Award-winning educator prepares to launch new starship simulator

(Courtesy of the Voyager Project)

4 photos
Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

LEHI — Victor Williamson's simulations have evolved a lot since he first made paper controls for students in 1983 to help them learn by pretending to fly through space.

"There were no computers back then so I just drew up spaceship controls on posterboard and stuck it on their desks and changed the desks around a little bit to look more like a spaceship," Williamson said. "Then I sat behind my desk with an overhead projector and would put images out as if they were trying to fly through space."

Twenty-five years ago this November, back in 1990, Williamson's first brick and mortar simulator opened at Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. Now with the help of his former students, the award-winning educator is launching a new program at Renaissance Academy in Lehi, complete with a much-improved version of his original Voyager starship.

The new Voyager simulator will include a sick-bay and engine room, which will be utilized by students at the charter school during the day and members of the Voyager Club from schools around the state after hours. The project, which is being funded by the charter school and an online fundraiser, is currently under construction and expected to open in November.

Construction of the new voyager, as of mid-August. The image was digitally altered to show what the computer controlled lighting will look like. (Courtesy of David Kyle)
Construction of the new voyager, as of mid-August. The image was digitally altered to show what the computer controlled lighting will look like. (Courtesy of David Kyle)

David Kyle, a board member who first came into contact with Williamson's program as a student himself back in 1991, said the simulators are a powerful teaching tool because they put kids in life-like situations where they are asked to make difficult and challenging decisions in leadership roles. He was so passionate about his experience as a student that he returned to the space center at age 16 to do an internship, which then turned into a job that lasted almost 15 years.

"The really cool thing was as a kid you have your responsibilities at home and those don't save the world really. You're not responsible for anything big," he laughed. "When you go into these simulators they become very real for kids."

While the old simulators used "Star Trek" as the background story, the new Voyager will introduce students to a new universe that graduates of the original program created themselves. Williamson came out of retirement to work on the new Voyager and teach sixth grade at Renaissance Academy.

Over the years, Williamson's effort has led to the creation of 14 simulators including five starships built at the original Central Elementary location, where he directed the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center for 22 years. Students who graduated from the program have helped spread the movement, opening their own simulators in places like Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

The original Voyager simulator. (Courtesy of the Voyager Project)
The original Voyager simulator. (Courtesy of the Voyager Project)

Williamson's vision is for Project Voyager to become a national space club for kids, providing an avenue for them to meet others who share their interest in space while honing STEM skills. Students who join the club are divided into squadrons, which face off against each other in competitions while completing various tasks.

"The clubs would headquarter out of these different simulators and we use the ships to motivate kids to improve their math and science scores," he said. "It's that concept of using what interests kids most — sci-fi, space — and integrating that and from there spring-boarding into the STEM fields."

Students between the ages of 10 and 17 who are interested in joining a Project Voyager squadron can find more information online. Once the new simulator is completed, it will also be available for birthday parties, corporate trainings and other events.


Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Natalie Crofts


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast