The IMechE Christmas Lecture, Thunderbolts and lightning – are they really frightening?, was held in the University’s Forum Alumni Auditorium

Science behind lightning strikes right note in festive family event hosted at the University of Exeter

Families from across the South West were given a dazzling flash of inspiration and entertainment during a special festive treat, organised jointly by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the University of Exeter.

More than 400 people of all ages came together to take part in an interactive, light-hearted event centred around one of the most striking natural phenomenon on the planet – lightning.

The free IMechE Christmas Lecture, Thunderbolts and lightning – are they really frightening?, was held in the University’s Forum Alumni Auditorium on Thursday, December 8th 2016.

Rhys Phillips, science researcher and Research Engineer at Airbus Group Innovations, gave a tour-de-force presentation of the science behind lightening and the different types that occur.

Drawing on his work for Airbus, Rhys also showed the audience what happens when lightning strikes an aircraft, and how Engineers work to protect craft and passengers.

Using hands-on demonstrations and videos, the talk gave an insight into exactly what happens in a lightning lab, addressing the question all the audience were asking – who can survive a lightning strike best – Santa or Frosty the Snowman?!

Speaking after the event Professor Chris Smith, Deputy Associate Dean Research (Industry), College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences said: “I was delighted to see so many people of all ages come along to the event, it’s wonderful to see so many youngsters show their fascination and interest in engineering and science and we are all really pleased to be able to host such a fabulous event.

“This is the second Christmas Lecture organised by the IMechE and University and it has grown in popularity enormously, which I am delighted to see. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the event, and it was particularly pleasing to see so many of the children in the audience just about bursting with questions and ideas.”

John Earp, Chair of the Devon and Somerset IMechE committee added: “These classic family Christmas lectures are the prestige event in our annual lecture programme, and having Professor Chris Smith as a member of our committee enables us to engage with the University to deliver such successful events. The event once again proved to be an amazing success, far exceeding our expectations in terms of audience numbers.

“The talk itself was truly excellent, with the most pleasing aspect being just how engaged the younger members of the audience were. If just a few of these young people decide to study science and engineering as a result it will be judged an outstanding success.”

Date: 9 December 2016

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