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Friday, January 18, 2013

Discovery Space Center EXPOSED!

 Rumors are spreading through the Space Center community about another Space Center in Pleasant Grove.  One rumor says it is the new Space Center.  Another rumor overhead at local bus and train stations says the Space Center at Central School has been closed and a new Space Center at Stonegate is taking its place.  Still another insidious rumor being bantered about playground and faculty rooms involves the Alpine School District backing and supporting a new Space Center, leaving the original Center to wallow and decay.

Are any of these rumors true?  What is the story behind this new Discovery Space Center causing good Christian's in the know to gossip in such numbers? What is the secret behind this not so secret society headquartered in what was once an LDS church in the Manilla section of Pleasant Grove?

The editors of The Troubadour set out to find answers to these questions and more.   Our investigative report infiltrated this Society of Space Center Friends (SSCF) to discover the truth behind the Discovery Space Center.  His findings are presented in this "special edition" post of The Troubadour.  What you are about to read may shock and disturb the young and innocent.  We recommend reader discretion.

The Discovery Space Center EXPOSED!

Nestled to the north by a serious overgrowth of bush and trees, and to the south a somewhat busy, sidewalkless road leading to the Mt. Timpanogoes Temple, sits the Stonegate Center for the Arts.  Stonegate was once an old LDS church.  The property was purchased and completely renovated by the Bott family of Pleasant Grove.  A large pre-school operates out of the bottom section of the building.  The main floor has two large wedding reception halls where dance classes are held during the week.

I spent some time with a few of the Space Center's most senior staff before taking this assignment to infiltrate the Discovery Space Center.  I needed to learn Space Center vocabulary,  Space Center staff and volunteer mannerisms,  Space Center inside jokes and Space Center 'round the water cooler' stories if I wanted to be accepted as a Space Center volunteer by the SSCF who are building and operating this new Discovery Space Center.  

"You're going to have to nerd up if you want them to believe you're one of us," Bill Schuler warned me after grilling me on my last vocabulary lesson.  Bill is the Space Center's Director of Special Operations.  The Director assigned him to train and prepare me for this delicate assignment.   "Knowing what a warp drive engine is and how its powered is one thing, but looking like you bath regularly and spend the money on a hair stylist will make them suspect your true identity.   Its too dangerous.  If you're caught, you know the Director will disavow any knowledge of your actions.  Mr. Williamson will drop you like a hot potato.  Get this right or you'll end up swimming with the carp in Utah Lake."

After two weeks of intense training and shadowing Bill, I felt I was ready to take on the SSCF.  It was time to expose the Discovery Space Center.

Saturday, January 12.

9:00 A.M.
Bill dropped me off two blocks east of the Discovery Space Center to ensure my cover wouldn't be blown.  It was bitter cold.  My new missionary haircut (again, doing my best to look like I fit in) left my ears defenseless to frostbite.  I looked down at my coat as I worked my way across the ice and snow.  The strategically applied stains down the front zipper were a good final touch, giving me the appearance of a Space Center worker too preoccupied with my own inner universe to care about my outward appearance.

9:10 A.M.
I noticed the security cameras first as I approached the compound.  One camera turned to face me directly.  I removed my glove and flashed the Vulcan V salute.  I replaced my glove.  I expected someone to stop me before I reached the back entrance.  I wasn't.   I debated whether to knock on the door or just go in.  I decided to go for it and just walk in.
I stood in the entrance waiting to be stopped by the Discovery Space Center's security.  I heard people upstairs 

"Hello?" I called out.  The air smelled of fresh paint.  I touched the steel gray wall.  The paint was still tacky.

"Can I help you?"  I looked up to see a high school student standing on the stairway landing above me.  It was time to put my training to the test.  I couldn't risk having my cover blown.  I needed to be convincing if I wanted to be accepted as a  SSCF. 

"I'm a volunteer over at the Space Center and heard about this place, so I thought I'd come over and see what you guys are up to," I answered.  He looked at me curiously - as if he was trying to access some long forgotten memory to put a name to my face.

"I don't remember you."  He was genuinely stumped.  I had to think fast. 

"You and I only worked together once.  I'm trying to remember your name too."  My training taught me to turn the doubt back onto the doubter.

"My name's Jorden."

"That's right...... Jorden.  Now I remember.  It was right on the tip of my tongue. You and I worked together on that one Shadows mission.  You know the one I'm talking about, right?  Where that kid.........., Ah...... help me out." 

"Where the kid threw up?"  Jorden volunteered.

"That's it!  Where the kid threw up.  Hey, my name is Earl?"

I picked Earl as my undercover name because I thought it sounded like a Space Center name.  Jorden was still confused.  My heart beat faster.  I reached into my pocket and got ready to push the emergency extraction panic button.  The Troubadour team was parked just out of camera range further up the hill.  One push of the panic button and they'd be at Stonegate's front door in seconds.

And once again, my training kicked in.  "Hey Jorden, how would I remember about the kid throwing up if I wasn't there.  Come on, its me Earl."  There was a long, uncomfortable pause.  My scheme was working.  Jorden looked like he couldn't trust his memory.

"Now I remember you?" he lied, but said it anyway not wanting to cause offense.

"So, what's going on?" I quickly changed the subject once I knew he had taken the bait.  Jorden took a few minutes to fill me in on the very basics.  His intell was good, but I wasn't there to talk to a  minor functionary.  I wanted to talk to the big cheese himself.  I knew he was there.  His late model car was in the parking lot.

"Is Casey here?" I asked nonchalantly, hoping it wouldn't set off warning bells in Jorden's head.

"Sure, wait here.  I'll go get him."  Jorden disappeared up the stairs.  I was surprised it was so easy to gain access to the mastermind himself.

Casey walked down the stairs and took my hand in a warm greeting.  He looked like the picture I memorized in my briefing;  somewhat tall, somewhat lanky, somewhat young, and somewhat clean shaven.  He looked like someone who needed a few nights of uninterrupted sleep.

9:27 A.M.
Casey Voeks took me on an unrestricted tour of the Discovery Center.   Everyone he introduced me to was friendly and answered all my questions.   I snapped pictures as we walked.

9:50 A.M.
I asked Casey if we could sit down and chat for a second.  I told him I had a few more questions.  He took me into his small office in the back of the building.
  •  Me:  "Is the Discovery Center taking the place of the Space Center at Central School?"
  • Casey: "Absolutely not.  The Space Center is going to reopen with the Magellan, Phoenix and Galileo simulators.  Pleasant Grove will have two Space Centers."
  • Me:  "Some people say the Discovery Center is either sponsored or partnered with the Alpine School District.  Is this true?"
  • Casey:  "No, where are you hearing these rumors?  We are not sponsored by the Alpine School District.  The Space Center belongs to the Alpine School District and The Discovery Space Center belongs to the owners of Stonegate."  
  • Me:  "Are the two Space Center going to be competitors?"
  • Casey:  "No.  Remember, the Space Center will only be taking one class per day on a field trip.  That means very few classes will be able to go on a Space Center field trip.  The Discovery Space Center will be taking two or three classes per day.  That means schools that would not be able to go to the Space Center can come here.  Nobody gets left out.  Between the Space Center and the Discover Space Center we will be able to take care of all the Alpine District Schools.  The Discovery Center will also be able to take field trips from schools outside of the Alpine School District.  The Space Center will not .  Its a win win situation."  
  • Me:  "What about private missions and camps?"
  • Casey:  "Right now, the Space Center will not be running an after school private mission program or summer camps.  That might change, but for now they will be running field trips only.  The Discovery Space Center will be running after school, evening and weekend private missions and camps.  Everybody can still get the Space Center experience at the Discovery Center."  
  • Me: "I'm impressed."
  • Casey:  "You should be, but there's more.  We're going to be offering classes to anyone interested in computer programming, script writing, and film making.  There's more, but I don't remember them at the moment."
  • Me:  "What about volunteers?"
  • Casey: "The Discovery Space Center cannot have volunteers.  We are a for profit Center.  We will offer internships to students who graduate from our classes."  
  • Me:  "I've heard you're stealing staff away from the Space Center to come work here.  Is this true?"
  • Casey:  "Not stealing.  Remember, the Space Center's staff was layed off in October when the Space Center closed for repair.   Most of them will not be able to go back to the Space Center until the Center opens for after school private missions.  So, its either come work for us or not have a Space Center job."  
  • Me:  "So, Utah County is going to have two Space Centers, one belonging to the Alpine School District and one here at Stonegate?"  
  • Casey:  "That's right.  We're not competing.  The Space Center will continue its field trip program for one class.  Discovery will pick up the rest.  The Space Center's fans are the real winners." 
  • Me:  "Will the Discovery Space Center's simulators be operating in a Star Trek like universe like the Space Center?
  • Casey:  "No, we have our own science fiction universe."   
  • Me:  "When do you expect to open?"
  • Casey:  "We hope to open mid March if all goes well."
  • Me:  "How do people contact you?"
  • Casey: "Through our web site.

10:00 A.M.
I thanked Casey for his time and left.  Did I EXPOSE the Discovery Space Center?  Yes, I believe I did.  I exposed it for what it is, a new Space Education Center working to provide a service to the thousands and thousands of people in Utah who loved the Space Center experience and want to continue to participate in its unique blend of entertainment and education where ever they can.  

Welcome Discovery Space Center into the SpaceEdVentures Organization!

 BJ Warner, former Odyssey flight director,  working on the a few finishing touches to an 
exterior wall of the Discovery Space Center

One of the new engineering panels destine to keep some young engineer very very busy and stressed in new upcoming missions at the Discovery Space Center.

The latest construction techniques with foam are being utilized in the Discovery Space Center's
Simulators.  These foam pieces are sitting the the Galileo Room of the Discovery Center.  This will be the main entrance into the Center.

The captain's platform in one of the four new simulators under construction at
the Discovery Space Center

Jon and Connor manhandling one of the new foam ceiling pieces into one of the simulators.

Casey, posing with a paint roller, giving the impression he is just 'one of the guys' and mucks in
to get the dirty work done.  I'll bet he was back in his office sipping a Diet Coke seconds after 
this photo was taken.

Was I Right?!
Here he is working on new missions and taking bookings for school field trips.

The main stairway leading from the main level up to the ships.

The Atlantis, the Discovery Center's large 14-16 person simulators under construction.

Two inductees of the SSCF
There is a great deal of energy at the Discovery Space Center.  You can't visit without
picking up a hammer and joining right in with the good old country barn raising!

A raised platform in one of the two bigger simulators at the Discovery Space Center.

Looking out from the Atlantis bridge toward the Galileo Room.

Randy and Ryan Bott (owners of Stonegate) traveled to Oregon to pick up the four 'transporters' for the simulators.

The Transporters sit in the Galileo Room awaiting placement into the simulators.

Hello Troops,
This tongue in cheek essay introduces our Space Center fans to the Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove.

I'm working with the Alpine District to find a way to open our simulators after school and Saturdays for camps and classes.  Our volunteer program will continue when we resolve the liability issue.   One idea under discussion would be to allow our non profit Space EdVentures Foundation to rent the Space Center's simulators and provide our own insurance.  We may be asking for your help to raise enough funds necessary to do this.  More to follow in future posts.
The Troubadour is the home for friends of all the education centers that practice our Discipline of Wonder.  Be sure to read The Troubadour often for news on The Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove.  Other posts will give you news about Gary Gardiner's Dream Flight Adventures in Pennsylvania and James Porter's Space Center in development in Logan, Utah.
And of course, the Mother Center - The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center at Central School:  All members of our Space EdVentures organization. 

Please feel free to post comments and questions.  Your questions will be answered in a later post.

Mr. W.  

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