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Can Reality TV Convince Students to Become Scientists?

MIT's 'ChemLab Boot Camp' brings the drama to being a science major.

If Snooki had been down with science, technology, engineering, or math instead of GTL, would reality television-watching students be flocking to STEM majors? "ChemLab Boot Camp", a new reality show from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology won't exactly have the drunken shenanigans of the Jersey Shore star, but the online series which will follow "14 MIT freshmen as they face the challenges of learning chemistry the MIT way," hopes to soften STEM by following the students' pursuit of highly coveted jobs in campus research labs.

If high school students see becoming involved in STEM "as this messy, creative interesting thing, that it's an OK-to-make-mistakes-type field, I think it makes it more attractive," creator and MIT alumnus George Zaidan told the Boston Globe. Indeed, the show features all the confessional booth diaries and alliance-building strategizing we've come to expect from reality TV. Featured sophomore Emily Yau says episodes like the one where students had a crystal-growing competition for the prize of dinner with the lab's professor and teaching assistants unexpectedly brought "a ton of drama."

Could this make being a scientist seem cooler and more relatable to teens? It remains to be seen what the response from high school students to ChemLab Boot Camp will be, but the trailer above is pretty fun and engaging—certainly more engaging than a science teacher simply telling students what it's like to be a STEM major. As for which student won the job in the lab, you'll have to watch ChemLab Boot Camp to find out. New episodes will be posted weekly on MIT's OpenCourseWare site and you can sign up for notification of when new episodes are posted.

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