Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why such a long name?

I thought I would take a moment and explain why our program is called the Cache Valley Space Education Center. You'll notice that much of it has been adapted from the original space center, the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. The Pleasant Grove space center was helped in their development by a grant from The Christa McAuliffe Fellowship in 1990. Since their goals are hand in hand with ours there was no real reason to come up with something new when the title carries so much meaning already.

So why Cache Valley? I'm sure we could rearrange the name should a sizable donation come along. I don't have any problems being the Steve Jobs Society for Space Explorers. Joking aside, naming it after the valley describes several things about it. For one, even though we aren't getting started with a grant, we will be supported by the volunteers who put in their time to develop the program. These volunteers are going to be parents, teachers, and students from the valley. The second part answers who we are serving - the students of our amazing community.

Cache Valley also describes where our program is located. So why not call it the Nibley or Thomas Edison space center? Well, no one knows where Nibley is unless you are from the valley. Thomas Edison is doing a lot to help this program get started, and without the work that the administrators and volunteers have put in we wouldn't have a chance to start this program. That being said we get back to those whom we hope to serve. We want to have all of the students in the area enjoy this experience and Thomas Edison has caught the vision and is allowing us to work with them and use their facilities to make this possible.

Now for the rest of the title, I think it is a bit more obvious. The platform in which we teach science, social studies, the arts, and all other subject matter is done in a simulated space ship. So if you have a central location in which to educate students using the wonderment of space, you end up with Space Education Center. Put all of that together and you end up with our working title, the Cache Valley Space Education Center.

A quick note when mentioning putting things together. Truly this is a community project and will become a community resource. Nobody personally gains from a program like this. The hours go uncounted as far as payment or any sort of financial gratification is concerned. Our non-profit organization is here to provide a service to the community and will only survive with the help of caring individuals who want to build for our students an amazing program. Thank you for everyone who has voiced their support and already started putting in hours of service to get this program started. A special thanks goes to Mr. Williamson and the outstanding volunteers who have built up an unique program in Pleasant Grove and for supporting our efforts to create one to enjoy in our community.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Creating the Experience

How exactly does a small converted classroom or trailer get turned into a star ship? If you are going to understand how that works we'll have to give you a peek into how the simulators work.

As explained before, each of the students on a flight are given a position on the ship. Almost all of them have a computer station except for a few positions like the Captain and the Ambassador. On their station they will have the controls to different parts of the ship. Some control the engines and steer the ship while others repair any damages that occur to the ship. This is very unlikely when all you are doing is investigating a spacial anomaly near a suspected black hole on the other side of an unnavigable asteroid belt. These stations they control their ship as they try to accomplish their mission.

On the other side of the curtain is where the magic happens. Separated from the bridge of the ship is a small control room. In this control room is the Flight Director and staff which is generally made up of volunteers. They also have computers that allow them to see what is going on inside the ship and what the students are doing. Now, without giving away too much about what goes on to destroy the illusion, I'll tell you that the story is developed and the students are able to interact with endless possibilities from the control room . This is unlike any computer game. The result of what happens in a computer game is somewhat fixed and once it has been programmed, it will respond the same every time. In the control room, the students decisions are processed into lighting, sound, and visual effects.

In order for a classroom to be changed into a star ship you will need some computers, the programs for the stations, a sound system, a tv or projector (so the students can see where they are going and what's happening around them), a separate control room, and some trained employees & volunteers with lots of imagination. Of course to help out the visiting students imaginations, we do all we can to make the classroom look like a space ship. That way when they step into the ship they're instantly transported into another world and they can immediately begin enjoying the experience. It is no small task to create this kind of experience which is why we are reaching out to build this as a community and need any help you have to offer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cold Hearted (New Mission Teaser)

As the sun is eclipsed by Jupiter the distinct outline of a starship is seen soaring past Io. There is no mistaking the silhouette, it is the Proteus and it is swiftly passing through the solar system on its way to an important mission. Hours earlier a mysterious incident happened in the far off system of Beta Pictoris. One of the science satellites studying the nearby nebula has been destroyed. A probe has been launched from Markham II, a science platform not far from the system, but it is imperative that a ship hurry there to investigate.

Beta Pictoris is not distant from the Tyrrian Empire, an alien government not friendly with Earth. Suspicions are high and nerves on edge concerning the developing situation. Military advisers are speculating an invasion into human space while Earth's best scientists hypothesize about the nebula's involvement and the possibility that there is merely interference with the satellite. Not wanting to take any chances it has been decided to dispatch the newest and fastest ship in the fleet to investigate the situation, the Proteus.

Will the Proteus be able to get there in time to stop an unforeseen danger? Find out in the upcoming flights offered at the Cache Valley Space Education Center.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


In answer to a question we received, there are not any opportunities to volunteer at this time. However, as soon as the Discovery is up and running, hopefully by January of 2010, there will be plenty of chances to get involved. We hope to build a great volunteer program similar to the CMSEC system that has over a hundred student volunteers from all over Utah County. It is our plan to provide the same kind of rich experience for students in the Cache Valley area.

Some of the different opportunities that will be available to student volunteers will be acting as characters on the missions and helping with controlling the simulator. There are many different aliens and other humans that are encountered aboard the Discovery and it is a much greater experience when you get to meet them in person. Volunteers will take on roles such as an engineer from a lower level checking in with the bridge about a repair. This helps to create the illusion that there are hundreds of other people on the imaginary decks below the bridge. I remember doing exactly that one time as a volunteer and a crew member asked me where I was from. I started going off about how I missed my home on Europa (one of Jupiter's moons) and started to tell them how I first was interested in engineering when I took apart my first flux capacitor. Luckily I had spent some time writing a short story about my character before I went out.

Over the years of helping as a volunteer I learned a lot. One of the most important things I learned has transferred on to help me with school and work. I learned about the importance of effort. I wasn't paid as a volunteer and it took a lot of time and effort to perform the different assignments I had. Yet, I kept going weekend after weekend and using my own money I had earned from chores to buy costume pieces and other items to use at the space center. What I learned was that the more I put into it, the more I got out of it. If I worked really hard to make the missions more exciting for the kids attending, I had more fun.

There are a few requirements that should be known before you decide to be a volunteer. The space center is an extracurricular activity that you can participate in only after school is accomplished. Volunteers must maintain grades at a B level. This means that if you have a C in one of your classes for a term you will not get to participate as a volunteer until you bring that up. Grades are turned in every term to make sure that time which needs to be spent studying and working on homework isn't being taken up by volunteering. The other main requirement to be a volunteer is to be a hard worker. The space center is fun, but you must be willing to work and understand that you aren't coming to play around. You are there to make the experience of the students attending a better one. This means that you might not be doing something 100% of the time and you may have to spend some time just observing to learn how everything is run. It isn't always the easiest thing to be a volunteer, but it is definitely worth it for those who are interested.