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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Two Simulators Launch in Pennsylvania! The Space Center Concept Spreads. The Imaginarium.

The Glorious Launch of the IKS Buccaneer

Today the IKS Buccaneer officially launched in front of hundreds awe-struck young minds at Stewart Elementary School in the Burrell School District , Pennsylvania. 
Admiral Octavius, also known as the mild-mannered Brian Colgan, directed a non-stop day of back-to-back mini missions to give each of Stewart Elementary’s 200+ students a brief taste of the incredible journeys that are now available to them on a daily basis.
The result of a $20,000 STEAM grant and a healthy dose of passion and commitment on behalf of the Burrell School District, the IKS Buccaneer is the latest addition to the rich and forward-looking STEM curriculum that permeates all levels of Stewart Elementary.  We’re truly impressed at the quality of the Buccaneer and the dedication of its team at Stewart Elementary.  It has been an honor bringing this exciting new simulator to fruition.
And now, without further ado, here are so more photos from the momentous day.

The Launch of the IKS Dreamcatcher

The excitement just doesn’t stop!  Hot on the heels of the launch of the IKS Buccaneer, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of the IKS Dreamcatcher in Penn Hills Elementary.
DSC_1036 Guests gathered in the school’s large cafeteria where they were greeted by an entourage of flight directors wearing stunning flight suits—I’m sooooo jealous!  They even have the school’s emblem, Dream Flight logo, and words “Flight Commander” embroidered onto the suit.  They looked incredible!
Upon arriving, each guest was given a name tag with a crew assignment—four crews in total—for their upcoming mission.
The event kicked off with some nice remarks from the district’s forward-thinking administrators, followed by a somewhat fumbled delivery of a speech by Admiral Zenobia and myself.
Then, our attention became focused on the big screen as our mission briefing began to play.  Earth was in danger, and one by one the crews were called upstairs to board the IKS Dreamcatcher on a short mission in its defense.
While waiting for their turn, each guest had the wonderful opportunity to chat with some of Penn Hills Elementary’s brightest young minds as they discussed their favorite missions and crew stations.  They were buzzing with enthusiasm for the simulator and the adventures they had had inside.  They described the gripping dangers they faced and how they used their wits to come out victorious.
They also told me about their ideas for new missions and adventures—which was one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of the night.  I simply love seeing how Dream Flight Adventures is inspiring a new generation of dreamers, thinkers, and doers!
Then, the alarm rang and it was our time to board the Dreamcatcher.
Notice the swarm of student-made dreamcatchers that fill the briefing room.  I was surprised to learn that the students had been making these for years and the launch of the IKS Dreamcatcher was just a happy coincidence.  Also, I loved the mission posters framed and mounted on the wall—it gave a very classy look to the briefing room.
The inbound crew passes through the mystic curtain…
And enters the Dreamcatcher’s bridge where they received some final guidance from Admiral Conundrum.DSC_1066
It was a magical night, and one of the crowning moments was when a student told me “Thanks for inventing this.  It’s awesome!”

Burrell Students Embark on Educational Adventure

Liz Hayes from Trib Total Media attended yesterday’s launch event for the IKS Buccaneer and wrote a fantastic article about it.  
Stewart Elementary School students on Tuesday narrowly escaped from an erupting volcano, survived a pandemic disease, and were submerged to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.They accomplished all this and more without leaving the classroom of science teacher Brian Colgan. Burrell School District formally started the IKS Buccaneer — an adventure simulator that administrators believe will help students develop teamwork, critical thinking and creative skills.
“This is the future of education,” said Stewart Principal Greg Egnor, “and we're on the cutting edge.”
The district converted a former science lab into a setup that uses a flat-screen television, hand-held tablets and special effects to resemble a mission control flight deck straight out of science fiction. Superintendent Shannon Wagner has likened it to the starship Enterprise from “Star Trek.”
A team of about 17 students is tasked with completing missions that include determining whether a volcano will erupt and wipe out a tourist destination; saving diplomatic relations between two civilizations by curing a plague; and preventing a time warp from changing the history of the sinking of the Lusitania and altering the outcome of World War I.
The students — dubbed the Infinity Knights — are given individual roles such as pilot, engineer, gunner, doctor and hacker. They must work together to solve problems, including the surprise hurdles Colgan throws in their path in his role as flight director.
Egnor said the simulator meshes well with the school's focus on science, technology, engineering and math concepts, but also pulls in other topics including history, health, literature and social issues.
The Vesuvius lesson deals with volcanoes, plate tectonics and geology, but it also considers economics and emergency preparedness. The Pandemic mission blends immunology and anatomy with the history of the Spanish conquistadors and Aztecs. The Lusitania mission combines marine biology and sonar with World War I history and literary references to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Egnor said the simulator at first will be used as an “internal field trip,” but he sees the missions eventually getting worked into the curriculum.
The program, developed by Pittsburgh-based Dream Flight Adventures, so far has seven scripted missions plus three “create your own” options that can be built off the space, ocean or anatomy base themes. Creative director Gary Gardiner said as more missions are developed, they'll be added to Burrell's catalogue.
Gardiner and his wife, Sarah Gardiner, designed the program in their living room a few years ago. After presenting their concept at an educational conference, Shaler Area School District became the first to commission a simulator two years ago. Burrell has the second simulator, and three more districts will be starting soon, including Penn Hills on Wednesday. Gary Gardiner credits an immersive space camp experience when he was in fifth grade with providing the inspiration for Dream Flight Adventures, which is about to “go global” as the family prepares to move to England to collaborate with a British theme park company. Egnor said Gardiner helped the district acquire $20,000 in grant money from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, the Grable Foundation, and the Benedum Foundation to fund Burrell's simulator.
The district's maintenance staff began converting the classroom into the simulator in the fall. Since construction occurred behind closed doors, Tuesday was the first day most students saw the new technology.
“I like being able to control the ship and work together with my friends,” said fifth-grader Michael Blubaugh, who piloted the IKS Buccaneer for several demonstrations.
Alison Hughes, a fourth-grader, said she enjoyed being the team's communicator and hacker during the Vesuvius mission. She was looking forward to the anatomy mission.
Amelia Sallach, also in fourth grade, wanted to experience more of the underwater missions.
“I like how it teaches us about the environment and space, all while we're having fun,” Sallach said. “I think it's just really cool.

Read more: Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

The Imaginarium