The Science behind Pyrotechnics


On Wednesday 11th March, as part of our Science Week activities, we were treated to an exploration of the colourful and explosive world of pyrotechnics with Matthew Tosh as he deconstructed the STEAM behind firework displays for us in two fantastic lecture-demonstrations.

The talks were essentially an explanation, together with live demonstrations, of how to create colours, different sound effects, shock waves and perfectly timed bursts in time to music, whilst ensuring that displays are safe. All of this interspersed with videos and photographs that gave the audience an insight into what it is really like to work in this unusual industry. As a former science teacher Matthew was engaging, and both talks were expertly pitched, with an afternoon demonstration aimed at Primary KS2 and an evening talk aimed at the GCSE KS4 group, but entertaining and accessible for all ages.

We all certainly gained an increased awareness of how a broad range of STEM skills are used in the live events industry and beyond, with the show making links between some of the science students see in lessons and the real working world. Not to mention I now know how fireworks actually work! Matthew demonstrated the physical chemistry of colours, rates of reaction, forces, pressure, energy pathways and power, with examples of mathematical modelling, control systems, safety and probability. It was a fascinating amalgamation of science, maths, art and engineering featuring many curriculum topics all demonstrated in an entertaining and engaging way. More than one student is considering the exciting possibilities for future careers that this insightful talk opened up!

Mrs Caryn Harward, Head of Chemistry