Karl Mitchell-Shead

Firework Designer

Karl Mitchell-Stead

The first ever firework was pretty simple. A Chinese monk named Li Tian took a piece of bamboo, stuffed it with gunpowder and threw it into a fire which created a BANG loud enough to scare ghosts away! That was more than 1000 years ago, while modern fireworks still use this basic principle a whole heap of science goes into making them the colourful, sparkly spectacle that excite and amaze us today!

Fireworks are my passion, I am very lucky to run a firework company! My job as a pyrotechnician is to design firework effects and choreograph those effects into huge, precisely timed displays in the sky. To do this I must understand how the chemical oxidisers and fuels in fireworks interact with one another. The reactions produce a lot of energy in the form of light and sound. We can change the colours by adding metal salts to gunpowder like Strontium Nitrate for Red or Copper Oxide for Blue.

Newly discovered pyro chemical compositions create strange and unusual firework effects like multicolour erratic swimming comets and some produce HUGE BANGS, we are also researching new quieter firework effects for family friendly shows.

I love being a scientist because...

I actually get paid to fill the sky with explosions and fire for people to enjoy!

The most awesome thing I have done so far is...

Skydive from 15,000ft.

My heroes are...

Alfred Nobel – Inventor of Dynamite

Advice I would give my 7 year old self...

Learn everything about what fascinates you, find your passion!

At primary school my favourite thing to do was...

Use Microsoft paint to create awesome firework pictures on one of the schools only 5 computers!

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