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

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Jon Parker Celebrates 17 Years at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center and Proclaimed "Keeper of Memories". From the Archives "Honor's Night and Mr. Williamson Bribed". Imaginarium Theater

Jon Parker celebrated his 17th anniversary at the Space Center on Saturday by wearing one of his first volunteer shirts - the Burgundy.  You don't see many Burgundies on people's backs these day.  It was a shirt style that lasted a while until I got tired of the color and decreed that from henceforth all volunteers would wear black.  The policy is still in effect. 

For my benefit, Jon recreated one of his earliest memories as a young volunteer all those years ago.  He wore the Burgundy on Saturday knowing I would be flying the Cassini's morning mission. He sat in the Cassini's IIFX position (second chair) and cowered in his seat while looking at me with fear and dreading.  Would Mr. Williamson yell at him for missing a video clue?  Would he be berated for not pausing the video fast enough or backtracking to rid the screen of the VCR video pause lines?  Would he get the infamous Mr. Williamson's hand slammed down on the counter top.  YIKES, was I really that bad when flying the Voyager?  I guess I was sometimes, and I emphasis the word 'sometimes'.  Hey, I was under enormous stress those 23 years I directed the Space Center.  

Jon's computer desktop runs a timer program.  He has it programmed with his Space Center milestones.  It is almost like he's tracking his days in purgatory, counting up so when he meets his maker in the next life he can prove he paid for his sins while on Earth.  

In honor of Jon's 17 years at the Center, I proclaim Jon Parker the Keeper of Memories.  Jon remembers nearly everything from his 17 years at the Center, and constantly reminds me of things I'd forgotten long ago. The Space Center's history is locked firmly in his memory banks, at least everything from the last 17 years.  Before that, we must rely on the aging memories of our senior friends but not me. I am the official "Forgetter of Memories".  The floppy disks I operate on are spinning on 1/2 speed at best.  

Congratulations Jon on your 17th anniversary!  So Say We All.

The First Image of a Solar System Other Than Our Own Has been Released

"It is at this time I would like formally declare sole ownership of aforementioned solar system, and everything in it, under the universal law of "dibs". For all time, in perpetuity. Excluding any debt it may have incurred, that's E.T.'s responsibility.
It shall henceforth be known as Boogerville, it's flag shall feature The Bird...figured predominantly on a field of azure" 

I wanted to lay claim to the system as my domain but was beat to the post by the gentleman who wrote the claim above.  Rest assured, I will be ready to lay claim to the next one announced.  

Mr. Williamson

From The Troubadour's Archives.  Ten Year Ago This Week at the Space Center.


Mark and Logan Honored and Mr. Williamson Caught Accepting a Bribe from a Fan.

Space Center Fans Waiting outside the Center deliriously hoping to catch a
glimpse of Mark and Logan. Mark and Logan are the Space Center's
newest teen idols after receiving their awards on Saturday.

Hello Troops,
Celebrity is a burden many of our volunteers carry after being honored at one of the Space Center's post Overnight Camp meetings.

"Before today I was just, well you know - Mark," Mark said after receiving both his Odyssey and Galileo Pins. "Listen to those screams. How am I going to get home in one piece?"

Mark receiving his Odyssey Pin from Christine, Odyssey's Set Director

Mark getting his Galileo Pin from Ben Murdock. Stacy, The Galileo Set Director, was absent.

Stacy was on the program to award a Galileo Pass Pin to Mark. However, at the appointed time Mark had no choice but to accept the award from Ben Murdock. Stacy was unable to get to the meeting. Crowds of Mark and Logan's admirers, along with Pleasant Grove's paparazzi, filled the parking lot and blocked every entrance into the school.

Luckily one of the younger volunteers saw Stacy's head bobbing up and down over the crowd near the flagpole while watching Mark and Logan's screaming fans from the school's front doors.

"Mr. Williamson!" the volunteer shouted from the foyer. "I see Stacy near the flagpole. She can't get through the mob."

I looked for myself. The volunteer was right. Stacy's green flight director shirt was spotted in the sea of delirious teenage fans. I organized a posse of older staff and volunteers to push their way through the crowd to collect her.

"It's a madhouse out there," Stacy said breathlessly after having been half carried, half dragged into the school. We sat her down on one of the foyer's benches with a cup of hot cocoa. Erin put a blanket around her shivering shoulders. She apologized to Mark for missing the awards. Mark understood. He knew her experience was soon to be his when his ride home arrived to collect him.

"Am I in time to give Logan his Galileo Award?" Stacy asked.

"Are you up to it?" I asked.

" I am," she replied. "Logan worked to hard for me to delegate this to someone else. I'll push through the pain. Help me up."

We helped her stand and walk to the Discovery Room.
"Stacy's here," a voice shouted.
Applause rang out when she walked through the classroom's door. Stacy stopped for a moment to accept the staff and volunteers' appreciation of her harrowing ordeal before walking to the front of the room to meet Logan.

"There's hundreds of screaming girls out there calling out your name," she said while pinning the pin on Logan's lanyard.

"Welcome to my life," Logan responded. "How to you think I got these?" Logan held out both arms. Partially healed scratches covered each arm from elbow to hand. " Your life is no longer your own once word gets out you're going to get a Space Center award."

"Amen!" shouted many of the gathered staff and volunteers - each having lived through their own ordeal of getting an award.

Stacy Awarding a Galileo Pin to Logan.

I stood and made an announcement after Mark and Logan were honored .

"Troops, today we say goodbye to one of our own who will be leaving for an LDS mission to Argentina." I paused to let the news sink in. Everyone in the room stared at Abram. Abram waved from his chair in the back of the room.

"Abram, we have a card for you and a small gift." I called Abram to the front to receive everyone's gratitude for a job well done.

Abram started at the Space Center while in junior high. Over the years I was impressed with his can do attitude and good naturedness with the students, staff and volunteers. They don't come better than Abram. We all wish him the best in Argentina.

Thank you Abram!

Isaac bearing a Brib... hummm a "gift"

And finally a confession which could land me in a spot of trouble. Last Thursday a young man named Issac arrived with friends to attend the Phoenix's Open Mission, flight directed by none other than the Space Center's very own Dave Daymont.

Isaac walked up to me while I was seated at my desk and slipped me this note. Attached to the note was real American money. Yes, I'm talking about real American money - none of that phony Canadian stuff. On the note he'd written that he was a regular reader of The Troubadour and had read how easy it was to bribe me with a Diet Mt. Dew. The note went on to say that the cash was to be used for a Diet Dew.

I say this could land me in a spot of trouble because of my position as an employee of the Alpine School District - a government organization. We don't take kindly to the bribing of government officials in this republic of ours, so I hesitated to accept the card and money. But in the end I confess to accepting the "gift". How could I turn down such a heartfelt offer from a young Space Center fan. I only hope the judge feels the same way if any of you turn me in to the authorities.

Now let me emphatically repeat that giving gifts to government officials is frowned upon in our American culture. However, until our elected leaders in Salt Lake and Washington decide not to accept all the freebies showered on them by lobbyists and political action committees, I'll feel perfectly fine accepting the occasion soda from a well wisher wanting to grease the palm of someone who could make or break his simulator mission :)

Thanks Isaac. The Diet Dew was delicious and thank you for being a regular reader.

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater

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

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Honors Night at the Space Center. Training New Flight Directors. Intolerance - The Story That Lives On and On and On and On..... Imaginarium Theater

Honors Night at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. January 13, 2022

     Honor's Night was held on Thursday, January 13 at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  Honors Night is the Space Center's way of celebrating the accomplishments of its staff and volunteers.

Tabitha Ricks welcomed everyone to Honors Night.  Tabitha is the Space Center's volunteer coordinator.  The first to be mentioned were the Center's newest volunteers.  

Kayden, Mitch and Rylan were honored for getting their Galileo pass.

Cecily and Mitch were honored for getting their Odyssey pass.

Natalie Anderson presented the pins and took great pride in presenting them to the congregation.  

Aaron, Mitch, and Henson were presented their Magellan pins for completing the requirements to get the Magellan pass.  Connor Larsen in the Magellan's Set Director. He attended the meeting remotely from North Carolina.  

The newest members of the Apprentice Guild received their patches for volunteering 500 hours.  

Jackson received his Hitchhiker patch for volunteering 1000 hours.

Tyler joined the ranks of Journeyman by surviving 5 years at the Space Center

Audrey Henriksen receiving praise from Mr. Porter

Two ancient souls joined the Time Lords at Honor's Night:   Scott Wiltbank and Audrey Henriksen

Matt Ricks was honored for his ten years of service at the Space Center.  Matt and Tabitha met at the Space Center and married.  They are expecting their first child in February.  Matt works as a computer programmer for a day job, which pays him enough so he can continue to volunteer his time and talents at the Space Center as the Engineering Guild Master and Planetarium Navigator.  You can never say enough good about Matt Ricks.  He is an old soul who is on his last incarnation in this mortal form.  I'm grateful for all the help he has given me over the last 10 years.  He is a friend to all. 

Emma and Cecily were both welcomed as new members of staff.  Emma works as a planetarium navigator.  Cecily works as a Magellan supervisor and is training to become a flight director

Katie Young will be retiring from space service soon.  She is an Odyssey flight director and Cassini supervisor.  Mr. Porter presented Katie with her space pillowcase as a retirement gift.  

Mr. Porter was happy to present Tyler and Wes with their Flight Director Blues.  Both are newly minted Magellan Flight Directors.  They are official now and no longer have to wear their Supervisor Blues when they fly the Magellan.  

Jon Parker with Micah Clegg

And finally, an old face from the past has returned to the Space Center family.  Micah Clegg is the son of Aleta Clegg and grew up at the Space Center working beside his mom.  Micah has returned to space service and made his first Honors Night appearance in many years.  I caught Micah and Jon after Honors Night sharing memories of the good old days.   

There was another new honor given at Honors Night that I won't mention here.  The Honor, and the recipient, will be highlighted in next week's Troubadour. 

Mr. Williamson

Training New Flight Directors.  It is What We Do.

Livy Charles in the Voyager's Flight Director's Seat surrounded by her Space Tech crew.
Mr. Funk is giving the "good job but not a pass" thumb sign.

     Training new flight directors is an ongoing process at the very heart of our Space EdVentures community. New flight directors come onboard having learned their trade from experienced flight directors who retire to find life outside the control room.  
     The art of flight directing can trace its origin back thousands of years to the first storytellers who employed vocal history as the way they passed their tribe's history from generation to generation.  The young learned by listening to and memorizing the stories. 
     Today we celebrate the training of new flight directors by highlighting someone in the process.  Please meet Livy Charles (pictured above).  Livy trains under the watchful eye of master storyteller Bracken Funk at The Space Place in Lehi, Utah.  She did her first test flight on Friday.  A few middle school students from Renaissance Academy's Space Tech Class made up the crew.  Space Tech students learn the science and art of simulators in education as an elective class. 
      She flew "Iron Curtain".  The mission went well but as you see with Mr. Funk's thumb signal, not a pass.  That's to be expected - it was her first solo test flight.  
     The Troubadour salutes all of you who are training to become flight directors. Learn your stories well and continue our traditions.....

Intolerance, The Story that Goes On and On and On....

Rool in the Voyager's Sick Bay having just been beamed aboard

Intolerance is one of the oldest missions told at the space centers in Utah County.  I wrote the mission in the 1990's as a field trip flight for 5th grade classes.  Fifth graders in Utah study US history. Slavery and the Civil War is part of the curriculum.  The mission was successful from its first telling and has remained so all these years later.  

Rool on the Voyager's Bridge helping the 5th grade Dragon squadron
learn his language so they can communicate. 

      Today, the escaped slave Rool makes weekly appearances at The Christa McAuliffe Space Center as part of their field trip and private mission programs.  Intolerance is also told at Renaissance Academy's The Space Place and American Heritage's Space Center as part of the schools' Young Astronaut / Voyager Club simulator club curriculum.  At The Space Place the story is told to the 5th grade squadrons in an 8 month long LDM mission. At American Heritage, 5th grade students do the mission in one full school day field trip to their own space center. 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Farpoint Jumpship Discovery Launches at American Heritage School in American Fork. What a Great Addition to the School's Curriculum. See the First Students to Fly and the Ship's Cool New Equipment

        The Farpoint Jumpship Discovery launched and completed its space trials during the first week of January.  The Discovery is the American Heritage Space Center's flagship at their American Fork campus.  Alex DeBirk, a long time volunteer and staff member of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center and the Starship Voyager at Renaissance Academy, is the director.  He has been working late into the night and weekends for the past few months in preparation for the launch.  And while the Discovery isn't completely finish (no simulator ever is no matter how long it has been open) it was certified space worthy.  The following are photos of the jumpship's first crews. 

The Discovery's Logo

The Discovery's Warp Core

     The Discovery has a small sick bay just off to the left of the Bridge.  Attached to the sick bay is a small warp core access room called "Bridge Engineering".  The jaw dropping prop in the room is the warp core engineered by Alex DeBirk.  The warp core has diffused led lights capable of doing patterns. The software to create the pulsing pattern was written by one of the school's parents. 

Alex DeBirk and the parent who programmed the warp core and is currently working on a new method of distributing power within Thorium

The Discovery's new power distribution program to be
incorporated within Thorium.  It take power distribution to then next level by adding some realism to the process and a whole bunch of animated coolness

The Cool Everything Box in the Discovery's Control Room

The Everything Box in the Discovery's Control Room. It does everything from
control the lights to play sound effects to run video plus more. It is amazing and each button is a monitor so you can change the name of the button using software.

The Discovery's Sick Bay

The Discovery has a small sick bay off to the left of the bridge.  The sick bay took an idea from the original Starship Voyager at the CMSC and has a three level bunk bed.  The area under the bottom bunk is a crawl space with a secret access hatch to the hallway separating the Discovery from the Galileo.  The sick bay is lined in FRP panelling - a tribute to the original Phoenix. 

The FRP panelling

     I stopped by to offer Alex some help organizing the school's Young Astronaut Club last Friday.  All American Heritage School students from grade 5 to 12 will take an inhouse field trip during the school year. They spend half the school day in science and engineering classes correlated to the mission and the other half of the day in the simulator.  Alex and I worked through multiple break out sessions to strengthen the curriculum of the mission and to properly tie the mission's theme to the classroom presentation.  
     Alex has done a tremendous job creating the space center at American Heritage.  It will bring engaging missions and lessons to the school's students for decades to come.  His work will also benefit the other Farpoint space centers (Telos University and The Space Place at Renaissance Academy). I look forward to conducting joint missions and possible competitions between the Young Astronauts at Renaissance Academy and American Heritage. 

Mr. Williamson 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center's Starship Phoenix Gets a New Set Director. Imaginarium Theater

It was an eventful night last Thursday at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center's Honors Night.  Several honors were bestowed by Mr. James Porter, along with a few of the Center's set directors.  Those honors will be highlighted over then next few weeks on The Troubadour. Today we want to make a big announcement heard first at Honor's Night. 


The Starship Phoenix has a New Set Director

Mason Perry Receiving the Phoenix Microphone from Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith recently graduated with a degree in computer programming and is actively seeking  professional employment.  Anticipating the move might come before the next Honor's Night, Jordan decided to pass the microphone before his official retirement.  Mr. Porter invited all staff to apply for the position of Phoenix Set Director.  Applicants were interviewed and a final decision was made. 

Attention, prepare for an important announcement. Hear Ye, Hear Ye.  Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.  Dominus Jameses Maximus Porterillius decrees that Mason Perry be appointed Set Director of the Starship Phoenix; so let it be written, so let it be done (forgive me blending my histories, it was done for effect). 

In a ceremony stretching back to the earliest days of the Space Center, Jordan Smith - the current Set Director handed the ship's flight director microphone, spittal and all, to the new Set Director.  Mason accepted the microphone signalling his acceptance of the calling and his willingness to steer the ship along the course set by the Jordan's hard work and firm hand on the rudder.  

Mason is an outstanding gentleman, scholar, and good judge of science fiction simulator stories.  Jordan trained him well and is pleased with the appointment.  

Mason's first decree was a changing of the Phoenix logo.  For the past several weeks Mason was in design mode, sketching the logo then making a color change here and a tuck there. He just happened to have his new logo on hand to show everyone at Honor's Night.   

Being a current Space Center Cassini Flight Director, I have early access to bits of news.  One afternoon I asked Mason to put the logos up on the ship's two front monitors to see how it dressed the room.  What do you think?

I like the logo.  The seven feathers represent the seven stations on the ship.  Mason has done well, but then he always has.  

This makes Mason the Phoenix's Sixth Set Director.

1.  Megan Warner
2.  Alex Anderson
3.  Dave Daymont
4.  Miranda Rendell
5.  Jordan Smith
6.  Mason Perry

Congratulations Mason Perry on your appointment to Phoenix Set Director and a heartfelt Thank You! to Jordan Smith for doing a bang up job transitioning the Phoenix from the old Space Center to the new.  Your mark Jordan will be on the ship as long as she flies.  

More on the Space Center's Honor's Night next week. 

Imaginarium Theater
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Sunday, January 9, 2022

Katie Brings Her Emotional Support Tree. The Christa McAuliffe Space Center Yearly Attendance Report. What To Do With a Bored Field Trip Cadet - Wow the Socks Off Them. Imaginarium Theater.

Your Christa McAuliffe Space Center Staff: Unique, Talented, and Beautifully Weird in a Good Way!


      If you hang around the good people at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center in Pleasant Grove you soon come to realize they are a broad mix of some of the brightest, creative, and dedicated people you'll ever meet.  Now take those aforementioned qualities, and add it a touch of beautifully weird, and you'll know why the Space Center is the best place to work and play in Utah.
     Pictured above is Katie.  Katie is an Odyssey flight director and Cassini supervisor.  I've had the honor and privilege of working with Katy on many occasion.  It wasn't until the Cassini's summer flight planning meeting a couple weeks ago that I got to see the 'other' side of Katy.  She came in, sat down, and took out a small Christmas tree.  It sat there through the meeting for all to enjoy.  It wasn't until afterwards that I put two and two together and realized that the tree was Katy's support tree.  Some have emotional support animals. Katy has an emotional support tree.  It gets her through the tough times - like an extended summer flight planning meeting with me in attendance.  I'm the one actively seeking out every mission plot hole and boring the room with trivial details on why a make belief ship shouldn't be in a make belief country doing scientifically impossible things.  I need to do what Star Trek does, put a technobabble bandage on the wound and call it healed.  


The Space Center's 2021 Yearly Attendance Numbers.


2021 has been quite the year as we have settled into our new facility. Wanted to share some fun insights as we look at the impact of our ever growing program.

    2.5 hour flights = 972
    5 hour flights = 152
    5,138 planetarium visitors
    126 Field trip groups registered (school year)
    1,372 campers
    85 Active volunteers (too many hours to calculate)
    30 Part time employees
    2 Wedding ceremonies
    1 Lost admiral, anyone seen Tagus?

There is still a lot of work as we continue to advance toward making all of our simulators available more regularly. New planetarium shows are in development. Lots of staff training, internships, and volunteer opportunities for growth. It is amazing to look back and see all that is available for our community at our unique little program. It is possible thanks to so many wonderful people who contribute so much of their talents and time.
We look forward to this next year and enjoying it with all of you.

James Porter

From The Troubadour Archives. What To Do With a Bored Field Trip Cadet? Wow the Socks Off Them, That's What

February 24, 2008

Hello All,
     I want to thank our staff and volunteers for another successful week at the Space Center. March is upon us. I want to remind our volunteers and staff that the March Call for Volunteers is posted. Please look over the working schedule and send your requests by email. I’d like to get the working schedule out to everyone by week’s end. March is looking to be a busy month so we will need All Hands on Deck!
     I’m trying to put two supervisors on every Voyager and Magellan mission. Our Central School volunteers are filling many positions left open during the week. It seems our older volunteers are having a difficult time getting here on weekdays. I’m guessing the cause is two fold: busy schedules and the ever rising cost of gasoline. Our local Central School volunteers all live within walking distance of the Space Center. They enjoy working but are young and need supervision. Two supervisors on the larger simulators will help provide them with the supervision and training they require to become better volunteers.
     You’ll notice an increase in the number of schools coming for after school field trips. March, April and May are full of school’s arriving at 2:00 P.M. and leaving at 6:00 P.M. They are sending two classes each day. This means an addition ‘full’ field trip of classes, Starlabs, and missions.
     Our daytime staff will need your full support. It isn’t easy teaching four of everything each day. The repetition can be mind numbing. I’m confident we will do exceptionally well because we have high standards and an awesome staff who always do their best to give our visitors the best field trip in Utah. Hats off to Sheila, Aleta, Lorraine, Metta, Megan, Stacy, Bracken, Jordan, Jon P., Brooklyn, Christine, Marc, Kim, and all the Central School 5th and 6th grade volunteers.
     I’m reminded of something I heard from a young lady last week. A sixth grade class was finishing their training on the Voyager Bridge. The Right Wing Flight Officer was looking around the Bridge impatiently. She had mastered the look of a bored teenager - not bad for a 12 year old. She raised her hand.
     “Is this all we’re going to do is sit here?” she asked. “I’m getting bored.”
     “Yes, all you’re going to do is sit here so I’ll guess your going to be bored.” I answered. I wanted to say much more. You can’t imagine the will power required not to. The words were at the tip of my tongue already formed, fueled, and waiting for launch. A couple consonants and a vowel hissed out between my clenched teeth but quickly retracted and were swallowed.
     Her face collapsed into a production of distortions carefully rehearsed to convey extreme frustration at not being entertained. I could tell she needed something. My guess was her ipod - the pacifier of a new generation. This new generation goes from the baby bottle in the mouth to headphones into the ears. I see ‘the young’ everywhere with wires running from their belts to their ears. Their brains seem to need constant noise and entertainment. The sounds of human voices and nature are no longer satisfying.
     Some teens have such a distant look on their faces it makes me wonder what they are listening to. I can only guess; “Breath in and Breath out. Walk. Stop. Breath in and Breath out. Walk. Stop. Breath in and breath out. Walk Stop. Chew gum. Breath in and Breath out. Walk Stop. Chew Gum.”
     I turned from the young lady and continued to work with the other children that had real questions. In the back of my head I wondered what her opinion would be of the mission.
     I started the mission. Her face was square in the center of one of my TV monitor. I watched her reactions as the mission progressed. Tex’s speech did nothing for her. Her head rested on her hand. Her elbow was firmly planted on the desk. Her eyes were fixed upon the black ceiling. I wondered if she was praying for deliverance.
     Soon I was lost in the mission and lost interest in tracking her reactions. At the end of the mission I remembered to look at her again.
     “That was awesome!” I heard her telling her friend from across the room.
     “Did you see...........? I saved the ship by............ My heart was beating so fast.........” She went on and on as she left the bridge. I sat back in my chair and began shutting off equipment. You know you’ve done a good job when you can change a teenagers opinion from “This is stupid” to “This was awesome!”
     So..... several days late and in the quiet of my own home I stand and take a bow to the four walls of my living room. I’ve conquered a teacher’s Mount Everest. 
     Another week starts. Hundreds of kids are getting ready for the ultimate field trip. If you are one of those kids I want you to know that we are ready for you. We’ve been here 17 years training and preparing for you - just you.
     My thanks to the students and teachers that visit us weekly. My thanks to a great staff and volunteers that make the Space Center the magical place it is.

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater
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