Where do I even begin to describe our space center? It’s the most unique place in the world. Located inside a nondescript elementary school in suburban Utah, the center houses five starship simulators, a high-tech classroom, and a brand spanking new state-of-the-art portable digital planetarium. I’ve tried many times over the years to classify what we do at the school. I’m a certified teacher, I should be able to list objectives and outcomes and lesson plans. None of them even come close to capturing the experience.
We run several programs- a field trip program for 5th and 6th grade students, summer camps for 10-14yo kids, after school and weekend simulations for ages 10+, planetarium shows for any private group that schedules one, plus whatever new idea the boss dreams up. So why is it the best job in the universe? Because it involves storytelling, astronomy, science fiction, monsters; everything that makes imagination fun.
Let me start with our simulators. Pretend you are part of a private group scheduled to fly in the Odyssey simulator. You arrive at the school and wait in the lobby until all of your group is assembled. Your flight director greets you, gives you a chance to use the restroom, then lines your group up in front of the “transporter”. Another staff member beams your group through, one by one. You emerge on the other side on a starship bridge, lights and controls and engine rumble; the works. Each member of your group is assigned a station and given a uniform. You are trained to work your controls. The flight director briefs your crew on their assignment. Then the real fun begins.
We specialize in immersive simulations of futuristic space travel. Star Trek LARPing, for anyone familiar with the term. Live action role-playing taken to extremes. No, the simulators do not move. This is not an amusement park ride. This is interactive storytelling with lights and sound effects and actors. The ship is as real as your imagination. Monsters and aliens may attack. Your ship may be sabotaged. You may crash into an asteroid and die. The stories are never the same because the flight director plays off your comments and actions, changing the story as needed.
And I get paid to tell you these stories. That’s one perk of my job. I love hearing the crew scream in terror, or cheer as they manage to complete their mission despite the threat of imminent death. I love the magic we create. I love seeing kids transformed by their experience, learning that they can stand up for their convictions no matter who opposes them. I love the excitement and the energy of our staff of sometimes obnoxious teens.
I love my job. Flight simulator is only one of my titles, though. I also claim planetarium director, curriculum specialist, costumer, story consultant, office assistant, Klingon lunchlady, and Ultimate Queen of the Galaxy. Really. My boss told me I could have it in lieu of a raise.
One of our 17yo flight directors, a male, just said, “Where is my Hannah Montana wig?” Yep, I love my job.
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