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50 years of Star Trek: Boldly inspiring generations of scientists

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 9, 2016
Scientists from CalTech, NASA, Boeing and WPI all say the 1960s Sci-Fi show fueled their passions

"Star Trek didn't so much inspire me, but it fueled the passions that were already burning within me," he said. "Star Trek showed the future I wanted to be a part of.... It would never have occurred to me that in the year 2016 -- 50 years after the first show was on -- that the show would have that kind of longevity. That's a testament to how powerful it was and how much it meant to so many people."

Rayman said he found out a few years ago that he was working with a colleague who didn't know the original series or the spinoffs.

"You kind of wonder how JPL could even hire a guy like that," he said, laughing. "You'd think NASA would be a little more discriminating. Apart from that he's a good guy, but this major deficiency in his education was troubling."

Rayman has set about "rectifying this major flaw."

Robert Frederking, an associate dean for Carnegie Mellon University's school of computer science.

That kind of education wouldn't have been an issue for Mike Ciaraldi, a professor of computer science and robotics engineering at WPI. Ciaraldi still remembers watching the first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap," when it premiered.

For him, science fiction in general, and Star Trek in particular, is all about using your brain to solve problems and how a hero avoids a fight or outright calamity by out-thinking an opponent.

Star Trek also let kids know there were other people interested in science.

Robert Frederking, an associate dean for Carnegie Mellon University's school of computer science, had a fan club membership -- and he still owns a set of blueprints of the starship enterprise.

"It made me think about things like were would warp drives really be possible and would transporters work. It made me think," he said. "It certainly encouraged me. I think it's safe to say I still think it's interesting. Like Spock, I would say it's fascinating."


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