It's easy to buy small Star Trek props like phaser replicas. It takes something special to make your own, especially when it's a (nearly) life-size warp core from the USS Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Engineer and Star Trek fan Chris "K-Money" Koolmees now has his very own engine room thanks to an epic DIY effort and an assist from his father.
Koolmees started the project on a whim and thought he could pull off the build during a week off from work. "I'm always thinking about ways to bring fictional items into the real world; the more functional and lifelike they can be, the better," he said. It ended up taking a year.
The warp core, which stretches from floor to ceiling, is crafted from vacuum-formed plastic, fiberboard, LED light strips, a Raspberry Pi computer and paint. And, yes, it makes those famous warp-core noises, the sound of the starship breathing. Koolmees' dad (also a Star Trek fan) helped with most of the physical construction while Koolmees worked on the design and electronics.
Koolmees documented the involved project on his K-Money Industries website. Dilithium, the crystal that powers Federation starships, is stubbornly fictional, so Koolmees build the dilithium chamber to hold his home server instead.
Koolmees wasn't happy with anything less than "millisecond synchronized accuracy" between the lights and the sound effects. "The process was a warren of dead ends. I had to start from scratch on the electronics five or six times before I ended up with the outcome I wanted," he said.
A lot of people might get discouraged when a week-long project turns into a year-long epic, but Koolmees has some advice for ambitious prop builders: "If you're doing something that nobody else has done before, if you're not following a set of directions, then it's unlikely the very first attempt will be a resounding success," he said. "So, I know it's trite, but enjoy the process and learn from it rather than focusing solely on the end result."
Fortunately for Koolmees, the end result of this project would make Geordi La Forge proud.
Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.
Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.