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

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Renaissance Space Academy is Now The Space Place at Renaissance Academy. The Starship Voyager's First Mission in a Year. Great Staff, Great Crew. From the Archives, Phoenix Disaster! Imaginarium Theater.

With the lifting of several Covid restrictions, Renaissance Academy is in the process of reopening the school's Space Academy with a new name for a new start. Let's all welcome The Space Place at Renaissance Academy into the Space EdVentures group of space centers.   

"Where did that name come from?" you ask.  Bracken Funk explained it to me this way.  "How many of our students and crew use The Space Place as the slang name for the Space Academy?  So I thought let's make it official and rebrand as The Space Academy. It's short, easily remembered, and right to the point.  We do space and we do it well. Let's be The Space Place!  

The name has grown on me over the last few weeks. I like it.  Yes, let's be The Space Place. The name is more kid and teen friendly than The Space Academy and that is who we serve through our Young Astronauts and Voyager Clubs. Besides, the school already uses the name academy in its name.  

Tune in weekly to The Troubadour to learn more about The Space Place and how you,your friends, and family can participate in our programs. And for you students at Renaissance Academy, those sounds you've heard coming from the Starship Voyager are a sign of great things to come.  

Mr. Williamson 

The Space Place Hosts High School Students from American Heritage School

The Space Place at Renaissance Academy
March 26, 2021

It was all go aboard the Starship Voyager at The Space Place on Friday. After three weeks of programming DMX lights, cleaning, reorganizing, debugging, intensive Thorium coding, installing massive subwoofers, and many minor cosmetic touches, the Starship Voyager flew for the first time Friday since the Covid shutdown last March.  The ship's shakedown crew came from Alex DeBirk's high schoolers from American Heritage School in American Fork. The students were involved in their school's science and physics camp. The mission was the cumulativing event of the camp.   

The crew flew a mission written by Alex DeBirk. The mission was designed to incorporate complex physics problems specifically written to challenge this group of gifted students. 

Bracken and Lejana Funk staffed the mission.  Bracken reimagined the standard concept of a mission control room by programming Thorium to do many ship tasks automatically thus freeing up the flight director to focus more on the students and less on the controls, sounds, and videos.  Bracken monitored the controls. Alex Debirk was Flight Director with control of the microphone and sound effects.  This method of flying opens the door for many of the Space Center's retired flight directors to return from time to time to run missions without needing to learn how to operate the ship's controls. 

With the success of this first mission, The Space Place and it's flagship Voyager is preparing for .............. let me finish that sentence with a few lines from the movie "2010: The Year We Make Contact"

Here are a few pictures of the Voyager's return to space last Friday. 

 The long walk from the Transition Room to the Voyager's Bridge.

A few turns later and you find yourself on the bridge

The Voyager's Bridge. 

Left Forward Bridge. Right Aft Bridge where the 
Command Tactical Station is located

From the Archives. Ten Years Ago This Month

SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011

The Phoenix has a New View Screen (And Other Things)

Hello Troops,
We had a good weekend punctuated with a couple hiccups. Alex stopped me as I walked into the office Friday evening. It was almost 6:00 P.M. and I had several things I needed to do for the Overnight Camp at 7:00 P.M.

"Our main viewer is down. I couldn't get it to turn on." Alex was neck deep in a Phoenix private mission so he had to speak quickly. "I'm using the two side TV's only."

I asked if he'd clicked the input button on the remote. He said he had but I wasn't convinced. I'm usually pretty good at making what some classify as impossible, possible. I found the remote, walked into the ship, told the kids to carry on and pretend I wasn't there and fiddled with the viewer. It was obvious the TV had power - the red light on the front control panel flickered whenever I pushed a remote button, but no matter what I did, no matter which button combination I pushed, that TV wouldn't cooperate. I pronounced it DOA when I came out of the ship.

I was left with one choice - I had to purchase another TV for the Phoenix. The old set would be removed and taken to the repair shop for diagnosis. If it could be repaired at a reasonable cost then it would be. If it couldn't, then it would be carted off to recycling - or whatever else you do with dead large screen TVs.

The Phoenix private mission ended at 7:00 P.M. That gave Dave and Alex just 20 minutes or so to come up with an alternative plan for the Overnight camp. They found an old 24 inch TV in the Animation Studio and installed it. Mind you, it looked odd having this large wall of black plastic with a 24 inch screen shining through but would the campers know? Most likely they wouldn't - thinking what they saw was how the ship was designed.

The second hiccup was discovered around 8:00 P.M. Several volunteers failed to show up to work the camp. That immediately put us into 'problem solving' mode. Within fifteen minutes we had the problem worked out. I want to thank Erick B. for answering the email call for additional staff and coming when he did. It made a big difference.

Saturday morning I called Brady Young, a Voyager Flight Director and a member of Best Buy's Geek Squad, and explained the problem. Brady said he would talk to the store's manager and see if they would sell us a TV at cost. He called back saying he'd worked out a deal.

Later that afternoon, Bill Schuler picked me up in his truck and we drove to Lehi's Best Buy. We met Brady near the Geek Squad's area. He introduced me to the asst. manager and we worked out a deal. One thousand dollars later and we were out the door with a nice 47 inch LCD television for the Phoenix's main viewer. We got back to the Space Center just as the afternoon mission was wrapping up.

The Center closed at 5:00 P.M. Alex and Jon stayed until 7:30 P.M. installing the new TV. It wasn't easy, considering the number of cables that had to be stretched across the Phoenix's ceiling.

The new TV is in and, according to Alex, looks awesome!

"There is one problem," Alex said when he called me to deliver the news. "Whenever we switch between inputs, the TV displays the word 'Component' in the corner for a few seconds. It's something we can't make go away so it will be something we have to live with."
Alex and Jon will come up with some "sci fi" explanation for the word's appearance in the context of the Phoenix being a starship etc. We are good and dishing out the bull when necessary.

I'm anxious to see the TV in action on Monday. I hope it's worth the $1000 paid. I want to thank Bill, Alex and Jon for helping with this small crisis.

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater

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


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Natalie Anderson Publishes her First Book. CMSC Employee Wins State Competition. From the Archives: Honor's Night March 2011. Imaginarium Theater.

Celebrating The People in the Space EdVenturing Community.  Natalie Anderson (CMSC)

The Space Center (CMSC) has some amazingly talented staff, one of them is Natalie Anderson. You may have had her as your Odyssey flight director and experienced the imaginative talent and acting range she possess. Today we rejoice with Natalie Anderson (published as Natalie Brianne) as her book is published and available to the public. Congratulations on reaching this point after years of hard work Natalie.

Celebrating The People in the Space EdVenturing Community.  Nathan Ford (CMSC)

Celebrating success carries on as we congratulate the CMSC's newest employee, Nathan Ford and his teammates (Pictured: Matthew, Jayden, Nathan, Elijah) for taking 1st place at the TSA (Technology Student Association) high school state competition in the animatronics and coding categories representing Westlake High School.
     For animatronics, the team spent hundreds of hours making a robotic river otter exhibit for a Natural History Museum. It has moving targets and you "shoot" the trash to clean up the river. For coding, they were the only team to successfully complete all of the challenges in the allotted time--as sophomores! They get to represent the state of Utah at the National TSA competition in Washington D.C. this summer. 
    The river otter project will be on display at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center for more people to see their impressive work. You can see some of Nathan's talents already in the CMSC's simulators as he has been helping to imagineer new engineering panels.

From the Archives: Ten Years Ago This Month


Space Center Honors.

Hello Troops,
We've had a few recognitions recently that I'd like to post so everyone can celebrate the good things that happen here at the Space Center.

     This is Mr. Daymont. He likes soda. He likes soda so much that one is never enough. In this picture you see him reaching for my soda.
     "Want!" he said with hand outstretched.
     "No. One is enough," I answered as I snapped the picture. What followed wasn't pretty. He doesn't take kindly to "No". Especially if it involves a sugary snack.
     If you see Mark on your next visit to the Center, be sure to stop and thank him for his hard work on your behalf. One work of advice, be sure to hide all sweets before approaching. He has a keen sense of smell and can sniff out a carbohydrate from ten feet.

     This is a picture of Natalie, Christine and Mark. Christine is giving us the thumbs up. She and Natalie just finished cleaning Mark's face. Someone stupidly gave him a handful of M and M's for an especially enthusiastic clap when the staff took the Magellan Bridge as Orion Pirates. Luckily he didn't mess up his Space Center shirt.

     We're celebrating the February birthdays in this picture. We celebrate staff birthdays at the end of every month. The reasoning is sound. Mrs. Houston only has to bake one cake.  We also save money on candles. Then there's the singing of "Happy Birthday to You". If you've ever heard the staff sing then you'd be grateful we only sing once a month. Anything more than that could result in a visit from the PG police department. Then there is the problem of birds dropping dead from the sky around the school. Our singing is a real nasty business.

     This is Mrs. Houston, a Space Center educator. She looks a bit disheveled because of the singing moments earlier. I'm still gritting my teeth. Not to worry, my jaw relaxes before I'm needed to run the next mission.

     And now the recognitions. Miranda was awarded her Year of Service Pin. She's still shivering form the singing fifteen minutes earlier (and I'm still gritting my teeth).

     Miranda is receiving her Odyssey Pin from Emily. Great job Miranda. Emily on the other hand, received a warning for wearing long johns under her Space Center shirt. She complains about the cold, but is that any excuse for punishing us with protruding long johns?

     This is Bro. Alex congratulating Jordan on receiving his Phoenix Pin. Jordan is actually taller than Bro. Alex, but because of Bro. Alex's temperament, Jordan stoops down to keep his head lower than Bro. Alex's.
     You're asking about Bro. Alex's smile? Alex is preparing for missionary service. We've been working with him on his people skills. That smile is the result of three months work. Do you like it?

     This is Jace. Jace was awarded his Voyager Pin on this particular camp. Jace has been working on his Voyager pass since the 5th grade. It was a joy to finally get to give him is pin, especially considering he's an 8th grader now at PG Junior (my jaw is beginning to relax).
     Thanks to our Awesome Staff and Volunteers. 

Mr. W.


Wednesday's Thoughts

Hello Troops,
     All is well on the front lines at the Space Education Center. Our forces engaged the Ignoraemii in heavy combat today. We reclaimed the innocent from enslavement using heavy doses of imagination and electrical jolts to restart cognitive thought processes. Yes, It's what we do.
     The battle is still being fought as I type. Jon leads the Voyager's forces. Alex is sounding the trumpet in the Phoenix while Ben urges his Galileo troops over the top to engage the enemy with bayonets drawn. It is a wonder to behold.
     I had the District Metal Shop build a new addition to the Captain's Loft. It was installed on Tuesday. In the following two pictures Jace demonstrates the correct exit from the Captain's Lounge using the new ladder.
     You'll see the new carpeted platform at the exit (or entrance). This gives Jace room to turn around and descend the ladder if he's coming out of the Loft. Once again, done with the safety of our staff and crew in mind.

Alex started the work of installing a couple new cameras in the Galileo this afternoon. The one camera currently in the simulator doesn't cut it.

     We had fun hosting students from Foothill Elementary in Orem and the John Hancock Charter School in Pleasant Grove on Tuesday. Both teams worked well through their respective missions. John Hancock's Captain was very good and Foothill's Ambassador was outstanding.
     Foothill had a few students with unusual names never heard before at the Space Center.
Gomer (Yes, like Gomer Pyle from the 1960's TV show)
Egbert and
     It was refreshing to see those unique names. I think its time to bring back other odd and unusual names that went out of style long ago (or perhaps never were in style). I'd like to see more Georges (we had one last week. First in a long while). I'm also thinking of Fred, Wilma, Betty, Elmer, Hank, Mildred, Luella, Minerva, Abigail, etc.

Mr. Williamson

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Getting Renaissance Academy's Starship Voyager Ready for Launch After its Engagement with the Covid Battlestar Pandemic. All Hands to Battle Stations! From the Archives: Saint Sheila Our Space Center Hero. God Bless Her. The Imaginairum Theater.

For the last year, the USS Voyager has been recuperating at the Renaissance shipyards. The good ship took a beating in its engagement with the Covid Confederation's Star Cruiser Pandemic.  The Voyager limped home from the battle, was evaluated by Admiral Funk, and found to have serious damage to several key ship components necessary for successful space travel.  The Voyager was assigned to a berth and left fallow as the rest of the fleet carried out the campaign to rid Earth space from the Covids once and for all. 

The Trouabdour is happy to provide the following update on the Voyager's health and expected release date.  With the thumbs up given by Mark Ursic at Renaissance Academy, Admiral Funk and his band of merry men and ladies received their marching orders. Bracken Funk, Lejana Funk, Parriss King, Nathan King, Camden Robinson, Megan Warner, Maeson Busk, Drew Wright, Matt Ricks and Renaissance Academy's master technician Gage spent the past fortnight within the ship's inner workings repairing, organizing, reorganizing, and searching for necessary parts.  Many long nights, early morning, very early mornings, and around the clockers were spent consoling the ship. Over 160 volunteer hours were put into the effort.  Thank you to everyone for their support.  

The Voyager can hold a grudge when not pampered as the staff discovered upon their return. Understanding this personality quirk, the Voyager staff carried out the repairs while gently talking to the ship and reminding her of her rightful place as a flagship of the line.  Happily I'm writing to report that their work was successful and the Voyager is ready to launch and take her place with the other ships in the Utah County fleet.  

Admiral Bracken Funk is to be credited for taking on the refit and seeing it to completion.  Bracken in turn wanted to thank his wife Lejana for her contribution. Lejana contributed 40 volunteer hours helping to organize the equipment and props and familiarizing herself with the program. Without her, the Voyager would still be buried under all of the items that were scattered throughout the ship during school construction and the shutdown. She also pulled an all-nighter with Bracken Wednesday to Thursday (until from 8 am on the 10th, until 6pm on the 11th) in preparation for the Voyager's return to space flight on Friday. Bracken also wanted to mention the "overnighter" experience his children enjoyed aboard the Voyager while he and his wife were working on the ship. They are now being dubbed "STARSHIP TROOPERS" for their sacrifice of their comfy beds at home.  

Renaissance Academy's Starship Voyager will soon be ready to once again see to the students' needs at the school.  Watch for further updates on developments. They will be forthcoming as Covid 19 safety measures change. 

From the Archives. Ten Years Ago this Month.

March 6, 2011

Saint Sheila. My Hero.

Hello Troops,
Some time ago I wrote about the Space Center’s Patron Saint Sheila. The article was a tribute to Sheila Powell, one of the Space Center’s three field trip teachers.

The people I proclaim ‘Saints‘ encapsulate my vision of heroism. They are selfless with their fellow man. They are kind to a fault. They bear their burdens with a strength that inspires. All this, and much more, defines our Saint Sheila.

Sheila’s rise to sainthood is the result of several factors. Sheila was a sixth grade teacher in the Jordan School District. That fact alone drew Vatican attention. Sheila is a cancer survivor. Cancer survivors no longer exist in the same world as you and I. They experience life differently, knowing how fragile it is and how quickly it can end. They have the power to stop time and enjoy life’s special moments. You see them sometimes, standing alone, looking at something so innocent to us that it would hardly cause a moment’s thought, yet they sit memorized - lost in the fraction of a pleasant second.

A few weeks ago Sheila’s father passed away. It was yet another burden for her to carry, being the eldest and responsible for her surviving mother.

And finally, this week’s news.
“I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease,” she told us on Monday. It was said much like you would say you were coming down with a cold. The calmness of the statement was followed by the brightening of her halo. Such a statement can leave the listener uncertain of how to respond. For a moment you visualize the meaning, then realize the uncertain road ahead. The “I’m so sorry,” that inevitably follows are the only words that manage to surface.

And so, our Saint Sheila embarks on another journey of faith, with us beside her.

Recently I overhead several of the staff discuss a member of BYU’s basketball team. I believe his name was Jimmer. The word ‘hero‘ was used to describe their perceptions of his character and abilities. I thought for a moment of how life changes you as you age. When you’re young you admire people that excel in doing things you dream of doing well yourself. You make them your heroes. You put their posters on your walls. You dress like them, talk like them, and eat the cereals endorsed by them.

Now that I've reached the Autumn of my life, I choose my heroes differently. My heroes are the men, women and children who carry the burden of misfortune and illness with a faith that inspires me to be a better person. I see them playing a hand none of us would want, and yet manage to do it in such a way that we are all the better for it.

Saint Sheila is my hero.
Thank you Saint Sheila.


The Imaginarium Theater

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

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The USS Galileo II Finds a New Home at American Heritage School. A Report on the School's New Space Center. The Phoenix Launches at the CMSC! Four More to Go. New Panels in the Simulators. The Space Center History in T-Shirts. The Imaginarium Theater.

The Galileo II Being Reassembled at the American Heritage Space Center in American Fork 

                      Alex Debirk and Matt Long helping Kyle Herring with the 
                              construction of the Galileo II.  Summer 2009

     Exciting things are happening in the Space EdVentures community despite Covid.  I start today's Troubadour post with an update by Alex DeBirk from the American Heritage School's Creative Lab with an update on that school's space center under construction. Isn't it great to see the Galileo in its new home?  And now Alex's update.


Hi Victor,

     Things are moving ahead with the American Heritage School program. Our building is now enclosed, but still being finished. The Galileo was moved into the second floor a couple of weeks ago, and this summer we will be building a sister ship to go along with it. Next to the sister ship we will be building the AHS creativity lab. This facility will house a full wood shop, metal shop, costume shop, video production studio, electronics, etc. The idea is to have as few limits as possible. In the AHS program, we are trying to pair the inspiration of the simulators with STEM facilities that allow students to carry those ideas to fruition. 

     Above is a picture of the Galileo in its new home; this entire floor, everything that you can see, will be dedicated to the simulators and creativity lab. 

     The picture above is the first project inspired by our center: an antimatter fuel cell. This fuel cell has a single, large, copper sulfate crystal (grown at AHS) encased in resin and lit by lasers and lights to simulate a large antimatter crystal suspended magnetically. It is programmed and wired to allow multiple power states and even has a battery backup in the cap, where if the students unplug the cell from the ship, Lights will slowly turn off over 10 minutes before indicating that the battery that suspends the antimatter has died, the antimatter has touched the edge, and the ship has exploded. Pretty neat. What I hope is that the simulators, coupled with this creativity lab, will allow the simulator concept you began to go further than ever before.

Alex Debirk
American Heritage School Space Center

The Phoenix II Launches from the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. 

       Jordan Smith and Scott Wiltbank in the Phoenix Control Room on Saturday
     More exciting news from Utah's space education centers.  The Christa McAuliffe Space Center launched the new Phoenix on Saturday.  The Phoenix II is the second of the Center's six simulators to open. The Odyssey opened for mission a few weeks ago. Reservations are still limited to family groups only until government restrictions are lifted. You can reserve a 2.5 hour mission in the Phoenix for 5-7 participants for $105.

The Phoenix Test Mission: The First Group

Visit the CMSC website to make your next flight reservation:

New Panels Being Installed at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center

     James Porter has many pots on the fire at the moment with the new simulators getting ready to open and the planetarium.  These control panels are currently on the front burner and they're coming along nicely. This panel was installed over the weekend with many more to come.  


     My hat is off to James. Not many people know what it takes to run a Space EdVentures space center. He is a gifted and talented teacher and administrator and the best man for the job. It is as if he's been training for this position since his high school days :)  

The History of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center in T-Shirts.

The CMSC had some gems from the past donated to their archives. Thank you to Kathy Gover for bringing them in rather than throwing them out. These shirts belong to her sons Cory and Ben Gover, two of my outstanding early Young Astronauts at Central Elementary school.
The blue Young Astronaut shirt style was the shirt worn by my Young Astronauts when we travelled to International Young Astronaut conventions in Florida, Oklahoma, Japan, and South Korea. The blue shirt pre-dated the construction of the first Space Center.
The Pegasus shirt was my Young Astronaut Club's first t-shirt dating from the late 1980's. The Pegasus was my classroom simulator with poster board controls.
The gray Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center shirt was the first t-shirt made after the CMSEC opened in 1990.
Do you have old Space Center memorabilia from the past that you'd like to donate to Space Center's archives. If so, please contact me at or James Porter at


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