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

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas to the Space EdVenturers Worldwide! The Imaginarium Theater!

Merry Christmas!

Speaking as the founder of our form of simulator based experiential education, I want to wish the staff and volunteers of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center, The Space Place at Renaissance Academy, American Heritage Space Center, Telos Discovery Space Center, and The Lions Gate Space Center at Lakeview Academy along with our Voyagers, Young Astronauts, loyal Troubadours, and our good friends at InfiniD a very merry Christmas! And let's not forget to send our Season's Greetings to our great friends at Dream Flight Adventures. I know the many simulators are enjoying a well-needed rest. Each one parked, snoozing, and waiting to be woken by a flight director at the beginning of the `Long Stretch' to Spring Vacation.

The Long Dreaded Stretch That Lies Ahead

This 'Long, Dreaded, Stretch', is the time of the school year only understood by the educational community and students. This desert of time runs from January to April. Its landscape is marked by a few, one-day holidays and nothing else. Teachers survive the 'Long Stretch' by rationing their sanity and patience into weekly packages.

Each Monday one parcel of sanity is opened and inserted into the appropriate mental slot. By Wednesday, students begin sensing the supply is waning. This is usually demonstrated by the teacher's quivering lip and a seemingly innocent twitch over the left eye - a warning sign that something dark and sinister is bubbling in a dark place.

Thursday is the bleakest day. It marks the end of the teacher's working supply of patience. This is the day teachers earn their notorious reputation by verbally striking out at children with swords of satiric comment and bullets of snide and degrading remarks describing their student's mental abilities. Thursday finds teachers sticking pins into the pictures of their 'deserving' students on 'The Bulletin Board' kept hidden from public view in most faculty rooms. At the beginning of each school year the Board is cursed by a practitioner of the Voodoo arts. The ritual begins with hours of chanting accompanied by shaking rattles. This is followed by the sacrificing of a chicken (recently modified by replacing a real chicken with a 9 piece McNuggets from McDonalds to satisfy the animal rights advocates in the educational community. Although not as effective, it is less messy). The Board is ready for use once it is properly prepared.

On Thursdays one is reminded of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem as you watch teachers gaze at the hundreds of pictures on the Board. The chanting, the rocking, the occasional weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth are all there. Many of you have wondered why you suddenly take sick at school. Now you understand. I could tell you more but I'm taking a calculated risk writing what I've written.

Friday's wisps of sanity are fueled by fumes only. The Fumes of Patience have a calming effect on teachers when combined with warm thoughts of a weekend. I know the long stretch from January to May is hard on students also. Best thing to do is keep a positive attitude and work hard. When you are working hard the time goes faster.

Seriously, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. It has been a pleasure working with the finest young adults in Utah Valley over the years. I'm honored that you consider the space centers worthy of your valuable time. Enjoy this holiday season with family and friends and be all the more ready to return to the trenches. There are thousands of children waiting anxiously for their upcoming missions and you make it happen!

Yes, Merrily Go!
Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
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Sunday, December 18, 2022

Enjoy this trip through the Old Space Center Recorded as a SciFi Staff / Volunteer Production. High School Party on the Voyager, April 2005. Imaginarium Theater.

Time to enjoy the Christmas Break!

I found this little gem on YouTube.  It is a short sci-fi adventure produced and directed by Warren Nuila.  Warren was one of our top volunteers around 15 years ago. He rose through the ranks to earn his Blue Shirt and a pay check.  

Warren got a few of his friends together to make this short film. It was shot in the original Galileo simulator (1998 - 2009), and the USS Voyager.  Of course you'll see parts of Central Elementary School as well.  Take 9 minutes of your precious holiday time and watch. See if you can recognize where every scene was filmed.  Take a moment to appreciate how the Galileo changed over the years from number 1 to the present ship at the new Christa McAuliffe Space Center.   

A High School Birthday Party on the USS Voyager.  April 2005.  

The starship simulators have always been a fun place for private parties.  Today we will take a trip in The Troubadour's Way Back Machine to join a group of Pleasant Grove High School students celebrating a birthday. The date, April 16, 2005.  The USS Voyager was the ship. The mission, I'm not sure. I know I flew the mission because it was for my nephew. Let's rely on people with great memories (like Jon Parker) to identify the mission (Update: Jon Parker sent a text after this was posted to tell me the mission we flew was Perikoi. Thanks Jon).  The tactical screens on the Voyager's screen are too blurry for easy identification.   

The group picture at the mission's end

Red Alert!  The Science / Records Station was on the top platform, Beneath Records were the Left Wing and Damage Control Stations.

We're looking down to the lower bridge Communications Station from the Captain's Platform. 

Brock Bodily is the small volunteer helping his big brother (Chaz) with something

Chaz and friend just outside the Voyager's Brig.

The Voyager's Captain at a critical point in the story. Look at that determination in his eyes.

The Voyager's Communication Station. 

Brayden Bodily (black shirt) volunteered on the mission

Chaz protecting the bridge from the alien bad guys.

The volunteers in costume at the end of the mission
Left to Right:  Bracken Funk, ? his face is covered, Brock Bodily, Taylor Herring

Imaginarium Theater
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Sunday, December 11, 2022

An Update on The Space Place's Nighthawk Simulator. Imaginarium Theater.

     Today we offer a few pictures illustrating the work being done on The Space Place's Nighthawk Starship Simulator.  Megan Warner and Matt Long removed the Nighthawk several months ago from Renaissance Academy to Enigma's large warehouse where the renovations are being carried out.  Megan works on the ship whenever she has a few minutes between her normal duties at Enigma
     The Nighthawk will return to Renaissance Academy when the work is complete to resume its normal flight operations for the school's Young Astronauts / Voyager Club and public missions.   

Imaginarium Theater

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Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Starship Simulator Serving the Washington DC Area; A Part of the Dreamflight Adventures Network. 14,000 Volunteer Hours Given This Year. The Space Center's First Engineering Department Meets, April 2005

Mission Mobile at Explore Children's Museum 

     Mission Mobile uses Dreamflight Adventures simulator software and missions along with unique programs of its own.  Gary and Sarah Gardiner founded Dreamflight Adventures.  Gary's multiple trips to the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center as a young camper years ago was his inspiration to create Dreamflight Adventures.  That inspiration has led to multiple simulators east of the Mississippi River all of which can trace their ancestry back to the first starship, the USS Voyager in Pleasant Grove.

     Facts about the Mission Mobile program are listed below.

Mission Mobile Partnering Schools and Organizations in the Washington DC Area

Barnard Elementary School
C.W. Harris Elementary School
DC Parks and Recreation Summer Camps
DCPS Summer Enrichment Program
Dep. of Ed., Office of Education Technology
The Field School
Friendship Public Charter School (Chamberlain Campus)
Garfield Inquiry-Based Preparatory Academy
H.D. Cooke Elementary School
Horizons Day Camps—Maret School
J. H. Johnson Middle School
LAMB Public Charter School, Missouri Ave Campus
LAMB Public Charter School, Perry Street Campus
Levine Music (THEARC campus)
Langley Elementary School
LaSalle Backus Education Campus
Marie Reed Elementary School (via Higher Achievement)
Martha's Table
Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
Murch Elementary School
National Building Museum
Payne Elementary School
Riverdale Park Station
Rose L. Hardy Elementary School
School Without Walls at Francis Stevens
SEED Public Charter School
Simon Elementary School
Sitar Arts Center
Smithsonian, Freer and Sackler Galleries Smithsonian Office of Education and Access
Stoddert Elementary School Summer Camp
Stuart-Hobson Middle School
The Field School
Washington International School
Washington Latin Public Charter School
Washington School for Girls
Whittier STEM Education Campus
Washington Tennis & Education Foundation

Thank You Volunteers.  You Are the Wind in the Space Center's Sails


     The Christa McAuliffe Space Center thanks its enormous volunteer force.  This year the total number of volunteer hours exceeded 14,000 hours.  

     Volunteering is the life blood of every Utah County Space EdVenture Center:  Christa McAuliffe Space Center, Renaissance Academy's The Space Place, Lakeview Academy's Lions Gate Space Center, Telos Academy's Discovery Space Center, and the American Heritage School's Space Center.  Volunteers do everything from operating the second chair position in many simulators, to playing multiple acting roles, to cleaning, to building props, and of course supervising campers and public programs.

The Space Center's Legacy in Pictures
The Foundation of the Engineering Department at the CMSC.  April 2005 

     Today, the Christa McAuliffe Space Center has an Engineering Department headed by Jade Hansen.  Both Space Center volunteers and staff are members. They meet on a regular basis to work on projects like 3D printing and simulator engineering panels and maintenance.  

     The Space Center's first Engineering Department started in April 2005.  Sadly, it wasn't long lived due to the difficulty of keeping it staffed with qualified people, but the kick off event was fantastic.  It met for the first time on April 2, 2005, a Saturday morning.  Dr. Long from BYU's Electrical Engineering Department was the presenter along with a few of his BYU students.  The goal of the inaugural meeting was to build computer boards to assist the Dr. Long's students.  His class was designing and building the Starship Voyager's Isolinear Chip / Engineering Station on the bridge.      

Our volunteers learn about soldering a computer board.  Jeremiah Robinson in the black shirt. 

Everyone hard at work on their computer boards.  In this photo you see Taylor Thomas, Spencer Robinson and several other Space Center volunteers.

Brent Anderson, in the white shirt, was the Space Center's Programming Department Head.  Kirby Glad behind him in the striped shirt was a long time Space Center supported and contributor.

Dr. Long working with three of our volunteers

This board is coming along fine

Kirby Glad and his twin sons discussing 
the project while a BYU electrical engineering student tests the
computer boards.

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Sunday, November 27, 2022

The InfiniD Computer Voice is Revealed (He's this old guy with glasses). More Staff and Volunteer Pictures from November 2004. Who Do You Remember? Also, This Week's Imaginarium Theater

 The Voice in Studio 1

     Last Wednesday, 9:00 A.M. I found myself at the world headquarters of InfiniD Learning in Provo, Utah. It's a small four room office with bathroom tucked away at the back of a decorative business office plaza near the Cottonwood Comfort Inn. I guarantee you'll get lost if you try to find it using a sign. There are none, except for a printed 8.5 X 11 sheet of printer paper taped to the front door's glass.  Once inside you'll be impressed by the Spartan atmosphere accented by the "if it don't have a use then it don't get bought" philosophy of office feng shui.  As for office perks, I believe I noticed a box of granola bars sitting on a shelve. I'm sure they'd share if you asked nicely.  
     I was there to record my lines for the upcoming InfiniD simulations set to drop worldwide sometime in the near future, or when Austin finishes the polish up work.  Austin is the sound man, possibly the production manager, maybe even the last stop for quality control, but for sure the keeper of the lego models - of which he has plenty.  "I'm here as ordered to record my lines," I said when he arrived to work.  I followed him to his office and with a click or two his computer was up and running.  
     "Is that Vic?" Syler Carr said as he appeared in the doorway. According to their website, Skyler is InfiniD's chief hand raiser. Actually, his desk is where the company's bucks stop.  That being said, he should change his handle to "Headmaster and Dispenser of Discipline".  
     "How are you Skyler!" I responded enthusiastically.  
     "Not too bad," he replied.  Once the pleasantries were exchanged our conversation turned to my role as the computer voice for all InfiniD simulations.  He expressed his satisfaction with my performance and continued by stating how cool it was that the voice of the 'guy who started it all' was heard in hundreds of school's nationwide every day. "Your legacy lives on!" he said in summation.  
     I thanked him for his kind words, while at the same time waited for him to follow the accolades with a request that I not take payment for the day's recordings.  Natalie Anderson, of Space Center fame, is another voice artist for InfiniD, and I can only imagine what she charges for her time and vocal orations :)  My day's volunteering sacrifice would guarantee her continued service.   But happily there was no such request.  The company was financially sound, as one could seen by the many lego creations hiding the beige walls of Austin's office. 

Reviewing my lines and checking on the pronunciation.  If I don't, I won't 
earn my "One Take Charlie," merit badge

     "Did you know that every once in awhile someone recognizes your voice?" Skyler said. "It's the older teachers who brought their classes to the Space Center for field trips back in the day."
     All this time I thought my voice was changed by a voice distorter before going out in the simulations. "So you can tell that the computer is me?" I asked.  
     "Austin adds just enough of a computer effect to change it slightly, but not to take the essence of 'you' out of the of voice," Skyler replied.  Austin pulled up a clip on his computer so I could here myself as the InfiniD computer - something I hadn't heard before.  Yep, I could hear myself in the voice.  "So, let that be your blog post for Sunday," he suggested.  
     So, because of Skyler's suggestion, my role as the computer InfiniD's computer voice is the lead story of today's blog post.  Let's hear it for the voice behind the computer effect! 

Meet More of the Staff and Volunteers of the Past.  Honors Night, November 30, 2004 (The Series Continues)

     Our last Blast from the Past post introduced you to the staff and volunteers who attended the Honor's Night of November 30, 2004.  Today I want to introduce you to more of those outstanding people  Here are a few more pictures from that Honor's Night.  All these great people are 18 years older and wiser today; some still live locally and others are, well who knows where, but to all of them I want to say thank you for your service to furthering the Space Center's great mission, To Create a Space Faring Civilization!

Metta Smith Earning a few more pips on her Supervisor Blues for Outstanding Service.  The Magellan and Metta were inseparable! 

These are the staff and volunteers who earned a coveted Mrs. Houston pillowcase to be used on the overnight camps.  OK, shall we try to name them all?  Left to right:  Thomas Harding, Amber McEntire, ? ,  ? ,  Jeremiah Robinson, Ammon Clegg, Emily Perry, Brayden Bodily, Jessica, and finally David Andrus.  

And earning their Mrs. Houston Space Blankets are Stacy Carrell and Jameson McDougall

     These are the outstanding volunteers who earned their silver one year of service pin.  I'm going to do my best to name them. Please fill in for those I've forgotten.  Left to Right:  (I forgot her name, but she lived in Park City and has gone on to become an engineer), Amber McEntire, ?,  ?,  Brent Anderson, ? , ? ,  Mark Daymont standing in the background, then Brandon Warner, Spencer Dauwalter, ? , Taylor Herring, Spencer Robinson, Kyle Parker, and the last two are unknown to me. 
     Sitting at the table are Chris Call (white shirt) and Dustin Robison (backward cap).      

     Jameson McDougall received his copper 5 year pin that day.

      Kendall Duclos and Brady Young were up for something. They already had their Supervisor Blues so let's leave it a mystery.

     Metta won a lava lamp for something.  

     And there on the floor sat Bryson Lystrup and friends. He is  providing play by play commentary on the evening with some comments complimentary but most unflattering and sarcastic :) 

     And finally we have Kyle Herring awarding David Andrus an atomic clock and his green shirt (for educational staff / flight directing).  

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Sunday, November 20, 2022

Jade Hansen Appointed to Head the CMSC's Engineering Department. The Galileo II at American Heritage School is to be ReArmed! The Old Girl is Making a Comeback! Imaginarium Theater.


Jade Hansen and James Porter discussing engineering things

     The Christa McAuliffe Space Center has a new Engineering Department Chief, or Boss, or Director, or Guild Master, or Head.  Jade will be replacing Matt Ricks. Matt did a real fine job but due to circumstances relating to life has had to step down.  

     Jade will continue his day job where he makes real American money (not that phony Canadian stuff) and run the Engineering Department during those few hours a week he sets aside for Space Center "fun" work (where he also makes American money but not that much - hey its good for a volunteer job right).  And let's not forget Jade's other Space Center responsibility - supervising in the Cassini.  

     The Engineering Department's primary responsibility is to build, create, and maintain the center's physical electrical props - like the dial and switch panels in the simulators.  Jade will be assisted by young volunteers who attend regular meetings / classes where they learn the trade.  

     This is the email sent to the staff and volunteers by Tabitha Ricks announcing Jade's elevation.  

I've an announcement in regards to our Engineering Department Head. Matt Ricks, who has been the Engineering Department head since 2019, will be stepping down. He has done a lot for the Space Center from helping with controls, to maintaining props and sets, to helping our ships move forward. We will be sad to see him step down from Engineering Department, but want to thank him for all he's done. If you see him around, make sure to thank him. You'll still see him in the planetarium and I'm sure he'll still be stepping in to help out here and there in the ships. 

Jade Hansen will be stepping in to fill Matt's shoes in Engineering Department. Jade first started volunteering at the Space Center circa Mr. Porter's age of volunteerism. (in the 90's) He's excited to help mentor all the wonderful projects that have been brewing in the minds of our volunteers and staff that will help make the Space Center a better place. Be sure to lend him your support by attending the department and giving him a pat on the back and a warm smile. Good luck to you Jade! 

Tabitha Ricks
Outreach Coordinator
Flight Director
Planetarium Navigator 

The Galileo II at The American Heritage Space Center Is About to be ReArmed


The Galileo II at American Heritage

     I know it's confusing to keep track of which Galileo I refer to in blog posts. That's what you get when you have two Galileo starship simulators in Utah County.  The simulator you see above is the Galileo II.  It was sold to American Heritage School when the first Space Center and Central School were torn down a few years back.  When I refer to the "Galileo" I'm referencing the Galileo simulator at the new Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  So know that we have that straight, let's get on with the story.
     Alex DeBirk and students are busily working morning, noon, and night preparing to open the American Heritage School's Space Center for its 2022- 2023 school year operational season set to start in January.  That preparation includes a full restoration of the Galileo II to its original glory.  That includes restoring the ship's probe and torpedo undercarriage launch capabilities.  
      At one time, when the Galileo II first opened, you could assemble probes / torpedoes inside the ship, lift the flooring, place the probe into the undercarriage launch tube, replace the flooring and fire away. That function ended because of mechanical failures.  In January, the function will return.  Here are a few pictures of the probe / torpedo modules. They're being build by American Heritage high school students.  

This is the Torpedo Launcher, a four port magazine which will slide side to side as the students use it to give the impression that the torpedo chamber has emptied itself.

(Above and Below) You're looking at torpedo casings currently being 3D printed by American Heritage students in the school's creativity lab.   

     I'm most impressed by the fact that this entire project is student designed and student manufactured.  Kudos to Alex DeBirk and staff for demonstrating how effective operating starship simulators can be in the hands on, day to day education of students.  

Imaginarium Theater

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

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center's 32nd Birthday and the Power of Play. Imginarium Theater.

     On November 8, 1990 we celebrated the opening of The Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  Hundreds gathered at Central Elementary School that night to hear Senator Jake Garn speak and tour the USS Voyager simulator.  I spoke as well. In my speech celebrating a dream's fulfillment, I spoke of the importance of play in education and how immersive simulations use the power of play to teach. 


     Over the years I’ve come to realize that the word ‘play’ has been included in the four letter word category by many educational policy makers. Have we as a nation drifted so far off balance that play, the rich soil imagination springs from, has no educational value for those that make education policy? There are many in that community who believe play should be given a scarlet letter and put in the stocks for public scorn?

The First Magellan

     When I started teaching in 1983 America was reacting to a report called “A Nation at Risk”. The report said America needed to toughen its educational standards so our children could compete with their peers in other industrialized nations. It was a call to arms. The states began reviewing curriculum. Standards were set and high stakes testing became the flavor of the end of the 19th century. I was a believer in the change. I felt American education needed reform. I raised expectations in my classroom. I asked my students to reach higher.

The First Phoenix

     Then, as we’ve done so many times in the past, the educational community carried standards and testing to the extreme. We sped past balance taking students to the opposite side of the scale. Today we see the results of those policies. Our schools are fast becoming testing factories. We have inputs and outputs and, like any kitchen gadget, we believe we can analyze that output with a set scale to determine success or failure.

The First Odyssey

     We are where Japan was in the 1980’s. I remember all to well hearing and reading reports on the Japanese industrial education system. To be successful, Japanese children attended school six days a week. Intense testing was paired with intense pressure to achieve. I remember reading that the suicide rate of Japanese teens was one of the highest in the world. My educator friends and I became concerned that our school’s would follow that model. We haven’t gotten there yet but we easily could if we are not careful.

The First Voyager

     I believe American schools should foster the qualities that made America great. Our ancestors came to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families. They were extraordinary risk takers. They saw opportunities and took action. They dreamed big. They had powerful imaginations. They had an intense desire to take control of their lives. No longer would they be puppets to unbearable circumstances . They were pioneers in every sense of the word. They wondered what was on the other side of the mountain. That wonder was matched with effort. They put on the backpack, reached for the walking stick, and set out on voyages of discovery.

The First Galileo

     Are we fostering that spirit of discovery and independence in our schools? Are we teaching our children to take responsibility for their learning? Are we teaching them the joy and sometimes heartache of making decisions and living with the outcomes? Are we teaching them to dream the impossible? Are we teaching them to imagine what can be and make it happen?

The Improved Magellan

     Are our schools ships of discovery? Are the ships at sea exploring strange new worlds and facing fierce billowing storms or are they still in port never leaving the safety of the harbor? Is education structured so our students test well but cannot stand on their own feet in the real world because their intellectual foundation didn’t prepare them to think and reason? Are our students up in the rigging setting the sails? Are they scrubbing the deck and polishing the brass? Are they on the midnight watch? Are they partners in their education or are we creating performing monkeys?

The Magellan Entrance

     America needs its pioneers. America needs its free thinkers. America needs the risk takers who ask “Why Not?” and then forge ahead. We must be careful as we prepare the next generation. Let us foster imagination. Let us foster individuality. Let us be careful not try to force the square block through the round hole.

The First Voyager Sets Sail

     I urge America to be careful with standardization and teaching to the test. It has a part to play in education but should it be the primary driving force of American schools? I say no.

The Galileo Crew Ready for Warp Speed Into the Unknown

     Would it hurt to let a student out of the corral? Would it hurt to spend a fraction of the school day on meaningful play and imagination? Would it destroy children’s futures if we let them hear music again? Would all be lost if students painted a picture or sang a song? Would the world stop turning if students were given time to be children again and play?

To All Who've Helped: Thank You!

     I urge my sixth graders, my Young Astronauts and Voyager cadets at Renaissance Academy, and the thousands of children and teens who visit any of Utah's space centers to get up in the rigging and let the sails down. Take learning out of the harbor and into the unpredictable seas. Your journeys may be difficult but I promise they will be unforgettable. Do you feel the wind? Out there is your future. And as an American teacher I say, “Let’s discover your future together”.

Imaginarium Theater
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