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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center's 29th Anniversary, Thoughts and Pictures from Long Ago. Staff Training at the Space Academy Leads to the Highest Quality Missions. Halloween at the Space Academy. Imaginarium Theater and Memes

I'm flight directing a field trip on the USS Voyager back in 1995. I thought the blue smock looked
futuristic.  It lasted one year then off it came :)

Thoughts on the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's 29th Anniversary. November 8, 1990 - November 8, 2019

Hello Troops,
I remember November 8, 1990 very well. I was nervous. I had doubts. I questioned whether I knew what I was doing and I knew there were others who thought the same.  It was a risky endeavour, something no teacher in the Alpine District had done before - add an addition to a school and start a entirely new district wide program. 

Honor's Night. Look at all those earning their one year volunteering pin

The vision of creating a 'Space Center' started with my 6th grade Young Astronaut Club and a 1986 Young Astronauts conference trip to Japan. During that convention I met the director of the Kino Learning Center in Tucson Arizona. Her school had a rather large space shuttle simulator in the school's library used for simulated space missions. If she could do it then so could I. The dream was born.  I envisioned our Young Astronauts poster board classroom starship simulator (the USS Pegasus) could have a permanent home of its own in the classroom where today's Odyssey and Phoenix sit.  The dream expanded from a small simulator to the Voyager addition to the school and the CMSC as it is today.

James Porter passed off as an Odyssey Flight Director by Dave Wall

So many people were drawn into the project. Special gratitude is given to Stan Harward, Central's principal at the time, and Dr. Luana Searle, Asst Superintendent over elementary schools. Money was raised and many hours of volunteer manpower were given. This new program had to succeed. Failure wasn't an option. I didn't sleep well those first years. My health suffered. My poor heart never completely recovered. The anxiety attacks, I'm happy to say, lasted three years and ended.

A great group of young Blue Shirt Rangers

I originally envisioned the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center to be a science lab on board a futuristic spaceship but that idea never took hold for a multiple reasons.  I opened the Space Center by experimenting with a scientific mission to Mars. There are people who remember that first school mission. We flew at warp speed using HyperCard controls I programmed. Once there we used a Mars laser disc for special effects. We flew around the planet learning about its climate and features. I stood on the bridge next to the Tactical screen. My 6th grade staff (2 kids) sat in the control room listening and waiting for clues on when to play and pause the laser disc player and VCR. How primitive it was compared to what we do now.

Tanner Edwards with the Galileo

I felt something was missing after we ran a week or two of the Mars mission field trips . The students showed little excitement. They sat at the computers listening to me. There was very little work for them to do. My Hypercard controls lack depth and purpose. I was in command giving the captain orders on where to go and what to do. The presentation approach with a science only curriculum wasn't working.

A few of the teen staff

I thought back to my days in the classroom with the overhead projector, boom box, and paper controls. Then the idea came – do what you've proven successful - introduce some drama. Using two of the school's VCR's and my Star Trek movie collection, I edited a new ending to the Mars expedition. The mission ended with a Romulan warbird showing up orbiting Mars. It approached in a threatening way, fired, then warped away. It was a crazy idea but crazy ideas are the lifeblood of the Center. 

Another Honor's Night in the Magellan

The idea of adding the Romulan scene at the end of the mission worked. The kids got excited to see the Romulan ship. The little battle thrown into the end of the Mars mission was successful. It convinced me that my original idea of taking a class on an EdVenture into space would work with the general public like it did with my captive 6th grade class.

Dustin Robinson and Megan Warner in the Voyager Control Room

I sat down and wrote another mission called "Epsilon". It was a story of a planet in the Klingon Neutral Zone. Half the planet was under Federation control and the other was under Klingon control. The treaty, allowing joint control of the planet, was up for renegotiation. The planet would be awarded to the government which demonstrated it could best care for the planet's population.

The Overnight Camp Program. 1990-2012

The story had the Voyager entering the Neutral Zone bringing a new kind of wheat to the planet. This new wheat was genetically engineered to grow well in the planet's harsh climate. The Voyager had a few close calls on the way to the planet and a few others while in orbit. At the end of the mission our classes left the Voyager so excited. I knew I had found the formula; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now here we are 29 years later. The one ship is now a fleet of 13 located at the CMSC, Renaissance Academy, Lakeview Academy, Canyon Grove Academy, and Telos U. The CMSEC inspired spin off companies like Dream Flight Adventures and IndiniD with simulators in several other states and outside the country.  Our stories are more complicated. Our simulators are more sophisticated. I'm getting older and gray but the magic is still there. 

Randy Jepperson and Mark Daymont with the Falcon.

Someone once asked me If I would ever truly retire. I tried once in 2013. I'd done my 30 years for God and District at Central Elementary and the Space Center; I needed a rest. My rest lasted a grand total of three months. Renaissance Academy in Lehi wanted a starship simulator of their own and came calling.  The offer of building a new Voyager along with getting to go back into a 6th grade classroom to end my educational career sealed the deal. Retirement could wait. There was magic to perform. 

The Crew of the Voyager

At 29 years it is easy to sit back and take a journey down memory lane of the many good times we've all had at the Space Center. During my time as director I'd often wait to go home until the staff and volunteers were gone and the ships were empty. I'd walk onto the Voyager's Bridge and sit in the Captain's chair under the dim lights and listen to the voices of 300,000 children swirling around the room locked in the very walls of the ship. I look over at the left wing and see the original staff training crews by hand before the days of training tapes and mp3 players. I see Jacob Bartlett over in the corner asleep when he should be doing his job as a bridge staff. I hear Russell Smith downstairs playing the blind doctor. I watch a much younger Mr. Schuler coming up the stairs in full Star Trek uniform. A young first officer voice shouts, "Admiral on the Bridge!" . I still see that silly mask popping up over the loft to frighten Security. I see our many young volunteers growing up in that simulator from elementary school to junior high to senior high and then jumping ship into life. I hear the screams, the laughing, and the quiet that came from failure like when Blossom, the beloved Paklid captain, died in a fiery crash into a planet so many years ago. They are good memories. 

James Porter entering the ranks of the Green Shirt Adult Staff

Fifteen years ago I wrote..
Perhaps some day video game technology will become so evolved that children will do one of our missions at home connected to some kind of virtual reality machine. The computer will play my part, telling the story and reacting to the kid's decisions. The class will sit with goggles covering their eyes showing them the bridge of some futuristic ship. Gloves will give them the feel of working the controls. Perhaps the Voyager will still be around when that day comes. It may be a museum this future generation will visit with their grandparents. As they tour the simulator the sounds of our voices and the blaring music with red alerts will mix with their grandparents' stories of when they flew the original Voyager, Odyssey, Magellan, Phoenix, and Galileo long ago to far away places.

Thank you everyone for twenty-nine years. Thank you volunteers for the hours of time you give these programs each month. Thank you to the staff of all the space centers for always going above and beyond the call of duty. We are all involved in creating lasting memories that will stay with our students forever.
With Warmest Regards,
Mr. Williamson

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center Wants Your Memories.  Win a Free Mission!

By James Porter, Director
     Next week we celebrate our 29th Space Center birthday! As part of that celebration we want to relive some memories and give an opportunity to make more with a prize drawing for a free 2.5 hour mission in one of our simulators.
     To enter the drawing leave a comment on our Facebook page that includes a picture of you at the Space Center or holding a piece of memorabilia. That could be a rank sheet, camp shirt, or other item that connects with the Space Center and you attending. We want to see if we can represent the last 29 years so include the year you first attended.

     If you don’t happen to have a photo or memorabilia you can simply share a brief memory and help us as we reflect on 29 amazing years. If you live too far away to attend on a mission we’ll send you some memorabilia instead.
     Fine Print Stuff: This contests is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook. Prize of the mission cannot be exchanged for a cash value. Mission must be used within 1 year of contest conclusion. Participants must be 10 or older to accept the prize due to attendance restrictions. Limit of one entry per person.

Staff and Volunteer Training is at the Renaissance Space Academy's Core
     The essence of any good business or organization is a well trained staff.  Staff and volunteer training at the Space Academy is an ongoing process and a part of every mission be it a daytime InfiniD flight, a Young Astronaut Long Duration Mission, or a private mission. 
     Mr. Camden Robinson leads the Academy's training effort for the InfiniD program.  Several of the school's top 8th graders train to run the Voyager under his tutelage.  Bracken Funk directs the training for the after school LDM missions.  Both Bracken and Megan Warner conduct the training during private missions.  
     Well trained volunteers turn into well trained staff.  Sam Golding is an example of that.

Sam at the Voyager's IIFX Station last Saturday
     Sam trained as a volunteer during the Academy's summer camps. His dedication to be the best led to a paid staff position in which he excels. Now Sam has the responsibility to pass that training on to the younger volunteers waiting eagerly in the wings. I'm talking about volunteers like Jackson....
Jackson last Saturday waiting for his turn at bat
     Jackson is just one of many Renaissance Academy students who benefit from their time spent in the Voyager learning the skills to be good employees and to work with the customer's satisfaction as an end goal. He also loves his doughnuts - he's only a 7th grader so there is plenty of time :)

Megan training Kyan (standing left) on how to be an outstanding bridge supervisor on a private mission last
Saturday. The photo was taken from the Control Room's bridge monitor

     Megan Warner has nearly 20 years experience with the Space EdVentures program. She started at the CMSEC as a teen volunteer and moved quickly through the ranks to become a supervisor, flight director, set director and Space Center Director from 2013-2014.  She worked as a supervisor at the Discovery Space Center before moving on to full time employment at Underfunded Films with Matt Long.  Megan works part time at the Space Academy because you can never get the "space center" out of your blood, Megan continues to scratch that itch by working part time at the Space Academy and the occasionally volunteer acting part at the CMSC.  Megan is the Academy's official training supervisor for their Saturday programs. 

Always Watched so the Academy Practices Perfection in Every Mission 
Parents and guests are encouraged to watch the Space Academy's missions from the comfort of
the Voyager's Briefing Room 
     "We Practice Perfection" is the big sign that hangs in the Voyager's Briefing Room. The Academy expects the best from its staff and volunteers so its crews leave well satisfied.  The Academy is proud of what it does and encourages our parents and friends to come and watch our missions from the Voyager's Briefing Room. With so many eyes watching and ears listening, you can trust you'll have the best mission possible if you come fly with us at the Renaissance Space Academy.  To book a mission go to

Halloween at the Renaissance Space Academy
Many of the Space Academy's Young Astronaut Cadets Upstairs on Halloween enjoying the
day. Yes they still did their math and science. No excuse for taking a day off from serious studies. 

     The Space Academy in Lehi celebrated the season of spooks with the special telling of two spooky missions over the last two weeks. Thank you to Bradyn and Jacqueline Lystrup, Todd Rasband, Erin Williams, Nicole VandenBoss, and Emily and Skyler Paxman for all they did to make the mission a true success!
     Did the Starship Voyager stay in space dock on Halloween?  Not on your Nelly!  We couldn't say no to a great group of teenagers from Lehi High School looking for a place to have a good scare on Halloween night. The Voyager ventured into deep space to give them a mission never to be forgotten.  

Staff Extraordinaire:  Left to right, Kyan, Dylan, Lincoln, Jack, and Bracken

     A special thank you to the Academy's dedicated staff and volunteer core for coming in to make the mission special.  "Hey, it was either stay home and hand out candy or come in, It was a no brainer," was the primary reason given for their dedication :)   Supervising the mission was Bracken Funk and Megan Warner.  

Imaginarium Theater
The Week's Best Short Videos From Around the World Edited by Myself for a Gentler Audience

Imaginarium Memes

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