Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school. Director@SpaceCampUtah.org

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thoughts on the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's 30th Anniversary. November 8, 1990 - November 8, 2020. The New Christa McAuliffe Space Center's Dedication Program, PLUS Pictures of the New Ships. Imaginarium Theater.

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 30 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

Sixteen 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 Thirty 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 New Christa McAuliffe Space Center Opens Almost 30 Years to the Day of the Center's First Grand Opening

       

     Yesterday several dignitaries gathered with the Space Center staff to officially open the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's new home.  The event was held in the Space Center's planetarium.  Tours of the planetarium and six simulators were given to the invited guests before the dedication program.  I was on hand wearing three hats:  1) As a financial donor to the new Center and 2) As a member of the Space Center's staff and 3) As the founder of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center all those 30 years ago. 

       
    
      I entered the new Center and made a beeline straight to the lower deck to see the marvels new simulators docked at Starbase Williamson.  They are beautiful.  What a facility!  This new Space Center is the diamond Jewel in the Alpine District's crown. 


     A special thank you to Rob Smith and Vicki Carter from the District Office for spearheading the fund raising for the new Center.  And of course a very hardy "Well Done!" to James Porter, CMSC Director and Ryan Wells, Central School's Principal for the work they did to make this a truly one of a kind facility in the entire world.  Please enjoy these few photos of the event.

Alpine School District Superintendent Sam Jarvis at the dedication

Asst. Superintendent Rob Smith Spearheaded the Fundraising

And Now, the Simulators

The Magellan
The Magellan

The Falcon


The Falcon

The Cassini Hallway

The Cassini Bridge

The Hallway to the Phoenix

The Phoenix Bridge
The Phoenix Bridge

The Friendly Staff Welcoming Guests to the Simulators at Starbase Williamson

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

The Odyssey

The Galileo

The Starbase Lobby


The Cool Lava Floor Tiles


Entry Hallway from the school


The computer server racks



Remember, next Saturday is the public open house.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Videos from Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.  (Sorry Folks, today's video is a repeat from 4 years ago.  I just didn't have time to create a new one).

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Imaginarium Theater. The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.

 Hello Troops,

A busy day today so let's just sit back and enjoy a longer Imaginarium Theater and call it a weekend. 


Imaginarium Theater

The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center Staff are Introduced to the Planetarium in a Brilliantly Executed Socially Distanced and Masked Way. What an Example to the Rest of Utah. See the Cassini's New Uniforms. Imaginarium Theater.

       Saturday witnessed a gathering of Space EdVenturers at the new Christa McAuliffe Space Center in Pleasant Grove.  The executive level meeting was called by James Porter, director of the CMSC.  After months of construction it was time to show the results to the staff for their enthusiastic approval.  A second more important reason was to excite the troops and prepare them to return to work.  Many came in person, while others preferred to participate from a distance via Google Meet.  

     We met in the planetarium's lobby.  Audrey Henriksen brought one of the Cassini's new crew uniforms for Lorraine Houston's official inspection.  Audrey has assumed Lorraine's position as official outfitter of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  

     Lorraine was impressed with Audrey's skills as a seamstress.  The uniform was given her official stamp of approval.  


     "Not so fast,"  Jon Parker had arrived and observed the proceedings from a distance.  "Let me see that uniform."  He stepped forward, took the uniform and gave it a good looking over.  He was careful to examine the stitching.  He pulled, prodded, poked, and teased the material looking for a potential flaw a youngling would be sure to discover and exploit.  After a moment or two he delivered his verdict.  "Very good Audrey.  This will do the Cassini proud."
     

     And with that said I took the picture.  You can't see the smiles hidden beneath the fabric, but I can assure you they were there .   

 

     I heard someone clearing his throat.  I turned and found myself in the presence of the Space Center's resident Time Lord Mason Perry. Mason stood next to Jordan Smith, Phoenix Set Director.  Both will be responsible for the new Phoenix, risen from the ashes of the old.  It's obvious they wanted to make a statement at this gathering of Space EdVenturers.  The masks gave them away.  Both Mason and Jordan couldn't let the Cassini have its moment in the spotlight with Audrey's new uniforms. No, they had to try to steal the show with their simulator's official masks. I want to assure them their message was received and understood by Jon.  A little inter-ship rivalry never hurt anyone.   



     Speaking of masks, this one stood out far above the rest. Kudos to this masked man for his excellent choice of face covering.  My offer to trade fell upon deaf ears.  Obviously he didn't know who I was behind my plain black mask or perhaps I looked like reheated Covid - something he didn't want to risk. 



     One of the highlights of the meeting was the distribution of new staff shirts.  There were two for yours truly in that bundle. 
Yes, you'll see me scooting about the new Space Center on weekends looking for ways to get into trouble.  I think James Porter has a shock collar tucked away somewhere for me. A momentary shock will be all I need to keep me in line when I become too much of a distraction or a bother.  



     We met in the planetarium where social distancing was strictly enforced.  
 


     Mr. Porter was up in the Crow's Nest working to project the online attendees onto the planetarium's large dome.  I stood by waiting to offer advice. Thankfully that advice wasn't requested because I hadn't a clue what he was doing, I just liked to think I did.  It is always important to look like you know what you're doing even if you don't.    



     Success!  The onliners came to life on the dome.  


      Conner Larsen hovered menacingly over Mr. Porter giving all present a shudder of 1984, Big Brother is Watching.  


     It was difficult to read Conner's many expressions during Mr. Porter's speech, but a fair warning may be in order for Mr. Porter to watch his back. Hostile takeovers are not unknown outside the corporate world. 
     All kidding aside, it was a great meeting.  James updated us on construction.  The planetarium will open first in November.  The simulators will follow once it is deemed safe to do so based on the health departments recommendations and Utah County's High covid alert level.  It is easy to socially distance people in the planetarium, not so easy in the simulators. 
     On a more personal note, it was thrilling to see the new Center prepare to open.  Everyone starting with James Porter and moving up throughout District administration have done a great job. The new Christa McAuliffe Space Center is truly a gem in the Alpine District's crown of achievements. 

Mr.Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.