Star Trek Made Us Scientists
Ok I have to admit it, when I was in elementary school I was a fanatical trekkie and still kind of am, despite the fact that I no longer watch the program. My dedication to the program almost ruined my 3rd grade birthday but it also encouraged me to fall in love with science, especially aeronautics.
The new Star Trek movie reminded me of why the show is so appealing and why it draws so many dedicated fans. Its cool -- or at least the ideas are because it encourages imagination and pushes one to think of what might actually be possible. Transporters, laser guns, smart computers, nifty communication devices and travel at the speed of light. All of which are scientifically possible (probably) minus transporters which may just defy physical laws.
What is important about Star Trek, Star Wars or forensics focused police shows is they make science seem cool by showing real life positive results and they tap into human emotion by making science a tool to help people. You can solve a gruesome murder or better yet, save the galaxy from evil people. Messages like this help bridge the gap between the belief that science is not important or that everything of significance has been discovered to showing young people how science can actually make a difference in the world.
Star Trek and similar programs also make the people that use sciences seem appealing which is another barrier to keeping kids engaged. It hard to inspire students that are not just the top percentage of “nerds” in the class to become scientists if all the images they see of scientists portray people they rather not be. Therefore, strong male and female characters like Captain Janeway, Seven of Nine, Spock or Captain Kirk are positive reinforcements that you can be a scientist, a leader, and not be a dweeb.
Because Star Trek inspired me as a young person I can now explain how an airfoil works and other major components of an airplane. I can name all the planets, the nearest galaxies and spew tons of random information about space and NASA. But more importantly whether aircrafts are my hobby or my profession knowing just that much more about science makes me and a bunch of other people more informed citizen. The more students we inspire the stronger our democracy becomes. Science fields also open many opportunities for students and help build a strong economy that can remain competitive in the future.
Everyone is drawn to different subject mater that is why it is an important policy goal to ensure that students are exposed to an array of applicable science. Whether you are drawn to making goop in chemistry, or building a catapult in physics class that engagement goes a long way to improve the world around us which by the way is also the mission of many Star Trek episodes.