Playing with fire

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation.

 

Tutors:
Sébastien Zimmer/ chemists and pyrotechnicist, Edouard Grégoire and Gabriel Legrand / pyrotechnicists at Arteventia

Project manager:
Florise Pagès

 

Objectives:
“Playing with fire” was a project that aimed to show how knowledge (in this case, knowledge of chemistry) contributes to the emergence of applications – in this example, fireworks. Accompanied by a chemist-pyrotechnicist and ArtEventia, a company that puts on firework displays, the students learned the processes to make “fountains”, “spinners”, “Roman candles”, etc.

Workshops:
The Science of Combustion
The initial phase was based on experiments and tests to discover the basic principles, understand the properties of substances, and to learn about components and elements. With the help of videos of fireworks displays, the students learned about the effects, colours and diameters of explosives. In groups, they experimented with detonation, tested metals to obtain different colours of flame, recreated gunpowder or reproduced the effects of projections of matter used in pyrotechnics for special effects. At the same time, the class was taught about the way in which a fireworks display is organised. Safety concerns were constantly discussed as the project evolved: finding a suitable site (a park that does not have “Natura2000” classification so the wildlife is not disturbed by the noise), getting official authorisation (prefecture, town hall, civil aviation, etc.), cordoning off a secure detonation area and so on.

Shapes, Colours and Artifice
Using videos of fireworks displays, the students discussed both the technical and artistic principles of fireworks. ArtEventia’s artistic director explained the mechanisms of devising a display from an audio and visual choreography perspective as well as with regard to the emotions to be conveyed. It was then the students’ turn to devise their own “story”. Each class focused on its own fireworks display by defining a theme and then allocating a sequence (opening, aerial or ground displays, “pre-bouquet” and “final bouquet”) to each group along with its accompanying music and its narrative within the project as a whole, and outlined the storyboard of the imagined effects. ArtEventia’s technical director then entered the projects into the software program to chose the fireworks from the catalogue and calculate the cost and time, to sequence the clips one after the other and synchronise the sound. The students had to make decisions and adjust their initial project. Each class then wrote the presentation of its display, enriching the story with its specific technical elements: the weight of the load, the name of the effects used, decibels, etc.

Showcase:
On Thursday 7th June at 10pm precisely, a call was made to the Bourget Control Tower to confirm that 15 minutes later, the first fireworks would be launched from the Aire des Vents in Georges Valbon Park. The students, who arrived beforehand, visited the installation, the cordoned-off security area, the firing console, the wiring connecting the mortar and supports to the Roman Candle fireworks, etc. The students then took it in turns with the microphone to describe their project to parents and teachers, and launch their respective fireworks displays entitled “Our Series”, “Around the World” and “Our Pop Culture”. The night sky was lit up by golden “Suns”, red “Fountains” and “Silver Rain”… 

Acknowledgements:
President of the Seine Saint-Denis Departmental Board, Mayor of Dugny, the Parc Georges Valbon’s Department of Nature, Landscapes and Biodiversity, the Prefecture of Bobigny’s Department of Security and Safety, and the DGSAC/Department of North Civil Aviation Security.  

 

Outings :
- “Chimie Lumineuse” exhibition, Palais de la Découverte, Paris
- Installation at the Aire des Vents, Georges Valbon Parc

Participating schools:
- CLASS 4è 5, collège Jean Jaurès, Saint-Ouen
- CLASS 4è 5, collège Saint-Exupéry, Noisy-le-grand
- class 4è, collège Mitterrand, Noisy-le-grand

 

Photos: PIERRE ANTOINE

Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Playing with fire