Kal Penn Big Brain Theory Discovery ChannelEXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has tapped actor Kal Penn to host its new competition series The Big Brain Theory, executive produced by Craig Piligian. Penn also will serve as producer on the eight-episode engineering completion, which was greenlighted in January for a spring 2013 debut. Penn, best known for his roles in the Harold & Kumar feature franchise and Fox series House as well as for his stint working in the White House, began taping the Discovery show earlier this week at WET (Water Entertainment Technologies), the well-known Los Angeles-based water/fire feature design and engineering firm that is behind some 200+ installations, including such technological landmarks as Fountains of Bellagio at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and The Dubai Fountain, the world’s biggest fountain. The show, which is produced by Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, has design engineers competing against each other in extreme challenges that push the boundaries of technology, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship. “With the death of Steve Jobs, I think we all have wondered about the future of American innovation, and who will be the next great technological mind that will have serious impact on our lives,” said Nancy Daniels, EVP of production and development for Discovery Channel. “This show seeks to find that person, along the way revealing and celebrating the level of innovation that exists within our scientific community.”

On The Big Brain Theory, competitors will have just 30 minutes to come up with a solution using their own intellect to complete the challenge. Based on logic and design, the expert panel of judges will determine the best engineering concept and select two captains to lead their team to execute the project.  The team with the best design will remain safe, but the losers will face the judges who will determine which member will be eliminated.

The cameras will follow the competitors in the design workshop as well as in their living quarters they all share. The winner of the competition will earn $50,000 and a one-year contract to work at WET whose CEO Mark Fuller serves as an executive producer on the series alongside Piligian. Penn, repped by Gersh and Industry, is also attached to star in the CBS Rob Greenberg comedy pilot whose production has been pushed to January.