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

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Celebrate the Late Great Starship Pathfinder and Dave Wall, Its Creator. Space News: NASA's Alien Hunter Has Gone Dark. Trump's Space Force. A Ghostly Dust Cloud Orbits Earth. The Imaginarium.

Dave Wall, Founder of Pathfinder Space Simulation in the Great Pathfinder Itself
     Without a doubt, Dave Wall's Pathfinder was a remarkable ship.  Dave poured his heart and soul into it. I'm sure those who flew in her will add their voices to mine to thank Dave for taking the spirit of the Space Center to children in northern Utah.
     Dave was a valued partner in getting the Space Center off the ground back in the early 1990's. Dave and Steve Wall (brothers) designed and built the original Odyssey, the Space Center's second ship. I received a grant of $25,000 from US West for the project. With that small budget, they created a ship beloved by tens of thousands.  Dave was the Odyssey's first Set Director until Life called and he retired to pursue his education at the University of Utah. 
     In 2000, Dave confessed his addiction to space edventuring.  He couldn't get it out of his blood or imagination.  Using his own money, Dave built the Pathfinder in a trailer, the kind you find at construction sites. The trailer was movable, giving Dave an option on where to put the ship. 

     The Pathfinder pioneered many new features for the day, features that were implemented in the Space Center's ships. The ship was roomy with a distinct Star Trek feel. Personally, I liked his use of strobe lights and smoke to add a believable feel to battle sequences. The backlit sign (above) was a first with the combination of ship display coupled with isolinear chips.
     The Pathfinder's launch was first announced on the Space Center's first blog "SpaceEdVentures" on April 27, 2001.  

The Pathfinder
April 27, 2001
     It looks as though the fateful day is finally (almost) here...the Pathfinder will officially launch on May 5th, 2001. This day also marks the 40th anniversary of the first American in space...Alan Shepard became the first American to go into space on May 5th, 1961. It also marks the end of Space Week ( has a week).
     There will be an open house with tours, maybe some activities or demonstrations and will take place on May 5th, between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. (0100-0300 GMT). The Pathfinder is located at Bonneville Elementary, 1145 South 1900 East, Salt Lake City, UT in a trailer on the north side of the school. You are all welcome to come and see this amazing event! Invite your friends!
     Hope to see you all there.

Dave WallPathfinder Space Simulation

     The Pathfinder used the Odyssey's coloring scheme to give a sense of continuity between ships. It had the Voyager's blue wall stripe. The photo above shows the Pathfinder's forward bridge.  The craftsmanship Dave put into the construction is seen in this full cabinet housing two computers and a Tactical screen. 
     The Pathfinder launched on schedule on May 5, 2001 at Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City.  SpaceEdVentures reported on the grand opening.      

Post from the PastThe USS Pathfinder. A Report on its Opening. May 6, 2001 

Hello Troops,     A report on the opening of the Pathfinder at Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City. Yesterday I attended the opening of Dave Wall's new simulator "Pathfinder" along with Mr Daymont, Mr Schuler, James and Stephen Porter, and Brian Hawkins. The simulator is located in a small trailer on the north side of the school.  

     From the outside it looks like any office trailer you would find on a construction site. You enter from the south end up a couple of metal steps. Once inside you find yourself in a small narrow hallway. Turn left and take a couple steps and you enter the control room. Turn right and take a couple steps and you enter the simulator proper.Everything was what I expected until I entered the simulator proper. I was truly amazed at what I saw. Dave has done an excellent job. The walls are painted the same colors as the back wall of our briefing room . There is even the same blue band along the wall separating the colors. The workstations very closely resemble the Voyagers. In fact, anyone that has flown in either the Voyager or Odyssey would find themselves very much at home in the Pathfinder. The computer stations at many of the stations are very Odyssey like. The communication station looks like the first officer's station on the Voyager. What is different is the size. It is roughly 1.5 times bigger than the Odyssey. Another difference is the front of the simulator. There is the typical large screen TV behind the black plastic but coming down from the TV are two stations built into the same piece of furniture. It looks like the front of a ship. Under the main view screen are the speakers - all hidden from view.  
We all were impressed with the lighting. Dave found some very "cool" lights that would be nice to buy and equip our sims with. He also has 3 strobe light mounted on the ceiling pointing down to the floor. There are also red alert lights and the turning "police" red lights like the Odyssey. The Pathfinder has metal chairs for the crew. The carpet is blue with a thick pad (I notice things like that because I sleep on the floor on overnighters). 
There was a short launch ceremony. We shut the outer doors and launched the Pathfinder for the first time. Yours truly got to operate the thrusters and HyperLight drive. Once in Hyperlight we experienced our first emergency. The engines overloaded (of course not my fault, I'm sure it was programmed into the mission). What was "way cool" was the Red Alert. The lights went red and then the explosion. Smoke filled the simulator. Now you are saying that is common but what is not common is Dave's use of the strobes. During the explosions, the strobes flash just for a second. It gives just the right effect without knowing they are strobe lights. It makes you feel like electrical sparks are flying without real electrical sparks. That is another innovation we will borrow from the Pathfinder.  

After the launch, we drank a toast to the ship using the "approved" bubbly. 
Dave has done a remarkable job with the Pathfinder. I'm anxious to book missions for our staff and volunteers. Yes, we will arrange flights for you. These will be reward flights so keep volunteering and passing off your stations. Your points tell your story so always check your points to see if Mr. Williamson is adding them correctly. ALSO KEEP THOSE GRADES UP. 

Mr. Williamson

The decommissioned Pathfinder

     Bonneville Elementary School wasn't the Pathfinder's final resting place. Dave moved the ship to Logan, Utah where both he and James Porter ran school field trip missions for the local school district. You could say James got his start as a Center Director on the Pathfinder, a job which prepared him for his current position as director of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.
     Cheers to a remarkable simulator and its remarkable creator. The Pathfinder will always have a place in Space Center history and lore.  Who knows, maybe one day the Pathfinder will find its way home for new generations of students to enjoy.

Mr. Williamson
Space News

Kepler, the Planet Hunter, May Be Gone for Good - Popular Mechanics

It's Official, Trump's Space Force Is Here And Space Is Now a "Warfighting Domain" - ScienceAlert

Astronomers Have Detected a Ghostly Dust Cloud Orbiting Our Earth - ScienceAlert

The Imaginarium

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