So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.
– Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting
Even though in his own language, the character of Sean Maguire gave us the skinny on STEM – an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – without even using those terms once. This was in 1997 when the movie was released. Years before that, Matt Damon, the lead actor, had written the first draft of the script as a part of an assignment. We have come a long way now, but it is not enough. India is still bound by the shackles of the education system that was enforced upon her by her oppressors. A properly structured STEM syllabus can, however, change the course of innovation for the next generation. STEM learning can build minds with critical thinking abilities by positively influencing the students right from their formative years.
Recently, the Bollywood masterpiece Zingadi Na Milegi Dobara celebrated its 8-year anniversary. Abhay Deol shared in his Instagram post that “It’s the one movie that had people come up to me and say, “I saw this and I quit my job” or, “I saw this and made peace with an old friend,” to “I took a break from work” and even, “I got a divorce!” It inspired people to follow their dreams, to take action, to accept who and where they are.” One movie, just a couple of hours, can have such a huge impact on the beholder’s minds. And STEM, in its core, is all about reaching the depth of the mind and evolving.
In this blog, we will be merging the two. We will take a look at four legendary movies that have been preaching the idea of STEM learning; the movies that we should not only watch for the sake of it but also try to understand the core concepts of.
Related: STEM- the What, the Why, and the How
October Sky is a thrilling story about a boy named Homer Hickam and how he attained his dream of building rockets from working in coal mines. Based on a book originally named “The Rocket Boys”, October Sky portrays a true story of the life of the author (also named Homer Hickam). The story is based in 1957 and it involves four boys – Homer, Quentin, Roy Lee, and Sherman. After watching the Soviet Union satellite Sputnik 1 in the night sky, Homer gets the inspiration to build rockets and enter into the national science fair. He has the support of his friends and his science teacher, Miss Riley. However, his family disapproves of this unrealistic mission. The story proceeds with a lot of twists and turns that leave you in a state of constructive contemplation.
Fun fact: October Sky is an anagram of the original name of the novel – Rocket Boys, which was changed by the marketing team to capitalize the film’s potential.
Good Will Hunting
Will Hunting is a self-taught genius. He works as a janitor at MIT and has three close friends with whom he goes out for drinks regularly after work. After he anonymously solves an extremely difficult sum that was written on the MIT blackboard as a challenge for students, Prof. Gerald Lambeau hunts him down and is stunned by the genius of Will. Professor Lambeau is more than willing to provide fair opportunities to Will so that he can put his intelligence to good use. But he is, again, flabbergasted to see Will’s complete refusal to take steps towards that. Will then meets Sean Maguire, a psychology professor and Prof. Lambeau’s old friend who agrees to help Will. The lives of both Will and Sean take a major turn after this.
We saw the movie and what we felt, very honestly and collectively, was the urge of getting rid of everything that was coming in the way of our growth as individuals. We felt like taking up one corner with some coffee in hand and just reading on and on about every subject that interests us. This might not be the exact method of STEM learning, but identifying your own area of interest and acquiring knowledge are surely the steps that you could begin with.
Another film based around the time of launch of Sputnik 1, Hidden Figures talks about three genius African-American women who turn out to be the masterminds of one of the most important missions of NASA. Katherine, the protagonist of the movie is a genius mathematician who has to face innumerable professional barriers because of her gender and “colour”. She is also a widowed mother of two children, which is an additional aspect that she has to take care of while working simultaneously at NASA. Taking a hit at not only scientific but also social aspects of this world, Hidden Figures surely encaptures the true story of three women beautifully.
This can be called a classic STEM-based story. Unlike the other stories that we’ve mentioned in this blog, this film is based in the future. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Andy Weir, The Martian revolves around an astronaut who is stranded on Mars (yes, really) without any possibility of communication with people on the Earth. A team of astronauts from NASA goes to Mars to check out how habitable the planet is. Unfortunately, while they’re out in the field collecting samples for research, a storm takes over the area. The mission commander Melissa Lewis orders everyone to report back to the base from where they can safely take off. Unfortunately, one of the astronauts, Mark Watney, is struck by debris and telemetry from his spacesuit’s biometer stops. The storm keeps worsening and Watney is believed dead. Hence, the commander orders the whole crew to take off. Now Mark Watney is stuck on Mars with limited food supply and all the communication channels are ruined by the storm. He spends 560 sols (Martian solar days) alone on a strange planet. He grows food, literally produces water using Hydrogen and Oxygen and completes a lot of such tasks with whatever amount of resources he has, including his own brain and will power. We do not know how more STEM-ey it can possibly get.
The One STEM Movie to Look Forward to in 2019
The Current War, a movie with a name that might suggest the genre of fantasy is, in fact, a movie about the war between the three electricity titans Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla. The war is to determine which of the three electrical systems would power the modern world. Originally to be released in November 2017, the film was shelved due to some problems. It is scheduled to be released again on October 4th, 2019. Keep an eye out!
In a Nutshell
Movies, if you watch the right ones, can create as deep an impact as any good book would. There are a huge number of movies that have been talking, directly or indirectly, about adopting STEM learning as a part of life and how it can lead to great innovations. Four of these movies are October Sky, Good Will Hunting, Hidden Figures, and The Martian. While two of them are adaptations of previously written novels, they still possess the dense storyline along with exceptional direction and background score.