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Saturday, October 4, 2014

What I've Been Doing. A Space Center Essay by an Officer of the Old Guard. The Imaginarium.

Hello Space EdVentures Fans!
     Only one post in The Troubadour this week thanks to that event which shall not be mentioned.  Let me just say it involves me, firmly positioned behind my desk at school, facing my students' parental units in a carefully choreographed conversation to fit a small 8 minute window.  For many teachers these conferences involve the truth, and  mild exaggerations of the truth.  My conferences were overall positive thanks to a good class and supportive parents. In the "you can't win them all" category, one parent took her 8 minutes to carefully and gently pick the most non-offending adjectives to tell me - in a roundabout way - while not making too fine a point of it and not wishing to offend in any way - that her child thought school was not quite as fun this year as it was last.  I was too talked out to offer a lengthy rebuttal so immediately used my trusted stand by, catch all explanation, "the pressure of high stakes year end standardized testing". 
     Anyway its all over until March. I've met them and they've met me and like me or not, for the next eight months they're stuck with me. Our lives are connected by this super glue called students.
     I came across this essay written by Discovery Space Center director Bracken Funk when he was a 20 year old flight director at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center back before the Dark Times.  I think Bracken nails the magic created when reality is suspended and story becomes king. I asked him if I could repost the essay here on The Troubadour.  

An Essay by Bracken Funk
Space Center Flight Director

I remember the first time I walked through the doors of the center. It was for an overnight camp. I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into, but I knew what it was supposed to be. It was an experience unlike any other, I knew that. All of the 6th graders had been talking about it for quite some time. I waited in anticipation outside of the front doors. It was early October, not too bad as far as weather goes; a soft breeze grazed our already excitement induced neck hairs as we waited, something similar to how Charlie felt outside of the chocolate factory I'm sure, for the front doors to be opened, and for us to be allowed in.

I stepped through the front doors, and though consciously I knew that those doors were the doors to a school, my imagination took over once inside. I'd always been a Star Trek fan, and because of that, this experience to me was even more exciting than I thought it would be- the hallways of the school became a Federation Starbase. To me, it was real. I suppose I've always been that way though. Even through the 8th grade I would play out on my trap with my lightsaber, yelling at the invisible foe, most of the time playing all of the lead roles in my imaginary play, including the foe. I think that I am just able to create my surroundings the way I want them to be, and block out what I don't want to see, or hear very well. But that school, the minute I walked through the front doors really did transform. That was only the first time I visited.

That time I was put in the Magellan. I was the Chief of Security. I remember well imagining where my security officers were going, and I remember our chief engineer as this jovial fat Aussie, who was a brilliant mind, but not so coordinated. He seemed willing to help, but too busy with the engineering problems to get in our business; but I felt like I knew him before I left.

I came back many times as a young lad, I came because I loved the idea of being a Federation officer. I came because I loved knowing that I was something bigger than myself while I was there. I came because the staff were fun to be around. In my overzealosity (yes, a newly invented Bracken word- it actually came about while I was flying Greenpeace speaking as the John Talbot impersonator), I was quite annoying; but I had good intentions.

But still, to this day, as a 20 year old who still loves the place, I walk through those front doors, and even though I know that I'm in a school, I can't see it. I see a Federation Starbase, and the simulators are still real to me. There is still this magic there when I walk up to the Voyager bridge, or sit down in the Phoenix captain's chair, or open the hatch to the Galileo, or crawl into the Odyssey's engineering hatch, or hear alarms from the Magellan. I don't know why, but the wonder that the Space Center put into the mind of a child, has grown with him and is now cherished much.

So those of you who continue to come to our camps. Remember that. Our job is to give you the means whereby you could entertain yourselves, and then, using your imagination, you create the scenes. You create the outcome. You create the level of involvement you have. You create the characters in your minds, and you live out your own story with them. It's all about what you put into it.

One of the greatest philosophies known to men is the fact that we get out whatever we put in to something. I know for a fact that the Space Center is no different. There is a magic there no matter what you come with. But the more you put in, the more you come away with, the more fun you will have, the more memories you will take with you. I've seen it in thousands of children as they've left my simulator. I have seen it in hundreds of adults as they leave as well.

So remember the magic those front doors contain, and remember that it's you that puts it there.

Bracken Funk

There are eleven simulators dispensing this special magic every day in Utah County with more ships on the drawing board.  DreamFlight Adventures is doing the same in Pennsylvania. Some of the best people who worked for me at the CMSEC are taking this concept to the world at DSim and the CMSEC.  These are exciting times for those of us who proudly say we are true blue Space EdVentures fans. 

Mr. Williamson 

The Imaginarium

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