Lights, Cameras, Engineering: Jacobs School Students Dive into Reality TV
“It’s actually quite hard to mimic an animal’s behavior and attributes, especially in just five working days,” said Chiara Daraio, a Ph.D. candidate in the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Materials Science and Engineering Program. “Mother Nature has taken some million years to get things straight.”
In each episode, four-student teams are given four or five days to build a physical model that, on a human scale, replicates an important animal characteristic or behavior.
While Daraio said she prefers research to reality TV, Albert Lin, a Ph.D. candidate in the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Materials Science and Engineering Program, relished his pressure-packed week of filming the "Golden Orb Web Spider" episode. “I would absolutely love to do something like this again,” he said.
Daraio said her least favorite part of being on a reality TV show was the constant filming. Lin agreed that performing as an engineer before cameras was demanding, but he said the staff were very appreciative. “Everyone involved, from the director to the camera crew, treated us like we were stars,” he said.
Lin stars in the "Golden Orb Web Spider" episode with fellow UCSD engineering graduate student Andrew Gapin and two engineering students from Duke University, Sophia Santillan and Matt Johannes. The Americans had to cope with more than the reversal of seasonal weather patterns in the Southern Hemisphere. “Driving on the left-hand side of the road was definitely interesting,” said Gapin. “I kept turning on the windshield wipers whenever I wanted to turn.”
Finones was a high-flying stunt artist for two days during the filming of the "Archerfish" episode. “I enjoy shows such as Fear Factor, so this was a dream come true,” she said. “Reality TV is good fun. But, then again, as scientists and engineers, we ‘chase nature’ every day. That's our job.”