There might not be a more famous pet in the world of science fiction, comic books, and fantasy. Even those who know Star Trek only as “Spock in Space,” are aware of this most adorable and troublesome creature. The Tribble. For years, they were much like phasers, warp drive, replicators, and other fantastic ideas from the Trek Universe, which were unavailable to us fans in the early 21st Century. Until now.

Thanks to the technical and entrepreneurial powers of Kayleigha and Jay Zawacki, the Tribble is now a real pet that purrs, protects, and will alert their owner if a Klingon is near!

The Tribbles created by Kayleigha and Jay (their company is called Science Division) are controlled by your mobile phone and reacts to their users’ touch. They are just as soft as you might imagine they would be (from watching the Tribble’s various starring roles on The Original Series, The Animated Series, Deep Space Nine, and Short Treks). 

Jay Zawacki
Jay Zawacki

In short, these Tribbles are so much like the real thing; the only thing it won’t do is multiple and take over your home!

This project is one of passion for Kayleigha and Jay. They have been lifelong Trek fans and work as studio designers for theater projects across the Boston area. Jay is a tinkerer and the brains behind the tech that makes the Tribble come to life. At the same time, Kayleigha contributed by perfecting the electronics inside the Tribble and running all publicity for their product.

Creating a pet from the Star Trek Universe seems like the logical thing for Kayleigha, whose father was a Trek fanatic while growing up. In fact, the first Trek episode she can recall seeing was the iconic “Trouble With Tribbles.”

“We had an Enterprise bridge playset that my dad built in the backyard,” says Kayleigha. “We spent hours writing captain’s logs, visiting strange new worlds, and running from aliens.” 

“Trek was also part of our moral education,” remembers Kayleigha. “When we got old enough, Dad would discuss each episode with us after we watched it to explain any important life lessons that we might have missed.”

Testing and creating their version of the Tribble was long and arduous. Creating the creature required multiple revisions and many “back-to-the-drawing-board” moments from the duo. With each step, they’d learn something new toward their final goal.

“I would get one piece working, then get another working, and then figure out how to make them work together,” says Kayleigha. “It was a long and difficult process, but it was so rewarding when something worked!”

“I would go to sleep devastated that I couldn’t get this piece or that piece up and running, and then wake up with a wild idea — and half the time, it would work!”

After they perfected their design — which meant hundreds of component tests on all the little gears, wires, Bluetooth connections, and more — they finally submitted their design to CBS for the licensing process. This way, their Tribble could be sold with the official Star Trek labeling as an officially licensed product.

“We reached out to companies that already had Trek licenses, thinking that the two of us would never get one on our own,” says Kayleigha. “One of those companies loved the Tribble and set us up with one of the Star Trek licensing directors. We drove to New York to meet with her, and she loved our prototype!”

“CBS was really great about working with us to make this happen. When the company that had set the meeting up decided not to go ahead with the Tribbles because of the challenges of app development, our licensing director worked with us to license the Tribbles directly to us, instead. It was an incredible experience!”

The Science Division's Tribble
The Science Division’s Tribble

One might think that designing, creating, and animating a creature from television, which can now interact with the user, would probably be the most challenging part for Kayleigha and Jay. But as soon as they were ready for market, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all of their plans to appear at Trek conventions ended. 

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit just in time for our Tribbles to arrive,” says Kayleigha. “That has definitely slowed sales a bit. This has always been a passion project, so for now, we would be happy just to make enough to pay back the loan. This was about being a part of Star Trek — and we did it!”

Though they’ve hit a setback, which has interrupted every other business on the planet, they are incredibly optimistic about their Tribble. That excitement comes directly from fans who have been sending them incredible feedback after they receive their Tribbles at home.

“We have one young fan in Canada who has been dressing his Tribble up and sending us photos,” says Kayleigha. “They make our day.” 

“Nichelle must be a Tribble whisperer,” says Kayleigha. “That moment was really special.”

Kayleigha says that even non-Trekkies adore their Tribble, including her own grandmother, who “immediately fell in love with our Tribble prototype.”

“The neighbor girls were delighted when they found out that they could use a Tribble in ‘Watchdog Mode’ to guard their rooms from each other!”

The duo debuted their Tribbles at last year’s Star Trek Las Vegas convention. While they did not have the final product to share, they brought some finished prototypes for fans to check out. Let’s just say that there were a few high-profile Trek stars which very much approved.

“I had the opportunity to show a Tribble to Nichelle Nichols at the same convention,” says Kayleigha, who cites Uhura as one of her childhood heroes. “I asked her to sign the electronics box inside one of our prototypes.”

“When she saw the Tribble, her eyes just lit up. She exclaimed, ‘It’s a Tribble!’ and just keep stroking it. When she went to sign it, it started trilling at her. She told it to shush, and it did!”

“Nichelle must be a Tribble whisperer,” says Kayleigha. “That moment was really special.”

After that, Kayleigha says a star from Star Trek: Discovery showed interest in her extraordinary, furry friends.

“A very nice man came up to our table and asked me what we had going on,” says Kayleigha. “I stumbled through my explanation of what the Tribbles were and how we had made them. He thanked me very kindly for sharing, with this funny twinkle in his eye.” 

“Then he returned to his table — Kenneth Mitchell’s table,” she says. “My mouth just fell open as I grabbed Jay’s arm and said, ‘I just tried to sell a Tribble to a Klingon, and I didn’t even realize it!’”

Should you like to own one of the most cuddly and mysterious creatures from the Star Trek Universe, visit Science Division’s website at www.sciencediv.com.