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Best Movies for Engineering

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What are the best movies and TV shows in entertainment for inspiring your thinking in engineering? Rachel, Sadhan, and Pius talk about their top suggestions, and they discuss how they affect perceptions of engineering.

Our closing music is from "Late for School" by Bleeptor, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Check out the book and ebook Engineer’s Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong, on Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other retailers.

Subscribe and leave episode reviews wherever you get your podcasts. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon, by purchasing digital teaching materials at the Pios Labs curriculum store, or by buying a copy of the reference book Engineer's Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong. You'll also be supporting educational tools and projects like Chordinates! or The Calculator Gator. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.


Pius Wong  0:00 

Huge thanks to my supporters on Patreon who funded this podcast and a second podcast experiment of mine called Engineering Word Of The Day. Check it out on iTunes. More on that at the end of the show. If you like what I'm doing, please help me out by donating on Patreon.com/pioslabs, that's P-I-O-S-L-A-B-S. It's May 22, 2017, and this is the K12 Engineering Education Podcast.


Are you looking for some movie or TV suggestions to inspire yourself or others in engineering? Listen to today's podcast. The three of us got back together to discuss our top picks.


I'm Pius Wong.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  0:50 

I'm Sadhan Sathyaseelan.


Rachel Fahrig  0:51 

And I'm Rachel Fahrig.


Pius Wong  0:53 

We are here for the K12 Engineering Education Podcast once again, and we are in a local cafe here in Austin. So please pardon our noise for a little bit. We're going to talk about movies and TV and media that have inspired you in engineering, or if you think they can inspire others in engineering.


Rachel Fahrig  1:14 

OK good, because I'm not an engineer.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  1:15 

Only about engineering, or also science?


Pius Wong  1:17 

Wait, what was that?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  1:18 

Is it just engineering? Or is it also science?


Pius Wong  1:20 

I would say both, but I want to I want to focus on engineering


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  1:23 

All right. Sounds good.


Rachel Fahrig  1:25 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  1:25 

Let's do it.


Rachel Fahrig  1:26 

We can do that.


Pius Wong  1:27 

Why did you ask that question?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  1:30 

I mean, I don't know. We have sci-fi. So we just, like, the wider the number of movies that we can talk about versus engineering is kind of narrow. But we can still talk about it. If it's sci-fi, there's a lot...


Rachel Fahrig  1:45 

I think in sci-fi, there's a lot of engineering. So I think about, not to be super nerdy, but hello, Star Trek. Isn't that engineering?


Pius Wong  1:53 

That's a good point. It's called science fiction.


Rachel Fahrig  1:54 

There is way more engineering than science.


Pius Wong  1:55 

It should be called STEM fiction.


Rachel Fahrig  1:57 

We don't talk about microbiology in Star Trek. It's all engineering. That's why you have a whole section of the ship devoted to what? What?


Pius Wong  2:07 



Rachel Fahrig  2:08 



Pius Wong  2:08 

Wait, no, but in Star Trek Voyager, there's a whole episode about the biomolecular power cells.


Rachel Fahrig  2:15 

Wait, I don't... Voyager is like, so... No.


Pius Wong  2:18 

All right. So we're getting ahead of ourselves.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  2:20 

Right. Yeah.


A simple example why it's important to differentiate between science and engineering. And I want to give an example for it, too.


Rachel Fahrig  2:31 

Educate us.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  2:32 

Okay, the movie Matrix, okay?


Rachel Fahrig  2:34 

Oh, yeah.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  2:35 

It's an amazing sci-fi movie.


Rachel Fahrig  2:36 

Yes it is.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  2:37 

Okay. But when you take the engineering part of it, they were using humans as batteries. That's the worst thing you can do. That's like the biggest, stupidest, inefficient...


Rachel Fahrig  2:46 

I think it's brilliant.


Pius Wong  2:50 

No, no, I agree. Well, wait. So I would say it didn't inspire me to do that. But it makes you think about what not to do. I think that's great.


Rachel Fahrig  2:59 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  3:00 

OK. I can get behind that.


Pius Wong  3:00 

There's so much stuff in movies and TV that I think teach - it teaches you stuff because you know what not to do.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  3:05 

Okay, I can get behind that.


Pius Wong  3:07 

All right. So on that vein, I wanted to talk about a few things. There was a movie that we spoke about in a previous episode. It came out like last Christmas called Hidden Figures.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  3:20 

I still haven't watched it.


Pius Wong  3:21 

You haven't seen it? Have you seen it?


Rachel Fahrig  3:23 

No. Shamefully I have not.


I'm a woman who works in STEM and have a science major. And I haven't seen this movie and I'm ashamed of myself.


Pius Wong  3:33 

Well, I'm not shaming you for not watching. I'm just bringing up - we don't have to talk about it for too long.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  3:37 

I have a small premise of it. I mean, I know it's about NASA. There was - they were mistreated. That's pretty much what I know.


Pius Wong  3:47 

So the story - the movie is about these three women, black women, African-American women, around the early days of NASA, back when then when there was segregation, and women were not held in very high esteem.


Rachel Fahrig  4:00 

I mean plenty of people just weren't getting higher education at the time anyway. And there were so - there are still so many systemic barriers for persons of color, as far as higher education goes, but this was - I mean, these were women who were achieving higher education, multiple advanced degrees.


Pius Wong  4:19 



Rachel Fahrig  4:20 

Long - like while the civil rights movement or prior to the civil rights movement even was taking place. So they overcame odds that are not even -


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  4:32 

This happened during the Civil Rights?


Rachel Fahrig  4:34 

Well, they were working during the Civil Rights Movement so they already had their education. So this was pre Brown v. Board. This was pre-national integration. And they had multiple advanced degrees. They were engineers. They were advanced scientists. They were advanced mathematicians. And they had been hired by NASA. But they weren't taken seriously. And they were sitting literally kept hidden in a back room to crunch the numbers.


Pius Wong  5:09 

That's the double meaning.


Rachel Fahrig  5:11 

Literally hidden figures.


Pius Wong  5:13 

Whoever named that movie, they named it right. Yeah. So the spoiler alert is that, yes, they were not taken seriously.


Rachel Fahrig  5:19 

Sorry. I hope I didn't ruin it for anybody.


Pius Wong  5:20 

No, no, there was segregation in the past. That's a fact. And so they touch on that. For example, the women had their own segregated areas to work in. The black women had their own segregated areas to work in.


Rachel Fahrig  5:34 

Separately from the other women.


Pius Wong  5:36 

So it was like a very, to me, a strange thing to see because I did not grow up in that type of environment. But it was very eye-opening to witness, and the storytelling, I thought was really moving. And so there's a certain scene in it, if you watch it, where I was like, Oh, my God, that's that's awful. And it makes you...


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  5:37 

I think I heard about that scene.


Rachel Fahrig  6:01 

Yeah, we're not spoiling it for anyone.


Pius Wong  6:03 

No, but I will say that Taraji P. Henson is a good actress. She played the mathematician, which you often see in the trailer, who was basically really, really genius in doing these calculations. She was literally a computer. That was her job. And that's what their job really was back in the day. To do all these like, trigonometric complication.


Rachel Fahrig  6:26 



Pius Wong  6:27 

Calculations. So in any case, it's a feel-good movie. And I think that it's a good story to be told. And I was so interested in it afterward, that I looked up: what are the real stories here? Turns out that this is based on a true story. So they did take the separate stories of three women and mashed it together. So it is a retelling. It is fiction, but there's definite truth in it. And I think that it really spoke to anyone who has faced some kind of adversity to try and achieve something that you want do, especially if it's in engineering.


Rachel Fahrig  7:02 

Well, and I think about some of our past work, where we have specifically had a focus on diversifying and becoming more inclusive for the face of engineering participation. And we know that, particularly for women, and particularly for persons of color, they're far more likely to engage in an activity or continue an educational process when they see people who look like themselves. So when young African American women watch this movie, and they see women who look just like me, had been accomplishing stuff, shall we say, for decades, and I just didn't know about it, they're likely far more inspired to not only explore that realm, but to stick with it, to engage in it, to invest in it, and even to involve their friends and others like them in it. And that's really important.


Pius Wong  8:06 

Rachel, that's a great point. There really is research backing all that up, that representation is important. And I will say that, me having watched that movie, I think that - I am not an African American woman, but I do what I like. I like math, I love math. Actually, I love engineering and creating stuff. And I feel like anyone - and this is basically everyone - anyone who has ever felt like they were maybe the underdog - and this is the underdog to the extreme. It's like excruciating actually to watch it. It gives you a new appreciation for that. And it's almost like, okay, if they could get through that, then you know what? I can get through the mediocre stuff that I'm going through.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  8:48 

Okay, this movie reminds me very much of the other movie where - Okay, what's the guy who played - Benedict Cumberbatch.


Pius Wong  8:59 

Which movie?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  8:59 

The mathematician Alan Turing.


Pius Wong  9:01 

Oh, I didn't see that movie. What movie was that?


Because he was gay


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  9:03 

I can't remember. Imitation Game. I think it's Imitation Game. It's so - he was pretty much the same thing. He was like very mistreated.


Because he was gay. Yeah. So The Imitation Game, the premise is: there's a puzzle that happened during the World War, where they're communicating through these machines called Enigma that has a one in a million chance of getting right. And it would reset itself every two or 24 hours, something like that. So he has to crack that. So he builds a machine for that. And he's mistreated because he's gay.


And I think they didn't they did not recognize him for a long time.


He was recognized much later.


But during this, this is a famous test. There was another movie about it. It's called Ex Machina?


Rachel Fahrig  10:02 

Oh, yeah.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  10:03 

So it's about it's about a robot and artificial intelligence that this guy built. And in order to pass that test of, you know, the complete artificial intelligence, it needs to pass a test called Turing test where it interacts with the regular human being. And the human being cannot differentiate between, you know -


Rachel Fahrig  10:25 

Precisely. It doesn't know that it's artificial intelligence.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  10:28 



Rachel Fahrig  10:28 

Right? Exactly.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  10:29 

That's a pretty cool movie, too. If you haven't watched it -


Rachel Fahrig  10:31 

I haven't seen it, but I've read about it.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  10:33 

Oh it's an amazing film


Pius Wong  10:34 

Does it make you want to code?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  10:37 

It makes me want to build robots.


Pius Wong  10:40 

But there are all those movies - Speaking of movies that teach a bad thing, there's so many killer robots in movies. Why are we obsessed with killer robots?


Rachel Fahrig  10:48 

There are even video games. So my son who is seven is obsessed right now with -


Pius Wong  10:54 

What game?


Rachel Fahrig  10:54 

Well, he can't have the game because he's only seven. But there's a soundtrack for this game called Five Nights at Freddy's.


Pius Wong  11:02 

Oh, yes,


Rachel Fahrig  11:02 

And it's about killer robots.


Who? What? Anyway, that's a sidebar.


Pius Wong  11:08 

But it's a cartoony game. I know that game.


Rachel Fahrig  11:10 

Well yeah.  It's a pop-up cartooney scare-the-poopy out of you game.


Pius Wong  11:13 

Yes, it's a horror game.


Rachel Fahrig  11:14 

It's absolutely inappropriate for a seven-year-old.


Pius Wong  11:16 



Rachel Fahrig  11:16 

But I gotta tell you, and this is completely unrelated: The soundtrack? Pretty good. Pretty poppin. I mean, it's funk. It's all right. Check it out. That's a separate podcast.


Pius Wong  11:28 

No, that's okay. Yes, I think that...


Rachel Fahrig  11:31 

Don't build killer robots.


Pius Wong  11:37 

I don't know. Like, I feel like you watch these movies with killer robots, and it doesn't - it never inspired me to make robots.


Rachel Fahrig  11:43 

Well think about Terminator, though. It was amazing.


Pius Wong  11:49 

Does it make you want to make the liquid one or the original Arnold Schwarzenegger one?


Rachel Fahrig  11:53 

No, the Arnold Schwarzennegger one, because he has that bad streak in him, but he ends up understanding because he is built artificial physical intelligence. Somehow he's learned over time that there's a protective thing that has to go on, and you can use your strength and your programming. It's like the dark side going the light side. I don't know.


Pius Wong  12:13 

That's if you follow all the movies, because the very first movie he just tried to kill him.


Rachel Fahrig  12:18 

Yeah. Aren't you supposed to watch the whole series?


Pius Wong  12:20 

I guess so. Yeah,


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  12:21 

Don't watch the whole series because after 2 it's bad.


Pius Wong  12:24 

Right. I really liked the liquid metal evil Terminator from Terminator 2.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  12:31 

From an engineering perspective I would prefer that.


Rachel Fahrig  12:33 

It is really bad.


Pius Wong  12:35 



Rachel Fahrig  12:36 

It's pretty evil.


Pius Wong  12:37 

I guess it's a warning of the future.


Rachel Fahrig  12:38 

That's meta.


Pius Wong  12:41 

You wanted to say something?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  12:42 

No, I'm saying like, if Arnold could have that ability, then that's the coolest thing you can -


Rachel Fahrig  12:47 

So you would want an upgraded yet kind model that -


Pius Wong  12:52 

Like in the movie Big Hero Six. Have you seen that?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  12:56 



Rachel Fahrig  12:56 

I love Big Hero Six.


Pius Wong  12:57 

You have? It's that Disney movie if no one's seen it. A couple years ago, I forget when, but it's -


Rachel Fahrig  13:04 

Three or four years old?


Pius Wong  13:05 

Yes. Not based on a true story.


Rachel Fahrig  13:07 

No, but it could be.


Pius Wong  13:08 

But a science fiction, engineering -


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  13:11 

It's an animated movie.


Pius Wong  13:12 

Animated Pixar movie.


Rachel Fahrig  13:14 



Pius Wong  13:14 

Yes. San Fran Tokyo. It's a San Francisco Tokyo mashup? Yeah.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  13:19 



Pius Wong  13:20 

And there's that kid who -


Rachel Fahrig  13:21 



Pius Wong  13:22 

Hiro. Yes. In case we didn't know he's the protagonist or not. Hiro who is like half Japanese, that's why his name's hero. He has an older brother, who is in the -


Rachel Fahrig  13:23 

Takashi. No, is that -


Pius Wong  13:34 

Yeah, Takashi. No, you're right. Okay, without spoiling anything -


Rachel Fahrig  13:38 

I may or may not have seen this movie more than one time.


Pius Wong  13:41 

It's very cute movie with like smart kids, multiple kids, a diverse cast of kids who do lots of cool stuff in engineering and science.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  13:50 

I never thought about that movie. Yeah, it's a good movie.


Rachel Fahrig  13:52 

Pretty inspiring.


Pius Wong  13:53 

It was sad.


Rachel Fahrig  13:54 

Yeah, the sad part is really sad. And if you're a parent, I'm just saying the sad part is really, really sad. But it works out well in the end. And the engineering things that they do in there are super cool. And what's funny is some of them are perfect. They're Pixar.


Pius Wong  14:14 

But some of them are realistic.


Rachel Fahrig  14:15 



Pius Wong  14:15 

They're coming out today like the little nanobots in there.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  14:18 

Yeah, that's what I remember. The magnetic thing that's -


Rachel Fahrig  14:22 

And kids those and they want to play with those. They're hitting kids Christmas list, and it's pretty amazing.


Pius Wong  14:29 

I would put that on my top list, as well, of things that kids should see, of a certain age.


Rachel Fahrig  14:34 

Oh yeah, absolutely.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  14:35 

Like Lego with artificial intelligence.


Pius Wong  14:36 

Terminator when you get older. But yes. Speaking of Legos, what did you think of a Lego movies?


Rachel Fahrig  14:43 

Everybody loved the Lego movie.


Pius Wong  14:44 

I didn't see the latest one.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  14:46 

The first one is good.


Pius Wong  14:47 

Yes, it did make me want to be -


Rachel Fahrig  14:49 

Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you're part a part of a team.


Pius Wong  14:50 

I'm a branding zombie here. But I do like Legos. And I did want to play with Legos more after watching that.


Rachel Fahrig  14:57 

Of course you did.


Pius Wong  14:57 



So Sadhan. I heard that one of your favorite movies is called Interstellar.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:08 

Indeed. It is.


Pius Wong  15:09 

Can you tell me about that?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:10 

Of course I can talk about that.


Pius Wong  15:11 

And Rachel's laughing.


Rachel Fahrig  15:13 

I'm only laughing because anyone who has known Sadhan for more than about eight and a half minutes, knows, without a doubt, that Interstellar is absolutely his number one favorite movie of all time.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:27 

Yeah, that's how I filter people off.  Like, have you watched Intersteller? No? I'm done with you.


Rachel Fahrig  15:33 

Have you ever seen Interstellar? No? Bye.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:35 

Yeah, that's how the conversation goes. Yeah, I have watched it. I'm familiar.


Pius Wong  15:38 

So, brief summary.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:41 

Brief summary.


Pius Wong  15:42 

Without spoiling too much.


Rachel Fahrig  15:43 



Pius Wong  15:43 

What is it about?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  15:43 

Oh, okay. So I'm not gonna spoil anything. But if you haven't watched it, it's a must-see film. And it's a film that you should show your kids, too. So this is a movie that's based on hard science, a hard science film. But it also has a lot of the human aspect in the film. It's really, really must-see. I would compare it to movies like Contact in the past, or 2001 Space Odyssey in terms of its visualization, in terms of its thinking and everything. But essentially, from the engineering context of it, I wanted to bring this up, Intersteller, the design of the robots.


Pius Wong  16:29 

Speaking robots, yes. So I remember that. That was cool.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  16:32 

Speaking of Legos and robots.


Pius Wong  16:34 

Yeah, describe the robot in this sci-fi movie.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  16:37 

Okay, so the unique thing that I felt was, it was very minimalist.


Is this like a, like a giant cube of metal?


Pius Wong  16:45 

So like, if Apple or Steve Jobs were to design the future robot? That's what it could have been?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  16:50 

No, I mean, if Apple designed it, it would be more shiny. Yeah.


Pius Wong  16:54 

I see.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  16:55 

Yeah, so I would say, the closest thing I can come to, to describe the design of this bot, is the engineer, mechanical engineer designing the differential gear. If you do not know how a differential gear works, go online, there's a video that explains how it works. It's the most simplistic idea anybody can ever think of, and it revolutionized automobile industry. So it's that simplistic. Its bare minimum. There's nothing more to it. It's just the bare minimum, and achieves certain things. And I think that's the connection that that I give to Interstellar, the robot in Interstellar. Not the artificial intelligence part, just the modular design of it. And I think it's a genius moment. It's engineering, because it achieves certain tasks. But it doesn't have anything fancy in it. It's not like shiny. It's not like -


Pius Wong  17:49 

The interesting thing, though, is, I think, I agree, it is minimalist when it's just sitting there. But it does more than just sit there. When it's mobile, it looks very fancy. So, yes, if nothing else, you can look out for that when watching the movie. And I think the beauty of movies like this, like past sci-fi movies, is, it maybe inspires inventors to create something like it. Like I remember, in Star Trek, they always had those electronic books, and tablets.


Rachel Fahrig  18:21 

And now we walk around with tablets and touchscreens.


Pius Wong  18:23 

It was made in what, the 90s. And now we literally have that. So maybe we're gonna have this fancy robot in the future from Interstellar.


Rachel Fahrig  18:31 

I can't wait. What's that Tom Cruise movie? Minority Report.


Pius Wong  18:35 

Oh, man.


Rachel Fahrig  18:36 

Where he just plucks stuff out of thin air and manipulates it on an imaginary board in front of him. So I work in school improvement. And I'm handling multiple campuses across the state of Texas, which is a huge state. And some of these schools have multiple improvement components going on, all at the same time. They have all these initiatives and activities and quarterly goals and annual goals. I want my Minority Report board so that I can figure out what is going on.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  19:08 

We have a - What is it called? It's like a table. It's not on the wall. But it's a huge table with a touchscreen on it.


Rachel Fahrig  19:14 

I want that.


Pius Wong  19:15 

You want the one that's in midair.


Rachel Fahrig  19:16 

In midair.  I just want to move the stuff around.


Pius Wong  19:18 

That freaks me out, that movie. I remember that part in that movie. This is a spoiler a little bit, but like, it was like the internet spam age of the 90s was in the future where, like, remember, they were scanning your retina and it would literally go into your consciousness, all these ads.


Rachel Fahrig  19:31 

That's fine. I'm actually okay with that.


Pius Wong  19:32 

So you're willing to trade that off?


Rachel Fahrig  19:34 

Only because of what I'm doing right now at work. Now, if you caught me on it, you know, at a different time at a different job, I might stand up in protest. I have no idea. But right now, I'd be okay with that. Please dump it into my brain. That's fine.


Pius Wong  19:48 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  19:48 

Okay, so we spoke about artificial intelligence and how we can turn against - robots can count against us. So another thing to watch out for in Interstellar is how the robots are designed and even how the artificial intelligence is designed. Even though artificial intelligence has this reputation of being, you know, you cannot control it, it can turn against humanity. But there is also another possibility of artificial intelligence being everything that we want it to be. And that's captured amazingly, in this film. And so that's something to look out for.


Pius Wong  20:27 

Like it's a good robot, you mean.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  20:30 

Yeah, good. Yes. Artificial Intelligence that is good. And it is for the humanity.


Pius Wong  20:36 

Right that it helps humanity survive rather than destroys it.


Rachel Fahrig  20:40 



Pius Wong  20:41 

So that's cool. I'm glad that we can imagine both futures.


Rachel Fahrig  20:44 



Pius Wong  20:50 

So there was a movie called The Martian with what's his face? Bourne Identity?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  20:57 

Yeah. Same guy who got lost, right?


Pius Wong  20:58 

Yes. The guy who -


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  21:00 

Matt Damon.


Pius Wong  21:01 

Clearly I haven't written down all my notes. But like, that came out a little while ago.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  21:06 

It came out after Interstellar.


Pius Wong  21:06 

It was based on a book.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  21:07 

And I was pissed that he was stuck in space again, and you had the same movie.


Pius Wong  21:11 

But it's not the same movie.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  21:12 

It's not.


Pius Wong  21:13 

And it's also not as dark. Well, I don't know. It's dark, but not as dark. And I feel like the manners in which problems are solved were way more detailed, I guess, than in Interstellar. I kind of appreciated that. For me as an engineer or a scientist, I could be like, Oh, I could actually see him calculating out how much oxygen is left inside his tank, or calculating out how much fertilizer he needs to make.


Rachel Fahrig  21:39 

It was more explicit with the processes up front, I think.


Pius Wong  21:42 

Yes. It was kind of cool.


Rachel Fahrig  21:44 

It was openly exposed.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  21:45 

I think that's why the book was famous. Yeah. The book was famous because of that specific part in my understanding. Yeah.


Rachel Fahrig  21:51 



Pius Wong  21:53 

The guy had a sense of humor as well. He wasn't like this brooding nerd or something like that. I don't know.


Rachel Fahrig  21:59 

I don't know. I think one of the most profound, lasting, simple, accessible, far-reaching examples of engineering as it was brought to America - and people are gonna laugh their butts off when I say this - but I think they'll also agree. MacGyver.


Pius Wong  22:25 



Rachel Fahrig  22:26 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  22:26 

I have no idea what you're talking about.


Rachel Fahrig  22:27 

Oh my gosh. You are so missing out.


Pius Wong  22:30 

Rachel, how would you explain -


Rachel Fahrig  22:31 

Watch all of them.


Pius Wong  22:32 

How do you explain MacGyver to someone like Sadhan who was not here in the 80s?


Rachel Fahrig  22:37 

First of all, he's got some big sketchy job with the US government.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  22:45 

It's a film?


Rachel Fahrig  22:46 

TV show.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  22:46 

TV show. Okay.


Rachel Fahrig  22:47 

It's a series. It lasted, like, I don't know, five or six years. It was a long time. So there's this guy, MacGyver. He only ever goes by one name, and he has this job with the government. And nobody he knows what the job is. But he travels all over the world, basically saving people's lives, essentially.


Pius Wong  23:06 

And defusing bombs.


Rachel Fahrig  23:08 

With a bubble gum wrapper and a salt shaker,


Pius Wong  23:11 

that's the classic joke. He always used the bubble wrapper, and like a piece of twine.


Rachel Fahrig  23:16 

Well, but one time he was getting refugees out of a war-torn area. And there was something wrong with the radio, and he pulls out his Swiss Army knife, and he turns a couple of screws, and it fixes the gain on the radio so it doesn't sound bad. But also, not only can we have great radio signal in, we can transmit out, and you're like, what? That's a radio from like, 1957. Doesn't matter. He's sending signals, and all these refugees are hopping on a train, and they're getting their butts out of this dangerous place. Swiss Army knife and a screw. Plus there was a wedding.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  23:53 

Okay, that's touching sci-fi, too, beyond -


Pius Wong  23:56 



Rachel Fahrig  23:58 

No, but some of - That's the thing. Most of the experiments that they were running - it was very much like Myth Busters. Because they're doing simple engineering that's real, to solve an in-the-moment problem. They're not solving grand societal problems. They're not solving problems that are going to impact an entire nation, or it's not going to solve a problem across decades. But we need something fixed beyond a light bulb or a broken window or something like that. We have to actually fix an entire thing. Like, for example, we're stuck on a train in the middle of the desert, and we need to get a radio signal out. What can we do?


Pius Wong  24:50 

So it's a smaller scale kind of thing.


Rachel Fahrig  24:52 

Sure, but they were actual engineering problems. And they had engineers and scientists on staff who were advising the script writers and the directors, saying, no you really can't do this.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  25:01 

Okay, so it's scientifically accurate.


Rachel Fahrig  25:06 

There was some license taken.


Pius Wong  25:08 

It was still a work of fiction, but yes.


Rachel Fahrig  25:12 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  25:13 

So it's not like Myth Busters then.


Rachel Fahrig  25:19 

Right. So they're not running an actual experiment, because it's a work of fiction, fictional TV series, during, you know, like, Must See TV or Thursday Primetime or Friday Primetime. I forget.


Pius Wong  25:31 

It was on network TV.


Rachel Fahrig  25:32 

I think it was NBC. I don't remember.


Pius Wong  25:33 

It's pretty iconic. Like most Americans at that time know of it.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  25:36 

So is it like, the show kind of created this idea that you can use technology to solve problems? Or like engineering to solve problems?


Rachel Fahrig  25:46 

It was more like ingenuity is accessible, and that normal people can become really brilliant problem-solvers.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  25:51 

I kind of get it. Gotcha. I kind of get what you're saying.


Pius Wong  25:54 

I gotta say, as a kid, when I had seen that show, and I used to watch it with my family, it was like, as a kid, I didn't understand it. And it might as well have been magic, actually, for a lot of it. And so I always thought it was cool though, what he had done, and he was portrayed as like a cool guy kind of thing.


Rachel Fahrig  26:11 

Yeah just a regular guy.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  26:12 

Han Solo kind of guy.


Pius Wong  26:12 

Right, as opposed to another nerd or something.


Rachel Fahrig  26:16 

It wasn't a nerd with a pocket protector, sitting isolated doing math, like the typical image that we had for a long -


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  26:23 

Hey, Spiderman is a nerd.


Pius Wong  26:24 

Well, actually speaking of the Spider Man, I mean, that's a whole other story. We should so do an episode on these other types of movies.


Rachel Fahrig  26:30 

You guys are going to have to have like two or three sci-fi episodes.  I can see this coming.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  26:32 

I mean, Spiderman, he built the - What do you call it?


Pius Wong  26:35 

He's a smart person.


Rachel Fahrig  26:36 

Yeah, he built his own webshooter.


Pius Wong  26:38 

I actually really liked that movie. And the the beauty of that movie is, at least in - I forget which one, the one with - Well, one of them is more relatable.


Rachel Fahrig  26:47 

I've only ever seen the first one.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  26:49 

We're talking about the first one.


Pius Wong  26:51 

Is it the first one?


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  26:51 

Toby Maguire. 


Pius Wong  26:52 

Yeah, they make it more of a human - Yeah, Toby Maguire. I'm horrible with actors' names.


Rachel Fahrig  26:58 

So I don't know MacGyver was - I was always interested in the sciences as a kid. My mom has a Bachelor's in science. And so I would, I had intimate exposure to it. But MacGyver made doing some really - what seemed to me to be technical things - easier and accessible. And I understood a lot of what he was doing. I was taking physics and chemistry at the time, and he would explain things. You would hear the narrative, as the actor was doing it on screen. You would hear his voice explaining what he was doing. And sure, there were liberties taken, but the science and engineering that they were explaining was, in most cases, at least theoretically real and applicable.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  27:52 

Got it, yeah.


Rachel Fahrig  27:52 

And it made it so - it made hard things so simple.  It was basically a lot of,  kind of like Khan Academy or YouTube lessons, before any of that was available to a kid like me.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:09 



Rachel Fahrig  28:09 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:10 

I kind of get the vibe of it.


Rachel Fahrig  28:11 

I mean, we didn't have the internet then.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:12 

It does sound cool. I don't have in comparison I can say.


Rachel Fahrig  28:15 

You're going to have to go look this up.  And they tried to reboot it, and they made MacGyver a woman, I think.


Pius Wong  28:22 

Oh, I didn't know that.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:22 

They should do one now. That would be -


Rachel Fahrig  28:23 

Well they did. It was released last year, or the year before.


Pius Wong  28:26 

Really? I haven't heard of it. So it wasn't very big?


Rachel Fahrig  28:28 

Yeah. It never gained traction. It wasn't super popular.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:31 

Well, I think Bill Nye, Bill Nye the Science Guy, he's coming out with another one.


Rachel Fahrig  28:33 

Oh yes he is.


Pius Wong  28:35 

I can't believe I forgot about that. Yeah.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  28:37 

But he's coming up with another one.


Rachel Fahrig  28:38 



Pius Wong  28:43 

I want to add one small moment. I saw the new Beauty and the Beast lately. Did any of you see this?


Rachel Fahrig  28:49 

I have not. There's dying.


Pius Wong  28:51 

So spoiler alert, again -


Rachel Fahrig  28:53 

Well, isn't her father an engineer and an inventor?


Pius Wong  28:56 

Her father is an inventor. And they carried that over into Belle, this time, a little bit in the beginning.


Rachel Fahrig  29:01 



Pius Wong  29:01 

There's a little scene where I was watching, like, oh, what's she building? I'm like, Oh, she's building that. And then it very quickly turns sad. But that's okay. It's a good scene. The movie itself is another episode.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  29:17 

Wait, Beauty and the Beast is another episode? And Interstellar doesn't get another episode?


Pius Wong  29:21 

No, more like I didn't like it that much.


Rachel Fahrig  29:22 



Pius Wong  29:23 

That's what I'll say.


Rachel Fahrig  29:23 

But we'll talk about the engineering part of it.


Pius Wong  29:25 

Yeah, that's what I could say. Interstellar, we could talk about, as well. And I have lots of thoughts about that.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  29:29 

Okay, so can I share one last thing?


Not about Interstellar.


Pius Wong  29:32 

Yes. About Interstellar?


Rachel Fahrig  29:34 

Oh, okay.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  29:34 

But about films.


Pius Wong  29:36 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  29:36 

So I was reading about this film, sci-fi films, the worst sci-fi films ever. And they were talking about, there was this one reviewer. He's also like a science - or he has an engineering degree, or he has a master's or something. So he was talking about how there were certain films that happened in the 60s that were absolutely terrible when it comes to the science part.


Pius Wong  30:00 

Oh, of course.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  30:01 

But they were still acceptable, because the technology of filmmaking was less, was not that good.


Rachel Fahrig  30:09 

Yeah, sure. Yeah. We didn't have the technology to do certain things in a film.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  30:14 

Right. Yes. And compared to now, when you have all the technological advancements in filmmaking itself, that will allow you to capture anything that you want to do in sci-fi arena, as accurately as possible. So it's kind of like a mark that - it's like, if there is any inaccuracies in sci-fi movies, there's nobody to blame other than filmmakers.


Pius Wong  30:42 

Yeah. And in a way I don't mind the inaccuracy. I love the inaccuracy sometimes - not even inaccuracy, but imagination. Because it's like, why should they always get it right? Why make - otherwise you're making a documentary, you know? I want to see a vision of the future that's not robots killing me.


Rachel Fahrig  30:59 



Pius Wong  30:59 

Yeah. You had said a long time ago that engineering is about "what if" for something.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:03 

Oh, no, that I'm talking about a fallacy. Something like - What's an example?


Pius Wong  31:11 

Like wrong science.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:12 



Pius Wong  31:14 

No, I get it. I get it. Okay.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:15 

Not the creativity part of it, not the fantasy part of it.


Pius Wong  31:18 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:18 

But you just everything - that part wrong.


Pius Wong  31:22 

Okay. Good point. I totally, I get it. Well, thank you, Sadhan. Thank you, Rachel.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:28 

Thank you, Pius.


Rachel Fahrig  31:28 

Thank you, Pius.


Pius Wong  31:30 

Thank you for listening to our casual talk on movies -


Rachel Fahrig  31:34 

Thanks, audience.


Pius Wong  31:34 

- and TV for engineering, and send us your own comments.


Rachel Fahrig  31:37 



Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:37 

Sounds great.


Rachel Fahrig  31:38 

I can't wait to read these, because I'm sure we left something out.


Pius Wong  31:43 

We left a lot out. So Sadhan's gonna have Part Two and Part Three next.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:46 



Rachel Fahrig  31:47 

All right. Sounds good.


Sadhan Sathyaseelan  31:48 

Are we having another season?


Pius Wong  31:48 

Yes, take care.


Rachel Fahrig  31:50 



Pius Wong  31:53 

You can find out more about the films and shows that we mentioned today, if you check out the show notes for this episode. Remember to follow the show on Twitter @K12Engineering, and you can follow me @PiusWong. Follow the show on Facebook, iTunes, SoundCloud and everywhere else on the internet. All the details are at www.k12engineering.net. Our closing music is from Late for School by Bleeptor under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio, Pios Labs, and you can support me at www.patreon.com/pioslabs.


Hey, post-show note from Pius. I just wanted to let you know that I have put out a second new podcast available on iTunes called Engineering Word Of The Day. And every episode is going to be a short, short episode, much shorter than the episodes in this podcast. It's easier for me to do and hopefully easier for you to listen to. And it's exactly what it sounds like. If you want to brush up on your engineering vocabulary or on your engineering concepts, subscribe. Tune in. Follow Engineering Word Of The Day, not only on iTunes, but on Facebook. And let me know how this goes. This is basically another podcast experiment. And if people like it, I will try to continue doing it. It's very soon going to also be on Stitcher, Google Play, Player FM, TuneIn, your Amazon Alexa, and on Mars and on Jupiter. But you know, we'll cross those bridges when we get there. Thanks for listening.