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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mr. Williamson's Fits of Rage in the Control Room? Nah, Whatcha Talkin About. What it Was Like Working the 48 Hour Overnight Camps During the Voyager Era. (Including the Entire Happy Bucket Speech). Theater Imaginarium.

Post from the Past: April 14, 2001 
Mr. Williamson's Fits of Rage in the Control Room (thanks Stephen, the only one with the guts to tell me to my face).  Brady Young Introduces Danny Goodman. Josh Webb and Bridger H. Save the Day. Calm Flight Directors and Tyrants (Like Mr. W).

Give the Old Guy a Break.  Running the Center, Flight Directors both Field Trips and Overnight Camps
Wow, it's a wonder I made it to Retirement
Hello Troops,
A busy week as always at the Space Center. This week we entertained  Barratt and Aspen Elementary Schools. We also serviced Barnett Elementary in an afterschool program. It was a week full of 5th graders. Fun kids but the missions need to be adjusted downward 
for that grade level.

Sego Lily and Aspen Elementary Schools supplied our overnight camp participants. Good crews for the most part. The Magellan tried something different this overnight mission. Brady Young (Blue Shirt) did an excellent job playing Danny Goodman from station security for the Magellan crew.  Playing Danny was profitable for Brady. He made over $10.00 in votes after the overnight mission. The kids really took to him as well. Playing an established second story character is a chance to do something for many of you who come to the missions and just sit and wait for something to do. Go out into the simulator and interact with our patrons. Everyone wins! You have a good time and get to work on your acting skills and the crew benefits from experiencing a better simulation.

A Thank You to Josh Webb who saved the day on Wednesday. Our sixth graders were at Clear Creek. Mr. Yeager had to take the day off.  We were so short staffed for the afternoon flight that Stephen Porter was going to work the bridge and the 2FX station in the Voyager. Josh showed up with lunch in hand just to say hi at the right time. We put him to work. Thanks, Josh.

Another thank you to Bridger H. from the Pioneers. He worked the Friday afterschool Odyssey mission. After his mission, he volunteered to stay and help on the overnight mission because we were so short-handed. Easter weekend took a toll on our staffing.

Apple's internet Mac publication is asking about the Center. Mr. Schuler is preparing an article to be sent to the ezine. There is a good chance they will publish it. 

Stephen Porter brought up an interesting point after the overnight mission that I would like to take a minute to touch upon. He told me that sometimes I get, well how to say, "involved" or "focused" as I say in the missions and can get downright rude at times with staff in the heat of a simulation. He suggested that I tone it down a few levels and not shout in the control room. I'm aware of my antics folks. I'm aware that I can get very "to the point" with staff during a mission. This is something I've tried to control for 10 years with no luck. It is the way I'm wired and it will send me to an early grave for sure but with me, you get the whole package - the good and the bad. 

Mr. Williamson flying the Voyager.  I could get "focused". Too much of a perfectionist I suppose.

I want everyone that works with me to know that if I'm stressed and "yelling" in the room that I don't really mean it to hurt feelings. I just need something done and I need it done right that second. Any flight director knows that running a simulation is as much a science as an art. Our simulators are our instruments. We play those instruments and when we play our simulators our hearts, minds, and souls are poured into it. I become the Voyager when I'm running a mission. I am the ship. When the story calls for the ship to be in crisis I am 
in crisis. I cannot separate the confusion and panic of the ship and in an instant become a calm quiet person in the control room. Maybe some directors can but not me. I yell. I'm focused. I'll be very direct with my staff. I'll not mince words. Please understand. Don't 
take it personally and learn. 

Yes, I think there are times I put on a better show in the control room than I do on the bridge. 

Each flight director has their own style. Mine is in your face! I've always been like that in my teaching. Emotional........learning should be an emotional thing. If I have you by the heart then I know your mind has come along for the ride. 

I realize some of you may not work well with a flight director like me. I've no problem with that. If my style doesn't work for you and makes you feel uncomfortable then please do not volunteer for Voyager missions. Stick to ships with flight directors you feel good working 
with. We have five simulators to choose from and many flight directors. I want you to have a positive experience when you come to the Center to volunteer. Please go to a ship that will give you that experience. 

And to those that can tolerate my outbursts and frantic arm waving - thank you. Together I believe we make beautiful music with this instrument called the Voyager.

Mr. Williamson

Working a 48 Hour Camp in the CMSEC's Voyager Era.  The First Summer Camp of 2007. 

Emily Perry Leading the staff and volunteers in their Awesomeness Exercises to psych themselves up for the camp.

With the closing of the Voyager and Odyssey in August 2012 the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center officially ended the Overnight Camp program. The CMSEC's Voyager Era came to a close.  My estimate puts between 40,000 and 50,000 students attended the one to four night overnight camps held year round during those 22 years.  It was an amazing accomplishment representing the talents, drive, and dedication of hundreds of staff and volunteers.  We were overwhelmingly successful in what we accomplished. 

Sadly, many of today's staff and volunteers will never have the opportunity to stage a two night, three-day camp with 40 and 62 campers.  So, why not pick one of those average camps and let you see it through the eyes of the camera. 

For today's post, I chose the first 48 hour, two-night summer camp of the 2007 season as the camp to highlight.  

Loading Stations
     •  All the simulators would still be flying their 4:00 P.M. private missions, so the Center would be busy with activity. 
     •  The camp staff and volunteers would be gathered in the gym waiting for me to start our 6:15 P.M. staff meeting.  About this time I'd walk in and ask why the sign in tables and
chairs weren't set up. The older staff would look around to confirm the fact and wait for the

volunteers to jump up and get the job done. Two tables would be pulled from the stage's
north closet; one set up for sign-ins near the door and the other be set up for me near the gym's south exit. 
     •  I'd sit down at the corner of the sign-in table with the staffing sheet. 
     •  "OK Troops, we've got a full camp with 22 boys and 20 girls, so the boys will be sleeping in the ships (the staff and volunteer girls would moan).  All the ship are flying.  Jon will fly the Voyager, Mark the Magellan, Christine the Odyssey, Megan in the Phoenix and Stacy in the Galileo. The supervisors are.....
     •  Now was the time to ask where the volunteers wanted to work.  "Who is in the middle of passing off a ship?"  The hands would go up.  They got first choice.  Then it went by seniority with the longest-serving volunteers getting the first pick.  The lowest boy or girl on the totem pole usually got stuck in the Galileo or Phoenix doctor. 
     •  Then it was time to assign "loading stations". 
         "Who wants to be the friendly door greeter?" 
         "Who wants to be the friendly hallway pointer?"
         "Who wants boy's gear?"  That would be the person responsible to show where the boys put their sleeping gear.
         "Who wants girl's gear?
         "Who wants to sign in?"  I'd pick four for that job.  They needed to have fairly legible handwriting
      •  The meeting usually ended by 6:30 P.M.  I'd give them a few minutes to use the restroom before reminding them to be in their loading stations at 6:40 P.M. 

Campers Arrive

Of course, I was always in my place at the rank table at 6:40 P.M. but that wasn't always the case with the staff on the sign in table. More times than not I'd send a volunteer out to look for the sign in staff.  Once we were in place I'd give the order. "Go tell them we're ready." 
A volunteer would run to the front door to deliver the message. By then the school's foyer was full of younglings, sleeping bags, pillows, and backpacks.  The camp started. 

The staff not signing in were supposed to be cleaning the ships.  That was sometimes the case. 

As you can see here, BJ Warner and Caity Lee found loading time as the perfect time to eat supper.

Starting the Camp with my well-rehearsed speech
 Around 7:25 P.M. I'd get up from my table to give the "Welcome to the Space Center" speech.  I'd go over the camp schedule, rules, behavior expectations, etc.  The "Welcome" speech always included the Happy Bucket segment.

Mr. Williamson's Happy Bucket Overnight Camp and Super Saturday Speech (as best as I can remember)
Occasionally people get sick during our camps.  Occasionally people explode.

Some people easily explode. They see something they don't like - they vomit.  They smell something disgusting - they vomit. Then there are people like me who rarely, if ever,  throw up.  I threw up once in my entire life. I was 8 years old; it was Valentine's Day. My mother gave me a large bag of those gross, hard candy hearts with little sayings on them. I was suppose to take them to school and pass them out to everyone in my class.

Well, what did the selfish little pig do? I brought the full bag of candy home and secretly ate all of them right before going to bed.  The explosion was Earth shaking.  My bed was covered in partially digested candy Valentine's Day hearts.  Mother was furious that I'd eaten the entire bag at once. She was even more furious I hadn't given them out to my classmates. I was grounded from candy for a long time after that.     

I've seem some very nasty explosions in the 22 years I've run this Center.   During one camp I had a boy raise his hand and tell me that he had to throw up.  "Go!" I said pointing toward the restrooms. I followed a minute behind to check on him.  When I got there, I saw that the bathroom sink was lined with  a gooey mixture of something I identified as having once been Top Ramen.  The boy had both hands on the sink.  His head was perfectly positioned to make another deposit.

"Wow, I guess you didn't like your supper very much," I said to lighten the mood.

"My mom was gone.  My Dad cooked the supper," the boy explained.  His face contorted to show me what he thought of his dad's cooking.

So, what do you do if you feel an explosion coming?   Tell a member of our staff that you're not feeling very good and you need a Happy Bucket.  We have small buckets called Happy Buckets we give to campers who think they might throw up.  They're called Happy Buckets because I'm the one who cleans up the vomit.  So when you get "It" in the bucket, it makes me HAPPY!

You keep the Happy Bucket with you all the time until the feeling is gone.  Just say this to anyone who makes fun of you for having a Happy Bucket,   "I either throw up in the bucket or on you, take your pick!"   

Let's say there isn't enough time to ask for a Happy Bucket. You feel it coming.  It's Mount Vesuvius getting ready to erupt, its Old Faithful ready to spout.  Look for the nearest trash can if we can't get a Happy Bucket to you in time.  If you can't get to a trash can, then look around for some place on the floor that doesn't have carpet.  Cleaning up vomit from a hard floor is easy.  Cleaning a carpet means we have to close the ship, get everyone out, bring in the carpet cleaning machine etc etc.

Let's say there isn't enough time to get a Happy Bucket or a trash can and you can't find uncarpeted floor.  That's when we go to the nuclear option.  Grab the front of your uniform, hold it up from both corners and use it to contain the explosion.  It's going to get on the uniform anyway, so why not use the uniform to keep it off the carpet.  You get yourself cleaned up, the uniform goes to the laundry and all is well.

Now, don't get upset if you throw up.  It's no big deal even if it gets on the carpet.  I'm happy to cleaned it up.  I'm only telling you these things in case there is enough time to do something about it - like ask for a Happy Bucket.  
With the Happy Bucket speech finished, it was time to introduce the Flight Directors and assign the campers to their first rotation, a short 2.5 hour mission to get their feet wet and appetites juiced for the longer 5 hour missions to come the next day.

Assigning campers to their ships.  Taylor Thomas is checking something with Megan before taking the Odyssey Crew.

Off goes the kids assigned to the Odyssey

Casey Voeks is taking the Magellan crew.

All crews made a mandatory stop at the restrooms for the "Washing of the Hands" and "Emptying of the Bladder" ritual.  

Taylor Thomas waits for the Odyssey crew to finish the Restrooms Ritual

Next stop, mission briefings. 
Megan Warners briefs the crew of the Phoenix.  That's Kyle Herring at my desk working on something

Stacy Carrell Briefs the Galileo crew in the Faculty Room.
To Be Continued in the Next Post.......

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Gifs of The Week Edited for a Gentler Audience

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Space Center's First Official Official Programmer, Brian Hawkins, Presents a short History of the CMSEC in the 1990's. The Imaginarium.

Brian Hawkins was a Space Center legend throughout the mid to late 1990's, responsible for so many Space Center "Firsts".  Upon hearing of my faulty, spotty memory of that time period, he wrote the following concise history of the 90's in the Winter of 2007.  I touched base with Brian this Fall and asked for those memories.  He graciously replied by reminding me of the history he'd written ten years earlier.  He sent the document by email. Today you get to read it yourself.

The following people and events are highlighted:  Dave Wall, Steve Wall, Kirby Glad, Mark Daymont, Bill Schuler, Stephen Porter, Allan Stewart, Bart Mills, Tony Gover, Jake Mattson, the X-Craft, the Voyager, the Odyssey, The First Color Controls, the First Color Computers, the First Network using AppleTalk, and so much more..... 

Thank you, Admiral Hawkins,


Brian on the Bridge of the Magellan

The Space Center's History During the First Decade
As Remembered by Brian Hawkins
Winter 2007  

As long as everyone's throwing out history, I thought I would add my two (or more) cents.  My journey from Space Center participant to flight director was unique, and perhaps the first of its kind-- although it is much more common now.  So here goes . . .

The USS Voyager as Brian knew it in the 1990's.  This is the Left Wing with the Telephone Station Below.

I first attended the Space Center not long after it opened as part of my sixth-grade class (Cherry Hill Elementary, Orem, Utah).  I need not describe how amazing it was-- all of us know that feeling.  I immediately resolved to return as many times as the Space Center and my parent's; pocketbook would allow.  Generally, that meant once or twice a year-- always a summer mission, and sometimes a private overnighter during Christmas break if I was lucky.  Again, I need not waste words describing how excited I felt about each trip to the Space Center.

After a few years of attending missions, I wanted to do more.  First, I knew that the Space Center computers ran on HyperCard, and I knew I had HyperCard on my Mac at home.  I started wondering whether I could program Space Center-like controls on my home computer, so I taught myself HyperCard.  Also, I was a soundtrack junkie, and I began to hear a lot of movie music that struck me as Space Center-appropriate.  Finally, I was big into theater at school, so I was gaining a lot of acting and fake-accent experience.

All of these tendencies began to converge when Vic announced a new class at the Space Center-- a story development workshop.  This was in the Winter/Spring of 1993.  My personal suspicion was that Vic was running out of story ideas and decided to teach a class on the subject as a way of milking new ideas out of us.  In any event, it was my first opportunity to interact with Vic in a personal setting.  It was also during this period that I volunteered to show him some HyperCard tricks I had learned-- things that could make the current stacks look and run better.  He was somewhat impressed, but, if I recall correctly, nothing came of it. At this same time, however, I was participating in a Star Trek club (the USS Alioth), which had agreed to do some volunteer work for the Center.  

The Voyager's Engineering Station Installed by Brian and the Crew of the USS Alioth Star Trek Club

In return for a free 8-hour flight, we built an engineering station on the Voyager's Bridge in Spring 1993.  It was located in that corner room off to your right as you come up the short set of stairs (that is, not the spiral stairs, but the stairs coming up from the control room area). It is all torn out now and replaced by bunks, but at the time it included a place for isolinear chips (the first ever at the Space Center) and a cabinet for cooling rods and for the warp reactor.  I helped to design and build all of this, and thus gained more exposure to and interaction with Vic and some of the other Space Center staff.

Soon another opportunity arose.  The following school year (1993-94), Vic organized the
Voyager Society.  Initially, the Society included only Space Center attendees who had more than a certain number of flight hours.  Having been on a number of overnighters, 48-hour flights, and even the famed 5-day mission, I had plenty of hours.  I was captain of the Society for some time.

One of the best parts of the Society was the chance to volunteer on missions.  My first volunteer experience was a 48-hour flight during the summer of 1994.  I finally got close-range interactive experience with Vic, Mark, Dave Wall, Steve Wall, Bill Shuler, Tony, Jake, Nate, Bart, and all the rest.  I also began showing off my HyperCard experience a bit more, and Vic liked what he saw.  He asked me to make a few changes here and there.  Then I shared some soundtrack ideas, which Vic also picked up (Clear and Present Danger and the heavy-drums Yanni excerpt come to mind-- although Yanni is not a soundtrack).  And I had fun with accents.

The X-Craft was in one of our gray Starlab Planetarium Bubbles

I volunteered for a few other missions that summer and volunteered for as many overnighters as I could during the 1994-95 school year.  Finally, sometime in the winter of 1995, my big break occurred.  At that time, Steve Wall was driving down from Logan every Friday afternoon to meet his brother Dave (driving from Salt Lake) and run the X-Craft -a makeshift simulator inside the Starlab (a primitive version of the Falcon).  However, on one particular Friday, Steve could not make it down.  Perhaps it was snowing too much.  In any event, Dave was all alone.  Vic assigned me to work with him.  Dave and I didn't hit it off right away, but we got to know each other and I showed him that I was competent as a good second chair.

From that point on, I almost always worked with Dave and Steve.  More importantly, what we now call the Odyssey (then called the ISES and after that the Seeker;) was in the planning stages.  It was to be built over the summer of 1995.  Dave and Steve had heard of my HyperCard skills and tapped me to create the controls for the new ship.

At this point, I began spending so much time at the Space Center that Vic took notice.  At the end of an overnighter, he announced to me nonchalantly, "Brian, you're doing all this stuff, we're just going to hire you, okay??   I was taken aback.  I had wanted to work at the Space Center for a long time, but I thought I would never get hired.  Aside from adult employees, it had been Vic's policy to employ only students who had attended Central Elementary.  So, as far as I am aware, I was the first volunteer to break the "Central" ceiling and actually get on the Space Center payroll.

The Odyssey's first color computers running Brian's first color controls

Meanwhile, as the new Space Center Chief Programmer (an informal title at the time), I was working away on the controls for the Odyssey.  Because the new ship would be the Space Center's first to have color computers, I created the Space Center's first color stacks-- very primitive by today's standards, but they looked cool to us back then.  The Odyssey launched in the fall of 1995, with my stacks, and so I spent most of my time working in the Odyssey control room-- usually as second-chair to Dave Wall.  Dave and I became good friends and still are. 

It was in the fall of 1995 that my second big break occurred.  At that time, both the Odyssey
and Voyager kept track of what the kids were doing on their computers through the Timbuktu system, which slowed down the computers immensely.  I had come across something in a HyperCard book that could help us break free from Timbuktu-- AppleTalk messaging.  For example, if Left Wing goes to Warp 6, instead of having to see a graphical representation of that kid's computer screen showing the ship at Warp 6, the kid's HyperCard stack could send an AppleTalk message through the network telling a control room computer, in effect, Left Wing has taken the ship to Warp 6.  Then the control room computer would have a little text box labeled "Warp Speed" and HyperCard would insert a "6" into that box, and perhaps even make a noise and/or use the computer's speech function to say, "Warp 6". Everyone would know that the ship had gone to Warp 6, but without wasting so much processor time.  (This should sound familiar-- it's the way things run now.)  

The Odyssey

Well, this was a great idea, but I could not get it to work.  Specifically, I could not get two
computers to permit the other to send messages to it.  Then along came Kirby Glad, who had also taught himself HyperCard.  Kirby had programmed his own stacks for use in the special missions he was developing, and I noticed he was using AppleTalk messaging.  I asked him how he got it to work, and he graciously showed me what I was doing wrong (it had to do with Users and Groups, for all you old Mac hands).  Suddenly, everything worked.  (Thank you, Kirby!)  Within a month or two, I reprogrammed the Odyssey computers to use AppleTalk messaging rather than Timbuktu, and it was like a whole new ship.  All the computers ran at the speeds of which they were capable, and we in the control room didn't have to worry about those silly Timbuktu windows.  Half the time, we didn't even need to look at the control room computers.  They would simply speak to us: Sometimes I programmed them to say something sassy, like, "Warp Six, you fool". 

The Bridge of the USS Voyager in the 1990's

Soon, Vic wanted the Voyager computers to run on the same type of system.  Over the next
several months, I completely reprogrammed the Voyager stacks to look better, and to use
AppleTalk messaging.  The computers were still black-and-white, but it was nonetheless a
needed facelift and internal upgrade. This was all complete by Summer 1996.  Also during this time, I produced all the Tactical and Sensor stacks.  I found those projects pretty fun, and I amassed a wealth of Star Trek bitmap clip art (which I still have on my hard drive--somewhere).

As the years progressed, it became more burdensome for Dave Wall to come to the Space Center every weekend, and so I gradually assumed the Odyssey flight director's chair.  Although Dave and Mark Daymont would still run the ship on occasion, I got to direct numerous missions from about January 1997 through September 1998.  During that time, Allan Stewart and Stephen Porter became my second-chairs, and Allan Stewart took it upon himself to learn HyperCard.  As I prepared to leave on my mission in September 1998, he was the obvious choice to assume the role of Chief Programmer, with Steve as his back-up.

After my mission, I maintained contact with the Space Center (a few small HyperCard projects, and a short-lived programming class-- the first Multimedia Development Academy, but it dwindled gradually.  School was just too demanding, and I had a job on campus.  Then I graduated and moved away.

I'm getting ready to graduate from University of Michigan Law School (in May).  I'm
married and have a two-year-old boy.  Nonetheless, I confess that the Space Center is still on my mind.  I get the daily digest e-mails, of course.  But more than that, I see a new sci-fi show, play with a new gadget, hear a new soundtrack, etc., and my first reaction is almost always: "Wow, the Space Center could really make use of that".  I'm also pleased that a lot of my innovations live on.  I visited the Center briefly in August 2005 (my most recent visit).  Although the Space Center's stacks have now all been completely reprogrammed in a new programming language, they all contain graphic design elements and programming processes that I helped to develop.

Brian Today. Law Clerk for the United States District Court for the
District of Colorado

I will be moving to Denver at the end of summer to start my first job.  

-- Brian Hawkins

The Imaginarium