A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this interesting series -- which focuses on reworking existing technology in order to provide better products intended to protect people -- tests new inventions in large-scale simulations that usually require crashing and blowing up cars or other vehicles in a protected environment. The experiments sometimes fail, but the failures are looked at as stepping stones in the overall design and engineering process. The show will most likely appeal to older tweens and teens who are either a) interested in science or b) like to watch things get smashed up in a big way. Kids (especially teens of driving age) may need to be reminded not to engage in such activities themselves.
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What's the story?
In SMASH LAB, scientist Deanne Bell, industrial designer Nick Blair, and mechanical engineers Chuck Messer and Kevin Cook rework scientific formulas, generate computer graphics, and apply various manual techniques in order to reinvent existing technological inventions. Their goal? Producing even better ways to help people survive potentially life-threatening events. By reworking and reformulating innovations like aerated concrete (used on airport runways to slow planes down), bullet-proof materials, and truck dampers, they create technology that, in turn, can be used to produce inventions that could potentially save the lives of people involved in car crashes, aircraft bombings, and earthquakes. The gang tests their inventions in large-scale simulations in which cars are purposely crashed at top speed, vehicles are blown up, and earthquakes are replicated.
Is it any good?
When talking to each other, the gang shares simplified explanations of the scientific and mechanical engineering theories they're working with. But despite these somewhat rehearsed moments, they're extremely enthusiastic about their experiments. The show even has some dramatic moments when each invention is put to the test. And when some experiments fail, the group remains excited about reworking the concepts in order to come up with a technological breakthrough that will work.
The series' focus on design and engineering might be a turn off for many kids. But the crashes, explosions, and other major destructive moments conducted in the name of research might be a selling point for some older tweens and teens who normally wouldn't be interested in the sciences. They may not pick up a lot of scientific theory, but they'll definitely see that successfully developing new technology is the result of both good ideas and being willing to learn from every failure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how scientists and engineers create new technological innovations. How often do they fail before producing something that works? What can other people learn from that? Families can also discuss how television can promote science and learning. What did you learn from this show that you didn't know before? Are educational shows exciting and fun to watch? Why or why not?
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