NASA wants kids to help create a Star Trek replicator for astronauts

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Apr 21, 2016, 11:50 AM EDT

Star Trek and sci-fi in general have inspired some of the technology we use today, from the voice-activated computer (like Siri and Cortana) to a universal translator (albeit one that come with pre-programmed languages). And if Future Engineers has its way, Star Trek will be inspiring the replicator.

You know the replicator: It’s the machine that produces any food you want, like a cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot or unsalted soya wafers. NASA has an interest in them, what with the expense of shipping food to space. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to print the astronauts’ food, via 3D printer? That’s why NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) are partnering with Star Trek to inspire a vision of replicators, via Future Engineers ...

... as in, not currently engineers. Because Future Engineers is a program for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Because of this, the project isn’t as complex as designing an actual replicator. According to Popular Science, students will be designing a digital model of “a non-edible food item” (like tea cups or plant pots), which will then be 3D printed on the International Space Station. This challenge will encourage students to conceptualize such important aspects as the food chain, sustainability and food waste. 

Students have until May 1 to enter. The winners will receive a trip to New York City and a tour of the Space Shuttle Enterprise with an actual astronaut, plus other goodies, like a “Star Trek mystery prize pack.”

And if we’re very lucky, winners will be able to create a replicator that will give us chocolate sundaes.

(Via Twitter)