What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this reality challenge series' competitive side is mostly played up by the show's hosts, who often exchange good-natured jabs over their respective team's progress and expected victory. The competitors themselves are usually focused on the task at hand. Teams tend to be dominated by boys, but when girls join in, they're integral to the building process. (One of the two overseeing engineers is female, too.) The series showcases teamwork, ingenuity, and general scientific application in an energy-filled format that grade-schoolers will enjoy.
What's the story?
In OPERATION JUNKYARD (which is a kid-targeted take-off on Junkyard Wars), teams of teens are presented with a design challenge, then given limited time and supplies to build machines out of scrap materials before facing off in head-to-head competitions with their peers. Each episode pits two teams against each other in the quest to create contraptions like go carts, remote-control battleships, pie fillers, and catapults. Each group starts with a bus full of tools and supplies (scrap metal, spare wheels, wires, batteries, etc.); they can also earn extras like specialized components and precious minutes of design tutoring with an adult engineer -- who can offer advice but isn't allowed to influence their plans. Once the build time starts, the teams have six hours to complete their gadgets, with an extra hour of tinkering allowed before performance time; engineers supervise safety issues and lend a hand with power tools. The winners are propelled into the next round, where they'll face a new adversary -- and a new design challenge.
Is it any good?
Despite being a competition at heart, Operation Junkyard doesn't really linger on rivalry between the teams. But hosts Rob Czar and Kamaya Jones -- who each hang out with one of the teams to help keep them motivated and report on their progress -- often lapse into mild trash talk ("I did want you to come back for the finals, but I just don't think it's going to happen," etc.). Parents will quickly tire of these slightly juvenile exchanges, but gadget-minded grade-schoolers and tweens will probably still find the contests intriguing.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the allure of competition. Why are game shows and reality contests so popular? What, if anything, can viewers learn from them? Do any seem more worthwhile than others? Which ones, and why? Why do people in general like taking part in contests of strength and stamina? What do we learn about ourselves by participating? Have you done anything that tested your strength and stamina? Are there lessons in both winning and losing? What are they?