On Monday, October 18 I stopped at American Heritage School (AHS) in American Fork to visit with Alex DeBirk. Alex is the school's high school physics teacher, creativity lab director, and director of the school's space center. In his spare time, Alex renovates homes, is an actor at Hale Center Theater in Sandy and his most important job is a husband and father. He is a busy man.
Alex worked at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in his high school days as a volunteer, supervisor, and flight director. That's where he caught the Space EdVentures bug. For some, it never leaves you.
Alex designed the new Starship Voyager at Renaissance Academy. He worked there helping me with the Young Astronauts and Voyager Club until it was time to start his own program at American Heritage. His Voyager Club at American Heritage got off to a good start in the 2019-2020 school year. He had six squadrons who came to Renaissance Academy for their after school club meetings. Then Covid hit and everything shut down.
Last school year he was given the green light to create a space center at AHS. With a cash input from the school and many many donations of money, time, and talent from the school's community the new center is moving rapidly towards an opening date in January.
I knew the program would be awesome because that's what Alex does - awesome so I had to stop by and see it all for myself. I took several pictures which are all posted here for our Space EdVenture fans so let's get started and see this new center under construction.
American Heritage's Space Center and the Starships Discovery and Galileo (both working names, the proper names haven't been decided)
The Creativity Lab. Room 1
The American Heritage Space Center (AHSC) is located on the second floor of the new high school wing of the school under construction. Alex met me in the creativity lab (that's what I call it, I don't remember what its real name is). It looks like a high school woodshop right? This is where the magic happens.
The first thing that caught my eye was this speaker. Do you recognize it? This was one of two speakers that sat on the first Starship Voyager's bridge when it opened in November 1990. This speaker has seen a lot in its 31 years. I'm happy it was rescued from the CMSC's demolition.
Alex showed me his current project, the construction of two Discovery Bridge front control stations. He and his high school students designed the desks and are building them right there onsite.
The two desks look very Star Trek Next Generation, don't they?
Alex showed me how they are building the rounded edges to the many pieces of bridge furniture.
Building complicated pieces of furniture takes sophisticated equipment like this precision wood cutter.
The American Heritage Space Center's Classroom. Room 2
Our next stop on the tour was Alex's proper classroom next to the Creativity Lab. This is where he teaches his school day classes and, starting in January, where the school's 5th - 12th graders will all go during the school day for their Discovery Club (their Voyager Club) meetings.
The classroom has 3D printers and other equipment which will be used by the students to create props and equipment for their space missions and starships. The missions will be written with these pieces of equipment in mind. The missions give the students reasons to research, design and build the tools to successfully complete the mission objectives. For example.......
Alex's students needed phasers for their starship security teams. They designed their own phasers and are in the process of 3D printing them. These are not your typical store bought toy phasers. The students designed their phasers to have cartridges which take a certain number of blast rounds. Discovery security will be mindful of the number of rounds in each phasers and take care in how they fire those rounds. I think it is genius. Well done!
The back of the classroom houses the Starship Discovery's Mission Control Area (under development). The students built the computers.
The entrance to the Starship Discovery is in the back of the classroom through this hallway....
....at the end of which is the turning door to the bridge.
Starship Discovery. Room 3
Go through the turning door, turn a corner and you're on the bridge of the Starship Discovery.
The ship's ceiling, sound, and lighting fixtures were being installed while I was there.
The Discovery's Bridge has two small platforms at the back. The platforms will have side lights.
The Captain's Chair will be in a small half circle alcove at the top of a ramp leading to the top of the bridge. It's that cool lit area in the photo.
This amazing light feature illuminates the alcove directly over the captain's head. The captain will be the brightest person on the bridge (whether he or she truly is or not will be a question answered during the many missions this ship will fly over many decades).
This is the bridge as the captain will see it from his chair. An 85 inch main viewer will be mounted at the front of the bridge. The entrance is on the right. The sick bay and engineering rooms are accessed from the opening on the left.
Alex pointed drew my attention to the sloping of the bridge walls towards the front main viewer. You can see Alex's imagination in this design, after all, he has a master degree in engineering!
Looking out onto the bridge from the sick bay. Alex is considering how the sick bay will be furnished. Will it have a three of four tiered bunk bed for its patients.
The hallway to the Discovery's Shuttlebay is to the Captain's left at the back of the Bridge. There is a short hallway leading to another revolving door. Alex is looking in through the unused emergency exit door from the bridge.
The Shuttlebay. Room 4
The American Heritage Space Center's last room is the shuttlebay. Do you recognize the ship? Yes, you're looking at the new home of the Starship Galileo from the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. American Heritage purchased the Galileo from the CMSC and will use it as either a stand alone starship or a Discovery shuttlecraft. Because there is another Galileo at the new Christa McAuliffe Space Center, Alex will rename this ship to avoid confusion within the Space EdVentures Fleet. Any suggestions?
In a few months Utah County will open its sixth Space EdVenture Center:
1. The Christa McAuliffe Space Center. James Porter Director. Starships Magellan, Cassini, Galileo, Phoenix, Odyssey, and Falcon.
2. Telos Space Center. Dr. Ryan Anderson Director. Starship Hyperion.
3. Reality's Edge at Canyon Grove Academy. Bradyn Lystrup Director. Starships Pathfinder and Everest.
4. The Space Place at Renaissance Academy. Bracken Funk Director. Starships Voyager and Titan.
5. The Lion's Gate Center at Lakeview Academy. Nathan King Director. Starships Leo, Apollo, and Artemis.
6. American Heritage Space Center. Alex DeBirk Director. Starships Discovery and ???.
I'm excited to work with Alex on this new project. He has asked me to write a few of the Center's opening missions. The first one is nearly complete. Stay tuned to The Troubadour for more news on all the Space Centers.
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