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 The Big Brain Theory is a reality elimination show that contains strong and positive messages about the importance of scientific and technological development, and highlights the various ways math, science, and engineering are applied to the real world. Aside from some arguing and some occasional strong language (which is fully bleeped), the show is pretty mild, but it can also get rather technical, which means that it will probably only appeal to kids who are interested in these fields. Design innovations often test the impact of fire, explosions, and other dangerous elements using safety precautions; viewers of all ages should be reminded to never try these these activities at home.
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What's the story?
THE BIG BRAIN THEORY pits some of America's top young scientists and engineers against each other to see who can come up with the most ingenious innovations. The series, which is hosted by actor, teacher, and former White House staff member and science education advisor Kal Penn, features 10 contestants who study and/or work in fields like mechanical engineering, rocket science, and nuclear power. In each episode they are presented with a specific challenge that has real world applications, and must design a solution that reflects an understanding of the problem and offers an innovative way of solving it. They then break into teams and create prototypes of their designs with only a small budget and a few days to complete the task. Their designs, work processes, and prototypes are judged by special effects designer Mark Fuller, CEO of the leading design and engineering firm WET, and Dr. Christine Gulbranson, founder and CEO of Christalis, a company focused on alternative energy and nanotechnology. Guest judges, including U.S. Olympic gold medal decathalon athlete winner Bryan Clay, NASCAR champion driver Carl Edwards, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The team with the winning project moves forward; a member of the losing team goes home. The last person remaining wins $50,000 and a job with WET.
Is it any good?
The Big Brain Theory highlights the important role that science and technology has in our everyday lives, and underscores the United States' desire to remain at the cutting edge in these fields. It also points out the wide-array of skills that people have in order to to become successful innovators, which ranges from having the appropriate academic training, to having the ability to work effectively in teams, communicate clearly, and think outside of the box.
There's definitely a lot to be learned here, but the constant technical conversations between contestants may be a turn-off to kids who aren't interested in this sort of thing. But viewers interested in math, science, and engineering, will probably find the challenges intriguing, and various ways these folks go about trying to solve them both exciting and educational.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about science and engineering. What kind of stereotypes exist about people who study and/or work in these fields? How has TV and film portrayed people who work in these fields over the years?
What contributions have American inventors and scientists made to the world? How have folks like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs changed the way people live their lives? What kind of training did these folks have? In what ways did they see the world that was different from others?
Do you hope to invent something in the future? What? How will your designs and innovations help people live their daily lives?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love science and technology
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