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Alumni & Friends

Busting Myths about Science

 

Photo of Alane Freund and two of her horses.Kari Byron is challenging one of the oldest myths around: that science isn’t for girls.

As an aspiring artist, Kari Byron (B.A., ’98) didn’t set out to co-host a hit science entertainment show, let alone one that pushed just about every envelope.

But after nearly a decade of testing urban legends and popular myths on Discovery Channel’s "MythBusters," Byron sees a clear connection.

 

"Science and art are so interwined," she explains. "You get curious ... You get your hands messy. You experiment with the world around you. Science is so much more than memorizing answers for a test.

 

Byron, who studied film and sculpture at SF State, is bringing this fluid view of science to "HeadRush," a new spin-off show she’s hosting for the Science Channel that began airing last summer. Targeting middle schoolers, the hour-long, weekday series focuses more on science fact and less on science myth. Instead of testing, say, whether a bull would really wreak havoc in a china shop, Byron might test why a balloon will pop on the point of a pin but can withstand being pressed between a bed of nails and 40 pounds of gym weights.

 

"‘MythBusters’ wasn’t meant to be a teaching tool or science show," says Byron, who cohosts with Tori Belleci (B.A., ’95). "But we kept hearing from parents and teachers how the show was spawning an interest in science. I wanted to direct that phenomenon to something that would appeal to that critical age when kids, especially girls, lose interest in science."

 

The high-energy series, which features experiments, video shorts, viewer questions and "drop-ins" from hosts of other Discovery Channel show -- from "Storm Chasers" to "Cake Boss" -- is Science Channel’s contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), a federal initiative to engage kids in higher learning. Many of SF State’s own teacher-training programs are supported by stem.

 

Byron got her big break after interning for M5 Industries, the San Francisco-based special effects studio run by "MythBusters" founder, Jamie Hyneman. Her education in filmmaking and sculpture, not to mention her sensibilities, helped turn the internship into a job.

 

"One thing I learned as a student at State is that persistence pays off. If I couldn’t get the class I wanted, I just kept showing up until I got the spot. That’s how I got the job at M5. I stuck around," Byron says.

 

She admits that she didn’t set out to be a role model, but she hopes her genuine enthusiasm and joy of science rubs off on her viewers. "Somewhere around middle school, science takes a back seat. I wanted to make a show for the 12-year-old girl I used to be."

 

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