for four large ships as it is.  
Stacy's numbers support the need for small ships because the Odyssey was shown to be more cost-efficient and bring in more actual dollars than any other ship.  I recommend building two large ships, four small, and keeping the Galileo. The four small ships add up to the two big ships that you'll be losing; small ships make more money, can be fit into nooks and crannies to maximize floor space, and add variety to patrons' experience; and the Galileo is already built and should be used anyway.

3. You may need to forget the big box building idea . With $2.5 million, the cost of acquiring a new property and building a shell, although cheap, diminishes the available funds to build the actual structure, which is already limited. On the other hand, perhaps a large building gives more flexibility, that is, you won't have to build the entire center all at once, you can add to it with time as money is available, and you may be able to build the actual center cheaper than you would otherwise (I am not entirely sure that last part is true).

4. $2.5 million simply isn't enough to accomplish the goal of providing a Space Center program able to accommodate the growing school district population and a magnet school program etc.  


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do You Have an Idea for the New Space Center? Sunday's Imaginarium.

Hello Troops,

I had a meeting yesterday with several Space Center staff and volunteers who've been meeting on their own to mull over possible plans for our new Space Center.  They want to contribute to the process of recreating the success of the old Space Center in the new Center being envisioned by the District's Space Center Committee.

Alex Debirk was on hand to offer expert advice on their building ideas.  Alex is a former Space Center flight director and designer of the new Galileo.  Alex still contributes to the Space Center by creating computer special effects for our missions.  Alex graduates in three weeks with a Masters degree in structural engineering from Berkeley.  Buildings are his speciality.

BJ Warner, Stacy Carrell, Skyler Paxman, Jon Parker, and Ben Murdock presented their vision for a new Space Center building.  Their building design included several starship simulators, classrooms, briefing rooms, dorms,  etc.  A planetarium, offices, and gift shop were also part of their dream building.   I was impressed with their work.

Community citizenship and a true spirit of volunteerism is the foundation of the Space Center.  This spirit is evident in our volunteers and staff who continue to meet on their own, without pay (despite the Space Center's closure) to work toward the continued success of this happy place we call The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.   Their work is just one example of the success that comes when an educational institution joins forces with its community and business partners to create a learning center unique to the world.

Alex Debirk took the ideas discusses in our meeting yesterday, drew them up in a preliminary sketch and emailed them to me for consideration.  I'd like to show you the initial sketches.  Remember, this is a very rough design for the 'dream' Space Center.  

Remember, this is a suggested design imagined by a committee of Space Center volunteers and staff.  It is a proposal they will be debating and altering over the next few weeks.  The plans above are for a much larger Center than the 2.5 million dollar Center currently being discussed.  This is the dream Center.  The cost for the Center above would be roughly $5,000,000.  We start with a dream, then work to achieve it. 

Please remember, the new Space Center may not offer overnight camps.  This is a decision to be made by the district's committee.  The school district's Space Center Committee has been designated to make official recommendations to the school board.   

The Space Center is here today because of people like you who have supported us for twenty-two years.  Your support gives you a voice,  a voice I'd like to hear.  All readers of The Troubadour are welcome to comment on this design.  What do you like?  What would you change?  What did the volunteer committee forget to include?  Do you have another idea you'd like to share?  This is your opportunity.  Please send a jpeg of your own design along with comments and suggestions.  Its speak now or forever hold your peace.  

All ideas and drawings will be posted on the blog for everyone's consideration.  Let your creative juices flow.  It is time to Imagine!  What would your dream center include?  How many ships?  Would you include a school as part of the new Center?  If so, what grades?  What would the school's emphasis be?   How could more math and science be integrated into future Space Center missions?  Besides simulators, what else could a new Space Center have to make it more field trip friendly to grades 1 to 4 and grades 7 to 12?    

The district's Space Center Committee will be discussing the new building at an upcoming meeting.  It would be good to have your ideas and suggestions to take with me into the discussion.  

Mr. Williamson

Space Science Lesson for the Day.

The Imaginarium

We haven't made a trip into the Imaginarium for quite a while.  Let's take a break and see creativity and imagination in action.

     Money is made when a person find's a need and fills it.
This is how a successful business works.

Creativity: A
A backpack with hood.
It fills a need

A good thing to remember

I post this as a reference to see beyond our five senses.
Just because we can't see it, feel it, hear it, or smell it doesn't mean it isn't real.
There are other dimensions of space time we can't sense in our 3 dimensional world.

Someone living in a 2D world wouldn't perceive us because we exist in 3 dimensions -
except for the exact place our finger intersects the plane of their 2D universe.

Are there signs out there of intersections from other dimensions of space time in our 
universe?  Something to ponder.

A pretzel bakery's Thanksgiving Offering.
Creativity: A

A unique calendar.

A careful balancing act.

These are popping up everywhere.
A need filled.  Take one, donate one.
Imagination: A

Humor: A

Making something special out of an ordinary everyday object like this trash can.

A special Christmas something for your door.
Creativity: A

His faith is being tested.

Haven't we all contributed a chapter to this book?

You have to give him credit for trying

Be nice to the people who serve you.

Brilliant design and very creative!

A unique bunk bed.
Take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

This is going up in my classroom.
It made you stop and think, didn't it?

Brilliant advertising
Creativity: A
I'd buy several of these a year, check the appropriate box and give it as a humorous gift.
Find a need and fill it.

A clever way to include something common place into something imaginative.

I don't get this and I never will.
What are these two thinking?
I'm glad the world has people like this.  I'm not one of them.

Some people live outside the box.
They will always push the boundary.

You know you're approaching self actualization with you really don't care
what people think.

A clever doorstop.
Creativity: A 

Guilty as charged.
I've got a prison full of these in my kitchen.

Impossible in my opinion without the Force.
A creative teacher with a sense of play and humor.

A creative use of 20 ounce soda and water bottles.


I rarely would consider posting a photo of a toilet but this one begged to be shared.
Reading materials not needed in this restroom.

This boy has the right idea when out Christmas shopping with his mom.

Remember, there is always something to be found worthy of mention.
Imagination: A

Brilliant holiday decoration idea.
I'll be nobody in your neighborhood has thought of this yet.
Be the first.

So that's why?
I get it now.

The real Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.

A light saber across your car's grill, your punishment will be.

You'd be surprised how many businesses and organizations treat their employees this way.
Something you'd never find at the Space Center.
We welcome and require ideas and suggestions.

Which are you?

Why do we still cling to the old ways?

A Thanksgiving Pizza.
Creativity: A

I badly want.
Steve Martin's business cards.

Take an ordinary thing and make it extraordinary.

Sometimes security cameras catch people showing us that there are plenty of good people left in this world.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

From the Daily Herald. Possibilities for the Space Center's Future

Hello Troops,
This article appeared in today's edition of the Provo Daily Herald.  It covers several items discussed in our last Space Center Committee meeting and comments made to the reporter during the last board meeting.  My comments are added in blue.  This article was written by Caleb Warnock, a reporter for the Daily Herald.   Mr. W.

 PLEASANT GROVE -- Alpine School District's condemned space center might find a second life as a magnet school.
I'm glad to see my suggestion has some support.  Magnet schools are fairly common in school districts nationwide.  I see a Space Center magnet school focusing on blending math, science and technology with the humanities.  For ten years the heading of our blog has said "The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center; A Utah Arts, Sciences, Math, Technology Initiative".  This school would be open to students district wide.  Can you imagine the public's interest in such a school?  Imagine going to a school anchored by futuristic starship simulators.   The demand to get into such a school would be overwhelming.
The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center was closed a month ago over safety concerns. In a recent board meeting, district officials and board members said they are mulling this opportunity to create something much larger out of the space center program.

"Maybe the space center is more than what it currently does," assistant superintendent Rob Smith said. "Maybe there could be a zero gravity room. Maybe a 100-seat theater."
We can't switch off gravity.  I believe he may have meant a display that simulates alternate gravities.  Clark Planetarium once had a device which simulated the moon's gravity.  The moon's gravity is 1/6  that of Earths.  You were strapped in this device which counter balanced away 5/6th of your weight. Such a device would be an excellent addition to the new Center.   
A robotics and math program, sponsored by IM Flash Technologies, could be part of the new plan, he said. There is a great new for space for students to focus on match competitions, robotics and technology classes.
"It would take it from a fourth- to sixth-grade program to a secondary program, a magnet for the whole district," board member JoDee Sundberg said.
The elementary grade program would not be eliminated.  It is intended the new Center would continue to use simulators.  These other programs would be offered for junior and senior high school students.  The Space Center would be a field trip site for most grades. 
"I think it has some great possibilities," Smith said.

Property was purchased four or five years ago to build a new space center, but the public, in hearings before the last bond, told board members they did not want the district spending money on a space center redo.

"It was the intent of the board to have it on the bond, and it was not received by the public," Sundberg said. "I think that has to be remembered. It was always the intent of the board to do something about it."
We didn't have an organized effort to advocate for the Space Center on the bond.  I asked our supporters not to rally for the Space Center believing there was enough money in the bond to meet all the District's needs, including a new Space Center.  I wasn't concerned after the Space Center was taken off the bond.  The District put out a statement saying a new Space Center would be built with capital money towards the latter part of this decade.    
Since the center was closed, however, public sentiment has shifted toward the nostalgic in a big way.
"People have been emailing me by the kazillion," board member Paula Hill said. "We recognize the community attachment and we are doing everything we can to facilitate it."

"Absolutely, we recognize the attachment and the community value," Superintendent Vern Henshaw said.

North of Central Elementary in Pleasant Grove, the district purchased and razed an old church with the intention of building a space center on the property when funds became available. But when voters did not want the space center on the bond, work had to be delayed.  Now, the district has formed a committee to explore options for the space center, with a report due in February or March.
We meet again on November 28.
Originally the district sought to budget $1.5 million for the rebuild, but has now raised that to $2.5 million, which does not include the price of property.

"We upped it because we are looking at other possibilities," Smith said. "We are asking ourselves, is it adequate? Is there anything we should add to it? We turn a lot of kids away at the space center" because of space limitations.
A new facility with four large simulators will allow the Space Center to take four classes a day on field trips.  This will double the number of students we currently take.
"We are just simply exploring all options," Henshaw said. "It isn't necessarily that it has to be on that property. The scope of it might be larger than what that is."
The property could be used to expand Central Elementary instead, and the district could purchase a larger property for the space center.
It would be sad to leave Central School.  
The center, named after the teacher who died on the space shuttle Challenger, began as a classroom experiment by Victor Williamson, who teaches at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. Starting with nothing more than an overhead projector, Williamson took his students on a simulated space journey and found that they not only enjoyed the learning experience, but retained information better than they did when taught conventionally.
I did my first classroom space simulation in the spring of 1984.  I still have the original scripts and plastic overlays for the overhead projector.  Someone once told me, "Be careful what you wish for, it may come true."  Look how this simple classroom experiment has evolved. 
Through grants and donations, Williamson was able to build a more advanced and larger scale program at the school until year by year the space center became known statewide and then nationally as a space education center. At its annual scheduled maintenance check in August, however, the local fire marshal discovered several electrical issues that needed to be resolved. There were other issues with simulators that had to be changed and updated to meet city and state codes, so the district shuttered it for the time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Collection of Memories. Happy Thanksgiving and Mrs. Houston's Photographs

Hello Troops,
Happy Thanksgiving to our Space Center staff, volunteers and fans!

Today I'm thankful for family and friends.  I'm thankful for the twenty-two years I spent with outstanding dedicated staff and volunteers in a happy place we call 'The Space Center'.  I'm thankful for the 310,000 people who came through our doors on voyages of imagination.  I'm grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support this program has received over the past several weeks.  Your support has played, and will continue to play, an important role as we consider the Space Center's future.  There are many decisions to be made.  How much of the old will stay as we envision the new?  What direction do we take as we chart a course into unknown territory?  I'll rely on your input as we forge ahead.  The school district's Space Center committee meets in full on November 28.

The Williamson's will be converging on my sister's home in Pleasant Grove.  Family has come from near and far for the event.

You never know what you'll get at a Williamson holiday gathering.  In the best of times,  the event could pass peacefully with little to report other than Great Grandma Luella managing to keep a portion of her meal on her plate and off her blouse and the children survive with little or no blood loss.

In the worst of times, there could be fireworks if family members aren't strategically positioned around the Thanksgiving table.  I'm hoping my sister remembers to seat our family's few remaining independents between the rabid Republics and the Peace, Land and Bread Democrats.  Great Grandma Luella has already been chastised by my sister Lisa for attempting to covert my twelve year old niece to socialism.  Great Grandma has been brushing up for this holiday reunion by watching hundreds of hours of PBS and CSPAN.

We sometimes have a problem with religion.  Not only must my sister separate family members with strong political views, she must also take into consideration the family's diverse religious beliefs as she sets out the name places around the table.  Those who favor reincarnation are generally tolerated by the liberals.  They will be sat at the end of the table.  Our Mormon majority are too numerous to separate so they must be sub categorized by conviction.  Forgiving, back of the chapel Mormons, are good to mix with the minority agnostics.  Front row, hymn singing Mormons are good to sit near the old people's section at the front of the table.  It makes it easy for calling on someone to offer the Thanksgiving blessing on the food.

One of my jobs at all holiday reunions is to monitor the gathering and inject myself into any conversation or situation that appears to be approaching the boiling point.  My 30 years in the classroom uniquely qualifies me for the task.  I know the family very well, having been a part of it  for 54 years, and can generally detect the raising of voices quickly enough to bolt across the room, squeeze inbetween the combatants and turn a phrase fast enough to cool the waters and redirect the conversation's flow.  I've been brushing up on anecdotes and feel confident I can keep things civil and peaceful until everyone goes home to debate whether or not they'll ever go to another gathering again.
 I have the nuclear option if my efforts to keep the peace fail.  I walk over to Great Grandpa Charlie, pull him away from the poor soul he's trapped in a conversation for 30 minutes, and tell him that So and So had a question on the how to prepare for the fast approaching apocalypse.

"You've come to the right person," he'll say as he hobbles across the crowded room to find his new prey.

Great Grandpa Charlie believes the world will end by the end of the year.  He has believed the world will end at the end of every year since 1968, which is why he purchased six acres of farmland in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

"We won't starve if I keep the land," he answers proudly whenever asked why he doesn't sell the land and pocket the profit.  His survival plans unravel when we press him for details on how we are suppose to get to South Dakota if things suddenly head south and starving mobs ravage neighborhoods.  

Anyway.......  I'm hoping you and yours have a very enjoyable day.   

And now, a few pictures from Mrs. Houston's Space Center photo album.

Mrs. Houston teaching the field trip class in 1995.  
The Odyssey's entrance is at the back of the room.  We didn't have the Discovery Room or the Phoenix Simulator back then.  The class session was held in Mr. Williamson's office.  Teaching was difficult because of the simulator noises coming from the Odyssey and Voyager.  Notice the old 1956 light fixtures in the ceiling.  Once we had a boy tell us how cool and futuristic they were.  I suppose anything could be futuristic if you've never seen it before. 

 Summer Camp 2001
The campers are on the playground mapping the distances of the planets from the sun and each other.

Launching rockets with Mrs. Remy during summer camp.  2001

The Falcon Team from the summer of 2001.
The Falcon is gone, replaced by the Phoenix.  The Falcon sat inside 
one of the Starlab bubbles.  It was run by Mr. Schuler, Mrs. Houston, Stacy Carrel, 
and Joshua Babb.  It was a real hassle.  The Falcon had to be assembled every Friday afternoon as soon as school let out, then taken apart and put away after every overnight camp. 

Mr. Daymont with another crew of the Falcon.  The campers were from Astrocamp, our sister center in Ogden.  Summer 2001 

Summer Camp 2001
Mr. Daymont with our campers at Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City

Two volunteers dressed in our new Greenpeace costumes designed and sewn by Mrs. Houston

Two volunteers in newly sewn alien costumes.

Mrs. Clegg, the Space Center's curriculum specialist in the Discovery Room setting up
for a field trip lesson.

Randy Jepperson catching a few zzzz's in the newly opened Discovery Room.

I'm striking a happy pose outside the newly installed Odyssey dark room door.
 Some have their security blanket.  I have my Diet Coke.  I can't go anywhere without one.


Here I am on the Voyager Bridge waxing poetic before the start of a field trip mission.

Here I am again teaching my pre-algebra class in 1999.
My assignment was to direct the Space Center when the Center first opened in 1990.  
I volunteered to teach the math class to help the school's sixth grade.  I'm still teaching the class every morning from 9:00 to 10:30 A.M.
I taught the class in my office before the Phoenix was built.  The class moved to the Discovery Room after the Phoenix opened.

One of the Space Center's Honor's Nights.
I'm presenting the Silver Chalice of Zod to Kirby Glad, a great Space Center supporter.
The Silver Chalice of Zod was named after the Chalice Dr. Marcus brags about in every Supernova Mission on the Voyager or Phoenix.

 Another Honor's Night in the Magellan
Pillowcases are being awarded to volunteers who reached the 500 hour volunteer level.
This was taken shortly after the Magellan opened.  This was before we had the Discovery Room.  The door behind me led directly to the Control Room.  Notice the old computers and the very old main view screen.

A later Honor's Night in the Discovery Room.  Pillowcases are being awarded.
The volunteers came up with this strange tradition of covering their heads for the picture. 
Fun for them, impossible to tell who they are for posterity.

 A photograph of me and a few very old staff from our 15th anniversary celebration in 2005
Russell Smith, Tony Grover, Jake Mattson, Kyle Sanderson and Clint Sanderson.

Two Space Center legends, David Merrill and Tony Grover