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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What Farpoint Offers Utah's Students: Experiential Education at its Best. A Saturday Story with Programming Classes, Space Clubs, Development, and Private Missions. Do We Ever Sleep? Theater Imaginarium.

Coding Starts our Saturdays at Farpoint

It's ALL Go every Saturday at the Farpoint Space Education Center located on Utah's beautiful Silicon Slopes in Lehi.  

From 8:00 A.M. to 9:30 A.M. most Saturday mornings Farpoint offers the 2017-2018 Level 1 Programming Guild: Coding for Young Astronauts and Voyagers.  This is where the magic of starship and experiential simulations begins. Saturday our first crop of youngling programmers hit the keyboards to learn the basics.  We use GoogleCS as our curriculum. 

We're learning to code with SCRATCH.  This eight-week course will be the first of three offered to our cadets this school year.  From this Level 1 class, our cadets will have the option of advancing to the Level 2 program - the WebDev Guild sponsored by Alex and Crystal Anderson, Matt Ricks, and Isaac Ostler.  The WebDev Guild meets every other Saturday from 9:30 - 11:00 A.M. 

Want a peek at the cadets in action?  Take a look....

The Young Astronauts and Voyagers Arrive on the Heal of the Young Coders?

The 2017-2018 Young Astronaut 3rd Grade Phoenix Squadron (Wednesday's), One of Farpoint's 26 Cadet Squadrons
 Ready for Any Challenge Space Has to Offer!

Saturdays from 9:30 - 11:30 A.M.  The Young Astronauts and Voyager Clubs Meet.  
Farpoint has 260 cadets in 3rd through 10th grade divided into 26 squadrons in this year's Young Astronauts and Voyager Clubs.  The 26 squadrons meet every late afternoon, Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings.  What a great bunch of young cadets. It will be a fun year.

11:30 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.  Thorium Testing.

The Magic of Experiential Simulation.  Farpoint Reserves Time on Saturdays for Imagineers to Test New Ideas and Software. That Next Cool Thing you Experience on a Starship Has to Start Somewhere.

Saturday's Thorium Bridge Software Test Crew
Farpoint prides itself in offering the Voyager as a testing facility for new ideas in experiential learning. Saturday was witness to the first official mission using the new Thorium bridge software. I asked Alex Anderson to write a summary of the event.

In programming, we say “Make it work. Make it right. Make it fast.” Thorium has officially passed the first hurdle. It works. This past Saturday we successfully ran an entire test flight from start to finish! There were a couple of hiccups here and hiccoughs there, but overall it worked well. 
Huge thanks for Isaac Ostler, Matt Ricks, Crystal Anderson, and the whole Voyager staff for their help and support as Thorium goes through it’s growing pains. In the past few months, the controls have taken leaps and bounds in progress.
If you are interested in using the controls in your Space Center, have your center’s director get in touch with me. If you want to run the controls personally or at home, you can get the code from You can also donate, which gives you access to a bundle of images and videos, a built version of Thorium, and credit on the Thorium website. 
Alex Anderson
Saturday is a Day for Private Missions at Farpoint

There isn't a Saturday that goes by without a private late afternoon/evening Starship Voyager mission at Farpoint. This Saturday the Voyager played host to a 4.5 hour mission booked through our partners at the Telos Discovery Space Center. 

How Do You Get Involved? 

I'm glad you're asking that question.  Contact me. for more information. is another good place to start. It has links to the clubs and information on booking a private mission.  

Mr. Williamson

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



Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Salute to the Space Center's One Day Weekenders! What it was like to Work on Fridays (Field Trip, Private Missions and Overnight Camp) During the Space Center's Voyager Era. The Imaginarium.

Hello, Troops,
Another Post from the past.  This comes from October 2008. 
Did you ever wonder what it was like to work an entire Friday and Saturday at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center during the Voyager Era - the time of double field trips, weekend overnight camps (yes, nearly every weekend year-round), five simulators busy morning noon and night?  Today's Post from the Past opens the door to that time long ago.  They were good times, hard, challenging, tiring, but good.....

Mr. Williamson  

My seat for 23 years in the USS Voyager's Control Room
October 2008
Hello Troops,
When I left the Space Center on Saturday evening I said, "Enjoy your Only!" to Emily and Stacy. They wondered what I meant. I explained that most of us that work at the Center get one day off a week. We call our weekends our 'Onlys". I want to use this post to give Three Cheers and a hip hip hooray to all of us that toil six days a week! We work Monday to Saturday in our simulators, classrooms, junior and senior high schools or universities.

What does Friday mean to many in the workforce? It means the weekend is coming like a brilliant sunrise after a long dark workweek. What does Friday mean to us at the Center? It means the long dark night! Friday is our longest work day because it spills far into Saturday.

I'm writing this post to share my weekend schedule with our newer staff and volunteers. This will help you understand why I'm a bit focused and tired during camps. I want to impress one thing on your mind. Don't be afraid of hard work. I have always worked hard. Did you think the Space Center just appeared out of thin air? If you want something in life you need to set goals and then WORK for it. If you're lucky enough to get a full weekend then Great! If you are like me and get an Only instead, then consider the fact that you're in good company with most of us that work at the Space Center.

My Friday begins at 7:00 A.M. when I leave my home for Wal Mart. There you'll find me, along with the other members of the Early Risers Club, wandering around the store pushing our metal supports with wheels. We pass each other at least twice in our elongated laps. As we pass we nod as a greeting and an acknowledgment - the unspoken club sign given to recognize the fact that at that hour of the day you always get to the checkout and forget something you were to buy.

I fill my cart with the overnight camp necessities. I feel I can do it in my sleep. I fall asleep as I approach the bakery and awaken at the check stand with a cart full of supplies. It's kind of like driving down the road and listening to the radio. When you arrive at your destination you realize you don't remember passing anything along the way. You just got there. It is like your brain drives the car in autopilot while your conscious self is carried away in a stupor.

At 7:40 A.M. I'm unpacking the groceries at the school. This is the worst part of Friday! I hate unpacking groceries. At 8:00 A.M. I’m starting up the simulators and inflating the Starlab. At 8:15 A.M. I can sit down for a few minutes and answer phone calls and emails. At 8:45 A.M. I'm heading outside wearing my bright orange hunting vest. I walk to my designated cross guarding station ready and waiting to hurl myself into the path of any oncoming car that fails to yield to our crossing students. I'm the first school employee they see so I wear my "friendliest guy in the world" face and greet them each as they cross. Staff and volunteers, I know you're wondering why you don't get to see that overly friendly face when you come to work the overnighters - right? Well, by the time you arrive that face's `sell by date' has expired and you get to see the real foundation beneath it. Frightening isn't it?

At 9:00 A.M. I leave the fresh air and advance into the Discovery Room where my Pre-Algebra class is waiting with books out and eager faces telling me they are expecting another awesome `Victor Williamson Math Extravaganza!" My heart skips a beat when I realize I had forgotten to even look at the lesson for the day but they will never know. I'm a professional teacher. If I can't waffle out a great lesson once in awhile at a glance then I'm not worth my paycheck.

At 9:45 A.M. Mrs. Houston takes over for me so I can start the field trip. At 9:50 A.M. I’m standing on the Bridge of the Voyager greeting the Field Trip crew as they ascend the stairs carrying their boarding passes. I greet each one with what is left of my "friendliest guy in the world" face. I'm well into the Voyager's first mission of the day.

At 11:30 A.M. my first mission ends and the NASCAR race begins. I slip on my racing jacket covered with advertising stickers and race around the bridge doing lap after lab getting the ship ready for the next crew. It's 11:45 A.M. and the afternoon crew is ascending the spiral staircase onto the bridge. I'm standing there collecting their boarding passes wearing my "I haven't had a chance to recharge since 7:00 A.M." face. The entire flight process starts again.
At 1:40 P.M. the field trip pulls away in their bus. We shut the ship down.
I have until 4:00 to:

  1. Do the weekly deposit.
  2. Answer phone calls.
  3. Answer nearly 20 emails - all needing a response.
  4. Create the work schedule for the next week - daily staff and student staff.
  5. Update the YahooGroup databases.
  6. Give everyone that comes in to talk to me the time they need. That can take hours of my time each week but that’s OK. I'm in the people business. In this business, I need to be available to people when they want to say hello or have a question or need advice. Staff and volunteers are always welcome to come bend my ear. My other work can always be done another time.
  7. Write a letter of recommendation or two.
  8. Buy needed supplies on the internet.
  9. Update the Center's books and accounts.
  10. Set up the trash cans and tables in the cafeteria and gym.
  11. Answer the mail and do the registrations that come in.
This workload can go up or down depending on what Mrs. Clegg was able to do during her office time. Aleta is my office assistant. Her help has freed me up to do many other things I’d never be able to do otherwise.

At 4:00 P.M. I’m greeting the private mission groups as they arrive. At 4:15 P.M. I can go home to get ready for the overnight camp. It is 5:30 P.M. and I'm back at the school getting the overnight camp ready to go. At 6:15 P.M. the staff meeting begins. From that point on I'm:

  1. Signing in the campers.
  2. Giving my "Welcome to Camp" speech. Then it's dividing the campers into their teams.
  3. I work with the staff setting up cots and blowing up air beds in the gym.
  4. I put the Starlab Planetarium away and make my outside walk checking the school doors
  5. I'm back to my desk doing office work until 11:00 P.M.
  6. At 10:50 P.M. I'm setting out the ice cream and trying to stay awake.
  7. From 11:00 P.M. I'm getting the campers ready for bed and then down for the night.

It is 12:30 A.M. I finally get to lay down on my pad on the Briefing Room floor. The campers are in bed and I'm hoping I'll have some kind of a night's sleep. I've been pretty much running around nonstop since 7:00 A.M. That's seventeen hours straight - and the night is still young. During the night I can expect to be woken up by campers needing to use the bathroom. Some campers will want to call home because of headaches or homesickness. Sometimes I’m woken up by campers that have thrown up or had other accidents. It happens and is all part of the business.

It is 6:15 A.M. Saturday morning. I've had five hours of sleep (if I'm lucky). I get to my computer and type up the camper's hour certificates. At 6:45 A.M. I wake up the staff and the morning starts rolling. At 8:45 A.M. the campers finish breakfast and follow their Flight Directors back to their ships. I start work on the cafeteria. I clean the tables and floor. I take out the trash, put the tables up. Back to work at my desk. At 10:00 A.M. the camp ends. I begin tallying up the camp surveys. At 10:30 A.M. the staff meeting begins. We go over the tallied scores from the camper surveys and award the ‘Lord of the Votes’ and ‘Director's Trophy’. At 11:00 A.M. I go to the gym to supervise the staff dodgeball games. At 11:30 A.M. private missions arrive. I’m back at my desk

It is 2:00 P.M. and the 11:30 A.M. missions are leaving. My office work is finished. I close one set of bathrooms and head in with my towels and spray. I clean the bathrooms on the weekends that the custodian cannot. It is important the school has clean bathrooms for Monday morning. The rest of the afternoon I usually work on maintenance or meet with the Programming Guild.

At 5:00 P.M. I'm saying goodbye to our last missions of the day and checking the doors. It is 5:45 P.M. and I'm driving home for good. My one day weekend is starting!

This schedule I described is typical and I'm not the only one. Many of our good staff are putting in time like this. I want to salute all of you that give so much of yourselves to this job and the kids. I'm amazed at your dedication and willingness to sacrifice. I wish I could shower you with money and gifts but my gratitude will have to do. It isn't much but it is from the heart.

My Fellow One Day Weekenders - I Salute You!

Mr. Williamson

The Imaginarium