Turning failure into opportunity
Today I discovered that I haven’t properly been doing my job as both a geek and a father. When my father came up from Nova Scotia for a visit and suggested that we go over to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum to check out the Starfleet Academy Experience, I thought it was a brilliant idea and an opportunity for three generations of my family (my father, myself, and my son) to engage in some group geekdom.
This began to go off the rails soon after we arrived at the museum when my son said “So, um, what is this? Why are we here?” while standing in front of an 8 foot tall picture of Captain Kirk (William Shatner). I realized that, although I’ve seen every episode of every series (including the animated one), as well as every movie, he’s only seen bits and pieces over the last few years. But, what better place to learn about the lore of Star Trek than at Starfleet Academy?
The exhibit is laid out based on the various departments found on Starfleet ships. These departments include:
- Tactical; and
Tomorrow’s technology today
The use of technology in the exhibit was amazing. Upon entry, everyone is given a bracelet to put on and head over to a terminal which they use to “enroll” in the Academy by providing their name and email address.
Throughout the exhibits there are interactive stations at which you can watch (in both official languages) key moments in Star Trek history (based on the department on display in that area). There are also pictures and short bios of characters from that department from the various series, along with some props and uniforms. In addition, each section has a testing station at which you answer five questions which relate to that department. The results of the tests are used to determine which department the academy hopeful might be best suited for and recorded on the bracelet you receive on entry.
As you progress through the somewhat linear exhibit, you can read about various technologies which are used in Star Trek and how they relate to current technologies. My personal favorite was the allegory between Google Translate and the Universal Translator, with a close runner up being the communicator and the flip phone.
Starfleet’s unwinnable test
Once you’ve come to the end of the exhibit, you walk through a door and are transported onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D. Here you can take a console and sit for the Kobayashi Maru test. I saved 160 of the 300+ ill-fated crew of the Maru and destroyed one of the Klingon ships before the Maru was destroyed and I was forced to retreat. Not quite as good as James Kirk, but not too shabby.
What’s your aptitude?
Having passed the final test and exited the bridge of the Enterprise, I had one more terminal to stop at. This one provided me with my test results, a certificate of completion of the Academy introduction, and a suggestion as to which department I’d be best suited to. My father and son, violent buggers that they are, both got assigned to the Tactical department (where they will be issued red shirts and, presumably, caskets), while I was deemed suitable for Command.
After exiting through the gift shop (and buying a T-shirt and button to remember the experience), we returned to reality. All-in-all, it took about an hour and 45 minutes and cost us (two adults, one child) just shy of $60 (before gift shop). As far as value-for-money goes, this was a way better use of $60 than a movie would have been.
Think you’ve got what it takes to join the crew? Head on over to the museum and find out. Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to have me for a commander one day. 🙂