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.