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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Discovery Space Center Gets New Director. Big Changes Coming to the Discovery Space Center. The Imaginarium Takes Us Out of 2013.

It was a very good year

Discovery Space Center Gets New Director and a Face Lift.

    Fact:  Casey Voeks has been named the new director of the Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove.
     Fun: "I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers," Casey said in his tearful delivery of the news to the DSC's staff and interns. "The way you little people are always there for me really warms my heart and teaches me that even people like yourselves can play a part in the making of a man."  Casey went on to thank his parents, grandparents and others who played a part in his upbringing.
     "Abe Lincoln had his log cabin," he said to a hushed room.  "That humble start in the backwoods town of Hodgenville, Kentucky crafted and molded him through hardship and trial and made him one with the people and a great leader."  Casey pointed to those seated in the hall and paused for dramatic effect before raising his voice as he raised his outstretched hand toward the heavens. "You are my log cabin.  You are my Hodgenville.  I'm one of You!"  The room erupted in thunderous applause.  Casey then removed himself while the staff and interns continued to clap.   Moments later he reappeared in his working clothes: jeans and a red Tshirt which had "I'm ONE of you!" printed across the front.  He walked over to the platform scheduled for removal, picked up a hammer, held it over his head and froze.

 "You're suppose to get a picture of that for The Troubadour," Brandon Wright whispered into my ear.  I quickly snapped the photo.
     "What's he doing?" came a shout from behind me.  I turned around and saw Jorden Osborn, Endeavor Set Director,  jump up from his seat and bolt toward the front of the room. "Mr. Voeks, that hammer hasn't been disinfected.  People have used it!  Oh the Humanity!" Jorden exclaimed as he bounded over rows of chairs to reach his boss and mentor. He unzipped his fanny pack and produced a ziplock bag stuffed with Clorox Wipes.  "Carefully put the hammer down, " his instructions were clear and direct.  Casey set the hammer back down on the platform. "Kindly step away and let a pro handle this."
     Jorden draped three Clorox Wipes over the hammer.  He pulled a pair of rubber gloves from his pack  and put them on.  Next, out came a small bottle of hand sanitizer.  "Hands," he ordered.  Casey held out his hands.  A generous amount of sanitizer was squirted into each.  "Scrub," he ordered. Casey did as directed.  Jorden then wiped the hammer throughly before setting it back down on the platform with a grunt of approval for a job well done.  He returned to his seat after spraying Casey down with a bottle of Lysol Spray kept in his backpack for emergencies.
     I snapped a picture of the very clean hammer.


 The Facts:  The Discovery Space Center is renovating the USS Endeavor simulator.  It will get all new computers, several of which will have touch screens.

The Endeavor as it looked yesterday - before the remodeling commenced.  

The light channel running across the ceiling will be redone along with several other modifications meant to bring the Endeavor up to snuff.  "It could well be the coolest ship here at Discovery," Casey explained.

The DSC's Simulator Hallway
 Our next stop was great entrance room into the DSC once called the Galileo Room.  "All of this will be changed," Casey pointed to the places on the wall where new flat screen TV's will be placed.  "Crews will come in here, sit down and watch their mission briefings and job explanations - just like Disneyland."  The TV's sat in their boxes waiting to be mounted on the walls.  "Everything else in here goes.  We want to clean this room up. I think declutter is a better word," Casey said as he pointed to old equipment and desks crowding a corner of the room.  

The Discovery Staff getting things ready to be moved from the Galileo Room
     Casey led me from the Galileo Room and into Stone Gate's main foyer and entrance.  "Total immersion is what we want here at Discovery.  We want the campers to feel like they're in their mission where ever they are in our section of this building," he said as we walked into another room right off the foyer.  "This will be our new birthday party room."

This will be the DSC's new birthday party room

There was a bang from the foyer.  Jorden, Scott and Aleta were busy moving equipment from the Galileo Room to storage.  Jorden was afraid things would come spilling out of the under cabinet.

The DSC's large planetarium was moved to another section of the building.
 Our tour of the facility continued down the hall and into what was once one of Stone Gate's dance studios - now the primary field trip classroom.  Aleta Clegg,  DSC's Curriculum Director, explained her vision of how the room would be remodeled to house up to 50 students at one time.

Aleta in the DSC's new field trip classroom.
Things are changing at the Discovery Space Center.  Be sure to keep up on the news by making The Troubadour your first stop when surfing the web.   Also, be sure to visit the DSC's web site to book your next mission or overnight camp:

BJ in DSC's Kitchen.  "A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen," he always says.

Finally, be sure to say hello to BJ Warner, Lakeview Space Center's Director, who is usually found hiding out in the DSC's kitchen when manual labor and heavy lifting is required :)

Mr. W.

The Imaginarium
The ordinary becomes the Extraordinary

Bring in the New Year with a bit of Joy!  Watch as this little boys steals the show (at 1:05 on the video if you need to fast forward a bit).  

What a great practical joke

A montage of a couple's life together on the staircase
Great things start small.  Let that be a lesson to you

Time for a little rest and relaxation

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Thoughts on The USS Leo's Refit and The Space Center Staff Christmas (Late) Party. Plus, A Very Large Imaginarium.

Hello Troops,
     The Space Center is dark for the two week holiday.  Central School is shuttered tightly and the simulators quiet. In the Center's golden age, the holiday season was a financial blessing.  Mothers were happy to pay us to get their kiddies out from underfoot for a few hours; and what better and safer  place to do that than the Space Center?!  Given that successful holiday track record, it would make sense to open for a few days to earn a few precious dollars for the program.  It appears the Space Center's old mandate to provide for itself and not be a financial burden to its primary stakeholder has changed.
     The Discovery Space Center and the Lakeview Center are both open for the holidays.  I chaperoned the Discovery's overnight camp last Thursday.  We had a good group of campers who had a great time. The Discovery Center also ran a Super Overnight Camp on Friday - an event I declined to chaperone because I'm too old.
     The Space Center started the Super Overnight Camp program in 2004 under the direction of Kyle Herring.  The kids, the staff, and the volunteers all loved the program. I hated it.  The kids didn't go to bed until 2:00 A.M., meaning I couldn't go to bed until 2:30 A.M.  Then it was up again at 7:00 A.M. so the kids could finish their mission before going home at 10:00 A.M.  I'd be a walking zombie the whole next day.
The USS Leo Receives a Face Lift
     The Lakeview Space Center's Leo simulator got a face lift last week in the form of a wall refit.

The Leo had a cinder block wall that had to go.  It was almost as bad as the cement walls easily visible in the Star Trek movie from a couple years ago.  Brandon Wright (red) is seen in the photo above with an unknown Star Fleet maintenance worker hard at work removing all signs of cinder block.  BJ Warner, the director of the Lakeview program, was also there offering moral support, administrative direction and photography :)

The wall, before, and looking very unspace like.

Brandon hard at work. BJ is snapping pictures and offering abundant administration :)

The front of the Leo. Do the words "Very Cool" come to mind?

     Brandon showing what the cinder block wall will look like when its all done.  BJ administered the event and offered proper guidelines to Brandon to ensure his arm was held properly and straight so as not to overly strain his shoulder muscle.  Another suggestion from our friends at Risk Management.            You know the people at Risk Management don't you?  Their motto is, "If it's fun, its dangerous".   They're the ones who had the paralytic fit over the Voyager's spiral staircase.  And how many of our high schools have spiral staircases?  I guess our 23 year history with a spiral staircase didn't matter in their calculations.

The Space Center Staff Celebrate Christmas (Late).

     The Space Center staff gathered for an after Christmas party Saturday night at Connor's Barn. Connor's Barn / Playhouse is nestled in the back woods of Forgotten Canyon just outside of Alpine. Megan was kind enough to invite this old party pooper.  She knew my being there would give her staff a chance to compare and contrast the ancient (me) with the new, hip and modern (her).  Only then would they realize how lucky there were to have me retired and Megan at the Space Center's helm :)    "Out with the old," I thought I heard her say to someone.  I couldn't tell you who that someone was or whether or not she actually said it, but she MIGHT have said it to someone at sometime.  And if its something she might have said, then its good enough to print in The Troubadour!
      Getting to Connor's Barn was an adventure in and of itself.  One minute I was driving down Alpine's Main Street, and the next I found myself bouncing up a dark remote canyon.  The heavily chewed ribbon of asphalt the locals call a road, was a real bone shaker.  I would have driven right by the turn off to the Barn had Jon Parker not been parked roadside directing traffic.
     "What's further up the road?" I asked Connor once I safely entered the barn and removed my shoes.
     "Don't know," Our host replied. "You hear stories about the people who live up there, but I don't think they're true. Let's put it another way, let's hope they're not true."
     I started up the stairs to the great room. "That's kinda freaky."
    "Don't worry, they only come down late at night." Connor's voice was calm.  "You hear them scratching on the side of the barn.  Flip on the security lights and they scatter like deer."
     "Reassuring," I replied. "What do you call them?"
     "The Walkers."  He answered.
     I stopped dead, turned and faced him.  "Walkers! Like the Walking Dead?"  My heart started racing and visions of living through the night of the living dead flooded through my mind.
     Connor laughed.  "Not the Walking Dead.  The Walkers.... that's the name of the family who live up there.  You've really got an active imagination."
     "Tell me about it," I said as the goodies on the kitchen table caught my attention.  

     Connor and Megan look out over Forgotten Canyon from the Great Room's picture window.  The table held a wide variety of sugars, crackers and chips.  Jon's contribution to the snacks was my favorite - a box of Keebler crackers.
      "A box of Saltine Crackers!" I exclaimed after spotting them on the table.

      "You got that right," Jon replied.  "Look at that there box and tell me if it ain't got Christmas written all over it.  Why there's an elf in the corner - ain't that Christmas?  And lookie here at the color, the box is red ain't it? Red is a Christmas color. Now tell me that ain't so?"
     "Jon, did you spend some time with your family in Price recently?" I asked.  A bit of the country always came back with Jon after visiting family in Price.
     "Yes Sir I did,"  he answered proudly.  "Where do ya think I done got that there box of holiday crackers?  Why is ain't Christmas at the Parker home without the Christmas saltines in the red box." Jon stopped talking for a minute when he realized why I had asked the question. "Oh...... is it showin?"
     "The backcountry is pouring out of your mouth like a broken beaver dam across a swollen creek."
     Jon covered his mouth, coughed a few times, then spoke.  "Is this better."
     "Say something more.  You know our test phrase.  Repeat it."
     Jon cleared his throat before reciting our agreed upon test phrase. "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain."  He waited for my verdict.
     "You're good." I smiled and gave him a thumbs up.  "Now, I'll help myself to those Christmas crackers.  I find saltines are the best way to clear one's palette after an overdose of sugary treats."
     "I couldn't agree with you more, my fine fellow," Jon replied.

The Great Hall.  Our white elephants rest on the counter top guarded by the Warner sisters.   

     The Space Center staff gathered in the kitchen to enjoy the snacks and each other's company.
I sat on a fine leather couch closer to the gas fireplace and window.  It was a good place to listen for scratching as the night stole the light away.

     I stayed on the couch while Megan talked to the staff about this summer's camp schedule.  The Space Center will be offering a variety of camps this summer, so be sure to keep an eye on upcoming Troubadour posts to learn more.  
     As I sat there watching Megan interact with her staff,  I kept thinking how awesome it was not to be in charge of a Space Center gathering.  Megan is doing a fantastic job running the Space Center and definitely doesn't need any help from me.  She's got it down - and rightfully so.  She's been at the Center for over 10 years!  She knows what she is doing.  Good Job Megan!
     The gift exchange was fun.  Megan read one of those "left, right" stories.  The gifts kept going back and forth, around our circle until the story ended.  Then it was 4 minutes of controlled chaos as we traded gifts back and forth. Connor and I fought tooth and nail over one of Mrs. Houston's space pillowcases.  Mrs. Houston and Hailey Warner battled over a $25 iTunes gift card.  In the end I got my way.  Connor surrendered the pillowcase.  I think he felt sorry for me.  "Even little victories mean so much to people at his time of life.  Poor old duffer?" I thought I heard him say to Megan.  Of course I could be mistaken.  But he might have said it, and if he might have said it to someone at some point in time, then its worth posting in The Troubadour!  

Mr. W

P.S.  THE FINE PRINT.  Remember, I have this uncontrollable urge to garnish simple stories with trimmings which may or may not be completely digestible - if you catch my meaning.  So read these embellishments with that in mind and have a great day!  If you're on the receiving end of a garnishment then blessed are you indeed.   

The Imaginarium.
When life hands you ordinary, make it Extraordinary

The dog's face tells the story.
Who's the better driver then?

 A Few Amazing Photos