US Air Force Academy Youth Center hosts CaveSim

About 43 kids from the US Air Force Academy’s Youth Center explored CaveSim today and learned all about bats and caves.  They even practiced cave rescue using the sked that was donated earlier this year by Nigel Dyson.
Almost done!

A boy exploring CaveSim. Kids kept asking to go through again!  Photo: Tracy Jackson

Kids thank Dick Blenz

Kids and staff thank Corporal Dick Blenz, a WWII veteran and caver who sponsored the CaveSim trip to USAFA.  Photo: Dave Jackson

Kids play with the sked

Kids learn about how difficult cave rescue is.  They’re moving a sked (like a stretcher) that contains the weight of an adult man.  Photo: Tracy Jackson

Kids at USAFAKids gather with Kyla (USAFA staff) and Dave to thank Dick Blenz for sponsoring the CaveSim program.

First birthday party at CaveSim

Happy 14th Birthday, Skyler!  Skyler and his friends joined us for the first CaveSim birthday party today, and they had an awesome time.  We donated a party to the Catamount Institute fundraising auction as a way of supporting Catamount’s outdoor and environmental education programs.  Skyler’s parents, Julie Francis and Howard Drossman (Catamount’s founders), won the party by donating generously to Catamount.
Do you want a CaveSim birthday party?  Check out our party page!  Your party will help us continue our mission of doing cave education programs and conservation outreach.  And you’ll have a blast!

Biggest day on record for CaveSim

Thanks to the generosity of our backers, we had a record day at the 2012 CoolScience Festival with over 320 kids (and some adults) exploring CaveSim.

The enclosed CaveSim trailer on a busy day

People gather around the CaveSim trailer at the CoolScience Festival.  Photo: Jay Alexander.

A boy's first caving trip

A boy avoids the cave bacon while exploring the deepest part of CaveSim.  This photo was taken by looking in one of our three emergency exits.  The black box to the right of the boy is a cave rescue cache like the ones located in many Colorado caves.  Photo: DeeAnn Rothstein, CoolScience.

Dave at the back of the trailer

Dave, at the back of the trailer.  Participants enter and exit at the front of the trailer.  Photo: DeeAnn Rothstein, CoolScience.

Maiden voyage of CaveSim trailer was a great success

75 kids had a blast crawling through CaveSim and learning about caves and bats at Gold Camp Elementary School in Colorado Springs today.  The 5th grade students are studying ecosystems, which fits perfectly with the CaveSim lessons; while visiting CaveSim and our activity stations, they learned that every ecosystem on the planet can contain caves.  They also learned about the importance of bats in the food chain.  The maiden voyage of CaveSim was made possible by many people.  Thanks to the 100 people who helped us purchase the trailer, and to Marty Grove for lending us is truck (again!), and to Tracy Jackson and Steve Roach for taking the day off to change the lives of 75 children.  Also, a big thanks to Jesse Rochette for helping to construct more cave passage inside the trailer, and to Rudy for his expert welding work.
Trailer and truck

The CaveSim trailer and Marty’s truck after a hard day’s work educating 5th grade children. Photo: Tracy Jackson

Installation of CaveSim into trailer progressing quickly 8/18/2012

How do you fit a cave into a trailer?  With a lot of careful design and hard work.  Dave has been working daily to put CaveSim into the new trailer to get ready for events in September, including the Flight For Life conference and a trip to Gold Camp Elementary School for 75 kids.  The six boxes that make up CaveSim used to be configured in an L shape, but the boxes get connected differently to fit in the trailer.  This means that Dave is building additional cave passage to connect the boxes together.  In the picture below, Dave reinforces some heavy-duty cribbing that elevates one of the boxes above another box.  When the additional passage is complete, CaveSim will be about 10′ longer, and will include more climbing, with an alternate route for those who aren’t ready to chimney up 4′.  The new passage allows CaveSim to be left in the trailer so that setup time is eliminated.  The original passage can still be removed from the trailer if needed for indoor events.
We have also been working hard to send out rewards to our Kickstarter backers.  If you haven’t gotten your reward yet, don’t worry, we’re working on it.  Some of you haven’t received your t-shirts yet due to printing errors at the shirt company.  These errors have been corrected and your shirts will ship soon.
One of our awesome Kickstarter backers asked, “How do I order more [CaveSim gear]?  I’m thinking of Christmas gifts that I can purchase in support of CaveSim.”  Great!  Visit our online gear store to help us pay for all of the lumber that it takes to put CaveSim in the trailer.
Dave drilling    Working in tight spaces

Above left: Dave installs a giant mending plate to reinforce some cribbing in the new CaveSim trailer.  Dave makes many of the mending plates from scrap electronics enclosures.  This helps reduce the cost and environmental impact of the project.  Above right: Dave about to install a wall in the new passage in the trailer.  The old passage will continue to be used — we’re just adding to it.  Photos: Tracy Jackson.

Empty trailer
The trailer before any of the CaveSim pieces were installed.  We’ll soon be able to post a picture of the finished product.  Photo: Greg Pring.
Dave drilling
Dave installs some screws in the new passage inside the trailer.  Photo: Dave Jackson
Rudy welding Rudy and the door
Rudy does some excellent welding work to build a door for the cave passage.  Photos: Dave Jackson

Dave leads cave education workshop at US Air Force Academy

The Force Support Squadron of the US Air Force invited Dave to lead a workshop about cave education at their education conference.  Dave taught five cave-related activities and games during the 90 minute session.  The group was really fun to work with, and everyone seemed to enjoy the session.

SpeleoSoap donates to make CaveSim smell like a real cave

Debbie Moore and Rick Gordon of SpeleoSoap have generously donated a large number of their new car fresheners to make CaveSim smell like a real cave.  The car fresheners inside CaveSim were a big hit at MayaCon, where people were amazed when they smelled the fresheners.  Dave opened the back of CaveSim for photographers and special guests several times, and each time a wave of awesome cave smell would waft out.  One man said, “No way!” when Dave told him that we had cave scent inside.  When he smelled the freshener hanging on the entrance of CaveSim, he was totally convinced.
SpeleoSoap is now a proud sponsor of our free general public and caver-specific events.  To paraphrase Debbie Moore, SpeleoSoap wants to give back to the caving community by sponsoring CaveSim because cavers have been so supportive of SpeleoSoap over the years.  At CaveSim, we’re really grateful that SpeleoSoap is supporting our cave education and conservation outreach initiative, and we hope that you will purchase amazing soaps and other products from SpeleoSoap.  You can shop for SpeleoSoap here, or visit their blog, or check out SpeleoSoap on Facebook.  Thanks!
Oh, and one more story: I spent so much time with CaveSim at MayaCon that when I went caving in Piercy’s Mill on Friday I thought for an instant, “It smells like CaveSim in here” until I realized that it was the other way around. Totally true story.
The commA caver at MayaCon competes in the Communication Challenge by trying to string comm wire through CaveSim without touching the formations.  Note the black SpeleoSoap bat hanging between the entrance and exit.  Photo by Natalie Pheasant.

MayaCon a great success

The 2012 NSS Convention (“MayaCon”) was a great success.  Convention attendees took roughly 350 trips through CaveSim during our week in Lewisburg, WV.  CaveSim is now safely back in Colorado, and we’re working on putting CaveSim permanently in a trailer.  Here’s our scoreboard with the Speleolympic winners (none of the CaveSim world records were broken).  If you’re a winner, contact us to claim your prize.  Click each image to enlarge it.
A crowd around CaveSim at MayaCon        Kids try the squeezebox

Left: Cavers gather around CaveSim waiting to explore it. Right: JSS kids try the Loyalhanna squeezebox. Photos by Natalie Pheasant.

Speleolympic winners
The final Speleolympic scores. Click to enlarge.

In case you had any doubts, CaveSim is great for people of all ages. We had a great time talking with this Airborne veteran at MayaCon, and he did really well crawling through CaveSim.

An experienced caver exits CaveSim

Here he is reviewing his score with Tracy and Carolyn Parsons:

An experienced caver reviews his score

Photos by Gill Gilliland

Thanks to the National Speleological Foundation Vehslage grant for making our trip to the 2012 NSS Convention possible.  Your support allowed us to reach hundreds of cavers and non-cavers, including many young cavers.

Sked donated to CaveSim

A generous caver and fireman named Nigel Dyson donated a sked to CaveSim today!  We have been making great use of the sked already to teach young cavers about cave rescue.  We have a Rescue Randy (a 120 pound dummy on loan from Harold Chrimes and brought to us by Marion McConnell), and we have packaged Randy in the sked as part of the speleolympics.  We are excited to have the sked for future events to teach people about cave rescue.  Rick Speaect also donated to us today by buying the green rope in the picture below.  The rope enables the sked to be rigged for vertical hauling.
Rick instructs Dave
Rick Speaect instructs Dave in rigging the sked. Photo: Rick and Gaylene Speaect

Thanks for your help, Kickstarter backers! We met our goal!

We ran a Kickstarter campaign to put CaveSim on the road in an enclosed trailer, and we had 100 backers (see list below) from around the world donate over $6000 to our project.  If you are a backer, thank you — you made our project a success.  You’ll receive your thank-you gift soon, if you asked for one.  If you weren’t a backer, you can still participate in our epic adventure: visit us at MayaCon, June 25-29, 2012 or at CoolScience in Colorado Springs in October, 2012, or visit our online gear store – your purchase helps support cave education programs and conservation outreach for youth and adults.  Thanks!
Dick Blenz and Dave in front of CaveSim
Dave with Dick Blenz, who made two phenomenally generous donations to the CaveSim trailer project. Like Dave, Dick is an electrical engineer, and the two had a great time talking.  Dick has many incredible stories, is extremely nice, and would like to remind you, “Never step on a cable” and “Connectors are the weak point of any system.” Fortunately, CaveSim has redundant connectors to eliminate single-point failures.  Photo: Gill Gilliland.
Scott sporting CaveSim shirt
Scott Hall sporting his new CaveSim t-shirt, which he received for backing CaveSim on Kickstarter.  Scott says, “The T-shirt came in and it’s great!”  Photo: Scott and Amy Hall.
A huge thanks to all of our Kickstarter backers:
Brentan and Liz Alexander
David Barnes
Larry Bartel
Maureen and Bill Barton
Bogdan Belcea
Carl Bern
Eva Bigham
Andrew Blackstock
Dick Blenz (see note below)
Amie Bonner
Ken Brickman
Derek Bristol
Tilman Brock
Marc Buursink
Mike and Lisette Casey
Maggie Chumbley
Marshall and Shannon Comisar
Ann-Li and Mike Cooke
Andrea Corlett
Andrea Croskrey
Helen Dyer
Jerry Elliott
Floyd Fernandez
Lee Fielder
Eleonora Florance
Jennifer Foote
Amy Fortier
Emily Fox
Mike Frazier
Alan Gilbert
Gill and Theresa Gilliland
Scott Gilliland
Squirrel Girl
Annie Graeter
Christi Graeter
Bill Gray
Michael Green
Andrew and Tricia Gregg
Michael and Fish Gundlach
Scott and Amy Hall
Paula Hanson
Mark Harris
PJ Hart
Leah Holloway
Dave Hughes
Bruce Hutchison
Juli and Robert Jackson
Mary Kay and Charles Jackson
Brad and Alice Kaanta
Adam Kaczmarek
Ben and Sarah Knighten
Kathryn Koerschner
Adam Lake
Nathan and Elizabeth Long
Joe Manganiello
Matt and Laura Martin
Karla Mayne
Sally McCraken
Cassandra Meyers
Robert Montgomery
Nancy Pistole
Jeff Polk
Bru Randall
Dirk Rasmussen
Marty Reames
Chris Rehorn
Sarah Richards
Steve Roach
Christina and Jesse Rochette
Cynthia Rogers
Paul Ryan
Paul Schwotzer
Susan Sexton
Jonny Slumpff
Sandy Smith
Alex Sproul
Rob Stitt
Bill Stringfellow
Tyler Stuart
Marie Sullivan
Cullen Sutton
David Torcivia
Louis Towles
Bill Tozer
Doug Warner
Jessica Watkins
Meredith Weberg
Glenn Wood
Keith Wheeland
Peter Youngbaer
Greg Yukl
Richard Zabawa
Groups (click to visit)
SpeleoOlympics 2012: CaveSim to be the main event
John Pearson and Jeff Bray, the organizers of the 2012 NSS Convention (MayaCon), have made CaveSim the main event for the SpeleoOlympics (aka Speleolympics) at the Convention.  Be sure to stop by to try to beat the current records in the women’s, men’s and youth categories, set by Larissa Phillips, Derek Bristol and Philip Weaver, respectively.  We also plan to have a squeezebox and a navigation challenge as part of the SpeleoOlympics.  Regardless of whether you compete or not, CaveSim will be free to all attendees at the Convention, which will be in Lewisburg, West Virginia (June 25-29).

The Colorado Springs School visits CaveSim

33 students visited the CaveSim garage today to learn about caves and bats.  The students crawled through CaveSim, played Bat and Moth, enjoyed the Bat Migration Challenge, and checked out our new bat skeleton.  Quote of the day: Student: “This helmet has mud on it!” Dave: “That’s real cave mud, which is just decomposed limestone.  It’s the cleanest mud you’ll ever see!”
Atlas student Amber exits the sqeeze        Atlas student Hailie in the crawlway

Amber (left) and Hailie (right) from Atlas Prep enjoy CaveSim during their REACH summer program. Photos: Kelsey, REACH staff.

Hailie plays Bat and Moth

Hailie, playing Bat And Moth, tries to tag other students (moths) using her echolocation. Photo: Kelsey, REACH

Quentin plays the bat

Quentin plays the part of a bat in the Bat Migration Challenge. The orange tape represents a bat armband (bats get banded for scientific research, just like birds).  Photo: Kelsey, REACH.

Larissa Phillips sets new women’s world record for CaveSim

A new women’s world record for CaveSim was set today by Larissa Phillips of Colorado Springs.  Larissa’s score was 0 damage in 1 minute, 20 seconds.  She set her record on her first trip through CaveSim ever, and she seemed really pleased and surprised to have done so well.  Larissa has limited caving experience, which makes her record even more impressive.  She is a climber who works at CityROCK Climbing Center, which is great climbing gym located in downtown Colorado Springs.   The previous record was 0 damage in 1 minute, 27 seconds held by Andrea Corlett of Alberta, Canada.

Larissa Phillips of Colorado Springs, who set a new women’s record for CaveSim.  Photo: Larissa Phillips

Students enjoy keynote speech at symposium

Over 150 kids and adults attended the Catamount Institute Symposium today at Colorado College and learned about both caving and invention from Dave Jackson of CaveSim (“Dave from a Cave!”)  The Symposium is like a science fair where 4th and 5th grade students present their projects about caves, bats, water and underground ecology.  Instead of just answering a scientific question, the students take community action to solve a cave-related problem.  Dave’s talk emphasized the importance of using creativity to solve real-world problems, like Dave did with CaveSim.  Of course, the talk was also fun — who doesn’t want to hear stories about digging giant holes?

Watch a high-energy talk by “nationally known caver and inventor… David Jackson”:

One 5th grade student exclaimed, “This has been one of the best days of my life!”  The Catamount staff also had high praise: Darlene Jensen, Executive Director, commented that, “[Dave] Coming in full gear with such a wealth of information was incredible to all the students, young and old.”
Dave talks with a student
Dave, in full caving gear, listens as a student describes their crawl-through cave, made of moving boxes & other recyclables. Photo: Chris Aaby, Catamount Institute

A sad story with a good moral 5/5/2012

Quick story: Tracy and I went caving today with some first-time cavers and we saw these incredibly beautiful cave formations (see picture below).  Then we saw some super-delicate formations that someone had vandalized by pressing mud spheres into the formations in at least 30 places (see attached picture again).  Because of the ignorance of some unknown person on a previous trip, at least hundreds of years of natural growth had been wiped out in minutes, with the formations never to be the same again.  I found this extremely sad, and I told our group that this is why I haul around a 1600 pound cave simulator to teach kids about caves.  Because people can only protect what they understand.

I thought that I would share this story as a reminder that we could use your help to put cave education and outreach programs on the road.  Even if you only want to give $1, you’ll help us a lot by increasing the number of people who’ve pledged.  My standard joke is that everyone has at least $1 in change between the seats of their car.  Of course, if you can’t find a dollar between your seats, you can always tell a friend to support our project.

Wrecked gypsum and pristine helictites
Click images to enlarge. Left: mud smeared on gypsum crystals. Right: a pristine helictite. Photos: Chris Rehorn

Manitou YES Club visits CaveSim

You’ve probably already figured out that we work hard to teach kids and adults about cave conservation using CaveSim.  What does that look like?  Here’s a photo of a Manitou Springs Elementary student during their field trip to the CaveSim garage today.  You can tell that the only thing on this student’s mind is our lesson about why you shouldn’t touch cave formations.  The amazing thing about CaveSim is that I’ve had kids come back a year after their first visit and recite back to me everything we taught them about cave conservation.  So, yes, they’re really learning.
Concentrating while caving!
Photo: Erik Mattson

YES Club visits CaveSim

Ms. Downey’s YES Club from Taylor Elementary had a great time visiting CaveSim today.  They learned about safe caving, cave rescue, and about some formations that they hadn’t heard of before.

Right: Students watch monitors and video feeds to see how well a classmate navigates CaveSim.
Left: A student having a great time in the popcorn crawl.
Photos by Katy Downey

CaveSim staff assist in a real cave rescue

It’s 3AM Eastern, and Dave, Tracy and Scott (Tracy’s brother) just got back to Atlanta from participating as rescuers in a successful cave rescue in a cave in Alabama.  This was Dave and Tracy’s first real rescue, and we were extremely well prepared by our CCRN (Colorado Cave Rescue Network) training.  Thanks, CCRN!  The Huntsville, Atlanta and other rescue teams did a great job.  Dave, Tracy and Scott were with the patient from almost first contact all the way to the ambulance, and we are glad that the patient was doing well when they arrived at the ambulance.

We look forward to bringing CaveSim to many future cave rescue training events.  If you’ve donated to us, thank you!  If you have yet to donate, here’s one more reason to give.  Donate now!

Patient in a ferno

Dave and Tracy (in the yellow helmets) work with Eddie (Alabama SAR) to package the patient during the Tumbling Rock rescue. Photo: Jonathan McDole.

Buena Vista Elementary YES Club visits CaveSim

Students from Mr. Rochette’s YES Club at Buena Vista Elementary School (in Colorado Springs) crawled through CaveSim today and learned more about caves and bats.  Quote of the day: “I just want to say, you’re awesome for building this cave!”