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

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Rob Smith, A True Friend of the Space Center, Retires from the Alpine School District. The New Laser Show at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center. The Side Effects of Space Center Volunteering. Imnaginarium Theater

Rob Smith and Family

     The Space Center community is paying tribute to Rob Smith, who is retiring after nearly 22 years of serving as the ASD Business Administrator. Rob has always been a good friend of the Space Center.  Because of his leadership and gentle arm twisting, the Space Center was able to raise the necessary funds from private donors to build the new planetarium and the funds to make our simulators what they are today.  
     When news of the demolition of the old Central School came out I received a call from Rob asking me to stop by his office.  Rob grilled me on the history of the Space Center, how it came to be, its mission, original goals and vision.  He told me he was putting together a funding presentation to take to businesses both in and out of Utah for the purpose of raising the funds to build a world class space education center complete with a real planetarium; and that is just what he did. 
     I've said this many many times over the last 33 years and I'm going to say it again; "When the Space Center has had a need, the right person always walks through the door."  It is magical how that has happened time and time again.  Rob was that person to help us transition from the old center to the new and for that, we owe him so much.  
     Thank you Rob, and please enjoy your well deserved retirement.  I'm assuming there will be many visits to the Space Center included in your soon to be abundant free time :)  


The New Daft Punk Show at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center.  You've got to Come See This One. 

     James Porter has a hit on his hands with the new Daft Punk laser light show at the Space Center. If you like great music played on a state of the art sound system in a fog filled planetarium illuminated by scores of lasers then this show is for you.  The would make an excellent family Christmas outing for the holiday season.  Book tickets today through the Space Center's website.  

Volunteering at the Christa McAuliffe Space Center has a Lasting Impact 

     Can one ever be the same after volunteering at the Space Center?  Skyler Carr and Brooks Heder both volunteered as teens way back when and look at them now.  

     Skyler and Brooks work for InfiniD Learning, taking the concept of experiential education through engaging simulations to the world. 

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

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Williamson's Celebrate Thanksgiving. Imaginarium Theater.


                       Does your kitchen look like this on Thanksgiving Day?

     I'm hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Our family's Feastorama was held at my niece's home in Highland.  Around 65 family members attended. The upmarket family members were dressed in their fineries as if they were eating at a nice restaurant.  The more practical of us (those who don't care what anyone thinks) came in our finest sweatpants with  elastic stretchable waistbands.

We never know what the little'uns are up to at these gatherings. The adults are too busy with their faces buried in the feeding trough


     At family gatherings like this, our family's table discussions can turn heated. We have a broad range of political affiliations in our family, especially between the older and younger generations. We have the right and left wings of the family along with those who's beliefs border dangerously close to socialism.  Me personally, I'm a card carrying independent whose opinions are fine tuned to be exactly the opposite of whatever group I'm sitting with. If I'm surrounded by hard core Republicans, I preach the gospel of free health care and free education.  Once the table has agreed on my heretical state and fantasize of burning me at the stake, I excuse myself to go hunting for unsuspecting tables. Usually there is a liberal - progressive conclave needing to be disturbed by my ramblings on the last rigged election and my thoughts supporting a more radical implementation of the 2nd amendment. 

     Do I believe what I'm saying? Most of the time I don't. I say what I say to inflame passions until all around me are frothing at the mouth and hyperventilating.  It's good entertainment for myself and those who know what I'm doing. I am a connoisseur of chaos and a disrupter of the peace. "Keep 'em guessing," is my motto.

     My methods also work nicely with the various religious factions in the family. We have the High Mormons, Middle Mormons, and Lost Mormons in addition to those who've converted to humanism.  I have talking points for each group prepared ahead of time. Each point is guaranteed to produce a negative reaction. The response I got from the High Mormons after hearing my testimony of reincarnation was well worth the fact that I'll be excluded from certain email strings and multiple text messages in the short future. My phone will remain silent for the next little while until someone needs something from me. 

Great Grandma suffers from dementia.  She requires special protective gear at these gatherings to keep her food from ruining her clothes.

      When all is said and done, I remind the family that we are a loving family that respects and cherishes diversity because diverse is what this family is, like so many others in our modern world.  

     I love the fact that my niece's home has a cozy Decompression Room (the rarely used living room just off the family room). Diffusers scent the room in a special DoTerra blend of fragrances tailored for family events like Thanksgiving; picture the smells of green pastures surrounded by Ponderosa Pines and accented with just a wisp of morning sunshine lingering in the air to help you ease quickly into your happy place.  A Candle or two decorates the room with dancing light. Music tugs at the ear with melodies written in consultation with cardiologists.  Ten minutes in the Decompression Room will lower your blood pressure by 10-15 points. 

     I retreat to the Decompression Room when I reach my limit and there are none left to agitate. I like to sit quietly and watch the teenagers stare at their phones.  You see, this is their hang out room. I walk in, they greet me with a nod or slight wave. I find an open spot to sit and let my meal digest. The teens have granted me the title of "Honorary Teenager" which lets me enter the room and sit amongst them as long as I don't say anything "lame" or question them on any subject which could be construed as passing judgement.  

The special place out back and around by the chicken coop for those needing their tobacco and coffee. While I don't do either, I find these family members refreshing because they cling to the old ways from the home counties of western Montana and the Black Hills of South Dakota

     It was a lovely Thanksgiving.  Now it is time to get a few things done to be ready for school on Monday.  While my students may not be overly enthusiastic to return, I welcome getting back to well scheduled days and blessed routines.  There is a lot to be said for knowing where to be and what to do at any given time.  It takes the guesswork out of living.... :)

Mr. Williamson 

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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Director of the Discovery Space Center at American Heritage School to Perform in HCT's Fiddle on the Roof. The Sweet Way to Teach Math. Mercy Strike II Debuts at The Space Place. Imaginarium Theater.

Alex DeBirk as Motel

     Alex DeBirk is the physics teacher at American Heritage School in American Fork and the director of school's Discovery Space Center with the starships Discovery and Galileo.  In his very limited spare time, Alex plays many roles in local musical productions.  
     Alex has just announced that he has landed the role of Motel in The Fiddle on the Roof at the Hale Center Theater in Sandy.  This is fantastic news, especially because my entire sixth grade (all 90 of us) will be seeing Fiddle on the Roof in March as part of the HCT's school field trip program.  We will make sure Alex gets the loudest applause and even a standing ovation!
     Alex started his space center career as a young high school volunteer at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center.  He graduated from Lone Peak, went on an LDS mission to Japan, graduated with a master's degree in engineering from Stanford, and has come full circle back to Space EdVenturing by founding the American Heritage School's Discovery Space Center in American Fork.     

The Sweetest Way to Teach Math

     The Space Center's Voyager Academy offers math tutoring to our volunteers on Tuesday afternoons.  I stopped by to say hello on a couple weeks ago and found Hyrum working with our Voyager Club president Mikey on his math homework.  They were using SweetTarts Ropes as a method to calculate curves.  "Now that's the Space Center way," I observed.  "We are masters of taking what we have and reengineering it to meet a need it was never designed to meet."  
Orion, Mikey, and Hyrum

     The spirit of volunteerism is the Space Center's foundation. Both Hyrum and Orion volunteer their time to offer the math tutoring program.  As a community, those of us who work and volunteer at the Space Center do our part to further our nation's space programs by encouraging our people to do their best in their math and science courses. 

Mercy Strike II Debuts at The Space Place at Renaissance Academy 

     The Middle School Tiger Squadron of Renaissance Academy's Voyager Club were the first to do part 1 of a new Long Duration Mission with the working title of Mercy Strike II.
     Many of our staff remember the mission Mercy Strike. I wrote the story years and years ago. Mercy Strike has an ending with the crew of the Voyager barely escaping certain death in a chase scene through Romulan Space.

The Farpoint Voyager Club's Tiger Squadron - 
the first to do the part one of Mercy Strike II

     Our Farpoint Voyager Club's 7-9th grade squadrons did Mercy Strike last year as their Long Duration Mission from October to May. The story was altered somewhat to fit within the Farpoint Universe. The Farpoint version of Mercy Strike  ends with them being hurled toward a star in Cardilir space and then barely escaping the gravity well with a well place nuke. That ending opened the door to a Mercy Strike II which picks up the story from that point.  
     Bracken Funk and I authored the story and are excited to offer it to our cadets. So far the reviews are excellent. 

Sunrise from The Fortress of Solitude

     I call my home in Pleasant Grove the Fortress of Solitude. It sits on the bench overlooking Utah Valley from the living room's west window. The room's east window looks up the mountain side one block away. One late October morning I took this picture of a beautiful sunrise from my front yard.  
     Fall is my favorite time of the year.   

Imaginarium Theater

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

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Happy 33rd Birthday to the Christa McAuliffe Space Center! See the Original Starship Controls. Imaginarium Theater

On November 8, 1990, ago the Space Center opened its doors to the world with a massive open house and dedication program.  Hundreds of people attended. The lines to tour the Starship Voyager stretched all the way down the hallway of Central School.  We filled the school's gym for the program. Our guest speaker was Senator Jake Garn, Utah's Senator who went into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.  

Fast forward thirty-three years to today.  Writing as the founder, I want to say thank you to the many hundreds of staff and volunteers who've worked hard over the decades to make the Space Center what it is today; and thank you to the hundreds of thousands of people who've attended a Space Center field trip, camp, private mission, class, etc. for your support.

My inspiration to build the first starship Voyager at Central School in 1989-1990 was rooted in the classroom starship I operated from 1983-1990. The classroom simulator was simple; student desks, poster board controls, a boom box cassette player, an overhead projector, overheads, and a good story. We did our classroom deep space explorations as part of my sixth grade curriculum. More elaborate simulations were used for my Young Astronaut Chapter meetings. Instead of using my classroom, we set up our desks and poster controls in the gym and used the entire school as our starship. 
The original paper helm station for the classroom starship Pegasus.

     I'm often asked, "How did this place [the Space Center] get started?" It's a story I've shared hundreds of times over the last thirty years. Many of you Troubadours know the story so I'll be brief.  

     Spring 1983. Because of a clerical mistake at BYU, my 3rd grade student teaching assignment in Springville was mistakenly given to another student. I was called into the education department office and asked if I'd be kind enough to take a 6th grade student teaching position at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. Mr. Mike Thompson was to be my cooperating teacher. I didn't know where Pleasant Grove was but gladly took the assignment; I liked the 6th grade curriculum and the more mature students.
My 6th Grade Student Teaching Class. Mr. Thompson is on the left. Mr. Emal (principal) on the right.
This was their class picture taken in September 1982

     Mr. Thompson asked me to teach the space science unit.  Knowing this unit would make up a large part of my student teaching grade, I wanted to impress my professor with something out of the box and unusual.  I decided to copy Carl Sagan's Cosmos TV series and take the class out into space to witness first hand what I was teaching. Classroom computers were unheard of in the Spring of 1983 so I created poster board controls for the student's desks. I drew most of my visuals (tacticals) on overhead projector plastic 81/2 by 11 sheets and ran the simulations from behind my desk with an overhead projector. My cassette player boom box provided the music. My voice did the sound effects and different voices and accents for my main engineer, computer, and aliens.  

     That spring, the class and I took several voyages into space.  The professor was impressed and gave me an A.  Mr. Thompson enjoyed it and wrote me up a glowing recommendation.  My student teaching ended with a job offer. Mr. Frandsen, the other sixth grade teacher in room 20, announced his retirement and the job was offered.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The poster board weapons and engine controls. The wear and tear speaks of the many missions and hours of fun
this poster provided my students over those many years.

     The poster board controls for the USS Pegasus were easy to use. The student spoke the button's name while pushing the button.  From behind my desk, I'd year the student and make the appropriate sound whilst searching through my stack of overheads for the right visual effect.  

These young Starfleet officers are in their mid early 50's today
Here you go, the USS Pegasus sensors station.

The ship's transporter station. Yes, the dials actually spin
The navigation station. I used water based markers to hand draw a map of the sector on the plastic covered top section.
The students used rulers and protractors to plot and speak their courses.

One of the engineering posters for the USS Pegasus.

The communications poster controls.
The inspiration for my classroom simulations came from Carl Sagan's television series "Cosmos" which aired in 1980. I watched Cosmos while I was a student at BYU on a small 12 inch black and white TV.  In Cosmos, Carl Sagan ventured deep into space aboard his starship to inspire the American public to look up and realize where life originated and where it can go. Even today I'll rewatch the opening to Cosmos on YouTube and feel the same feelings I did then.

The Space Center's mission is the same as it was on our opening day in 1990, we work to create a space-faring civilization.

Carl Sagan said, "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known".  Perhaps that something is ourselves, and the knowledge that we are all one, woven together into the eternal fabric of time and space.  

Ad Astra!

A few of the Space Center Volunteers Created this Short Birthday Celebration Showing the Current Fleet of Six Starships: Cassini, Magellan, Phoenix, Odyssey, Galileo, and Falcon

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

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The Space Center Celebrates Silver Perry upon his retirement from Active Duty. Skyler Carr Travels the World Spreading the Gospel of Experiential Education. Imaginarium Theater.

Silver and his Long Time Space Center Friends on his Final Day
Scott, Silver, Jon, and Hyrum

     Silver Perry, long time volunteer and member of the Space Center's staff, retired from active duty after his final mission "Whispers," Saturday, October 28.  It was a good mission to retire on. He leaves his position as Phoenix Set Director and with it a long legacy of innovations for a simulator he was devoted to.  

Silver as a young member of the Voyager Club

     Silver's time at the CMSC started when he was in junior high school. He was one of my Farpoint Cadets for our Voyager Club's Long Duration Mission Program. You see him in the photo on the left with his squadron on a cold Saturday morning.  He started volunteering at the Space Center around the same time. 

Silver and his watches. He was our very own Time Lord

     Silver had a thing for watches back then. I never knew what he would be sporting on his wrists any given Saturday.  I referred to him as "The Time Lord".  He was also, and remained so up until his retirement, camera shy. It was tough to get him to stop for a photo.  Time Lords are like that.

     In August 2018 Silver graduated to the official "Time Lord" Space Center status and was awarded his Supervisor Blues. 

    Silver chose the Phoenix as his simulator of choice for flight director training. Jordan Smith was his Set Director and trainer. In July 2019 Silver passed his last Phoenix training mission and was awarded his Flight Director Blues.  

     On August 3, 2019  Silver flight directed his first solo paid Phoenix private mission. I stopped by the CMSC to celebrate his accomplishment that day and found him briefing his crew in the Kiva.  

     It would be an adult crew!  No worries, Silver handled it like a pro.  He didn't have a second chair.  Yes, the Phoenix can be flown with one staff, but with an adult crew you really need a good second chair.  

Silver ready to go solo

      I was tempted to offer my services as his second chair but knew I'd make matters worse. "The Magellan has a full staff," I said to Silver. "Let me go see if I can't wrangle someone to come in to give you a hand." Shifting staff from ship to ship was something I had to do on a regular basis during my time at the CMSC helm. I was confident someone would be willing to help.
     Tyler Gotcher, who by the way is the current Magellan Set Director, offered to change ships. He didn't hesitate even though he wanted to work the Magellan 5 hour.  He saw the need and took care of it.  

   Tyler Gotcher, Back in the day

                                                   Silver and Tyler in the Phoenix 
                                                              Control Room on Silver's First Mission

Silver and Ellie on Silver's Final Mission

     I enjoyed my many talks with Silver in the Phoenix Control Room. He was always working on some improvement to the ship and the way it operated.  In my opinion there hasn't been a set director who did a better job at fine tuning his or her ship to as near perfection as possible given the resources and time available as Silver.

So how do we sum up the time and dedication of Silver Perry to the Space Center? We begin by saying that he was not just an ordinary Set Director; he was an innovator of the highest order. His dedication to making the Starship Phoenix the ship it is today is for me, inspirational. He was visionary in his understanding of the Phoenix, making that small simulator a laboratory of excellence.

We can also say that Silver's pursuit of perfection was evident in every corner of the Phoenix. From the layout and use of the ship's control room to the bridge itself, Silver's attention to detail was impressive.

Silver's legacy is not just about the physical improvements he made to the ship but also the sense of camaraderie and pride he instilled in his staff and volunteers. He fostered an environment where everyone could feel as if they belonged to this great enterprise; an environment where volunteers and staff felt inspired to do their best for the ship and the Space Center.

Silver Perry's retirement leaves a void that will be challenging to fill. His innovative spirit, his pursuit of excellence, and boundless creativity set a standard that will serve as an inspiration for future Set Directors.

A Small Segment of Silver's Final Mission

Today the Troubadour, along with the Space Center's staff and volunteers, bid farewell to Silver Perry . We do so with the deepest gratitude. His legacy will remind us of the importance of pushing the boundaries and thinking beyond the ordinary. We hope his retirement planetside will be filled with new adventures and the knowledge that he leaves behind a ship that truly stands as a testament to his vision and dedication.  

Mr. Williamson

Skyler Carr Travels the World Preaching the Gospel of Experiential Education, the InfiniD Learning Way. 

  Skyler in Dublin, Ireland   

I've written many times about the successes our friends are having at InfiniD Learning and it is time to do it again. Today we travel the globe with InfiniD co-founder Skyler Carr. He has been busy going from continent to continent presenting the good news of experiential education through simulations at education conferences that specialize in innovative educational approaches for a new century. Brooks Heder has joined him on many of his travels.
Skyler started this quest as a young junior high student volunteering t the Space Center back in the day. He and Casey Voeks founded InfiniD with the goal to take what we started in Pleasant Grove to the world. They found the way to do it using advanced software, great missions, and excellent graphics. InfiniD is very teacher and school friendly, needing only a classroom, a projector, and chromebooks. Oh, and the voice of their ship's computer is candy to the ears, for sure!
Here are a few pictures from Skyler's travels and comments from Skyler taken from Facebook.

Skyler and his wife in Dubai

I've been SO EXCITED that we get to participate in the GESS conference in Dubai this fall (one of the biggest edtech conferences in the world). Well, that excitement just got turned up to 11 when I found out that I was chosen to present a workshop AND appear on a "Future of Education" panel.
I was invited to host a workshop at the global education conference in Dubai — which was fun because it was directly on the exhibit hall floor. This means if you make enough noise, people will inevitably be drawn to the ruckus.

I’ve always been more than happy to raise a ruckus. Loved meeting so many amazing educators this week! #gessdubai #infinidlearning 

Thank you #stemmena and #teachmiddleeast for inviting us to come out and share our research! We made so many new friends (truly the dearest of friends because they put up with me ranting and raving for 60 minutes on a stage). 

Picture me excited screaming like a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert in 2009.

This week’s adventure: Dublin, Ireland!
I’m introducing our technology at the IB World Conference, and it’s so fun to see their reaction when they see how we can make any lesson a ridiculously engaging group experience.
Data driven experiential learning baby!

This week’s adventure takes us to Bangkok where we were invited to present our technology to education leaders from the Near East and South Asia region.

Pretty cool to fly halfway around the world to show people how we are the only ones in the world that capture skill and knowledge data through experiential learning.

InfiniD Learning had a New Halloween Mission for Its Network of Schools.

     My Young Astronauts and Voyagers did InfiniD's Halloween mission last month and enjoyed it very much. Watch this short promo.

Here is an Article on the Good Work Our Friends are Doing at InfiniD Learning from the Online Journal Tech and Learning

What is Infini-D Learning? The Company’s Co-Founder Explains
Infini-D Learning

Infini-D Learning is a collaboration-based tool that allows teachers to choose from STEM missions that transport students into outer space, the human body, back in time, and more. 

“We take a science standard, we build a dramatic story around it. Something that's really exciting and fun. Something that's going to be like Magic School Bus meets an escape room on steroids,” says Brooks Heder, co-founder of Infini-D Learning. 

While missions focus on STEM concepts currently, Infini-D Learning plans to expand missions into other subject areas. 

In the meantime, Infini-D Learning is already garnering accolades. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recently named Infini-D Learning to its Emerging Partners program, and of this year’s emerging partners, it was both the judges and people’s choice award winner. 

What is Infini-D Learning?  

Infini-D Learning

Infini-D Learning lets teachers choose from standards-aligned missions that provide students with an interactive and fun learning experience, utilizing existing classroom technology – screen displays and standard-issue student devices. The missions are designed to be the culmination of a lesson or unit. Preparing for one provides students with a goal and can help them understand why they have to learn abstract-seeming science concepts. 

“We're not just talking about the water cycle, we're talking about the water cycle because we have a mission at the end of this week,” Heder says. The experience will also help the lesson stick in the minds of students. 

For instance, when they use unit conversion on a mission, they’ll remember, “Oh, yeah, when those asteroids were falling toward the planet, and we had to save the planet by using our knowledge of unit conversion,” Heder says.  

How Was Infini-D Learning Founded?  

Infini-D Learning

“We were a group of founders who didn't find complete fulfillment with the education system as it was,” Heder explains. 

As an elementary school student, Heder had been inspired by an extraordinary math teacher who made learning come alive with group simulations. “He started with a boombox and overhead slides and hiding behind his desk and doing different characters, and sending his kids on these elaborate missions," he says. "That transitioned into this full kind of Disneyland-like set where kids would field trip and have this amazing group experience.” 

Infini-D Learning started with the goal of recreating these kinds of experiences. Initially, they focused on field trips and missions that took place on elaborate sets. Those became an incredible success and they wanted to be able to offer the experiences to more students. 

“It was like a movie set, you'd have cool lights, and spacey stuff, and steps and platforms and all these things, and that was so fun,” Heder says. He and his cofounders asked themselves if they could recreate that experience using tech that teachers and students already had access to. 

Ultimately, they developed a haptic hands-on experience with a combination of classroom screens, speakers, student devices, pre-recorded music, and characters. 

“We found we could get a very similar result to the set,” Heder says. “The set is really cool for the first few minutes, and then they get into the mission. What we saw with our current [offering] is that it can still reach those same levels of excitement, yet you get the scalability and the ability for teachers to implement it in an easy, simple way.” 

What Else Should You Know About Infini-D Learning?  

As a company, Infini-D Learning is dedicated to fighting boredom, busy work, and student isolation in education, and the missions are designed with those goals expressly in mind, Heder says. He believes the best way for teachers to learn about Infini-D Learning is to try one of the free missions with students as that will give them a full sense of its appeal. 

“We built it with kids in mind,” he says. “We are really passionate about making sure the kids come first, not building a solution that the kids aren't into, that happens way too often in education. So we spent a lot of time in the classroom watching and observing and building something that the kids are crazy about.” 

Imaginarium Theater  

The Week's Best Vidoes From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.  Click Here