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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Announcing Farpoint, Our New Space Education Center. Join Us and Go Boldly!

at Kepler 62e

Hello Troops,
Last Wednesday was the official unveiling of Farpoint, a new space education center located in a soon to be constructed building at Renaissance Academy in Lehi.  We are going to have a new space center unlike any before.

The announcement was made at a public meeting held at Renaissance Academy. I was pleased to see so many Space Center fans in attendance. It was like a sea of black Space Center t-shirts!  I felt right at home.

Cathy Allred, a reporter from the Daily Herald, was in attendance and wrote the following article for the paper. 

 Cathy Allred's article from the Daily Herald

Renaissance Academy executive director Marc Ursic unveiled plans Wednesday evening for a $8 million building project that will house a space education center in north Lehi.  Called the Farpoint Institute, the center will be based on programs developed by Victor Williamson.
"I was planning on retiring and then Marc showed up," said Williamson joking at the school presentation. Ursic laughed from the audience sideline.

As a student teacher, the former director of Alpine School District's space center at Central Elementary had wanted to get an A grade on his student teaching performance assessment. To do that, he reached to go beyond the ordinary and did something extraordinary in the classroom.  He set up a simulation of a space ship and taught the students about space through placing them in the ship. He not only got the A, he went on to develop an award winning space cadet club and integrated his simulation learning with the school curriculum.

"How many teachers tell their principal they want to build a space ship inside the building?" Williamson asked the audience. "Well, 320,000 students later, here we are," he said looking out at the audience.  After teaching at Central Elementary for 23 years, he ended up with not one but several space ships for students. In 2012, the school district had to shut down the center for renovations and safety concerns.

When Williamson started teaching in the 1980s, he was able to do long duration missions and have the students go on a space mission, be given problems where they would have to go outside the mission to study, research and find solutions. The LDM's were weeks long and involved a broader spectrum of subjects. Students would not only learn but have fun while learning and helping one another learn for the success of the mission.

"That is one of the great things about this program is students teaching students," said Brent Anderson.  Depending on the students solutions, the mission would succeed or fail. If the mission failed, they would "die" and another mission begun.

"Being able to operate here will allow me to go back and do some of that stuff," Williamson said.
The science, technology, engineer, art and mathmatics program, an expansion of STEM, will be integrated into the center for the students and the entire program is a joint educational initiative by Renaissance Academy and the Space EdVentures Foundation, the foundation of which Williamson is chairman.

Ursic said the new addition to the campus will also house the middle school classes on the second floor. "We're excited about it," he said.

There is a timeline that has to be strictly followed for the building to open for the students by the projected 2014-15 school year. First, the Utah State School Board must approve the project. Second, the approval must come no later than October. Once the projected is granted, the groundbreaking for the building can be as early as January 2014, he said, admitting it was a tight schedule.

Parents can already sign their fifth to ninth grade age children up for the public offerings -- workshops, computer program classes, merit badge classes, simulation labs. More information on a specific program is available online at

There is a Cadets Only program as well that will have programming and animation guilds, regular club meetings, LDMs, field trips and volunteering.  "We see in our plan for the future as a community not just Renaissance kids," Ursic said.

The following are conceptual designs of the new building housing Renaissance Academy's middle school and Farpoint.  These are preliminary designs and should not be considered the final floor plan for the school or Farpoint.

 Farpoint will be designed as a space station, complete with docking ports for the new starship simulators, classrooms, and a place for a digital planetarium.

 Farpoint's missions and lessons will be integrated into the school's curriculum.  Students will form flight teams to participate in long duration missions stretching several months.  These missions will include all the drama, sci-fi, music, humanities and theatrical elements everyone loves from the original Space Center I founded 23 years ago.  STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) activities will be included in these fantastic voyages, giving the curriculum meaning and purpose.

 Renaissance students will participate in Farpoint programs during the school day;  so, there is an advantage to attend Renaissance Academy (get your name on their waiting list.  It is a K-9 school).   Farpoint missions and lessons will be available to the general public after school, weekends and summers.  This includes:

1.  Field trips open to all schools during the school day:  9:30 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.
     We are 7 minutes away from Thanksgiving Point.  Teachers will be able to
     choose either a full 4 hour Farpoint field trip, or a joint Thanksgiving Point
     / Farpoint field trip.  An excellent option if you want to include the soon to
     open Museum of Natural Curiosities or the Dinosaur Museum.
2.  Private Missions and Parties after school, evenings and Saturdays.
3.  Overnight and summer camps.
4.  Farpoint Institute classes.
5.  SimLabs (Cadets only)
6.  Long Duration Missions (Cadets only)
7.  Teacher workshops.
8.  Planetarium programs.


What is a Farpoint Cadet?

A Farpoint Cadet is a member of a space club for children and teens.  The club will have monthly meetings.  Cadets may become more involved by specializing their experience by applying to join one of Farpoint's Departments:

1.  Computer programming / animation:  creates and maintains the space station's
     computers and technology.
2.  Writing:  Authors the station's newspaper, mission logs, and station reports to
     Fleet Command.  
3.  Engineering:  Builds and maintains the starship and station's engineering
     needs.  This includes electrical, plumbing, etc.
4.  Medical / exobiology:  Staffs the stations medical department, staffs the
     starship's medical bays and provides exobiologists for long duration missions.
5.  Astrophysics:  specializes in astronomy and space flight.  They plot and
     create mission objectives for the long duration scientific missions.
6.  Command:  specializes in leadership training.

Cadets may also volunteer to work in the simulators at the Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove.

There is a $20 membership fee to become a cadet.  Other fees may be charged for activities.

I realize you may have several questions.  I'll do my best to answer them in future posts.  Please post your questions to the comments section.

The time has come.  We need ALL HANDS ON DECK to make this a success.  Volunteers and sponsors will be needed to help build and launch Farpoint.  It is a community effort. Please keep reading The Troubadour for further details on how you can get involved.  And, please 'like' our Farpoint Institute Facebook page.  My staff tell me liking us important, as if I'm too old not to understand the importance of social media!

Thanks for your support!
Mr. Williamson 

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