MythBusters Jr. puts kids in charge of testing myths — for science
Twelve-year-old Cannan Huey-You gets his first driving lesson in the opening episode of the new Mythbusters Jr. series, which premiers tonight on the Science Channel. This is different from how most kids learn to drive, and not just because of Cannan’s age. His instructor is veteran MythBuster Adam Savage. And one of his short travels involves taking the car for a spin on tires made of duct tape.
Cannan is one of six new, young MythBusters. Each comes with their own skillset and is experienced in STEM. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.) Cannan is a whiz kid, already a college sophomore at Texas Christian University. There, he studies astrophysics. Allie Weber, 13, from South Dakota, is known online as “Robot Maker Girl”. Valierie Castillo, 15, of Lancaster, Calif., is another skilled robot builder. Elijah Horland, 12, from Brooklyn, N.Y., taught himself how to build circuits and electronics. Jessie Lawless, 15, of Slidell, La., builds custom hot rods in his dad’s shop. And Rachel Pizzolato, 14, of Metarie, La., is a science fair champ who has competed three times in Broadcom MASTERS. (Broadcom MASTERS is run by Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News for Students.)
Fans of the original MythBusters will not be disappointed with this new version. Savage, a guide throughout the show, is not the only holdover. There are myths to test, of course. Buster, the crash test dummy, takes his place as stunt man. The builds can be incredibly long — and sometimes tedious. And in this first episode, there’s duct tape. Rolls and rolls of duct tape.
Savage and other original MythBusters spent many episodes testing the idea that there’s nothing duct tape can’t do. They busted that myth plenty of times. But they also found incredible uses for the stuff, including building boats and bridges. In the first episode of the new series, the young Mythbusters test two new potential applications for the tape: as tires and as a parachute.
The new MythBusters are split into two teams of three to tackle each of these myths. They have to work together to find efficient ways to build objects out of dozens of rolls of duct tape. They use math to predict whether their builds stand a chance of success. And they draw on all aspects of STEM to come up with a satisfying answer to the question of whether or not duct tape can do these new, crazy things.
You can’t help but be caught up in the enthusiasm of the young team members. And these kids aren’t thrilled only by the chance to drive a car or take a trip in a helicopter. They’re also excited to see their hard work pay off and get answers to the questions they were asking, all in the name of science.
MythBusters, of course, was never really a science show. No one was ever going to publish their results in a scientific journal. But the show wasn’t all explosions and crazy ideas; it regularly drew on aspects of science, such as using controls and not relying on a single result.
MythBusters Jr. continues this trend. It also shows that STEM is a team activity that requires a lot of hard work — and that it can be a lot of fun.
That’s definitely worth a watch.
application A particular use or function of something.
astrophysics An area of astronomy that deals with understanding the physical nature of stars and other objects in space. People who work in this field are known as astrophysicists.
blog Short for web log, these internet posts can take the form of news reports, topical discussions, opinionated rants, diaries or photo galleries.
Broadcom MASTERS Created in 2011 by the Society for Science & the Public, Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) is the premier middle school science and engineering fair competition. Broadcom MASTERS International gives select middle school students from around the world a unique opportunity to attend the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.
circuit A network that transmits electrical signals. In the body, nerve cells create circuits that relay electrical signals to the brain. In electronics, wires typically route those signals to activate some mechanical, computational or other function.
control A part of an experiment where there is no change from normal conditions. The control is essential to scientific experiments. It shows that any new effect is likely due only to the part of the test that a researcher has altered. For example, if scientists were testing different types of fertilizer in a garden, they would want one section of it to remain unfertilized, as the control. Its area would show how plants in this garden grow under normal conditions. And that gives scientists something against which they can compare their experimental data.
electronics Devices that are powered by electricity but whose properties are controlled by the semiconductors or other circuitry that channel or gate the movement of electric charges.
engineering The field of research that uses math and science to solve practical problems.
journal (in science) A publication in which scientists share their research findings with experts (and sometimes even the public). Some journals publish papers from all fields of science, technology, engineering and math, while others are specific to a single subject. The best journals are peer-reviewed: They send all submitted articles to outside experts to be read and critiqued. The goal, here, is to prevent the publication of mistakes, fraud or sloppy work.
maker A term used to describe people who are do-it-yourselfers, making things they want and need, rather than buying commercial versions of products (everything from fabric and beer to furniture and tools). Many makers are now turning to 3-D printers to create items when and where they’re needed.
online (n.) On the internet. (adj.) A term for what can be found or accessed on the internet.
robot A machine that can sense its environment, process information and respond with specific actions. Some robots can act without any human input, while others are guided by a human.
STEM An acronym (abbreviation made using the first letters of a term) for science, technology, engineering and math.
technology The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.
tedious (n. tedium) An adjective for something that is disturbingly slow, boring, monotonous and/or repetitive.