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Mythbusters

Bill Kuhl

I revisited an article in Popular Mechanics about the popular Discovery Channel show, “Mythbusters”. On occasion I do watch the show and was thinking maybe this show will get people more interested in science. After reading the PM article, it appears that is the case, the show has a huge following with nearly 2 million viewers per episode. The show has been running on cable television for six years but I have only had cable television for a little over a year now, so just started watching this year.

Many people point to the positive aspect that the show gets people, particularly kids interested in science, some people counter and say it is mainly about explosions and over glorifies what scientists really do. The main characters of the show; Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage point out that the show was not created with science education in mind, their background are in special-effects. Some teachers use video from Mythbusters' episodes in their science lessons. When the President was speaking at the recent launch of Educate To Innovate program, Adam and Jamie were invited along with prominent scientists.

A quote I really liked from the PM article was:
“We’ve shown that it’s a lot easier to get hands-on experience than people think,” Jamie says. “You can memorize how to do something, but unless you internalize the information, it’s just a pile of data sitting on a table. Hands-on experience is what allows you to make it part of your brain; it brings that data to life.”

Comments (13)

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High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Challenge Based Learning and Mythbusters

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Hi Bill,
I've been a bit of a fan of Mythbusters for a while now, for exactly the reasons you suggest in your post; students are interested, and want to perform experiments of their own after watching segments. The same is true of the UK show 'Brainiac'. My wife, who's a science teacher in high school, is a big fan, and regularly uses excerpts before introducing students to the scientific method.

I've been looking at a pedagogical model developed by Apple called Challenge Based Learning, and funnily enough, one of their examples is Mythbusters. Here's a link: http://ali.apple.com/cbl/

It's an interesting model, and certainly worth a look.

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Keith that was an interesting link. Recently I had helped a science teacher friend with an assignment for his physics students to design a model airplane, build it, and fly it and do calculations. In the past they had all built the same airplane that was given to them. Another time they had designed their own planes but did not have enough information to build a good flying plane. This time they had formulas to work with so the planes were of the proper size for the available power of a rubber motor. This time most planes flew well but it was still more of a challenge then building the plane from a plan. I wrote a short article about this: http://www.scienceguy.org/Articles/PhysicsStudentsDesignModelAirplanes.aspx

Bill

Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Using BS detectors on Mythbusters

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We use Mythbusters and other clips of scientists in action to teach and review scientific attitudes and approach to problem solving. We start with the crazy episodes and kids love finding fault with other people's performance. The BS detector means 'bad science' of course :-) And they do a decent job. Kids like pointing out they don't repeat their experiments and don't record much data because it would make boring TV. We also use their agar plate episode "The 5 second rule" to intro the project "Where is the dirtiest place in the school?" also using agar plates and requiring sterile technique. Want more details? Contact me and I'll send you the activity sheets we developed over several years. Sue

Funny Comment About Mythbusters

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This was a comment I received on another forum that I found amusing:

Say what you want about "Mythbusters" but it got my teenage son interested in actually doing something with his hands other than twisting the screws on a video game. Yes we had to call the fire department once and the police showed up a couple of times but I think the show helped him realize that the real world is every bit as interesting as fantasy. Now he's on his way to a degree in mechanical engineering. If there's a god may he bless Jamie and Adam and the whole crew.

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Mythbusters, "challenge-based learning" and science education

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I love all these stories about Mythbusters, and how teachers and students are using it. It's piquing my curiosity on a larger question. What do you folks think of this idea of challenge-based education. which is - in a sense - a type of "edutainment." Apple cites TV shows like Mythbusters and Project Runway, where a team is given a challenge and limited time and resources and must come up with the most creative/effective etc solution. I love the comment that you pulled, Bill, from the parent who's son went into mechanical engineering because of the show. It does seem like these types of shows can demonstrate real-world insights into a field. But I'm sure it can also be somewhat distorted for the small screen. What are the merits - and pitfalls - of challenge-based education?

The Toyota Safety Issue Challenge

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I was thinking about what can be learned from all of this, how could lessons be created from this type of scenario. Blame seems to be going around to everyone. The concept of "lean manufacturing" was brought up, using one supplier for a part that is used in many models. If the part is perfect, this should save costs in many ways, but if there is a problem, the problem is spread through all the units that use that part. It might be interesting to try to come up with lists of positives and negatives to new manufacturing methods.

Bill Kuhl

High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Challenge Based Learning

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As I said above, I'm a big fan of CBL, but, as you suggest, Betty, I've noticed a number of pitfalls. The first one's a bit humourous - kids want to see things blow up, and there are real limits as to what you can blow up in schools!

Equally, I worry that some subjects might suffer from a CBL approach - the humanities, and especially subjects like history, might really struggle to generate the same kind of interest, although, I imagine, there might be ways around that.

The real thing that I've noticed about CBL work is that preparation time and cost increase a great deal. I mean, if you are building planes, like in Bill's example, or creating experiments like I mentioned, then you need to be well prepared - and that takes time and costs money.

Having said that, it's really no excuse if you're a committed teacher!

Cheap Projects

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Time is a big factor but I have been trying to come up with cheap projects from materials that are cheap or normally thrown away. My Foam Jet II glider is made of foam plates and foam meat tray material with a small amount of cardboard from a milk carton. Water rockets can be built from mainly recycleable materials also.

Foam Jet II article, plan, and link to video:
http://www.hbci.com/~bkuhl/FoamJetII.htm

Bill Kuhl

High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Thanks Bill. I'll definitely

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Thanks Bill. I'll definitely be using some of those ideas!

Water Rockets in Australia

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Hi Keith there seems to be a lot of interest in water rockets in Australia, this is a good resource:

http://www.wra2.org/index.php

Bill Kuhl

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