The 50-year Star Trek legacy will be honored with the million-dollar Roddenberry Prize. The Roddenberry Foundation was created in 2010 by Rod Roddenberry, the son of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, with the ambitious goal of improving lives on a global scale. The recently announced Roddenberry Prize is described on the official website as “a competition designed to discover and award innovative solutions to achieve the future Gene Roddenberry imagined, full of optimism, driven by exploration and strengthened by diversity.” The prize aims to “award bold ideas that will achieve a boldly better future.”
— RoddenberryFdn (@RoddenberryFdn) September 9, 2016
Announced in conjunction with this week’s 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek, the Roddenberry Prize is looking “bold solutions that are on the cusp of achieving scale.” The prize is a million dollars that will be broken up into fifths.
“The five best ideas for a boldly better future will be awarded a total of $1 million; one $400,000 grand prize and four $150,000 awards…”
“The Roddenberry Prize is seeking all types of solutions that deliver on the promise of innovation, captures the spirit of discovery and embraces the power of diversity to benefit all humanity. There are infinite possibilities for a boldly better future, some of which may include, but are not limited to, solutions that address the following: Arts, Culture, Media; Education; Environment; Health; Human Rights; Science & Technology.”
True to the spirit of Star Trek, the Roddenberry Foundation has made “boldness” a criteria for winning. The Roddenberry Prize website asks that “the entrant has the skills, capacity and partnerships to deliver on the solution,” but that they boldly go as well and discover a solution that “is substantially different from other efforts addressing similar issues or efforts in its field.”
“Our most challenging problems deserve bold solutions. Whether it’s new ways to access water and sanitation, a vaccine that prevents Alzheimer’s, or an app that rapidly mobilizes people during a crisis, share your idea for addressing critical global issues.”
Star Trek has a long history with inspiring others to strive for a better future. The widespread popularity of the show has encouraged many to pursue a career in science and technology. The first space shuttle was named Enterprise after an overwhelming fan response through a mail-in campaign to NASA.
— NASA (@NASA) September 8, 2016
Star Trek cast members have promoted progress in science and technology as well. Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Uhura on the original Star Trek, worked with NASA to recruit minorities and women in greater numbers. Robert Picardo, who played the holographic Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager, is now a board member and advocate for the Planetary Society, an organization encouraging space exploration and discovery.
Gene Roddenberry had an ideal in place for Star Trek from the very beginning. He wanted to tell morality tales that reflected current society. Science fiction was used as a guise for network executives and censors, hiding sometimes controversial topics behind the veil of fantasy escapism. However, Star Trek and the starship Enterprise was more merely a plot device or a way to hide these storylines from those nervous to address them explicitly.
Speaking with Stephen Colbert last night to honor the 50th anniversary, original cast member George Takei spoke of how Roddenberry envisioned the Enterprise as “starship Earth,” with a crew as diverse as the planet, putting differences aside and exploring the final frontier.
“Seeing the common challenge that we have, confident in our problem-solving capabilities, our genius for invention and innovation, we were going to boldly go where no one had gone before.”
This sense of optimism is clearly present in the concepts behind the Roddenberry Prize. Who knows what unique global solutions and innovations in the Star Trek mold will come about. The future awaits for those willing to boldly go.
The Roddenberry foundation will be accepting applications until November 16. More information on the Roddenberry Prize can be found at their official website.
[Image via The Roddenberry Foundation]