TV show picks local engineer for battle of brains


TV show picks local engineer for battle of brains

Germantown resident Tom Johnson will match wits with nine other competitors in the first season of the new Discovery channel series “The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius.”

The premiere is at 10 tonight.

The 50-year-old owner of West Carrollton’s Johnson Machining Services is the oldest contestant on a show that presents them with a series of challenges designed, according to promotional materials, “to identify America’s next great innovator.”

With IQs ranging from the 120s to mid-140s and occupations including aerospace engineer and robotics, the contestants from several states spent several weeks last fall in southern California.

“We worked 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. It was the greatest and most miserable experience of my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Johnson, who opened his company in 2004, has driven race cars and built his own airplane.

“The next oldest competitor is about 10 years younger than me. Most are about half my age. My wife calls the show ‘Tom and the Baby Geniuses,’ ” Johnson said. “They are all extremely motivated and bright people. After all of that, we are all still friends.”

Each Wednesday’s show records their progress as teams solving problems such as preventing explosives in two colliding pickup trucks from detonating, creating a machine that can cook and arrange group meals and building a portable bunker that can be deployed in five minutes.

One of them will be eliminated each week. The winner will receive $50,000 and “a dream job” at WET, the company that created a nine-acre “choreographed lake” at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

“Big Brain Theory” is hosted by Kal Penn.

Johnson said a friend heard about the show and forwarded him a link, telling him, ‘This show was written for you.” He spoke with producers, sent in an audition video and was chosen.

He was only able to participate because his business partner, Bob Mason of Springboro, delayed retirement to run the company for a few weeks.

The show presents “engineering in a way that is definitely not dull. There can be a lot of excitement when you are developing a product or a process,” Johnson said.

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