New updated configurations in the Challenger Center

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Construction is in progress Sept. 11 on Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center.  File

Construction is in progress Sept. 11 on Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center. File

By Diana Sanchez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

David Mrizek, vice president of college services, spent two days at the National Challenger Center in Washington, D.C., to learn about and implement updated renovations to this college’s Challenger Center.

The National Challenger Center has changed the configuration of the mission control room, the orientation room and space station for all Challenger Centers across the nation.

Mrizek heard of the changes in the National Challenger Center two months ago and had to decide whether the Challenger Center being built on this campus had the capability to make adjustments.

Mrizek flew to Washington with Gary Verlinden, project manager from Parsons Corp., and Robert Moritz, principal architect from DHR Architecture, to meet with DEP Design, the company fabricating the center’s installations, about changes needed to fit the new model of the Challenger Center.

“The architects were foresighted enough to make the areas large enough to be able to take what they’re purposing to pretty much drop it into what we are building,” Mrizek said.

Two delays slowed construction of the Challenger Center.

Asbestos was found in the roof of the planetarium dome so a specialty team was hired to remove it, delaying construction by three weeks. The team — unsuccessfully — tried chipping and scrapping to remove the asbestos. The next option was chemicals, which only worked at night because the daytime summer heat evaporated the chemicals too quickly.

The second delay was sagging of the second floor of the building, which caused a delay in construction by four weeks. Construction workers had to level the building by adding a new column to the frame of the building.

Mrizek brought back schematic drawings featuring the Challenger Center updates.

New system configurations will be added to the mission control room, orientation room and space station simulator.

“Because of the delays, we weren’t able to further the construction, which means now we are in a good place to make these changes without having to do many changes,” Mrizek said.

“We’re going to be one of the very first to install the new system,” Mrizek said, “which includes not only how it looks, but how it functions.”

The mission control room was built in a step-down system, but will be changed to a flat floor that will look like a data center.

An access ramp to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act will be moved to the front of the room to incorporate the flat floor.

The mission control room will have pods that will allow two students per pod to work with space station simulations.

The orientation room will be octagonal with flat-top benches that open and function as storage for visitor bags.

The spacecraft will remain on the second floor but will enhance various workstations, where computers will have the ability to drop down and be used as meeting tables.

A four-week system installation is planned for the beginning of August 2014 to ensure everything will be ready for a mid-September opening. The soft opening of the center is still planned for fall of next year.

“The real exciting thing is that we were not further along in construction, and there is space enough to drop the new mission control, space station, into what we’ve built,” Mrizek said, “The stars are all aligned.”

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