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

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Enjoy This Week's Imaginarium Theater.

Imaginarium Theater

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

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Space Center's Magellan Innovates with Crew Positions. Out with the Old. The USS Cassini Gets a New Mascot. Help Name It. News from the New Space Center at American Heritage School in American Fork. Nolan Welch's Test Mission on the Odyssey.Up Past My Bed Time. Imaginarium Theater

Conner Larson briefing the Magellan's test flight with the new departments. The 
crew was composed of Space Center staff and volunteers.

     One of the Space Center's founding principles is Innovation.  The willingness to experiment, to try new ideas,  to stick one's neck out and do something no simulator has done before is my definition of innovation.  The day the simulators in the Space EdVenture fleet of ships (Voyager, Magellan, Cassini, Phoenix, Galileo, Falcon, Odyssey, Hyperion, Apollo, Artemis, Leo, Titan, Valiant, Everest, and Pathfinder) sit back on their laurels and just do things that way because that's the way it has always been done is the first day to a long slide into oblivion.  Sure, many things we try end up failing and many don't work as well as we'd hoped.  That's OK.  You learn something in every defeat.  Imagine where we'd be today if I stopped innovating shortly after I opened the Space Center in 1990?  If you guessed that there wouldn't be a Space Center today you're right.  

The Magellan Commander ready to get going and hoping Connor would wrap things up

     I challenge the space centers in the network to continue to experiment.  I encourage you to try new approaches to a mission, try new equipment, write new and different storylines, etc.  

     There's a reason for those last two soap box paragraphs - I want to highlight the Magellan's very own Connor Larsen.  Connor is the Magellan's Set Director at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  Connor returned to Utah for the summer.  Mr. Porter contacted him upon his arrival to inform him that his Starfleet Reactivation Clause was enforced. He was to report to duty asap. 

     Connor walked onto the Magellan's bridge, looked around, and waited for inspiration.  What were the whispers faintly heard in the moving air-conditioned air?  He opened his mind and experienced that moment of innovation when the light bulb flashes and the germ of an idea springs into consciousness. Connor had the crazy idea of not giving his crews actual bridge stations in the traditional sense.  Instead, he would create departments and assign his crewmembers to a department instead of a single job.  Each member of the department would be expected to learn every computer station composing that department.  They would learn to be a team, to cover for each other, to train each other, to look after each other.


One of the departments. The departments are generally one bank of computers.

     Connor took a few minutes to explain the concept to me at the start of the summer camp season.  I thought it brilliant.  He would give it a go with the Magellan's first test mission of their new summer story. FYI, the departments are Command, Engineering, Logistics, Strategic Operations. 

The back bridge makes up another department

     Of course, there will be the doubters and the traditionalists who will dig in their heels and resist the changes. That is to be expected and not feared.  There is a place for "I don't like this, it isn't the way we've always done it. The old way worked. Why change it?"  My experience is that they are right about 50% of the time.  You need a few people like that. They help you fine-tune the idea to the point of keeping it and making it the new standard of operations, or discarding it and returning to the old tried and true.  However, always remember - if you want to be a valued member of staff, you need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovation.  Give it your best shot.  See if it works.  If it does - your job is to embrace it. 

     Will Conner's idea actually work in the real world of day-to-day simulations?  Time will tell.  Of course "The Troubadour" will keep you updated on developments.  It is what we do...

The Cassini Gets a New Mascot     

      Audrey Henriksen is one of those multi-talented individuals who finds a way to add a bit of class and culture to the Space Center.  Here is one example...... Meet Cassini's new manta ray mascot conceptualized and sewn by Audrey - a true original.     

      Now, a problem....  Jon Parker is the Cassini's Set Director. Jon is gifted in the flight director's chair but draws blanks when it comes to names.  Jon needs your help.  What should Audrey's new creation be named?  Jon is excited to hear your opinion (if you have one).  Please send them to Jon for consideration.  If your name is chosen, you'll be invited to sit next to Jon in Cassini's Control Room for 5 whole minutes!  Jon is willing to take it one step further. Jon will let you talk to him for 2 of those 5 minutes.  I'll even let you sit in my camp-style rocker.  If that doesn't get your creative juices flowing, nothing will.  Send your name suggestions today.  

American Heritage School's Space Center is Moving Ahead Toward a Fall Opening

Alex showing me how his Dilithium Chamber works

     Alex DeBirk and students work night and day to get the new space center at American Heritage up and running by Fall.  The new Center will have two simulators: the old Galileo from the Christa McAuliffe Space Center, and a new ship currently under construction in the school's new high school which is also under construction.  Adjoining the two simulators will be a Make-It-Lab.  The Make-It-Lab is a large room, Alex's classroom to be exact.  The room will be equipped with thousands of dollars worth of equipment to be used by his high school engineering and physics students.  Large 3D printers will be used to create props and set pieces for the simulators. 

     Two of his students proudly demonstrated their latest creation, an illuminated dilithium crystal set in a magnetic chamber. I was impressed. Can you imagine what you could do with a prop like this in a simulation?  
     The dilithium chamber is the start of many cool things we can expect to see from the AHS's Make-It-Lab.  To learn more about the new space center at American Heritage in American Fork, keep your eye on The Troubadour. This is where you'll hear it first (or you could contact Alex DeBirk if you're impatient: 

Nolan Welch Successfully Completes His First Odyssey Test Flight Under Natalie Anderson's Watchful Eye and My Encouraging Comments (and annoying suggestions)

     June 16th.  6:30 P.M.  Nolan Welch took center stage on the Odyssey and welcomed his first test flight, just one of many requirements in his quest to achieve the exhausted status of Odyssey Flight Director before his 50th birthday (I'm nearly 63 and haven't gotten it. Mind you, I've not really tried)
     While the crew, made up of roommates and close friends, had their bathroom break, Nolan was summoned into the Odyssey Control Room by the ship's Set Director, Natalie Anderson.  Natalie presented Nolan with his own set of dry erase markers for the ship's briefing room's whiteboard (pictured above).  As if that wasn't enough, Natalie gave Nolan a wrapped present.  I thought he would break down in tears. It was his very own plastic storage container for the control room. What a privilege only offered to those who find themselves in the good graces of Natalie and Tabitha.                      "Absolutely NOT!" was Natalie's response when asked if I could have one.  You see how picky they are in the Odyssey.   

Nolan showing off his container

Katy wasn't having any of that "I'm better than the rest of you," attitude Nolan smirk suggested.  She showed him her container from the shelf.  Nolan smiled for the photo but grumbled a bit as he walked out of the control room.

     Nolan invited me to watch a few days earlier.  He overheard me tell a small gathering in the Cassini Control Room that in my 23 years as Space Center director, I couldn't recall watching a test mission all the way through.  He wanted to be the first.  I accepted his invitation - even though the mission's 9:00 P.M. end was past my bedtime.  I sat behind him and made tastefully appropriate suggestions while Natalie sat beside me showing her approval with "Good Jobs" and her disapproval with a set of "tsk, tsk, tsks".  Young Hyrum sat in the 2nd chair position and Katy worked the bridge.      

The staff for Nolan's first test mission on the Odyssey.

     Nolan did an outstanding job, despite Natalie's remarks :)
And I say that not because Nolan will eventually be training me to work the Cassini's 2nd chair but because he really is a gifted storyteller and a master of accents and voices.  His enthusiasm was contagious.  Double thumbs up from me Nolan despite using the phrase "This Vessel" way too many times for my liking......

And Finally, Has it Been That Long..........   

     I took this photo as I got into my car after Nolan's test flight 
It was after 9:00 P.M. It dawned on me that the last time I stayed this late at the Space Center was the summer of 2012 during the last overnight summer camp before the renovation shut down. Wow, time passes faster and faster the older you get.  

Mr. Williamson

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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The First Space Center Honor's Night in the New Building. See Who Was Honored. Imaginarium Theater.


Space Center Honors Night. June 3, 2021

     The Christa McAuliffe Space Center held its first Honors Night in the new building on June 3, 2021.  The event was held in the planetarium. All will agree that never has there been an Honor's Night in the Space Center's 30-year history held in a more luxurious setting; we're talking a 5-star venue. One would have expected spotlights in the parking lot and a red carpet illuminated by hundreds of flashes as the staff and volunteers arrived to learn who would receive what honor.  The tension in the air was noticeable as those assembled settled in their seats as the lights dimmed and Mr. James Porter approached the stand.  


And as customary in events such as this, Mr. Porter stuck to a long-standing Space Center tradition and dealt with housekeeping issues before the Honors.  Of course, everyone who has ever volunteered or staffed the Space Center knows that "A Clean Ship is a Happy Ship" so why the constant reminders? Because everyone suffers from selective memory loss when it comes to cleaning. Playing an Orion Pirate or a deranged Paklid is fun, but cleaning up after the mission...... not so much.  All in attendance took a solemn oath to keep the new Space Center and Central School clean, green, and serene. 

     Other housekeeping items included proper dress and grooming paired with the sensitive topic of showering and the application of deodorant before coming to the Center.  Sometimes the best way to say something delicate is to just do it and get it over with.  It's like ripping an old bandaid off a newly formed scab.  Younglings, you stink if you don't shower, with soap I should add. Do it before you come to the Center to work or volunteer. The Control Rooms, while bigger than the old ones, are still small. Everyone is close, breathing each other's air and smelling what you had for lunch.  Be "That Volunteer" flight director's use as the example of how to look and smell.  

"See, this is Max. Notice how clean Max looks, and smell that soap and deodorant. Be like Max."     


     With housekeeping out of the way, Mr. Porter's opening remarks took a different direction.  "Who is responsible for what and who do you go to for answers" was the title of the next theme.  Take a moment to look at the photo above to refresh your memory.  James put himself at the bottom - a clever way of saying not to bother him until everyone above has been approached.  

     "Mean and Grumpy?"  YES - and rightfully so when the air conditioning isn't working in the simulator control rooms and planetarium server room.  I don't remember a summer camp season over the last 30 years that didn't have air conditioning problems.  It is the nature of the beast.  


     Tabitha Ricks was next to take the stage.  She introduced the congregation to the Center's new volunteers.  Very few knew who they were, but the introduction garnered polite applause.  

     In that list of names could be a future flight or set director. Perhaps even Mr. Porter's replacement as Center Director several years from now.  Everyone, even Mr. Porter, started as a new volunteer and had to maneuver their way to the positions they occupy now through hard work, showering, and using deodorant.   


     Speaking of people who've worked hard and worked their way up the ladder...... Mr. Porter then introduced us to those who've been accepted into the staff training school.  Each person on that list has demonstrated a willingness to learn what it takes to become Space Center great along with outstanding personal grooming and cleanliness. 

     New staff was introduced at Honor's Night.  The room grew strangely quiet as the list appeared on the dome.  Who was this Mr. Williamson? Who was this "Victor"?  Could they be one and the same?  It's the circle of life is it not?  The guy who founded the Center, directed it for 23 years, and then retired?  Is he back?  

     Well...... you bet I'm back and very proud indeed to wear a lanyard with an Alpine School District employee badge housed in one of those computerized door opening things.  You want to see me smile, just stop me and ask how it feels to be wearing that badge and I'll tell you that it is an honor to be working side by side with some of the finest young people in Utah all gathered in one place to bring the Space Center's unique happiness and learning to Utah's students.  


     The Space Center's Set Directors each took to the podium to describe their simulators; how each is different in its own way.  Brylee went first. She is the Galileo's Set Director.   


     Jordan Smith is the Phoenix's Set Director.  

     After his description of the Phoenix, he presented a Phoenix 2nd Chair pass to Cecily H.  

     Connor Larsen is the Magellan's Set Director.  He spoke of the Magellan's new method for organizing crew bridge positions.

     Jon Parker is the Cassini's Set Director. He spoke about bringing back the Voyager's old missions and how the Casini was the perfect ship to do that.  As a passing note, he mentioned the fact that I had been assigned to the Cassini as a new trainee. "I'll guess we'll see if you can teach an old dog new tricks," he said sarcastically.  Afterward, I noticed him in the lobby going from Set Director to Set Director reminding them of favors owed.  It was obvious he was trying to pawn me off to another ship. They wouldn't hear of it and, as a group, reminded Jon of the privilege it was for the Cassini to be blessed by my years of wisdom and experience :)  Jon, I promise to keep you supplied with Dr. Pepper and will, to the best of my ability, remember to shower, shave, accessorize and deodorize before coming to the Cassini and sitting next to you.  Deal?    

     Mr. Porter rose to his feet and gave a heartful endorsement for the soon-to-be-launched Falcon simulator - his baby - his dream ship.  
     I missed getting pictures of Natalie giving her speech as Set Director of the Odyssey.     

     Several volunteers received their Apprentice Badges at this Honor's Night.  

     As I stated before, watch for good things to come from these young recruits.  

     Cecily received the next-level award for volunteering. I don't remember what it was but I'll get it sorted out and make a correction to this post.  Sorry, Cecily.


     Wes and Marissa were awarded another volunteering badge. Congratulations (I'll get it sorted then posted correctly) 


     Mr. Porter presented Scott with his Flight Director Navy Blues at this Honor's Night.  Scott is the Phoenix's newest flight director and joins Jordan and Mason at the helm of the ship. 

     What a gathering of talent!  Look at these 5-year pin recipients.  The simulators couldn't function without them, no doubt about it. I've had the privilege of working with most of them. The others I've watched as they've worked. They are dedicated to the Center and its mission.  We are blessed to have them on staff.  

The Highlight of the Evening. The Awarding of the 10 Year Pins to Connor Larsen and Natalie Anderson.

     Has it been 10 years since these two first darkened the Space Center's doors?  They came in under my watch.  Natalie was one of those Andersons, sister to Brent and Alex.  I knew she had to be good - and I was right. Natalie was, is, and will continue to be a Space Center star.  The Odyssey is her home and that will always be the case. Even though she is one of the busiest people I know, she always seems to have time for the Space Center. 
     Connor was the mystery.  He was this little ball of enthusiasm and energy and thanks to many excellent mentors, he has grown to become a remarkable man with numerous talents.  The other day I sat in the Magellan Control Room and watched him train a Magellan Flight Director Want - to - be. His training style was textbook perfect. I would have told him so right then and there but compliments have a way of inflating Connor's head to dangerous levels so we keep them to a minimum and never ever give them during a mission.  

One More Thing.... A Tribute to Mr. James Porter

     James (Mr. Porter) was taken by surprise by this last slide in the stack.  Tabitha interrupted his closing remarks and asked him to stand aside. She took the podium and spoke for everyone in the room, thanking Mr. Porter for everything he has done, and continues to do, to make the Space Center what it is today.  James already knows I'm his greatest fan but it is always good to learn that I'm not the only one.  He is remarkable and has taken the Space Center to new heights.  I couldn't have timed my retirement better, because it was just at that point in his career where he could move his family to Pleasant Grove from Logan to assume the Space Center's directorship.  Thank you Mr. Porter for what you do and who you are.  And so say we all!    

     Week's before Honor's Night, the staff had a painting party at the home of Matt and Tabitha Ricks.  Each was given a canvas on which to paint a picture to adorn the big blank curved wall in Mr. Porter's office.  He appeared to be very grateful for the sentiment (whether he really liked the art is still yet to be determined).   

Last, but not least..... Goodbye Sam

     Sam Golding is about to leave for the mission field.  He attended Honor's Night with his dad as his companion (he is doing the home MTC experience).  He took a moment to thank James for his mentorship and friendship. James will agree with me when I say that things like this make teachers proud.
It is another payday for us.

     It was an Honor's Night for the record book.  Thank you to all who attended and a "We Missed You!" to those who could not.  

Mr. Williamson

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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Voyager Club at Renaissance Academy Finishes the Covid School Year with Successful Flights. History is Made, A Report on the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's First Summer Camp in the New Building. Imaginarium Theater.

 Good Morning Troops,

     The Troubadour apologizes for the lack of recent updates from the Space EdVenturing World.  Mr. Williamson has been preoccupied with the closing of the school year and the start of the summer space camp season. 

     There is a lot to cover so let's get straight to business.

Ryker and Jackson on a successful landing party.
They are members of the Voyager Club's 7-8th Grade Flight Squadron

The Voyager Club at Renaissance Academy Finishes the School Year with Successful Missions

     We didn't know if we'd be able to operate a Voyager Club this year due to covid, but with the springtime easing of restrictions, the door opened and we got the ball rolling. Bracken Funk spent several weeks in the Starship Voyager getting it ready for the new mission.  Once the ship was ready, the invitation to join was issued.  We didn't know what kind of response we'd get with a part of the student body doing online learning and the lateness of the year.  But despite the roadblocks we were able to field 8 squadrons with nearly 100 students in grades 3 - 8. 


The Voyager Club's Monday Squadron

     Each squadron met three times and did a new mission written by myself and Bracken Funk.  

The Tuesday Squadron

     The cadets were masked up until the last week of school when the mask requirement was lifted.  The decision to not wear our standard uniforms was kept in place until the summer season. 

Carter did an awesome job commanding the Wednesday 1st Squadron

    We needed a new mission.  The majority of our cadets had been members of the school's Voyager Club for a number of years and knew the ship's library of flights.  It's surprising how quickly a mission can come together in a pinch.  The new mission is a good one - great story, lots of action, and very very few tactical cards required.    

The Thursday 3rd grade squadron did Intolerance

     The third-grade squadron did Intolerance. What a great all-around story.  

One of the Club's Friday Squadrons commanded by Max - the Great.

     The 2020-2021 Voyager Club has one more squadron to finish up on Monday and that will be it.  The start of the 2021-2022 school year means a new round of space service recruiting by Terran Space Command.  Next year's club will be open to students in grades 3 - 9.  

History was Made Last Week!  The First Summer Camp in the New Christa McAuliffe Space Center

Jon Parker Briefing the Cassini Crew on their mission "Greenpeace"

     The Space Center has always had summer camps (except last summer due to Covid) since the summer of 1991.  What makes this summer's camps unique is the fact that they are being held in the NEW Christa McAuliffe Space Center in the new starship simulators.  
     I was invited to join the camps this summer as a trainee in the new Cassini.  My job is to learn how to fly the ship.  I'll be honest when I say the new Thorium controls are more complicated than the old Voyager controls I last used during the summer of 2012, but with Jon Parker and Nolan Welch's patience, I feel confident I'll have them mastered in no time.   
     The camp started at 8:00 A.M. Monday, June 1 with a planetarium show "The Star Wars Planets".  I arrived just as Jon was assigning the cadets to their simulators.  Some things never change. If it wasn't for the planetarium surroundings you'd swear you were back in the old Central School gym with me at the front of a bunch of students assigning them to a ship with the flight directors all lined up nicely behind me waiting to receive their charges.  

There I am assigning cadets to their simulators back in June 2008

     I followed the Cassini team downstairs and onto the flight deck of Starbase Williamson (I sure love the sound of that :)
The cadets gathered around their flight directors in the large hallway to receive their bridge positions.  All except the Odyssey. For some reason, the Odyssey crew gets to use Central School's conference room - a throwback to the old school I guess. 
     While Jon briefed I took the opportunity to roam and snap a few pictures for the blog and for history. On a side note, I sure wish I had done something like this back in 1991.  It took me a while to understand the importance of documenting the history of an organization - especially one as unusual as the Space Center! 

     My first stop was the Phoenix.  The crew had just finished the briefing and was ready to launch. The captain gave me a thumbs up. He was ready for action.  What do you think of the new Phoenix?  Do you like it better, the same, or not as much as the old Phoenix? 

     The Phoenix was staffed by Jordan Smith (at the FD station) with Scott Wiltbank at second chair.  Maeson Perry was on standby for assistance.  

     My next stop was the Galileo Control Room so Lindsey could ask me for the highlight of my day.  "Working with all of you of course," I answered.  She gave me a smile and a thumbs up.  

The front of the Galileo Bridge

     While Lindsey was busy lifting everyone's spirits, Brylee Perry was in the Galileo briefing the crew.  I didn't want to become a distraction so I took my photo and escaped to the Odyssey to see what Tabitha and Matt Ricks were up to.

     Tabitha was found messing with the Odyssey's switch panel at the back of the bridge.  She was decked out in what appeared to be mercenary attire complete with a side blaster for emergencies.  Her face needed a good wash, but I was too polite to point it out.  I'm guessing it had something to do with the character she was playing, or so I hoped.    

     While his wife was fiddling the controls, Matt Ricks sat in the Odyssey Control Room pretending to flight direct the ship.  Bless his heart, he tries so hard.  I'm hoping someday, some Set Director will give Matt a shot at flying a ship.  Doesn't he deserve it after all the years he has wandered the halls of the Center looking for something constructive to do?  Matt, you come talk to me once I get passed off on the Cassini and I'll set things straight regardless of what Jon says.   

     While Matt was going "Vroom Vroom," in the Odyssey Control Room, Natalie Anderson had the ship's crew upstairs in the school's conference room briefing them on the mission.  It was going to be a great mission for sure.
     I snapped a few pictures as Cassini's well-trained volunteers
set the ship up for the crew's return from being captured by the ever painful Orion Pirates.  Those pirates seem to be lurking around every moon and asteroid throughout the Federation. How they got there, nobody knows - except their fearless leader Mad Dog.

     And of course, the pirates can't leave well enough alone.  They always find their way to the bridge of every ship they capture and always find a way to override the ship's computer safety features to break into the mainframe and alter the program or change the ship's course.  It's just what they do.  Who is more annoying, the Paklids or the Orion Pirates?   

      What's amazing is the speed at which the camps filled this year.  Mr. Porter opened the camps for booking on the Monday and had everything booked by the Friday.  I'm told there are 200 students on the camp's waiting list. 
    Will you agree with me that the summer's hottest ticket for fun and learning is a summer camp at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center?
     The Magellan and Falcon were closed for the first week of summer camp.  The Magellan spent the day running a test mission of its summer story (I'll post a story about that this week) and the Falcon is closed for a few weeks while Mr. Porter organizes staff and gets them trained.  
     Tomorrow starts the week with another camp, and I'll be there sandwiched between Nolan and Jon doing my best to stay out of their way while at the same time pushing their patience as best I can with questions.

Imaginarium Theater

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