We know that stories are an effective tool for teaching. Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to make audiences consider important ideas and issues. In the home, classroom or just among friends, Star Trek can be a valuable resource to illustrate and spur discussion on diversity, humanity, philosophy, science, and the role of technology. It’s smart. It’s relevant. It teaches. It is modern mythology.
The topics at this year’s Star Trek convention all deal with media literacy and how stories are about much more than a simple plot. Speakers will examine what Star Trek can show us about narrative structure and production design, law, science, diversity, philosophy and symbolism. See how Star Trek is used around the world for teaching in the home, classroom and culture.
Boldly Go: A Comparative Law Analysis of the Star Trek Universe with Real Earth Space Law (Thursday)
How does Star Trek's United Federation of Planets stack up against our United Nations? Is the Prime Directive covered in our 1967 Outer Space Treaty? Find out with Elsbeth J. Magilton, the Executive Director of the Space, Cyber, and Telecom Law Program at the University of Nebraska, as she teaches attendees a little international and domestic space law through the lens of classic Star Trek (with a little Next Generation thrown in).
“Eyes Open” - Teaching Critical Thinking and Critical Literacy with Star Trek (Thursday)
Star Trek’s world is ready-made for teaching fundamental critical thinking skills since it is fueled by a democratizing spirit and an allegorical intent. Immanuel Kant’s imperative “sapere aude” (dare to know) has been a core tenet of Star Trek since its beginning. An excellent example of science fiction (sf), Star Trek comes with the basic building blocks of critical thinking already built-in. It provides us with an estranged vantage point to see our world and ourselves in it from a different imaginative angle which demands an imaginative, democratically enabling and, ultimately ennobling response. Dr. Stefan “Steve” Rabitsch, Assistant Professor, University of Graz (Germany), will showcase practical pedagogical approaches for how to effectively engage with Star Trek in class settings as well as specific examples drawn from the Star Trek corpus which he has repeatedly used as entry points to exemplify the basic tenets of critical thinking.
Heroes, Mentors and Mothers: Symbolism, and Character Archetypes in Star Trek’s Mythic Journeys (Friday)
Star Trek is a modern myth that explores the social, moral, and scientific issues of contemporary society Joseph Campbell wrote that myths are the stories that answer the “big questions” in life. Mythic heroes struggle with those questions, make difficult choices, and demonstrate culturally that they are not alone on their Hero’s Journey. In this session, Dr. Janet “Dr. Mc” McMullen, Associate Professor, University of North Alabama, will explore how some of our favorite characters represent classic mythic archetypes. Who are the mentors, tricksters, mothers, and shadows in your favorite series?
Medical Ethics in Sickbay (Friday)
Star Trek doesn’t shy away from important social, political or ethical issues. In this session, Dr. Eric Chwang, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University, Camden & University of Colorado, Boulder; Dr. Beth Seacord, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of Southern Nevada; and actor John Billingsley (“Dr. Phlox” from Star Trek: Enterprise) will focus questions of medical ethics raised in the sickbay. Some of these issues include the ethics of euthanasia (explored in The Next Generation episodes “Half a Life” and “Ethics”), questions of informed consent and pediatric informed consent, the ethics of organ donation (explored in the Enterprise episode “Similitude”), and questions of justice in healthcare allocation (explored in Voyager’s episode “Critical Care”).
Set Phasers to Teach (Friday)
Dr. Stefan “Steve” Rabitsch, Dr. des. Sabrina Mittermeier, Research Assistant at the Chair of American Studies at University of Augsburg, and Dr. John NA Brown, UX and UED Researcher -- the editors and cartoonist for Set Phasers To Teach: Star Trek in Research and Teaching -- will speak to how they employ Star Trek in higher education and advanced research. Please join them to see how you can contribute to their next volume.
Engage with STEM (Saturday)
Join Bobak Ferdowsi, Brandon Rodriguez, Danielle Nuding, Lyle Tavernier and Tracy Drain from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory as they share their experience in getting involved in STEM. This group of scientists, engineers and educators will answer questions, offer guidance, and provide tips and information about ways you can get involved in STEM.
Star Trek for Students: Roving on Kolarus (Sunday)
Join NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory educators Brandon Rodriguez and Lyle Tavernier for an additional STEM challenge that builds on from the previous day’s challenge: Roving on Kolarus. School-age Trek fans will modify the design of a roving surface vehicle so that crew members can travel the surface of an alien world! Participation in the activity is NOT required.
Star Trek for Students: Touchdown on Kolarus (Saturday)
And for a final exciting STEM challenge, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory educators Brandon Rodriguez and Lyle Tavernier will present: Touchdown on Kolarus! School-age Trek fans will design and build a landing device to deliver crew members safely to the surface of an alien world.
Star Trek: Gendering the Holodeck and Diversifying the Classroom (Thursday)
Dr. Jennifer Bailey Woodard and Dr. Stephanie Dean, both Associate Professors at Middle Tennessee State University, will participate in a discussion about the significance of the gender and racial diversity on Star Trek and its importance as a historical cultural phenomenon that provides a possible blueprint of how equality can be achieved. They’ll talk about different aspects of Star Trek in teaching race, class and gender in media and also use a virtual reality simulation – Gendering the Holodeck -- to introduce a discussion of gender politics as students try to become captain as either a male or female. They will bring their VR game and headsets for the audience to sample the game.
Time Travel, Transporters, A.I. and the Terran Universe: Philosophy and Star Trek (Thursday)
In this presentation, the panelists -- Dr. Kenny Boyce, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri, Columbia; Dr. Beth Seacord, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of Southern Nevada; Dr. Rebecca Chan, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, California State University, San Jose; and Dr. Matt McCormick, Professor of Philosophy, California State University, Sacramento -- will present some of the core philosophical issues raised by Trek. Is time travel inherently contradictory or is it metaphysically possible? Do transporters preserve the person transported or do they send a copy while destroying the original? How much like us are our counterparts in alternate universes? And what might we learn about ourselves from our counterparts?
Transparent Trek: A Deeper Look into “The House of Quark” (Wednesday)
In this workshop, Dr. Janet “Dr. Mc” McMullen will take you through one of her favorite Deep Space Nine episodes, “The House of Quark” to take an in-depth look at how costuming, set design, camera and characters make Quark’s Hero’s Journey such a delight. Join this discussion and learn to “read” and appreciate Star Trek in a whole new way. Handouts provided.
What Can We Learn from the Klingon Empire? (Thursday)
The Star Trek franchise has frequently used stories about alien cultures as metaphors for issues in contemporary society. The proud Klingon species has been portrayed as both ally and adversary, appearing in every incarnation of Star Trek. What can the Klingons tell us about real-world issues? What historical events have influenced the evolving depiction of this honor bound society? Dr. Daniel Martin, Associate Professor, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), will suggest ways in which analysis of Klingon-centric episodes of Star Trek can effectively guide students - who may be unfamiliar with the franchise and have little knowledge of American history - through the ways the series engages with ideology, history and politics.