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Exclusive interview: MythBuster, EXPLR co-founder Kari Byron gives kids the world for the Holidays

Kari Byron of MythBusters has a new streaming channel EXPLR, and she tells us about it and says the late Grant Imahara would have adored it. Pic credit: Discovery

Former MythBuster Kari Byron and her accomplished producing partners Jenny Buccos and chef Andrew Zimmern created a new streaming network, EXPLR.

Made for kids—underserved tweens especially—EXPLR aims to take them around the world, open their eyes to cultures, educational topics, and geography like never before and give them ammunition to dream. 

Immersive experiences await as the short format videos open up worlds of possibility and give career inspiration that will capture your hard-to-focus tween’s imagination.  

When Discovery first introduced the series MythBusters, no one had any idea that the unique edutainment it offered would become a go-to source of science-based eye candy for a generation. The series featured Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. They added “The Build Team,” of Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and the late Grant Imahara, and they had great fun debunking urban legends and myths using scientific methods and means.

Since then, Byron co-hosted Netflix’s White Rabbit Project with Belleci and Imahara, who passed away suddenly in 2020 from an aneurysm

Byron went on to host Science Channel’s Crash Test World. In 2018, she published her first book, Crash Test Girl: An Unlikely Experiment in Using the Scientific Method to Answer Life’s Toughest Questions.

Exclusive interview with Kari Byron

Monsters & Critics: We are familiar with Science Channel’s Crash Test World, and this new streamer with these videos for tweens is very much a series talking about solutions and not crises. Can you talk about that?

Kari Byron: This is the ethos that executive producer Jenny Buccos, and I have had for a long time, which is that you can’t scare anybody into inspiration. 

So we are solution-oriented in everything that we do. We want to inspire people to be changemakers and empower them to be those agents of change. So all of the short format videos that we put on explore media will be about the positivity of being a changemaker. 

We make short video formats on different topics, from global education to algebra, but all of it will be very positive.

M&C: I noticed too that there’s a heavy emphasis on global curriculum and opening up the world and other cultures, ways of life, and other points of view that I know I didn’t get when I was growing up. 

Kari Byron: Well, we live in such a global community now that the internet has opened up the world. And I like to lean into the idea of empathy and understanding where we fit into this world. 

So, the resources originally came from a nonprofit that was online for 18 years. It was YouTube before YouTube, where a lot of the content was about opinions and experiences worldwide. 

We are currently starting to also lean very heavily into STEM because I’ve got involved. So I learned from an early age in my TV career that you can use entertainment to inspire inspiration from MythBusters. And we are showing where we all fit into this world.

M&C: As a country, as an economy, we’re not going to get ahead if everybody’s calling themselves an influencer and hawking consumer goods and getting plastic surgery in their teens and twenties to look like a Kardashian; that’s not a good trend.

Kari Byron: We need more options than just that. There’s a place in the world for all of that stuff too. I have a ‘tween daughter, and there’s just so much garbage out there for her to look at that doesn’t give her the information she needs to be part of the future of this world or part of them, the next workforce. 

So I like the idea that we are putting out something entertaining. However, still, you walk away learning something from every single one of the videos, whether it’s like self-confidence or that a girl in Israel is the same as a girl in Japan as a girl in America, you know? 

I agree with you that we have to create content for tweens and teens to see that it isn’t just unboxing, that isn’t just like, ‘what can I get and be consumerist?’ 

We need to show them how to make the world better for themselves. Because we’ve given kids a world that they are inheriting, and it can go in two directions, and I want to inspire them to be the ones that make it better.

M&C: Many of your audience and people who know you from MythBusters are now older and have children. Does it delight you that you’ve taken this audience along for the ride with you in your career?

Kari Byron: Man. It has been more than humbling to go to events where I’m surrounded by academia and engineers and these brilliant human beings that tell me, ‘Oh, I got into this career because I saw you on MythBusters.’ And it turns out that a girl can be smart and wear combat boots. I love it so much. 

I have cried several times meeting people who tell me that they watched [Mythbusters] with my parents, and now my kids are watching the videos that you’re on. 

And it’s beautiful. It’s so wonderful. And I love that I’ve been able to have that kind of effect. It’s something that I didn’t expect to come out from MythBusters, and what I didn’t even realize was a science show when I started. And it turned out to be a real influence on pop culture in general.

M&C: I’m sure you miss Grant Imahara, and I bet he would be a partner in crime with you on this project if he were here with us still.

Kari Byron: You know, I think about him all the time because he was somebody that engaged on a very personal level with any kid that came around the shop. 

And he would show them what interests him and what is exciting to him. And these kids would light up, and he would light up too. And it’s that sort of thing where when you teach somebody something, or you inspire somebody, it comes right back to you, and you both get warm from that light. 

So I think about him a lot when I’m doing anything. That’s kind of in the vein of what he would like robotics or engineering or sound. I think that EXPLR would be something he would adore.

M&C: Explain your role with EXPLR. You are a host. You’ve done a lot of hosting of these short films. Are you involved in any of the production?

Kari Byron: I am a co-founder and an executive producer currently the show that I’m working on right now. 

It is called Everyday Science. And my host, Justin Shaifer, aka Mr. Fascinate on Instagram, is this incredible influencer. He’s a futurist, and he’s a STEM ambassador, and he’s just an all-around cool guy. 

And we have him on our first episode exploring plastics. We all know there’s a plastics problem, but we always want to develop a solution. So we talk to people trying to solve the problem in the finale of our episode. 

It’s cool to take one subject and tear it apart to the history of invention, innovation to where we are today, and problems that possibly need solutions. 

And then actually look to the people who are making those solutions happen, and watching him follow that process is so exciting to me as a producer because I’ve been in his shoes. So I understand how getting your hands dirty and getting into something and talking to experts can excite you, so they can excite the STEM audience who’s watching him.

M&C: Let’s talk about money for a minute. Sesame Street and the Electric Company and all those great shows that I grew up with, and you grew up with on PBS were initially funded by the government, and I think private foundations for the most part. The education arm of the country, the teachers’ unions, school districts, how do you make them aware that this is an investment they need, like a tool like a textbook that they need to give their teachers so that the teachers can introduce this content into the classroom?

Kari Byron: Well, I think all of us learned a couple of things from the pandemic: educational equity is a challenging problem to solve. So that’s why we’ve made the educational arm of this extremely affordable and something districts can pick up very easily. And I think it breaks down to about a dollar a kid per month. 

So it’s not something that’s going to be oppressive. All of our videos come with lesson plans written by World Savvy, which follow all of the curriculum and standards that the public school system needs to have. 

So we are coming in, making teachers’ lives a little bit easier because they already have all the discussion points and the lesson plan written up for them on all sorts of different topics. 

We are following that PBS/educator inspiration because we watched them inspire an entire generation of young people, and we are doing the same. We want to be the next Discovery, Nat Geo, or Netflix for education. 

And it’s something that is a passion project for everyone involved because we are all parents or have a massive investment in watching our education system be more substantial. 

And we want to help prop that up with the content we create. So I’m going on the road, starting in January, going to conferences and talking to people, and throwing it on my social media because I truly believe that we can be the change that needs to happen in classrooms. 

We can do that with global education. We can do that with inspiration. And quite honestly, I am just passionate about it, and I am taking everybody’s ear off about how awesome this is. 

I’m so happy to be a part of it. So the one thing that I found very, very cool after Crash Test World I had done was an episode on Syrian refugees going to Berlin and becoming part of that community and showing how successful that was. Now, the refugee crisis is a huge thing to explain. But, still, when we brought it down to just talking about one family and the kids in that family and showed their journey, instead of this broad, crazy, hard-to-understand concept, it created a moment of understanding. 

I showed this in my daughter’s classroom, and I had parents and teachers calling me going, ‘How is it my kid is talking about the refugee crisis at dinner and knows what he’s talking about?’ And I had that moment of awe where I’m like, this is what we’re going to do—one person at a time. We’re going to create empathy.

M&C: Now, when I see Andrew Zimmern’s name, I immediately think of the food/travel show, Bizarre Foods. And his Intuitive Content production company. Now Andrew, like yourself, is very comfortable in front of a camera. Will we see him doing anything with you in front of the camera?

Kari Byron: Well, Andrew’s got his finger in all of this because it’s his production company that is putting out most of this content. 

Like all of our original content is being produced by his company. So I know that right now, we are leaning on new and exciting influencers in the community and showing new, fresh faces that are going to be exciting for teens and twins. 

Of course, we’re still going to have our hands and be in front of the camera, but there’s a whole generation of voices that we want to amplify so that the next league of influencers is out there. And, you know, Andrew’s journey. My journey has always been to show a story through small things that may interest you. 

So you talk about food, you can talk about culture, you can speak of a country or a region. You can talk about people and relationships, and we’re doing that with everything. So I might be using science and innovation, and he’s using food, but there are so many unique ways to connect with an audience through storytelling.

About EXPLR

Byron and her producing partners chef Andrew Zimmern and Jenny Buccos, have launched EXPLR, a subscription-based platform of educational videos for everything from STEM, culture issues, algebra, sex education, and social-emotional learning in two versions: home and classroom. 

EXPLR is an ad-free streaming service for tweens, teens, and their families, delivering high-quality educational and entertaining programming. Content drives EXPLR, which is brimming with 500+ short films that teach science, history, and culture lessons in a fun way. The home version is ad-free videos, but the classroom version comes with lesson plans.

Their goal is to educate and entertain while creating empathetic global citizens with relevant programming aimed at kids transitioning to adulthood.  

Kids now have access to all the world’s knowledge, and the challenges they face are overexposure and negativity bias, which can fuel pessimism and stoke anxiety. EXPLR aims to inspire, spark conversation, feed curiosity, and empower changemakers.

Monsters & Critics interviewed Kari Byron today to learn more about this new streaming channel, EXPLR. She is offering our readers a 25% off code for Christmas: Winterbreak2021  

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