Engineering the Impossible

Common Sense Media says

Docu builds interest in historical construction.

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series investigates the history of the construction process as it relates to three ancient projects. Experts detail the innovative techniques and materials -- many of which are still used today -- that were used to make the massive buildings possible.

Violence & scariness

Dramatic re-enactments sometimes include historical scenes like swordfights and the mistreatment of slaves.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this thorough documentary series is quite tame overall, some of the dramatic re-enactments used to bring the history of the three central architectural undertakings to life include images of things like swordfights and slavery. But tweens and teens intrigued by architecture and engineering are sure to enjoy it -- and, thanks to computer graphics and experts' explanations of the innovative construction techniques and materials that revolutionized the projects -- they'll understand it all, too.

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What's the story?

ENGINEERING THE IMPOSSIBLE spotlights the architectural breakthroughs that enabled the construction of three iconic historical structures: the Roman Colosseum, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Chartres Cathedral. For each project, experts begin by explaining the historical events that spurred construction and listing the obstacles (financial, geographic, etc.) that stood in the way of such a massive undertaking. They then outline the design and building process, using dramatic re-enactments and computer-generated images to illustrate their explanations and show the construction progress. Researchers also point out how the innovative techniques that architects and builders developed for these ancient projects changed the course of future endeavors, and, in many cases, continue to be used today.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

In a segment focusing on the Colosseum, experts explain how pioneering Roman engineers designed a drainage system that diverted an entire lake to make way for the amphitheater. To overcome the issue of the building's weight being unable to support itself, they pioneered the use of structural arches and invented concrete and red bricks. Finally, they kept the project on schedule by streamlining the materials' production process.

For both history buffs and building connoisseurs, Engineering the Impossible is an enjoyable blend of curiosity and education. But its most impressive accomplishment is making what could be a pretty dull topic entertaining enough that casual viewers will get something out of it, too. And there's virtually no worrisome content here, so if your tweens are so inclined, encourage them tune in.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it's so important to understand history. What can we learn from studying the past? How does understanding past events affect how we look at the future? What role does the media play in helping (or hindering) people examine and understand history? How has technology altered how things are done in more recent history?

TV details

Network:National Geographic Channel
Genre:Educational
TV rating:TV-PG

This review of Engineering the Impossible was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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