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Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts of the Space Center's 23rd Anniversary. The Video of the Day. The Imaginarium.

Thoughts on our 23rd Anniversary. November 8, 1990 - November 8, 2013

Hello Troops,
Twenty three Years have come and gone. I remember November 8, 1990 very well. I was nervous. I had doubts. I questioned whether I knew what I was doing. Others I felt had thoughts concerning my sanity.

This whole endeavor started with a Young Astronaut Club and a trip to Japan. I saw a school with a small shuttle simulator and wanted one for my club at Central. Suddenly the dream took on its own life. The little ship Pegasus, destined to be built where the Odyssey is now, had exploded into the Voyager – a new addition build onto the school.

So many people were drawn into the project. Great amounts of money and manpower were spent. It had to succeed but I didn't know what `it' was. Failure wasn't an option. I didn't sleep well those first years. My health suffered. My poor heart never completely recovered. The anxiety attacks, I'm happy to say, lasted three years and ended.

I had a building but no real understanding what to do with it. I envisioned a science lab on board a futuristic spaceship but that idea never took root. I experimented with a scientific mission to Mars. There are people that remember that first school mission. We flew at warp speed using HyperCard controls I programmed. Once there we used a Mars laser disc for special effects. We flew around the planet learning about its climate and features. I stood on the bridge next to the Tactical screen. My 6th grade staff (2 kids) sat in the control room listening and waiting for clues on when to play and pause the laser disc player and VCR. How primitive it was compared to what we do now.

After a few Mars missions I felt something was missing. The students showed little excitement. They were just bodies sitting at the computers listening to me. I was in command giving the captain orders on where to go and what to do. It wasn't working.

I thought back to my days in the classroom with the overhead projector, boom box, and paper controls. Then the idea came – do what you've proven successful. Introduce some drama. I quickly pulled a few of my "Star Trek" videos and, using two of the school's VCR's, I edited an ending with a Romulan warbird showing up orbiting Mars. It was a crazy idea but crazy ideas built the Center. I guess being willing to act on crazy impulses is a character trait I should be proud of.

The idea of adding the Romulan scene at the end of the mission worked well. The kids got excited to see the Romulan ship. The little battle thrown into the end of the Mars mission was successful. It convinced me that my original idea of taking a class on an EdVenture into space would work with the general public like it did with my captive 6th grade class.

I sat down and wrote another mission. I believe it was called "Epsilon". It was a story of a planet in the Klingon Neutral Zone. Half the planet was under Federation control and the other was under Klingon control. The treaty, allowing joint control of the planet, was up for renegotiation. The planet would be awarded to the government that demonstrated it could best care for the planet's population.

The story had the Voyager entering the Neutral Zone bringing a new kind of wheat to the planet. This new wheat was genetically engineered to grow well in the planet's harsh climate. The Voyager had a few close calls on the way to the planet and a few others while in orbit. At the end of the mission our classes left the Voyager so excited. I knew I had found the formula and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now here we are 23 years later. Our stories are more complicated and our simulators ten times more sophisticated. Much has happened since that opening day. We went from one ship (the Voyager) to five before last year's Dark Time . Sadly, the Voyager and Odyssey are gone - casualties of the Dark Time. Happily, the Odyssey II was built. It is a fine ship, worthy of its name. Soon we will build a new Voyager at Renaissance Academy. I retired after 30 years with the District. It was the right thing to do. Imagination and creativity sour when micromanaged. I've found a new home at Renaissance Academy and enjoy teaching my sixth grade class and imagineering the next generation Space Center - Farpoint Station.  DSim and the Discovery Space Center in Pleasant Grove opened last March adding four new simulators to the collection. There is a new simulator recently opened at Lakeview Academy in Saratoga Shores.  All of this from those simple lessons taught behind my desk with an overhead projector boom box to a Central Elementary 6th grade class 31 years ago.      

If I had one wish, it would be to see the Voyager once again in all its glory. I'd sit under the dim lights
in the Captain's chair and look across the Bridge. If I listened close enough, I'd hear the voices of 325,000 children locked in the very fabric of the ship. I'd look at the left wing and see the original staff training crews by hand - long before the days of training tapes and mp3 players. I'd see Jacob Bartlett hiding in the corner, sound asleep instead of supervising the mission. I'd hear Russell downstairs playing the blind doctor. I'd watch a much younger Admiral Schuler coming up the stairs to torment the crews in full Star Trek uniform. I'd hear a child's voice shout, "Admiral on the Bridge!" I'd still see that silly slime devil mask pop up over the loft and spray venom on the unsuspecting Security. I'd hear the crew's cheering their victories, and the quiet of mission failure. Those are good memories to think back upon when I'm feeling nostalgic.  

I want to thank everyone for the last twenty-three years. Thank you volunteers for the hours of time you gave us each month. Thank you staff for always going above and beyond the call of duty. 

We truly did something wonderful. 

Shall we set sail for another 23?


Mr. Williamson

 The Video of the Day

The Play of the Year

Technology News

Noise-Canceling Window Treatment Is Everything You Need For A Better Night's Sleep 

Urban living has its perks, but rarely (if ever) is noise mentioned among them.
Until now, heavy curtains or pricey soundproof windows have been the best way to keep the blaring-ringing-talking sounds of the city streets out of urban homes, but Austrian industrial designer Rudolf Stefanich has another option in mind.
Stefanich's 'Sono' device sticks onto your window, turning it into a filter for disruptive noises like car horns and construction work. You can even let pleasant sounds like birds chirping in instead, with the turn of a knob.
Genius? We know, and so do the folks over at the UK's James Dyson Awards, who've listed Sono among the contenders for this year's award in industrial design.

The Imaginarium
Still looking for the extraordinary, in a sea of ordinary.

The Bandit Plate. Awesome

A Cool Teacher

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