Professor Brittany Ransom began each day by putting on her yellow team uniform, securing her tool belt and meeting with her teammates Ellie and Hugh, both 12 years old. The team got to work planning, discussing and drafting a creation to blow the judges’ minds.
For five days, Ransom traded in a lecture hall for a television set as she made her appearance on the Disney+ original reality series, “Shop Class.”
The reality competition series follows teams of young builders led by workshop teachers tasked to design and build wood and metal handiwork models. Each episode features a panel of experts who test and evaluate their work to ultimately win the title of the “Shop Class Champs.”
“I love reality TV and I figured since it was with kids it would be something that would be pretty fun, so I […] put myself forward,” Ransom said.
Ransom, who also serves as associate director for the Long Beach State school of art, said it all began when she and other members in the department received an email from an alumnus scouting faculty working in 3D sculpting to serve as team leaders in the show.
“I actually was initially cast as an alternate, meaning that if someone backed out or got hurt that was how I would end up being on the show,” Ransom said. “So, I was actually on-call for the entire duration of their filming process, and then they actually asked me to be a regular.”
Ransom, who had never been on television, said she felt nervous and excited. She described her initial fear at the Glendale studio, saying it did not compare to her nearly five years of teaching a 200-student class at CSULB.
“I had no idea that there would be like 20 cameras on all at the same time, constantly being followed by a camera everywhere,” Ransom said. “But they made it really fun and after a while it was interesting. You started to kind of forget that the cameras were there, and it really became more about working with the kids one on one and the cameras were secondary.”
Filming took place last summer over the course of five 12-hour days for Ransom’s episode.
The sculpture and 4D professor said she incorporated her teachings from her basic sculpture classes into her team leadership, showing her kids on the show how to use tools like chop saws, band saws, and a drill press.
As an expert in electronics and kinetics at CSULB, Ransom led her team to build an interactive, solar-powered picnic table with LED lights.
“Those kinds of skills that I teach in kinetics and electronics…were incorporated into the design. Quite a few things that I do regularly with students at [CSULB], we did in the show,” Ransom said.
According to Ransom, the Disney experience left a mark in her life. Ransom said she would love to do another show in the future where kids can get their hands-on experience building things, especially as an aficionado of reality television.
“Reality TV for me is like a way to sometimes shut my brain off,” Ransom said. “I’m constantly thinking and problem solving all day long at [CSULB] that there’s something about reality TV that just, like is the perfect thing to put on at the end of the day.”
Ransom’s episode titled “Boulder Bash” released late March and is available now to stream on Disney+.