What to Watch This Weekend: STEM Documentaries

movie-cameraAfter a long week of school, or work, or both, it’s sometimes nice to take the weekend and make some time just for yourself.

For many people, this means catching up with their favorite television show on Netflix or going to see a movie, popcorn in hand. However, the best of both worlds occurs when you can watch something that inspires you in some way.

Maybe it means being inspired to create an invention that doesn’t exist yet, or apply to that school that might be a stretch. The best part about visual storytelling is that it can help us visualize our own lives and provide inspiration to make the next week better, more productive, and happier than before.

In that light, here’s a list of our favorite documentaries and films that relate to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields. Some are new releases and some are old, but they all deal with fundamental issues of production and invention that are so necessary in our world today. Grab that popcorn, take a seat, and enjoy a few hours of being inspired by the potential of STEM.

The Imitation Game: This one is still in theaters and is based on the true story of Cambridge University Mathematics professor Alan Turing, inventor of the Turing Machine (widely considered to be one of the first models of computers).

He’s a wizard cryptologist, computer scientist, and logician assigned to work on a team to break the secret code behind the Nazis’ communication machine in World War II. It’s an intense story, but is a great representation of Turing’s pivotal role in allowing the Allies to defeat the Nazis and even shorten the war by two to four years. Turing’s intelligence, persistence, and dedication all make for a fascinating main character, and shows how science and math affect real-world battlegrounds.

Building Wonder TEDTalks: These are compiled nicely on Netflix, but can also be found on the TEDTalks website. This series shows architectural experts from around the globe sharing their ingenious work, and chatting about the future of building and design. Those interested in construction or architecture will enjoy hearing Magnus Larsson talk about turning dunes into architecture, Rachel Armstrong talk about architecture that repairs itself, and Joshua Prince-Ramus on Seattle’s library, among others.

Print the Legend: Print the Legend is also on Netflix, and deals with one of our favorite topics: 3D printing. This award-winning documentary that earned special jury recognition at SXSW tracks startups MakerBot and Formlabs as the complete to “bring a radically disruptive product to market first, without ‘selling out’ and losing their anarchic, open-source, hacker spirit.”

It might be a bit more dramatic than many 3D printers in real life, but is still an interesting portrayal of the industry: “It’s so rare for a film to capture history in the making, and directors Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel have done just that in their skillful presentation of the elation and betrayals experienced by young entrepreneurs detailing the groundbreaking technology of 3D printing,” Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s vice president of original documentary and comedy said in a statement.

 Happy viewing! Let us know what you thought about the documentaries, or if you have any more to add to our list. Leave a comment in the section below!


photo credit: 2011-08-03-15-07-55_1000000986 via photopin (license)