Rocket Science

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Rocket Science

Episode 1                                                                                                                            59min

Class 8XS at Woodchurch High do not like science - and they are not alone. Across the UK, fewer and fewer kids want to study chemistry and physics, so with the help of wonderfully inspirational physics teacher Andy Smith, Rocket Science sets out to convert a small sample by teaching them everything safe there is to know about fireworks.


Kids? Fireworks? It is a health-and-safety nightmare, but once he has grabbed their attention with a few flashes and bangs (all overseen by pyro-professionals), Mr Smith shows the class how much serious science is involved in the creation and use of the average rocket or Roman candle.


It is a rollercoaster nine months. At the beginning of this first episode, Chantelle thinks science is 'just copying out', Taz wants to be Kate Moss, and Charlie can do the work but cannot be bothered to behave.


Mr Smith sets out to teach the chemistry of fireworks' fantastic colours, but the class's first taste of professional pyrotechnics is a washout, and to re-engage them, he has to battle short attention spans, filthy weather, and the fact that most chemicals in the school storeroom are well past their sell-by date. However, when the kids do get hands-on in an innovative 'glow in the dark lesson', you can see the light of fascination start shining in their eyes. There is hope after all.

Then the head's retirement party is cancelled along with the firework display 8XS was preparing in her honour. Can Mr Smith hope to hold their interest over the coming summer break? He certainly has a plan.


TX BBC2


Produced/Directed & Filmed

Rocket Science

Episode 2                                                                                                                            59min

How can inspirational Mr Smith hang onto Class 8XS's enthusiasm for firework physics and chemistry after their end-of-term display is cancelled?


His campaign starts with dramatic flashes and bangs, then in true teacher fashion he sets revision. But this is revision with a difference, and it works a treat. At home, naughty boy Charlie is worried. Four field trips are on offer, but he is going nowhere until he shows Mr Smith he takes science seriously. His mother gets him a chemistry set, and Charlie goes online to research the biggest bang he can get away with in the classroom.


The kids finally mount their own triumphant firework display for the retiring head, and we see how practical work makes all the difference. They are involved and excited as they do kitchen chemistry, measure the speed of sound, and even take on the atomic basics of how coloured light is created.


To show how firework science connects to the real world, Mr Smith organises field trips to where the chemicals that colour fireworks actually come from. The football boys visit a massive mine in Nevada, are impressed by trucks the size of a four-bedroom house, and get hands-on in a lab extracting copper from ore - and they love it. Mr Smith takes Tash, Liam, Emma and Jake to Scotland where they discover that setting fire to rocks near the village of Strontian (the only place in the UK to have an element named after it) can have a remarkable effect.


Back home, Charlie's smoke bomb is too much for Mr Smith, but his hydrogen demonstration goes well, and Charlie is rewarded with a well-earned place on next week's trip to China.


TX BBC2


Produced/Directed & Filmed

Rocket Science

Episode 3                                                                                                                           59min

Documentary series that tracks inspirational physics teacher Andy Smith's attempts to convert his pupils to physics and chemistry.

Tension mounts when Chantelle is chosen to push the button to fire one of the biggest firework displays the UK has ever seen. Charlie and friends are off to China - to the the birthplace of the banger - where they are happily mobbed by science students at a Chinese school.

Every evening in Liuyang, there is a huge display as firework manufacturers show off their latest designs, and the kids learn how the precision and power of physics is used to create the fantastic sky writing fireworks.

Back home, Mr Smith takes the class to witness the extraordinary power of expanding gases with the Royal Artillery, and they discover they have all already handled explosives far too unstable for the Army to use.

Finally, the whole class are invited behind the scenes at one of the biggest firework displays the UK has ever seen, to find out what all the science they have learned about can achieve. Has the Rocket Science project made any difference to the kids' interest and appreciation of the science that fills the world around them?


TX BBC2


Produced/Directed & Filmed