Pop Culture

'The Big Brain Theory' turns reality TV into a battle of wits

Get ready, reality TV fans! The genre is about to get brainier.

On most competitive reality shows, players are rewarded for popularity, personality and on occasion, perplexing behavior. But that's not the case with Discovery's new eight-part series "The Big Brain Theory," where knowledge is power.

In an exclusive clip the network shared with TODAY.com, host Kal Penn, of "Harold and Kumar," "House" and White House Office of Public Engagement fame, reveals what's to come.

"The first challenge is to keep a box of explosives from blowing up when two trucks collide," Penn tells the collection of eager engineers.

But minimizing G-force isn't easy business. So before the contestants get a shot at vying for the real victory, they have to prove themselves. They have just 30 minutes to produce a blueprint that shows they have the math to match the task at hand.

Watch the video to see some of their big ideas -- well, not too big. As if the challenge wasn't hard enough, the players have to pinch pennies, too.

"They have a limited amount of time, very limited budget," Penn explained during a Tuesday morning visit to "Morning Joe."

Of course, there's a much bigger budget waiting for the ultimate winner -- $50,000 and a one-year engineering-design contract.

"The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius" airs May 1 at 10 p.m. on Discovery.