What are the best videos out there that show creative problem-solving?
July 9, 2019 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Turns out I really love watching videos of a very specific genre: people attempt an ambitious project they have no idea how to do successfully. There are many failures, great narration of thought process, charming and engaging hosts who sometimes get visibly stymied or frustrated, and some success at the end. Think like Mythbusters or Bon Appetit's Gourmet Makes series as my ideal entries in this genre. The challenge is that I'd like more examples that are between 10-15 minutes in length.

This is for use in a classroom to help teenagers identify different stages of designing and constructing a big open-ended project, so examples need to be PG-13 at most. The more engaging the better. I'd love some good examples to show them that come from a variety of genres, so it does not matter to me at all whether the videos are about drawing or engine restoration or SFX makeup or Mario speed-running or catapault-making.

What I love about Gourmet Makes is how well she documents her process: there's always some goal-setting at the beginning, then some research, then she fails a lot, narrates what she's learned, tries again, gives up, enlists help, repeats all this many times, and then finally succeeds. She has a lot of technical knowledge she relies on, but the videos don't get lost in deep technical explainers.

Mythbusters also shows this process exceedingly well, but I need short, well-contained videos I can point others towards. Anything that's behind a paywall or needs lots of time-skipping around won't work well for me, but I might be able to swing Netflix or Hulu in a pinch.

I would most appreciate recommendations for specific videos on youtube or 10-15 minute segments in a larger episode than more general series recommendations, but I'll take whatever you can give me.

I am not looking for "how to" videos that are basically a recipe about how to do something. So series like Bob Ross, while awesome, don't qualify because while he talks a lot about making mistakes you don't ever see him stop, step back to go "oh no," and then need to troubleshoot. It's really the problem-solving process I'd love to show off.
posted by lilac girl to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube has a lot of Junkyard Wars episodes. They do not meet your time requirement (they run about 40 minutes) but they meet your other requirements very well. Pointer to the first episode.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:48 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

...and for some reason it’s filed under Scrap Heap Challenge.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:51 PM on July 9, 2019

I don't have any links for you, but wanted to say that using this type of video in the classroom is a great idea! I showed some episodes of Gourmet Makes in my (HS) math class last year as a parable about perisistence and teamwork. The kids loved it! I'll be watching this thread for ideas for next year.
posted by Wulfhere at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2019

Some sewing/costuming blogs show the oops, but 15 minutes is short! Bernadette Banner comes to mind -- diving into reupholstering some old furniture, drafting a vest from a old tailor's manual. ``There is no such thing as truth in this murky and uncertain business of history.''

Get Hands Dirty is all modern woodworking and concrete work, and she thinks out novel projects although there's not so many oops? Can't find any. Very practical furniture-making for everyday life, which might appeal to some.
posted by clew at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Electroboom is along these lines. The host tackles a variety of electronics projects. Some work, some don't. He gets hilariously (though safely - he's clearly an expert) hurt along the way as part of the shtick. His videos also cover some fundamentals of electricity and junk-tech debunking. Here's a good example of one of his project-oriented ones - building a vacuum chamber to house a homemade Tesla coil.
posted by jquinby at 5:03 PM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

You could check out Jaimie Mantzel on Youtube. He builds a lot of things from scrap in long-running series that are usually 10-20 minutes long.
posted by lostburner at 5:06 PM on July 9, 2019

It's too long, almost a full hour, but 99% Invisible did a GREAT crossover episode with Reply All (and others) to figure out why the 99%PI Podcast won't play on some Mazda cars. They had multiple rounds of hypothesis, test, fail, research, hypothesis, test, fail - until they finally figured it out. Maybe students could listen for homework?

For a silly Teen-Friendly set of videos, try Sushi Ramen Riku's Youtube. It's very Mythbusters but dumber. Not all of his videos fit your bill, but Salt vs Watermelon or An Alarm that Will Wake Anyone might be perfect.
posted by Caravantea at 5:17 PM on July 9, 2019

Simone Gierdz videos?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:40 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Feature length film 'Apollo 13' is longer than short, but a short excerpt of the scene in the middle when the NASA engineers in Houston are trying to solve the air problem is classic problem solving.
posted by ovvl at 5:48 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

The channel Dollightful on YouTube hits this sweet spot occasionally. She customizes dolls.

The ones that show her troubleshooting and failing and rebuilding the best are her more ambitious projects like her Halloween dolls and her more involved Pokemon ones.

She's also got a really great voiceover attitude/speaking style and she specifically explains the thought process behind her choices. I like her videos a lot.
posted by phunniemee at 6:39 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

There is a show called “big brain theory” that inexplicably only had one season. Hosted by Kal Penn, it’s like project runway except with big hairy engineering challenges instead of fashion, and all the competitors work in teams. It is honestly one of the best shows I have ever seen about teamwork and problem solving. You probably have to buy the season on Amazon but I promise that it’s worth it.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:15 PM on July 9, 2019

Would experiential "Challenge Accepted" type videos work? Because this is pretty much my favourite genre of video, though they might still be too long.

Buzzfeed and their ex-members do a LOT of this. As examples:
The Try Guys
Michelle Khare
Safiya Nygaard
Candance Lowry
Buzzfeed Ladylike
Tasty (the non-recipe stuff)
posted by divabat at 11:48 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

There might be some good examples from the reality competition space: something like Forged in Fire or the Great British Bake-off, where the contestants get some parameters and have to figure out how to do the thing with more or less experience.

You could grab smaller segments for these - the technical challenge is probably a nice example from GBBO, in some ways similar to Gourmet Makes, and about the right length. (I think some clips are on PBS, if not YouTube.) The contestants have a vague idea of what they're suppose to get, and we the audience know a little more, but we get to see how they think through the process given limited instructions. The initial segments of Forged in Fire are similar but with a more "manly" flair.

for your own personal enjoyment, but maybe not classroom relevant, may I recommend Unraveled? I still have yet to work out exactly why, but for me it has the same energy as Gourmet Makes.
posted by epersonae at 2:26 PM on July 10, 2019

Scrap Heap Challenge is what it’s called in the UK.
posted by my-username at 3:03 PM on July 11, 2019

Wintergatan has been painstakingly documenting the creation of a new machine and it's been fascinating to watch. Especially the portions where he revisits previous decisions in light of suggestions he's received from the community.

Youtube channel
posted by radiosilents at 9:34 AM on July 12, 2019

A late addition, but this episode of "What's eating Dan" from America's Test Kitchen shows them debugging a giant pancake-making process with a robot flipper.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:23 AM on August 24, 2019

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