About Sparks will fly

Join the revolution. Learn to hack your home and take control of the devices in your life. Anything is possible. Sparks will fly.

  • Prof Danielle George filming 'The light bulb moment'

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson
  • Photo of Danielle George

    Prof Danielle George

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson

About

Sparks will fly: How to hack your home

A revolution is happening. Across the world people are taking control of the devices we use every day, customising them, creating new things and using the sparks of their imagination to change the world. Now it’s your turn, and you can start with the things you have around you.

Electrical and electronics engineer, Prof Danielle George will take three great British inventions - a light bulb, a telephone and a motor - and show you how to adapt them and transform them to do extraordinary things. This is tinkering for the 21st century, using the full array of cutting edge devices that we can lay our hands on: 3D printers, new materials, online collaboration and controlling devices through coding.

Inspired by the great inventors and standing on the shoulders of thousands of people playing at their kitchen table or in their shed, Danielle will announce the new rules of invention and show you how to use modern tools and technologies and things from your home to have fun and make a difference to the world around you.

Anything could happen. Sparks will fly.

Lecture 1

The light bulb moment

Filming date: Thursday 11 December 2014, 6:30pm
Arrival: 5:30-6:00pm

Broadcast date: BBC Four at 8pm, 29 December

Inspired by fellow Geordie inventor Joseph Swan, Prof Danielle George attempts to play a computer game on the windows of a skyscraper using hundreds of light bulbs.

When Joseph Swan demonstrated the first working light bulb in 1878 he could never have dreamed that in 2014 we’d be surrounded by super-bright LED screens and lights that could be controlled using mobile phones. In this lecture, Danielle will explain how these technologies work and show how they can be adapted to help you realise your own light bulb moments.  She’ll show you how to send wireless messages using a barbeque, control a firework display with your laptop and use a torch to browse the internet.

Lecture 2

Making contact

Filming Date: Saturday 13 December 2014, 6pm
Arrival: 5:00-5:30pm

Broadcast date: BBC Four at 8pm, 30 December

Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell, Prof Danielle George attempts to beam a special guest into the theatre via hologram, using the technology found in a mobile phone.

When Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first telephone in 1876, he could never have dreamed that in 2014 we’d all be carrying wire-free phones in our pockets and be able to video chat is crystal clear HD across the world. In this lecture, Danielle will explain how these technologies work and show how they can adapted to help keep you connected to the people around you. She’ll show you how to control paintball cannons with a webcam and turn your smartphone into a microscope whilst also investigating a device that allows you to feel invisible objects in mid-air.

Lecture 3

A new revolution

Filming Date: Tuesday 16 December 2014, 6pm
Arrival: 5:00-5:30pm

Broadcast date: BBC Four at 8pm, 31 December

Inspired by the Royal Institution’s very own Michael Faraday, Prof Danielle George attempts to use simple motors to construct the world’s greatest robot orchestra.

When Michael Faraday demonstrated the first electric motor in 1822, he could never have dreamed that in 2014 we’d be surrounded by mechanical devices capable of performing nearly every human task. In this lecture, Danielle will explain how these robotic and motor-driven appliances work and show how they can adapted to help you kick start a technological revolution. She’ll show you how to turn a washing machine into a wind turbine, how Lego can solve a Rubik’s Cube and how the next Mars rover will traverse an alien world.

BBC iWonder: CHRISTMAS LECTURES interactive guides

For the first time ever, the CHRISTMAS LECTURES will be accompanied by three BBC iWonder guides, presented by Prof Danielle George.

‘How can I make my smartphone smarter?’ and ‘How can I get light using an LED and a potato?’ are simple hands-on guides for kitchen scientists aged 8 to 80. Can LEDs save the planet? explores how the extraordinary science behind LEDs might help cut our electricity bills, and so our carbon footprint.

 

iWonder is a new online format from the BBC aimed at inspiring and feeding curiosity, that encourages audiences to delve deeper into topics sparked by key BBC broadcasts.

Find out more at: www.bbc.co.uk/iwonder.

Questions?

This year’s Sparks will fly theme will raise many more questions beyond the lecture titles: The lightbulb moment, Making contact, A new revolution

We are teaming up with the fantastic I’m a Engineer, Get me out of here organisation to give everyone all over the world the opportunity to have their 'Sparks will fly' CHRISTMAS LECTURES questions answered online by a team of engineers, hackers and inventors in their interactive forum.

Find out more here.

Watch again

Watch past CHRISTMAS LECTURES series for free and in full on the Ri Channel.

Richannel.org/christmas-lectures

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