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

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Katie Young's Last Odyssey Mission. A Sacred Magellan Tradition Continues. Today's Imaginarium Theater with a Tribute to the People of Ukraine.


Katie in the Odyssey Flight Director's Chair on Friday

     Katie Young's last Odyssey mission before leaving on an LDS mission was Friday night.  At least that was the plan.  I stopped by the Space Center to get a photo or two of Katie and to say my farewells.  I wasn't the only one.  The Odyssey, which only has one volunteer or perhaps two on a lucky day, had an army of volunteer / well wishes on hand to work her last mission. 

Katie's Final Staff:  Nolan, Hayden, Katie, Tyler, Mason, Jon, Orion. On the bottom row Hyrum, Ellie, Cecily, and Audrey   

     Yes, you counted right. There were 11 staff and a crew of 8. Wow, those 8 young girls were about to get the mission of their lives..... until.....

     During the mission briefing (pictured above) in the school's Conference Room, the captain, reacting to Katie's intense briefing, vomited.  It was one of those "we're done" vomits. Because it was the birthday girl, the crew packed up and left. Katie's last mission lasted as long as a briefing.  I guess you could say it was anti-climatic.    

     The good news was the staff had some time to just chill and enjoy each other's company.   Audrey also had time to snap a good photo of Katie pretending to flight direct a last mission.  

     Katie has been with the Space Center since 2017.  The photo above and below were taken at the Honor's Night Breakfast and ceremony held that year. 

     In 2019 (pictured above) Katie got the big promotion into Flight Director training along with a class of very talented individuals.  Katie earned her Supervisor Blues and took a position in the Cassini where I was privileged to work with her last summer. 
     Natalie and Tabitha stole her from under Jon's nose at the end of the summer and made her an Odyssey flight director. 

     Katie has one of those "Go To Work" personalities.  She is also a poster child for the Optimists of America!  "It will all be good," is the perfect slogan for Katie.  She will be missed by all those who had the opportunity to work with her.  
     Take care on your mission Katie. We are planning on your return as per the small print in your dismissal papers; you know - the Reactivitation Clause. 

Aaron Signs the Magellan Flag
     And with that signature, Aaron became "Somebody" in the eyes of the Magellan management.  Yes my friends, you are nobody until you are invited to sign that flag. I've been trying for years and to no avail.  Alas, I'll spend the rest of my days in that purgatory of what ifs.  "What if I spent more time in the Magellan."  "What if I complimented Conner more on his organ playing."  "What if I had made it a rule to bring treats to the Magellan staff first before putting them in the staff lounge."  We will never know.    

     Beware Magellan staff, I have a key and I see a couple unoccupied corners on that flag where a very very small signature could be inserted.  I'm just saying......

Imaginarium Theater With a Tribute to Ukraine
The Best Videos From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Meet the Newest Members of Staff at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center: A Tradition of Excellence Continues. Another Space Center Baby Born. Laser Shows Coming to the Planetarium. Imaginarium Theater.

By James Porter

Be sure to "Like" the Space Center's Facebook Page.

We have some absolutely amazing staff here at the Space Center and we want to take a moment to highlight our volunteers who have trained so hard to reach various paid positions over the last few months.

Aaron is our most recent Magellan supervisor.

He is preceded by Cecily and Hayden.

The Magellan holds our largest crews and is often containing many rambunctious birthday party children. So it takes a special breed of staff to help focus that level of energy toward accomplishing mission objectives and crew unity. Aaron does so with a calm persistence, Cecily with her warm and welcoming persona, and Hayden sets a futuristic military tone that gets them right in character.

Gracelyn has been our volunteer venturing into new realms as she has been the first volunteer to take on the training to become a planetarium Navigator. Taking guests through a journey of the cosmos all on your own with some of our most complex and challenging equipment is no small task. She has grown in confidence and her presentation skills are ever improving as she deals with larger groups attending our shows. So you are in luck if you see her welcoming face when you walk through our doors.

On the Cassini side of the fleet we have Ellie and Hyrum. The Cassini has the added challenge of creating an identity as one of our newest ships. Both of our new supervisors have worked diligently to create amazingly detailed subplots, characters, and other little gems that really make the Cassini come to life. Ellie and Hyrum are both contagiously upbeat and a pleasure to work with.
A small blurb is hardly enough to showcase the efforts of these great staff members, but we wanted to congratulate them for their accomplishments. It is an ongoing challenge to train staff for our unique positions at a rate sufficient to meet the growing demands of our program. This isn't your typical teenager job. So when you see any of our staff we want you to know how truly dedicated they are to making our program an amazing experience for all who attend. They are greatly talented individuals and we are fortunate they share those talents with all of us.

A New CMSC Baby is Born

The club of Space Center babies is small but growing. A Space Center baby is a youngling born to parents who met at the Space Center through their volunteer or staff work. Today The Troubadour is pleased to announce the birth of the newest member of this prestigious club, a baby girl to Tabitha and Matt Ricks. The fact that Dr. McCoy was the delivery doctor is the proof that this child will walk on Mars one day - no doubt about it. Congratulations Matt and Tabitha!

Laser Shows Coming to the Space Center Planetarium.

They are still a long way out, but today with some additional donations from generous businesses and individuals the CMSC reached a funding milestone that will allow it to purchase laser equipment for the planetarium!

You can't have a laser show without fog. The planetarium's hazer fogger will see that the job of fogging up the place is done right. Jon Parker will testify to that. Rumor has it he is still trying to find his way out of the planetarium.

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

Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Source for Last Night's Disturbance in the Force Found - It was Jordan Smith's Last Mission at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. He Retires After 10 Years Faithful Service.


Mason Perry struggled to get the Phoenix microphone away from Jordan when the last "Amen" was said on Jordan's final flight. It was painful to watch.  "It's called tough love," Mason said after the microphone was secure in his hands. "Jordan needed to let go and say goodbye. I did what I had to do to get him out the door. Let it be known throughout the land that the Phoenix is now entering the Age of Mason!"

We thought the day would never come, but it did. And when it took its final bow at 11:59 P.M. Saturday it took with it our friend Jordan Smith, a ten year veteran of the Space Center and Former Phoenix Set Director.  Holding his hand throughout his final mission was his padawan Mason Perry and his mentor Jon Parker.  There were others who would never forgive themselves if they hadn't volunteered to serve with Jordan one last time. 

Jordan's Last staff for his last mission. And then on Mason's orders (the new Phoenix Set Director) They turned their phasers on Jordan to remove him as a potential future rival to the Phoenix throne

I was on hand to photograph the start of his swan song mission at 3:30 P.M. but because the mission was a 5 hour I couldn't stay.  8:30 P.M. for me is like midnight to someone 
much younger. Therefore, I'm grateful for Audrey, The Troubadour's CMSC's onsite photographer, for taking the post mission photographs and Jon Parker for videoing the final few minutes of his mission.  

Jordan held his composure during his pre-boarding speech and assigning of stations.  Little did his crew know of the importance of the mission to their flight director and how uncomfortably crowded the Phoenix Control Room was with Jordan well wishes on the other side of the wall they were facing. 


Yes, I suppose it wasn't Covidlike to all be in such close quarters but one takes risks for one's friends - right?  Jon had just returned with his lunch from Daylight Donuts and was wondering what all the fuss was about.  Once reminded it was Jordan's final day, he cordially shared his lunch with the volunteers and staff in honor of the occasion. Each received a quarter of a donut with the promise to not ask for seconds and to wash up afterwards.  

I'm not sure Jordan received his Daylight ration due to his responsibilities in the hallway sorting the crew into their respective rolls.  

Jordan began his "Welcome to the Bridge" monolog after everyone found their seat. I retired to the control room before he started the knock knock who's there routine.  I wanted to claim my quarter of a donut before they were gone. 

Jordan with his last crew at the end of the 5 hour mission

A short video of the last few minutes of Jordan's last flight will be posted here in a day or two.  Jon is getting the video ready.

A Few of Jordan's Mileposts Along His Ten Year Road at the Space Center   

I went through The Troubadour's past posts and found a few highlighting Jordan. I'd like to share them with you today.....

May 2012

We have something to celebrate today (a good excuse for a post, wouldn't you say?).

This is James Smith.  James is pictured above receiving his navy blue Flight Director's shirt from Her Graciousness, Odyssey Set Director, Christine.  This honor makes James the Odyssey's newest ordained Flight Director.

Her Graciousness, Christine, The First of Her Name, proclaimed last Saturday James Smith day here in Wonderland.  Everyone at the Space Center had to bow as he passed and, upon pain of banishment, refer to him as Sir James.

Sir James is shown in the photograph above receiving enthusiastic praise and applause from collared nobles and black shirted peasants.  I'm standing in the background surveying the staff and volunteers, looking for anyone showing disrespect.  Occasionally we have a volunteer unaware of the reverence required toward a newly collared Knight of the Realm.  These poor unfortunates are taken from the room, flogged and returned very repentant - never to make such a mistake again.

I found one, his name was Jordan, the younger brother of revered James.  He was in the back snickering at the accolades showered upon his older brother.  I snapped my fingers and pointed him out.  Two Collared Knights responded, pushing chairs and tables out of their way to apprehend him.  The solemn assembly was briefly interrupted by his weeping and wailing for forgiveness.  I was moved by his sincerity and called for silence and his temporary release.

I turned to Sir James.  "Sir James, this kinsman of yours has shown you disrespect.  I leave his fate to you.  Shall he go free and return to his chair yonder or shall he be taken at once to the tower for flogging?

James thought for a moment before speaking. 
"Off with his head!" he said slowly and deliberately.   The room went quiet.  Jordan nearly fainted.  Even I was astonished at the severity of the sentence.  A moment or two passed before James spoke again. "Just kidding.  Flog him and leave him in the cell.  I'll pick him up on my way home."

The room erupted in cheers at Jordan's reprieve.  Jordan regained consciousness. "Your brother has saved your neck from a fatal meeting with the executioner's blade. 'Tis a flogging only!" someone shouted from the crowd.

"A flogging only?" Jordan whimpered at his brother. Sir James nodded.

"Thank you Sir.  Oh, Thank you for the flogging I'm about to receive."  Jordan's face brightened and continued to beam as he was escorted from the room.  James held out his arms signalling his desire for another round of applause.

It was another wonderful day here at the Space Center.

June 2012.  Jordan Earned his Phoenix Pass and Pin From Dave Daymont  

Jordan in June 2012

From The Troubadour, June 2012


This is Mr. Daymont congratulating young Jordan Smith on the occasion of his receiving a Phoenix Pin.  Jordan is one of those volunteers who never stops talking.  He talks and talks and talks and talks - almost non-stop.

"I can never get a word in edgewise," Mr. Daymont confided in me just last week.  "What do I do?  You've got to help me.  He knows something about everything.  I bring up a subject I'm sure he knows nothing about and OFF HE GOES throwing out facts, figures, prose, poetry and dialog."  

I promised Mr. Daymont I'd figure out a way to contain Jordan's abundant, vocal, and demonstrative enthusiasm.  I could be rich if his energy could be bottled and sold as an elixir for diminished attentiveness 

November 2014

      Phoenix Set Director Miranda is getting far too lax in her team expectations.  Here she is seen flight directing the Phoenix - FROM A STOOL!  Jordan, supposedly her subordinate, is sitting in the flight director's chair.  Notice he is also out of uniform.
     Could it be that Jordan is calling the shots in the Phoenix now?  Could Mr. Porter, CMSEC Director, have a potential staffing problem on his hands?  Does Miranda have the backbone to stand up to this usurper - this young claimant to power?  Can Jordan be shut down before he makes his next move?

     It may be too late for poor Miranda.  It appears Jordan's next move was already in play.  He brought in the heavy guns for this coup d'├ętat.   

Jordan Smith Become Phoenix Flight Director September 2015

Jordan sitting on the bridge of the Phoenix on the day 
of his appointment as Phoenix Set Director
September 5, 2015

Jordan Receives his 5 Year Pin.  February 2017

     Jordan Smith received his 5 Years of Service Pin from Space Center Director James Porter at an Honor's Night in February 2017.
     Jordan started volunteering at the Space Center during my reign way back in the summer of 2012. Yesterday he reminded me that he was the first in his family to volunteer, not his big brother James. 

June 2017.  Jordan Attends the Fireman's Breakfast with the Staff

Jordan Smith, the last at the trough, continued to consume after everyone else had their fill and moved on. Jordan is a gentleman, scholar, and a good man to have on your side in any eating competition.  I think the firemen had to bring him back to the Space Center in the ambulance.  He was too full to walk. 

January 2019.  

Jordan Smith is Named Phoenix Set Director Again Having Returned from an LDS Mission.  Jon Parker Says He is Too Busy When In Reality He is Just Getting Too Old for the Task

     Why is it the Phoenix always has outstanding set directors?  That tradition continued with the appointment of Jordan Smith as the new Phoenix Set Director replacing Jon Parker who has been given other duties as Assistant Director of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. At least that is story Jon tells.  
     Rumor has it that Jon is responsible for the disappearance of the Romulan Ale set aside for Mr. Porter's Time Lord toast.  According to the CMSC staff, Jon has been in a better mood lately and more forgiving of minor mistakes in the operation of the simulators.  There is also the time I found him outside the Space Center on a cold Saturday evening throwing snowballs at passing cars while shouting, "Fire Photon Torpedoes!".  
     Regardless of how he got the appointment, we want to congratulate Jordan for his new position. 

And A Few Final Thoughts On Jordan's Retirement

     Finally, having known and worked with Jordan for over 10 years, I want this history to record that of all the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and staff I've had the pleasure of working with over the last 31 plus years, Jordan ranks at or near the top when it comes to those qualities which make a person truly likeable and genuine; kindness, generosity, warm heartedness, and dedication. If these deep space missions were real, Jordan would be on my must have list of bridge officers.  

     Congratulations Jordan on graduating from university and landing your first high paying job in a field where you'll excel.
Your Space Center family will miss you very much but please remember, your departure papers have the "Reactivation" Clause" triggerable upon an emergency the remaining troops cannot resolve, like how to start the Phoenix properly :) 

Mr. Williamson

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

Sunday, February 6, 2022

My Students Prepare for War. The Story of Experiential Education at Work in my 6th Grade Classroom. The Imaginarium Theater

My Classroom's Roman Emperor during our Rome Unit

     Those of us in the Space EdVentures community know the importance of experiential education. It is our field of expertise. It is what we do with our spaceship simulators and simulations.  I started using simulations during my student teaching at Central Elementary in 1983.  We used poster board control panels for starship controls. I played the main computer and all characters sitting behind my desk with overhead projector.  My use of simulations went beyond my fictional starship.  I created historical simulations which ran through most of the school year.  These simulations included

1.  World War One living through the Russian experience.
2.  The Russian Revolution of 1917.
3.  The Weimar Republic of Germany
4.  The rise of the Nazi party and World War II
5.  Post World War two and the rise of communism.

     Even today former students of mine will stop me in a store or send an email telling me how much they learned and enjoyed those simulations.  Students like Kenny Packer, who sent the following message over Christmas.

Kenny Packer as the Russian Tsar with Prime Minister Ryan Tingey (1988) and  Kenneth Packer and wife today in Russia

Your classroom was inspiring.  This was the beginning of my interest and love for Russia my career path in instruction, and my self awareness that power can corrupt. I’ll never forget the day you gave me a choice to keep the power after the simulated revolution or give it away to Ben Gurr who was playing the role of Lenin. Having tasted what it felt like to have everyone in the room stand up when you entered etc. I broke from the history you were trying to teach and said I wanted to keep the power for myself.  Thank you for teaching us beyond just facts and figures. Your gift for teaching is something I will spend a lifetime trying to learn and replicate.
     Today I teach 6th grade world history and math in addition to running the Young Astronauts Club at Renaissance Academy. I take my daily 50 minute history period and break it into three segments. The largest block of time is spent learning ancient history. We're currently studying ancient Rome.  A smaller portion of time is spent discussing current world affairs.  The last time segment is reserved for modern history.  In modern history the class is moving its way crisis by crisis to summer 1914 and a historical flash point in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina.   
      As you can see in the two photos below, there are troubles brewing in the Balkans.   

     My class is playing Russia's part in the build up to World War I.  We are currently working our way through the Russo/Japanese War. That war sets the stage for WWI. Newspapers go up nearly every day outside my classroom on the door and on the doorway.  My students know to read the news as they arrive.  This sets up the class discussions for that day. The photo above is from last year's class.  They were on the verge of war.  

                This year's news is seen above and below. 

     Tyler is one of my 6th grade students and plays the role of the Russian Czar.  The job was his because he had the highest history grade average at the end of the second term.  The ambassadorships and banking jobs are given out the same way - to those with the highest history GPA's at the end of the second term.

The current class government officials

     The ambassadors fly their nation's flags on their desks during both history and math class.  

     They never know when a message may come in from their country.  Diplomatic mail is placed on the whiteboard as it comes in.  

     The messages are written in that country's language.  The ambassadors use Google translate to translate the messages into English for the Czar and class to hear.  

      Czar Tyler has many problems to solve.  He is moving Russia's Baltic Fleet around the world to attack Japan.  The fleet is old and badly in need of repair. Fueling his ship with coal is another problem.  Most nations won't supply coal to the Russian fleet.  He will be forced to negotiate with his cousin, the German Kaiser, for coal to be purchased as the fleet rounds Africa.  

Czar Tyler's Declaration of War Against Japan

     To keep the simulation as real as possible I operate a class economy. Students earn class money for their grades in math and history, their weekly progress reports, and from small side businesses they operate. One entrepreneurial student sells soda from his locker at lunchtime.  
     Czar Tyler earns money to operate the government, pay his officials, and run a war by taxing the classes.  All 83 sixth graders pay their share to keep the system working.  They soon learn fighting a war can be expensive.  Often they have little cash left to spend on Friday treats (pastries, cookies, cupcakes, rolls, and croissants I supply every week)  after taxes.  Soon they grow restless and dare I say "revolutionary" - which leads to more headaches for the Czar. The ambassadors are exempt from taxes but must pay rent and utilities for their embassies.

   The Czar, Prime Minister, and Bankers sit at a set of desks in the back corner of the room under the Russian Imperial flag. The bankers are responsible for the imperial finances.  Financing a war can be stressful.  Currently most of the Pacific fleet is non operational because of a superior Japanese naval force. 
     Currently the class is desperately trying to raise funds to rebuild the nation's navy.  The Imperial Bank prints class money.  I use photocopied money collected during my world travels.

     My job is to keep the simulation as true to history as possible. Instead of reading history, my students live it, and by doing so they gain an understanding as to WHY things happen and not just WHAT happened. 
     I started doing the historical simulations at Central  Elementary School in Pleasant Grove in 1983. They ran every year until I opened the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in 1990. 

The British Prime Minister's office. Room 20. Central Elementary School

The disappearing German population. The class was playing Germany's role in the start of World War II. 

Jesse was the German Chancellor during the German Weimar Republic.  He couldn't stop hyperinflation from
destroying the savings of most of the students in the class.

 A darkness will soon descend on the classroom as time carries us to 1914.  Hard lessons will be learned and fortunes lost.  Such is the way of things. Such is the glory of experiential education. 

Mr. Williamson  

Imaginarium Theater

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