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

Sunday, January 24, 2021

My Quest to Find the Space Center's IT Department. An Unauthorized Post...... And The Imaginarium Theater.

 Hello Troops,

     Back in the day when I was Space Center director, I wrote short fanciful stories for the blog about life at the Space Center.  Most were completely true, others were embellished with bits of fiction to make the read more interesting, and then there were others written just for fun, like the one below.  

     Today I repost one of those "just for fun" stories written in January 2011 to poke fun at the Center's programming and IT folks. I wrote it pretending to be a nosy new volunteer just learning the ropes.  The story is illustrated with several photos taken in the school's hallways and basement. I darkened the photos for story's sake. 

Enjoy!

Mr. Williamson 


From The Troubadour's Archives

SUNDAY, JANUARY 16, 2011

My Quest to Find the Space Center's IT Department. An Unauthorized Post......




From Space Center Wikileaks.
What "They" Don't Want You to Know.

I hacked into the Space Center's Blog to share the following with you all. Read quickly because it will be deleted as soon as 'you know who' discovers it.

     I won’t give you my identity because it would risk my status as a volunteer and hopefully a future employee. Let’s just say I’m someone who happens to be of a curious nature when it comes to all things Space Center. I asked Mr. Williamson once about the computer programs running the simulators. He explained that the Voyager’s controls were written in Hypercard. The other simulators were using Revolution.
“Soon we will have our first set of Cocoa controls in the Galileo,” he added with a look of satisfaction.
     I knew the Space Center was a unique institution, the only of its kind on the planet, so I was naturally curious about who wrote the programs if they weren't available commercially. Mr. Williamson looked surprised by my question and asked for my name (he has a tendency to forget my name but that’s OK, he’s busy and I’m just one of many faceless volunteers that darken the Space Center’s walls on a regular basis). I said my name and he promptly wrote it on a sticky note. Below my name he put a check mark with the words “Too Curious” scribbled in a manuscript barely legible. I pretended to hear someone call my name and lied about being called for an acting part. I walked away shaken by his reaction.
     I found a blue shirt Supervisor who had befriended me in the past and asked him the same question. He said he would tell me what he knew but made me swear never tell anyone where I got the information. He took me by the elbow and walked me down the hall toward the Faculty Room. We stopped and stepped into a classroom’s doorway.
     “The Space Center has its own IT department but it's kept hush hush. Only Mr. Williamson and his most senior staff know who they are and where they work. For your own survival as a volunteer, I suggest you never mention programming again. Let’s just say that loose lips sink volunteers and ships.”
     He told me he knew a few other things and if I was really serious about learning one of the Space Center's best kept secrets to return to this doorway again after the last of the staff left the building after the 2:30 P.M. missions ended. He stepped from the doorway, looked up and down the hall, and walked quickly back toward the Odyssey.
     One hour later I went to the Faculty Room to buy a soda. I heard people talking and stopped before anyone saw me. I peeked into the room. Emily, Stacy and Jon were huddled around the pop machine. I could barely make out what they were saying.
     “They’re starting the Voyager Controls then?” Emily asked.
     “Today,” Jon replied. “I think Mr. Williamson is going down there to meet with them after we all leave.”
     “I’ll give him my artwork to take with him. They’ll need it,” Emily said.
     “What are they like,” Jon asked. From the question I gathered that Stacy was the only one who had actually met someone from IT.
     “You don’t want to know,” Stacy replied.
     “Come on, tell us something,” Jon stepped closer into the huddle, bringing Emily with him. 
     “Well, I could tell they haven’t seen the sun in a long time. Their skin is prison pallor white and slightly transparent. I saw light purple veins on their cheeks and necks.”
     I heard someone else approaching and knew it was time to step into the room to buy my soda. I cleared my throat and stepped in. The huddle immediately broke apart.
     “What do you want?” Emily said perturbed.
     “Just a soda,” I answered sheepishly. She motioned me forward. I stepped up to the coin receptacle, dropped in four quarters, made my selection and left as quickly as I could.
     The flights ended at 5:00 P.M. I stayed behind pretending to be waiting for my ride. I hid in a classroom doorway and waited for Jon to leave. He is always the last to leave the Center on a Saturday. At 5:40 P.M. I heard the school's front doors latch shut. Jon was gone leaving only the custodian in the building mopping the floors in the new addition. I was alone in the old section. I walked back to the doorway where the supervisor and I had met earlier. There, taped to the door, was an envelope. I removed it and found a map of the school with detailed descriptions on how to get into the building when no one was there. Arrows pointed the way down the south hallway and into a section of the building I’d never seen. Under it was written “Good Luck” in red ink.
     Today I woke with a determination to solve the mystery of the Space Center’s IT department. I faked sick to stay home from church. Once the family was gone I pedaled my bike the few miles to the school. I walked around the building once looking for cars. There were none. The building was empty.
     I entered the school from the door I’d left partly ajar the night before.



     The school was quiet. It was weird. Usually the sound of explosions, music, and kids shouting and screaming filled the vacuum. I took out the map, paused to get my bearings, and proceeded down the hallway - past the front doors and office.


     I walked toward the Cafeteria and Faculty Room. The sound of my footsteps echoed off the brick walls. Needless to say I was spooked and terrified I'd get caught. But, as I wrote earlier, I am of a curious disposition.



     I found the hallway with the Fallout Shelter sign just like the map described.



     I was curious why a Fallout Shelter sign was on the wall in the first place. Fallout Shelters disappeared from American's lexicon in the 1980's. So why was this sign still there? Curiously, the arrows pointing down the hallway were scratched away.


     I turned and looked down the cold, dimly lit hallway. The air was thick, carrying a feeling of gloom. I was tempted to abandon my quest, but considering what I'd risked to get that far, I decided to soldier on. I started my descent down the ramp.


     "Look for a door labeled 'Boiler Room'," the map said. "If you're willing to stare into the abyss then go through that door." There was nothing else written. It seemed the Supervisor abandoned his attempt to learn the truth at this point. He failed. I wouldn't. I had to go on.



     I picked the lock and slowly opened the door. I was met by a concrete stairway descending down below the main level of the school, ending in a room illuminated by a single light bulb. My heart raced. Sweat formed on my forehead.
     "Hello," I said hoping there would be no response. There wasn't. I repeated my greeting. Again it was met by silence. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I mumbled and stepped into the mystery and down the stairway.



     At the bottom of the stairs was another staircase.



It ended abruptly into a cinder block wall. I examined the wall. "Hypercard Department" was written in pencil on one of the blocks. I remembered the Voyager was programmed in Hypercard in the 1990's. The computer language hadn't been used since 2000. Was this the home of the Hypercard programmers?
     I knocked on the bricks and stepped back. I smiled thinking how absurd it was that anyone could still be there, trapped behind that solid barrier. I turned to continue my explorations; then a sound..... a scratching sound from the other side of the cinderblock wall. The sound was faint and stopped as abruptly as it had started. Needless to say I was freaked out..


     I moved on, finding these signs near a door that looked like it hadn't been opened in decades.


     I opened the door and found the school's boiler room lit by a single bulb hanging near the boiler, just as described on the sign in the hallway at the top of the staircase.


     The boiler room was strangely quiet. With it being a cold winter day outside, I thought the boiler would be working. To my left I found another stairway ascending into blackness.
     There was a sound in the corner of the room, a whisper coming from another long disused stairway. I froze for several seconds as I found the courage to continue my exploration.



     The stairway led up to a landing before turning 90 degrees. I walked closer and paused. A few deep breaths gave me the oxygen to move forward the last three steps to see what was at the top. I looked up into one eye and dark face peering at me from the top of the landing. In an instant the head vanished, leaving behind the sound of footfalls moving down another concrete hallway.
     I had a decision to make. Would I continue my quest for the illusive Space Center IT department or be grateful I made it this far and turn and go home. 

TO BE CONTINUED........

Signed,
Your Friend
The Truth Will Prevail










 





Mr. Williamson's Imaginarium Theater
The Best Vidoes From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.


Imaginarium Theater January 24, 2021 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

News From the Space Center World. A New Era of Space Exploration! The Space Center Highlighted on KSL TV. From The Troubadour's Archives: Great Posts from the Past. Relive Those Old Memories. Imaginarium Theater.


In Today's Troubadour

New of Blue Origin's Successful Launch
• The Christa McAuliffe Space Center on KSL TV
• From The Troubadour's Archives:  Interesting posts from  
• January 2009 and 2010. Learn how we did the Space Center     thing back in the dark ages.  
• Imaginarium Theater.



The Dawn of a New Space Age

Out in the deserts of West Texas, Blue Origin — a private aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000 — successfully launched and landed their New Shepard rocket on January 14. The company has their sights set on using the reusable rocket system to fly commercial passengers to suborbital space beginning as early as April 2021. But before that can happen, Blue Origin’s New Shepard must complete a few more uncrewed test flights.

     Watch the launch and landing of the capsule from inside. The panoramic views from the large windows is breathtaking. With NASA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX the United States will maintain its dominant position as the leading nation in space exploration and development.  Space education in the schools is the natural next step.  Renaissance Academy's Young Astronaut Program is one example of a successful school based space education club.  Using a youngster's natural curiosity about space, the Young Astronauts curriculum combines both science and science fiction into a two part after school club experience consisting of classroom lessons tied to missions in the school's Voyager Starship Simulator.  For more information contact me:  vwilliamson@renacademy.org. 

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center on KSL TV

The CMSC was highlighted on KSL a few days ago during the morning news.  

Watch the Video Here

   From The Troubadour's Archives.  Life at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center

January 2009   Mark Daymont Discusses 

One of the Founding Purposes of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center

     I've been going back recently to the previous posts we've had on the goals, vision, or finding a mantra for the Space Center. In doing so I was reminded of a conversation with Victor Williamson from a long time ago, which has stuck with me all this time. This was from the early days, when the Space Center was really just the Voyager and the classroom (which now has 2 simulators in it!). It was a time when Vic, Bill Schuler, Dave Wall and I used to get together for brainstorming sessions.
     Sometimes Vic would refer to his original ideas for the Space Center's development, and one time he made a profound statement about the real, true purpose of why he built the Space Center and what he hoped it would do. Besides the obvious benefit of inspiring kids to learn about space, science, and mathematics, there was a higher, more subliminal goal: he wanted kids to become space- enthusiast voters!
     There's been a saying around NASA ever since its early days: No Bucks, No Buck Rogers. Which means to say, that without the funding, there would be no space program and no astronaut heroes. Vic's idea, which I totally supported, was that we wanted kids to retain their enthusiasm for space exploration even up to their adulthood, when they would become voters who would elect officials friendly to the space program. 
These days, that vision of Vic's has become even more vital. Because today, there is a war being waged over the relatively little funding that is set aside for space exploration. It can only be won on the political battlefield through the efforts of participating, and voting, space supporters.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, 2009

A Letter From a Visiting Teacher
Dear Space Education Center Staff,
     Thank you so much for a wonderful experience at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. Our students enjoyed the Space Center so much they wanted to go back the next day. When I asked the entire group to rate their experience with a thumbs up for "gas tank" full or thumbs down for "gas tank" empty, every student except one had their thumbs straight up. Many of the students were jumping up and down, holding their hands across their mouths as if to control the shouts of joy. I even had one student say that the experience, "changed my life". Wondering why one of the students had his hand at "half full", I ask him if there was anything wrong. He told me he got a little sick on the bus ride and didn't feel very well the rest of the field trip.
     I enjoyed accompanying the students on this field trip. I was so curious to see how the students would do and what they would think about the experience. I had a great time watching the students in action and in their individual roles. It was a treat to see them all engaged in a 'mission' and figuring out how to work together 'for real'. However, the biggest treat was to see how excited they were on the bus home. I thought they would be exhausted! However, the bus was buzzing with excitement about their mission, position on the ship, what decisions they had to make, and what they think they will do next time.
     As educators, we usually don't hear what the students say when they go home. Therefore, I wanted to take a minute to let you all know that what you do is phenomenal. The Space Education Center may be quite routine for you and your staff, however the students who visited on Dec 4 discovered a new world of opportunities. Thank you!

Thanks for all you do!
Camine Fuhriman
Discovery Coordinator
Entheos Academy

SATURDAY, JANUARY 9, 2010

Our First Camper of the Decade

Benjamin's Database Entry. One Interesting yet Small Item for the History Books

Hello Troops,
     It's 4:11 P.M. on Saturday. Four of our five ships are running January's Super Saturday. I'm working on updated and entering information for the camper's new Rank Papers. As I was typing names into the database I came across a young boy named Benjamin G.
     I typed in his first name.
     I typed in his last name.
     I typed in his new Flight Hours
     I typed in his new Class Hours.
     I typed in his grade
     I started to type in his birthday and stopped cold. I saw a 00 as his birth year. For a moment I thought the volunteer at the sign in table messed things ups on Benjamin's handwritten Sign In Sheet and either didn't hear him correctly or had the worst handwriting in Utah.
     I looked back at his grade. Benjamin was in 4th grade and turned 10 on January 3rd. Turning 10 made him eligible for Super Saturdays and Overnight Camps. It dawned on me right then that this boy really was born in 2000. That is why I saw 00 on his form.
     Troops, it was one of those "ah ha" moments. I was typing the first Rank Advancement Paper ever for someone born in the year 2000. There will be many many more to come but little 10 year old Benjamin was the first.

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater

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




Sunday, January 10, 2021

Christmas Over and Back to Work in the Classroom. Great School and Great Kids. Ten Years Ago at the Space Center: Erin Williams Earns her 10 Year Pin. Jon Parker Wins Best Ship of the Overnight Camp. Imaginarium Theater.


Hello Troops,
     I returned to my 6th grade classroom at Renaissance Academy (great school and awesome kids) on Monday after a restful 2 week Christmas vacation. It was "Back in the Saddle Again". My first of 5 math periods started promptly at 8:00 A.M.  The sixth graders were surprisingly alert, considering the two week break, and ready to tackle coordinated planes. First period - no problems.  Second period was the pre-algebra group. They engaged the distributive property with integers without a hiccup.  I enjoy recess as much as the kids. Those precious 15 minutes outside in the brisk winter air without a mask is a blessing. Third period is my online class. Teaching online takes more energy. With ipad propped up on my lecture stand and projector ablaze I attack the lesson with a higher level of animation and voice inflection - a must for the online teacher if you want to keep the kiddos engaged from a distance.  
     Lunch follows.


     My afternoon starts with fourth period.  By 4th period the day's lesson is aged and nearing its sell by date.  After having taught it three times already, facing another class with the same umph and energy as first period means pulling from the gut and starting in on your reserves.  
     Fifth period starts at 1:50 P.M.  I'm working on fumes alone by then. My lesson on coordinate planes is laced with mold and carries a smell similar to boiled cauliflower.  Teaching that last math class is like putting lipstick on a pig some days.  You try to keep it as fresh and vibrant as it was at 8:00 A.M. but sometimes fatigue and the sheer number of miles paced back and forth across the whiteboard during the day takes the wind out of your sails. This is where the amateur shirks to the desk and a worksheet while the professional steps into the hall, gets a drink, composes himself, engages the afterburners and enters the room ready to teach calling upon years of experience and fueled by the ticking of the clock at the back of the room reminding you that each passing minute takes you closer to the end of the day.  One more recess at 3:00 P.M. then my prep period and done.  
     After 37 years in education I still enjoy the challenge of the school day.  My legs and back remind me at times that I'm not the youngster I once was, and you won't find me in the gym playing dodgeball anymore but the energy of a school and the students keeps you young at heart.  
     We're starting on the long march to Spring Vacation. This is that stretch of the school year where a good teacher uses his /her best material to keep the kids on task and attentive. I I'll start my monetary unit and move the students into the chairs game. The combination of both will to the trick ensuring a smooth winter season.  
     I'm hoping you are all well and keeping safe during this pandemic.  Keep smiling, and when you're in the dumps, watch another Imaginarium Theater to lift your spirits.  

Mr. Williamson              

Ten(Ish) Years Ago at the Space Center

Erin Williams Earns her One Year Pin. Jon Parker Takes the Overnight Camp's Best Ship Honors.

January 10, 2011

Hello Troops,
     It's Monday at the Space Center. Amazing how that happens every seven days. We've got a busy week with field trips, after school field trips and private missions. This weekend we host 45 students from Sego Lily Elementary School.
     Our overnight camp went well. The Highland kids were generous in their scores. I'd like to congratulate the Voyager for taking top honors. Good work Jon Parker and his staff. They flew Canada. The Magellan came in a very close second.


     I want to congratulate Erin W. for earning her One Year of Volunteer Service Pin. The pin was awarded during our End of Camp meeting in Discover on Saturday. Erin is an awesome volunteer. By the way, please ignore the cheesy smile. I only get a few hours of sleep on overnight camps, and by 10:30 A.M. Saturday I'm on my 27th working hour (having started at 7:00 P.M. Friday morning), so anything I do on Saturdays is done on mental fumes only. Real coherent thought eludes me until Sunday morning.
     The Super Saturday also went well. We were all anxious to get home though. It was a busy week back from the holiday vacation. 


TUESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2010

New Galileo Test Mission. Also, A Few Bits of Cool Space News.

Hello Troops,
     What a great Tuesday it is! We are hosting the Astronomy Class from Lone Peak High School at the moment. Bracken is flying the Voyager. Christine is flying the Odyssey. They are doing Intolerance. We are back into the swing of things. I'm happy to be running missions again. I like the routine.
     We are getting close to opening the new Galileo. There are a few bugs that are still bothering us. They are being addressed one at a time. We have someone working on the ship every day until it is ready to fly.
     I know some of you are frustrated. You've been waiting to book a mission on the new Galileo and I keep postponing the opening. Remember, we have a very limited budget and this new simulator cost a lot of money. I need to rely on volunteer labor and the work of our less experienced maintenance personnel to finish the ship. We can't afford professionals. It is just the way things work around here. I'll open the Galileo once I'm sure the crews will have a good experience. 
      Here are a items of interest:
  • Kyle would like to run a Galileo Test Mission on Thursday from 5:00 - 7:30 P.M. We need 6 people to sign up. We are still working out the bugs so their may be errors. If you're interested send an email. I'll take the first 6.

Imaginarium Theater

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


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Starting the New Year as Any Good Procrastinator Should. Ten Years Ago This Week at the Space Center. Test Flight at the New Space Center. The Imaginarium Theater.

Good Morning Troops!
     It is Sunday, January 3.  I'm sitting at my desk here at the Fortress of Solitude pondering everything I didn't do over the holiday break; all those things on my pre-holiday to do list that seemed so easily accomplished but so difficult to execute once my time was really my own.  Sigh......  
     I looked back in The Troubadour's Archives and found the post below from 2011. Reading it again has given me the courage to shamefully step out of the shadows and confess to all that I am a holiday procrastinator from each cell in my body to the very essence of my character. 
      Considering that 2020 was a train wreck worldwide, I take great solace in still being upright and sane. I will not begrudge the fact that I took time to sit and read a favorite book or two, watch a few favorite TV shows, scan and publish pages from Central's historical albums, do a weekly Imaginarium Theater, and entertain and enjoy a house full of joy, excitement, and many children's voices.  
     Perhaps the slight guilt I feel for neglecting a task or two could best be remedied by rewording my holiday to-do list in the future.

        Christmas Holiday To Do List for 2021
          1.  Rest and sleep in for as long as you can.
          2.  Read a book or two for no other reason than 
                escapism.  
          3.  Enjoy family and friends. When they call, drop 
               whatever I'm doing and join in. 
          4.  Enjoy long phone conversations with far away 
               friends and family.
          5.  Nibble away at those delicious holiday treats. 
               Christmas comes but once a year.
          6.  Everything Else if time allows, knowing there 
               is plenty of time from January on to do
               most of the Everything Else's.

     There you go, next year's holiday guilt free to-do list complete.  
     I'm hoping you all have a wonderful New Year. I'm praying 2021 will bring peace and prosperity to you and yours.  To liberally quote the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Happy New Year!
Victor    

Ten Years Ago. From The Troubadour's Archives

SUNDAY, JANUARY 2, 2011

Procrastinators of the World, Unite!



Hello Troops,
     I'm sitting at home shell shocked and attempting to come to terms with the fact that this is my last day of leave before I pick up my kit and splosh through the slush and muck, across field and forest, to rejoin my comrades in the trenches at the Space Center. Ignorance is once again to be battled. Our holiday truce is concluded. One more good meal tonight, then it's a steady diet of rations; warm beans (if we can make a fire) perhaps flavored with a bit of pork rind. The brown water the cook calls coffee will wash it down.
     I had great expectations for this Christmas vacation. There was a list of things I'd hoped to accomplish but didn't. There's a little angel sitting on my right shoulder right now, chastising me for my laziness. There's a little devil sitting on my left shoulder congratulating me for slacking off. My current headache is the result of their quarrel.
     "That list will have to be done. You've just procrastinated," the angel is saying to me.
     "There's always tomorrow," the devil just countered.
     

     Sometimes you just need to just stop on life's busy highway and vegetate. Sometimes you need to grab a hot cup of whatever and just stare. I've been known to stare out the window or at a point on the wall or at people I don't even know or at that box in the living room (whether it's on or off). I let my brain drift to find its own course, taking me along for the ride. Of course this kind of mental adventuring requires a great deal of sustenance. Frequent trips to the kitchen provide the fuel and Christmas time is always the best time to find the most delicious mental fuel laying about.
     I noticed my belt has shrunk over the past two weeks. Cheap leather is the only explanation. I'll have to either purchase a new belt or make fewer trips to the kitchen. Hummmmmm, I hate tough choices.

Space Center News:
  • The Galileo is about to get a new set of simulator controls. Our Programming Guild has been working for months creating ship controls in Cocoa (Apple's language for the iPad and iPhone).
  • The Magellan has a couple new large signs to dress up its blank white walls. We hope to have more made.
  • The Phoenix's Control Room was reorganized. The Phoenix staff have more counter space now.
  • I took a few minutes yesterday and started up the Voyager. The Voyager has a personality of its own and if it's neglected too long (like the past two weeks) it has been known to throw a bit of a temper tantrum (meaning something won't work, either a computer or sound mixer or monitor). I spoke nicely to the ship before I started anything. I turned on the lights, went up to the bridge and explained why we've been gone for so long. I told her that she was never forgotten during our absence and how excited we all were to come back. With fingers crossed I started to turn everything on. I'm happy to report that the Voyager responded well to my soliloquy. Everything ran perfectly. Fingers crossed I get the same results tomorrow when the field trip arrives.

Test Flights at the New Christa McAuliffe Space Center!  The New Fleet Prepares to Launch.


On December 19th we ran our first test flight for our new simulators. There were still a few bugs to work out with lighting and engineering panels to finish assembling, so it was a 95% completed set. Thank you to the Carlson crew for being our test subjects.
So many hours of work went into preparing for that first flight and it would take too long to thank all who helped make it possible. That being said a huge thanks goes to Natalie and Tabitha for staffing the Odyssey. Jon for all the odd jobs related to getting all the ships ready. Nathan for programming and building our subsystem panel. Matt for troubleshooting a wide variety of projects.
We are so grateful to all the staff and volunteers who have worked hard to get us one step closer to flying again. To the many who are eagerly waiting for your chance to fly again, stay tuned. It won't be long now.
To read more visit the Space Center's Facebook Page:

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