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

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Mr. Williamson Struggles with Planetarium Controls. On a Brighter Note, the Odyssey III Runs its First Private Missions! We're Back in the Saddle Again! Ten Years Ago Post: The CMSEC Staff Survives the Largest Overnight Mission in History. The Imaginarium Theater.

 Hello Troops,

     Yesterday I met with James Porter (CMSC Director) at the Space Center to begin the process of learning the controls for  the Space Center's new planetarium.  Tricky but manageable is my overall opinion.

     I've committed myself to a few hours most Saturdays at the Space Center to help where needed. Right now the need is in the planetarium - especially with the simulators in the process of launching. Tabitha and Natalie both run planetarium shows and are Odyssey flight directors. The Odyssey is open for private family groups - hence you see the problem.

     My biggest obstacle is characterized by the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks".  The new tricks being an entire set of computer controls to run live shows in the planetarium. I'll keep you posted as my skill set evolves. Perhaps you'd like to attend one of my shows and snicker politely when I mess up. 

The Odyssey Officially Opened on Saturday with a Full Day of Missions. 

Natalie Anderson and Nolan Welch at the Helm of the Odyssey III

     The Odyssey III was the first of the Space Center's six simulators to open for private family groups on Saturday.  One down and five to go!  The other simulators will open as needed and as health regulations allow. Natalie Anderson was the flight director.  Nolan Welch was her trusted 2nd chair Blue Shirt Supervisor.  There was a black shirt volunteer but sadly I can't remember his name. 


     I missed the Odyssey's first mission of the day, but was on hand to see the second mission. Natalie was true to form. The shutdown didn't seem to affect her story telling at all.  There were a few technical glitches (the lighting had a few bugs) but James was on hand after the mission to troubleshoot. 

     Seeing both Natalie and Nolan at work, hearing the familiar sounds of music and alarms, and hearing the excitement in the voices of the crew made me feel right at home - as if it was any old Saturday at the old Space Center. 

     After the mission, James gave Jon Parker and I a demonstration of the Falcon's new lighting system.  Impressive doesn't describe the coolness factor of those lights. They even have a true to task sound effect easily heard on the bridge as the light adjust themselves and focus on the walls and floor through a lens system.  You'll have to see if for yourself once the Falcon opens. 

     Welcome back into Starfleet service Odyssey III. You wear the name Odyssey proudly in honor of the other two great simulators that came before. May Fortuna be kind and always pick on the larger ships as you take thousands of Utah's children to the stars.

Mr. Williamson 

From the Archives, Ten Years Ago at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. 

The Staff and Volunteers Survive the Largest Overnight Camp in History.  51 Campers on a School Year Overnight Camp!  See How You Think on Your Feet at the Space Center.

January 30, 2011

Hello Troops,
     We survived the largest Overnight Camp in the Space Center's History on Friday. Our max. is 45 campers for any given camp. We had 51 show up Friday night. They just kept coming and coming and coming. In the end there were ten not on the lists sent by the schools. I had a choice to make. I could either call the parents of the ten disputed students and have them come to collect them, or I could find a way to let them stay.
     I played out each phone call in my imagination. I didn't even know I knew the swear words my imagination conjured up coming from each of the ten parent's mouths. Thirty seconds into this "What If" scenario I had to shift mental gears and go to my 'happy place' to slow my racing heart and lower my blood pressure. I knew I couldn't make those calls.
     I looked at my older staff. They were looking at me, wondering what my decision would be. I wanted to send ten home, but who would I order to make the calls and handle the phone rage? Who would I have do the very thing I was terrified of doing? Who was on my butt kicking list for having missed work or coming to work not properly dressed? Who deserved to spend an hour listening to language not fit to print in any dictionary, language so foul the nation's alert level would surge upon detecting the hatred spilling through the cell towers and phone circuits?
     Each of them were looking at me with the same drooping, helpless eyes a dog gives its master after having wet on the carpet and not wanting a whooping with the evening's newspaper. In the end I abandoned the idea. I realized if I had one of them make those fateful calls I would be hauled before a United Nations Tribunal in the Netherlands for Crimes Against Humanity.
     "OK, we won't send them home," I announced.
     "What are we going to do with ten extra kids?" Mr. Daymont asked. I wanted to say "Give them to you" but knew the shock would cause an instantaneous loss of blood to his brain causing a physical collapse in front of 51 campers.
     I thought back to the last time we had large numbers, remembered what I did and made the pronouncement. "We take 31 of them and split them into two teams. One team does a Voyager 2.5 hour mission while the other does the same in the Magellan. They switch ships at 10:20 P.M. The Voyager can do a school field trip mission. They're designed for larger groups on the Bridge."
     The staff liked the idea, what choice did they have?
     The campers were delightful. They were excited to be at camp and had no problems doing whatever we asked. We all got through the camp unscathed thanks to an awesome staff and brilliant campers.
     What can be said of my performance? I went and hid behind my desk for most of the night after dividing the kids into their ships. There are times in a teacher's career when hiding behind our desks is warranted. I just crawled into that little space reserved for my feet and stayed there until the world seemed normal again. If the staff asks, I tell them I dropped a thumb tack. Everyone knows you can't leave a lost thumb tack laying around, especially with a staff that likes to wonder shoeless at bedtime during an overnight camp.
     It's Sunday now and all seems well. This is behind us, we learned from it, and will be all the more ready if it ever happens again. 

Mr. Williamson

Mr. Williamson's Imaginarium Theater

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

Imaginarium Theater from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

My Quest to Find the Space Center's IT Department. An Unauthorized Post...... And The Imaginarium Theater.

 Hello Troops,

     Back in the day when I was Space Center director, I wrote short fanciful stories for the blog about life at the Space Center.  Most were completely true, others were embellished with bits of fiction to make the read more interesting, and then there were others written just for fun, like the one below.  

     Today I repost one of those "just for fun" stories written in January 2011 to poke fun at the Center's programming and IT folks. I wrote it pretending to be a nosy new volunteer just learning the ropes.  The story is illustrated with several photos taken in the school's hallways and basement. I darkened the photos for story's sake. 


Mr. Williamson 

From The Troubadour's Archives


My Quest to Find the Space Center's IT Department. An Unauthorized Post......

From Space Center Wikileaks.
What "They" Don't Want You to Know.

I hacked into the Space Center's Blog to share the following with you all. Read quickly because it will be deleted as soon as 'you know who' discovers it.

     I won’t give you my identity because it would risk my status as a volunteer and hopefully a future employee. Let’s just say I’m someone who happens to be of a curious nature when it comes to all things Space Center. I asked Mr. Williamson once about the computer programs running the simulators. He explained that the Voyager’s controls were written in Hypercard. The other simulators were using Revolution.
“Soon we will have our first set of Cocoa controls in the Galileo,” he added with a look of satisfaction.
     I knew the Space Center was a unique institution, the only of its kind on the planet, so I was naturally curious about who wrote the programs if they weren't available commercially. Mr. Williamson looked surprised by my question and asked for my name (he has a tendency to forget my name but that’s OK, he’s busy and I’m just one of many faceless volunteers that darken the Space Center’s walls on a regular basis). I said my name and he promptly wrote it on a sticky note. Below my name he put a check mark with the words “Too Curious” scribbled in a manuscript barely legible. I pretended to hear someone call my name and lied about being called for an acting part. I walked away shaken by his reaction.
     I found a blue shirt Supervisor who had befriended me in the past and asked him the same question. He said he would tell me what he knew but made me swear never tell anyone where I got the information. He took me by the elbow and walked me down the hall toward the Faculty Room. We stopped and stepped into a classroom’s doorway.
     “The Space Center has its own IT department but it's kept hush hush. Only Mr. Williamson and his most senior staff know who they are and where they work. For your own survival as a volunteer, I suggest you never mention programming again. Let’s just say that loose lips sink volunteers and ships.”
     He told me he knew a few other things and if I was really serious about learning one of the Space Center's best kept secrets to return to this doorway again after the last of the staff left the building after the 2:30 P.M. missions ended. He stepped from the doorway, looked up and down the hall, and walked quickly back toward the Odyssey.
     One hour later I went to the Faculty Room to buy a soda. I heard people talking and stopped before anyone saw me. I peeked into the room. Emily, Stacy and Jon were huddled around the pop machine. I could barely make out what they were saying.
     “They’re starting the Voyager Controls then?” Emily asked.
     “Today,” Jon replied. “I think Mr. Williamson is going down there to meet with them after we all leave.”
     “I’ll give him my artwork to take with him. They’ll need it,” Emily said.
     “What are they like,” Jon asked. From the question I gathered that Stacy was the only one who had actually met someone from IT.
     “You don’t want to know,” Stacy replied.
     “Come on, tell us something,” Jon stepped closer into the huddle, bringing Emily with him. 
     “Well, I could tell they haven’t seen the sun in a long time. Their skin is prison pallor white and slightly transparent. I saw light purple veins on their cheeks and necks.”
     I heard someone else approaching and knew it was time to step into the room to buy my soda. I cleared my throat and stepped in. The huddle immediately broke apart.
     “What do you want?” Emily said perturbed.
     “Just a soda,” I answered sheepishly. She motioned me forward. I stepped up to the coin receptacle, dropped in four quarters, made my selection and left as quickly as I could.
     The flights ended at 5:00 P.M. I stayed behind pretending to be waiting for my ride. I hid in a classroom doorway and waited for Jon to leave. He is always the last to leave the Center on a Saturday. At 5:40 P.M. I heard the school's front doors latch shut. Jon was gone leaving only the custodian in the building mopping the floors in the new addition. I was alone in the old section. I walked back to the doorway where the supervisor and I had met earlier. There, taped to the door, was an envelope. I removed it and found a map of the school with detailed descriptions on how to get into the building when no one was there. Arrows pointed the way down the south hallway and into a section of the building I’d never seen. Under it was written “Good Luck” in red ink.
     Today I woke with a determination to solve the mystery of the Space Center’s IT department. I faked sick to stay home from church. Once the family was gone I pedaled my bike the few miles to the school. I walked around the building once looking for cars. There were none. The building was empty.
     I entered the school from the door I’d left partly ajar the night before.

     The school was quiet. It was weird. Usually the sound of explosions, music, and kids shouting and screaming filled the vacuum. I took out the map, paused to get my bearings, and proceeded down the hallway - past the front doors and office.

     I walked toward the Cafeteria and Faculty Room. The sound of my footsteps echoed off the brick walls. Needless to say I was spooked and terrified I'd get caught. But, as I wrote earlier, I am of a curious disposition.

     I found the hallway with the Fallout Shelter sign just like the map described.

     I was curious why a Fallout Shelter sign was on the wall in the first place. Fallout Shelters disappeared from American's lexicon in the 1980's. So why was this sign still there? Curiously, the arrows pointing down the hallway were scratched away.

     I turned and looked down the cold, dimly lit hallway. The air was thick, carrying a feeling of gloom. I was tempted to abandon my quest, but considering what I'd risked to get that far, I decided to soldier on. I started my descent down the ramp.

     "Look for a door labeled 'Boiler Room'," the map said. "If you're willing to stare into the abyss then go through that door." There was nothing else written. It seemed the Supervisor abandoned his attempt to learn the truth at this point. He failed. I wouldn't. I had to go on.

     I picked the lock and slowly opened the door. I was met by a concrete stairway descending down below the main level of the school, ending in a room illuminated by a single light bulb. My heart raced. Sweat formed on my forehead.
     "Hello," I said hoping there would be no response. There wasn't. I repeated my greeting. Again it was met by silence. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I mumbled and stepped into the mystery and down the stairway.

     At the bottom of the stairs was another staircase.

It ended abruptly into a cinder block wall. I examined the wall. "Hypercard Department" was written in pencil on one of the blocks. I remembered the Voyager was programmed in Hypercard in the 1990's. The computer language hadn't been used since 2000. Was this the home of the Hypercard programmers?
     I knocked on the bricks and stepped back. I smiled thinking how absurd it was that anyone could still be there, trapped behind that solid barrier. I turned to continue my explorations; then a sound..... a scratching sound from the other side of the cinderblock wall. The sound was faint and stopped as abruptly as it had started. Needless to say I was freaked out..

     I moved on, finding these signs near a door that looked like it hadn't been opened in decades.

     I opened the door and found the school's boiler room lit by a single bulb hanging near the boiler, just as described on the sign in the hallway at the top of the staircase.

     The boiler room was strangely quiet. With it being a cold winter day outside, I thought the boiler would be working. To my left I found another stairway ascending into blackness.
     There was a sound in the corner of the room, a whisper coming from another long disused stairway. I froze for several seconds as I found the courage to continue my exploration.

     The stairway led up to a landing before turning 90 degrees. I walked closer and paused. A few deep breaths gave me the oxygen to move forward the last three steps to see what was at the top. I looked up into one eye and dark face peering at me from the top of the landing. In an instant the head vanished, leaving behind the sound of footfalls moving down another concrete hallway.
     I had a decision to make. Would I continue my quest for the illusive Space Center IT department or be grateful I made it this far and turn and go home. 


Your Friend
The Truth Will Prevail


Mr. Williamson's Imaginarium Theater
The Best Vidoes From Around the World Edited for a Gentler Audience.

Imaginarium Theater January 24, 2021 from SpaceCampUtah's Imaginarium on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

News From the Space Center World. A New Era of Space Exploration! The Space Center Highlighted on KSL TV. From The Troubadour's Archives: Great Posts from the Past. Relive Those Old Memories. Imaginarium Theater.

In Today's Troubadour

New of Blue Origin's Successful Launch
• The Christa McAuliffe Space Center on KSL TV
• From The Troubadour's Archives:  Interesting posts from  
• January 2009 and 2010. Learn how we did the Space Center     thing back in the dark ages.  
• Imaginarium Theater.

The Dawn of a New Space Age

Out in the deserts of West Texas, Blue Origin — a private aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000 — successfully launched and landed their New Shepard rocket on January 14. The company has their sights set on using the reusable rocket system to fly commercial passengers to suborbital space beginning as early as April 2021. But before that can happen, Blue Origin’s New Shepard must complete a few more uncrewed test flights.

     Watch the launch and landing of the capsule from inside. The panoramic views from the large windows is breathtaking. With NASA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX the United States will maintain its dominant position as the leading nation in space exploration and development.  Space education in the schools is the natural next step.  Renaissance Academy's Young Astronaut Program is one example of a successful school based space education club.  Using a youngster's natural curiosity about space, the Young Astronauts curriculum combines both science and science fiction into a two part after school club experience consisting of classroom lessons tied to missions in the school's Voyager Starship Simulator.  For more information contact me: 

The Christa McAuliffe Space Center on KSL TV

The CMSC was highlighted on KSL a few days ago during the morning news.  

Watch the Video Here

   From The Troubadour's Archives.  Life at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center

January 2009   Mark Daymont Discusses 

One of the Founding Purposes of the Christa McAuliffe Space Center

     I've been going back recently to the previous posts we've had on the goals, vision, or finding a mantra for the Space Center. In doing so I was reminded of a conversation with Victor Williamson from a long time ago, which has stuck with me all this time. This was from the early days, when the Space Center was really just the Voyager and the classroom (which now has 2 simulators in it!). It was a time when Vic, Bill Schuler, Dave Wall and I used to get together for brainstorming sessions.
     Sometimes Vic would refer to his original ideas for the Space Center's development, and one time he made a profound statement about the real, true purpose of why he built the Space Center and what he hoped it would do. Besides the obvious benefit of inspiring kids to learn about space, science, and mathematics, there was a higher, more subliminal goal: he wanted kids to become space- enthusiast voters!
     There's been a saying around NASA ever since its early days: No Bucks, No Buck Rogers. Which means to say, that without the funding, there would be no space program and no astronaut heroes. Vic's idea, which I totally supported, was that we wanted kids to retain their enthusiasm for space exploration even up to their adulthood, when they would become voters who would elect officials friendly to the space program. 
These days, that vision of Vic's has become even more vital. Because today, there is a war being waged over the relatively little funding that is set aside for space exploration. It can only be won on the political battlefield through the efforts of participating, and voting, space supporters.


A Letter From a Visiting Teacher
Dear Space Education Center Staff,
     Thank you so much for a wonderful experience at the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. Our students enjoyed the Space Center so much they wanted to go back the next day. When I asked the entire group to rate their experience with a thumbs up for "gas tank" full or thumbs down for "gas tank" empty, every student except one had their thumbs straight up. Many of the students were jumping up and down, holding their hands across their mouths as if to control the shouts of joy. I even had one student say that the experience, "changed my life". Wondering why one of the students had his hand at "half full", I ask him if there was anything wrong. He told me he got a little sick on the bus ride and didn't feel very well the rest of the field trip.
     I enjoyed accompanying the students on this field trip. I was so curious to see how the students would do and what they would think about the experience. I had a great time watching the students in action and in their individual roles. It was a treat to see them all engaged in a 'mission' and figuring out how to work together 'for real'. However, the biggest treat was to see how excited they were on the bus home. I thought they would be exhausted! However, the bus was buzzing with excitement about their mission, position on the ship, what decisions they had to make, and what they think they will do next time.
     As educators, we usually don't hear what the students say when they go home. Therefore, I wanted to take a minute to let you all know that what you do is phenomenal. The Space Education Center may be quite routine for you and your staff, however the students who visited on Dec 4 discovered a new world of opportunities. Thank you!

Thanks for all you do!
Camine Fuhriman
Discovery Coordinator
Entheos Academy


Our First Camper of the Decade

Benjamin's Database Entry. One Interesting yet Small Item for the History Books

Hello Troops,
     It's 4:11 P.M. on Saturday. Four of our five ships are running January's Super Saturday. I'm working on updated and entering information for the camper's new Rank Papers. As I was typing names into the database I came across a young boy named Benjamin G.
     I typed in his first name.
     I typed in his last name.
     I typed in his new Flight Hours
     I typed in his new Class Hours.
     I typed in his grade
     I started to type in his birthday and stopped cold. I saw a 00 as his birth year. For a moment I thought the volunteer at the sign in table messed things ups on Benjamin's handwritten Sign In Sheet and either didn't hear him correctly or had the worst handwriting in Utah.
     I looked back at his grade. Benjamin was in 4th grade and turned 10 on January 3rd. Turning 10 made him eligible for Super Saturdays and Overnight Camps. It dawned on me right then that this boy really was born in 2000. That is why I saw 00 on his form.
     Troops, it was one of those "ah ha" moments. I was typing the first Rank Advancement Paper ever for someone born in the year 2000. There will be many many more to come but little 10 year old Benjamin was the first.

Mr. Williamson

Imaginarium Theater

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