Set to Stun: Star Trek The Starfleet Academy Experience

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The Enterprise (as in, Star Trek‘s The USS Enterprise) is both ship-y and space-y, and so it makes sense that NYC’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is the first venue in America to host a new exhibit celebrating 50 years of the groundbreaking sci-fi series. The 12,000-square-foot, interactive experience invites visitors to enroll in the Starfleet Academy — where all aspiring Kirks and Janeways start their career trajectory to the Captain’s chair. Now you and the kids can find out if you have The Right Stuff!


photo: Erika Kapin

Fun for both hard core and casual fans
Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience is a must-see for Trekkers and Trekkies (there is a difference, but if you don’t know it you’re probably neither, and it actually doesn’t matter). But it’s also a very fun afternoon out for those who might have caught an episode or two of that show with the pointy-eared guy, or the one with the blind guy, or the new movies by the same director who helmed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience offers an unprecedented collection of costumes from the series and movies, featuring everything from Janeway’s straight-laced uniform to Picard’s Robin Hood costume, classic Trek props like tricorders and tribbles, and loops of clips to illustrate all the jobs that need to be done on a starship. But the real supernova of the exhibition is your chance to discover which Starfleet position would be best for you. Various stations let visitors test their skills and answer questions of both knowledge and interest to help determine your specialty (and thus the color of your shirt).

Our money says that regardless of your family’s depth of knowledge or passion for Gene Roddenberry’s universe, everyone (including you) will enjoy the experience.


photo: Erica Kapin

Joining the Ranks
Prior to entering the exhibit, all participants are issued a replica of a wristwatch, which is then scanned at the different stations throughout the exhibit and used to store individual performance data.


The Original Series’ Sulu George Takei attempts a diagnosis. photo: Erica Kapin

Station to Station
No matter what your child’s area of interstellar interest, his or her skill will be tested. Is she dreaming of donning the blue uniform of the Science corps? She can grab a tricorder and try to diagnose a sick dummy’s mysterious ailment.

Budding navigators can attempt to plot a safe route to the Neutral Zone, evading exploding planets…or belligerent Romulans. A communications station features a Klingon schooling students in his native tongue. (Note: he doesn’t take kindly to mispronunciations.)

No cadet’s skill set is complete without mastering subterfuge and disguise. Students can digitally add a variety of ears, noses, foreheads, hairpieces and antennas to a photo of themselves to see which quadrant’s species they most (or least) resemble.

No One Wants to Be a Red Shirt
Of course, preserving one’s personal safety (i.e., life) is of paramount importance when traversing the galaxy, and visitors get lessons in both fight and flight at the Starfleet Academy.

One station lets students hone their marksmanship with some  phaser target practice, while another shows what it looks like to have your molecules scattered across the universe, then reassembled safe and sound via transporter (i.e. “beamed up.”) Super cool:  the transporter experience is captured on digital video, so you have proof when you come back.


photo: Erika Kapin

Pass or Fail?
Do you have what it takes to join the ranks? After taking all the aptitude tests, cadets face a final challenge. On board a replica of the starship Enterprise’s bridge (the Next Generation edition), students take a final exam: The Kobayashi Maru. It features a no-win scenario, and no cadet is expected to pass (spoiler: Kirk cheated).

At the conclusion of the “training” visitors receive a personal scores for each station, as well as a recommendation of which branch of service they are best suited. Results, including a certificate, the alien disguise photo, and video of the beaming adventure can be emailed to participants.


photo: Erika Kapin

Good To Know Before You Go #1: The Starfleet Academy Experience is just one of the Intrepid’s many venues (there are also Star Trek tours, talks and a shuttle-craft exhibit, on top of the Museum itself, which hosts many different military tours). However, the line to enter is one and the same. It can stretch outside (so bring a hat, water and sunscreen) and take up to an hour to be processed on a particularly busy day. If you’ve got small children with you, you might want to have plenty of snacks and entertainments at the ready.

Good To Know Before You Go #2: On the other hand, once you enter The Starfleet Academy Experience, you can’t leave and come back again, for any reason. So, remember all that water and those snacks you used to keep the kids happy in line? Make sure you visit the restroom and go, before you go.

Good To Know Before You Go #3: While strollers are allowed and toddlers can run relatively freely, the exhibit is really best for kids ages Kindergarten and up, with an adult in tow. There is a lot of reading, not just the signs on the walls explaining key moments in Federation history, notable names, and scientific advances, but all of the interactive games require following written instructions and some have multiple choice questions. Prepare yourself for lots of questions about those questions. (And for some blank looks if/when you decide to expound on the finer political points of the Cardassian/Bajoran conflict and the rise of the Marquis rebels.)

Depending on how much time you spend at each station, The Starfleet Academy Experience can take you more than two hours to complete, and if you plan to see more of the Intrepid while you’re there, it’s best to designate an entire day to the outing.

Resistance is futile. Live long and prosper. Engage!

The Starfleet Academy Experience
July 9 – October 31, 2016
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Pier 86
West 46th St. & 12th Ave.
Midtown Manhattan
Tickets: $25 Adults; $18 children 5-12 (free for 4 and under)

Is your family excited to visit The Starfleet Academy Experience? Let us know in the comments below! 

—Alina Adams