Missouri S&T: Where commercial pyrotechnicians are trained

[Announcer] Missouri S&T’s explosives engineering
classes are the only college courses in America where instructors teach the art
of detonating a huge of fireworks display. [Instructor] We are going to be shooting off a barge show tonight Completing the final exam satisfies the
training requirement for Missouri outdoor fireworks display license. [Leanna Lincoln] Opening Night! Let’s go, let’s go! [Announcer] With a state license, students can shoot off their own pyrotechnic display. [Explosion sound] [Announcer] But first, they have to pass the class, one explosion at a time. [Jerry Vaill] Stuff’s going off, thump, thump, thump. Quite an adrenaline high. We’ll grab some quick match to show you what it’s like to light one. I need a volunteer. Start with your left hand. Pass it over. Just reach down and light it and then
turn. Okay. Turn my way [Explosion sounds] [Student] Well, alright then! [Instructor Jerry Vaill] See what I mean, it’s quick! [Repeated explosion sounds] [Jerry Vaill] Welcome to a great wonderful world of
pyrotechnics! Yeah! Who is not a mining student? Okay. Cool. I’m Jerry Vaill. I have a master’s in explosives. I’m currently working on a doctorate in explosives. I work for at least four different companies during
the summer shooting different pyrotechnics. Fourth of July shows. Fire and
brimstone…I can bring it But in reality it’s hot, dusty, dirty work. But I want you to have a very healthy respect for what we’re gonna do. A little mantra that we use in the industry is you never put anything over a loaded tube that you’re not willing to lose. Part of what we’re gonna do before
the football game is come down load up our racks. There’s a lot of extra work
goes in to this before you ever get on site. We can walk on up to the magazine.
Four-inch shell. When I talk about electric matches this is what we’re talking about.
We’ll go over that some more when we shoot our football game displays. What we’re
gonna do, we’re gonna start with by setting a racks up first. We’re gonna
position them probably two “threes” and a four-inch rack in what we’re gonna call a
battery. [Leanna Lincoln] I’m a mechanical engineering major. I want to go into entertainment so
this is a really good class for me to take since this is all over the
entertainment world. And this was the only university I could find where I
could take this class. [Brandon Allen] I’m a senior computer science major. I saw this class on the online course catalog. And I noticed a part of it took place at my favorite resort at Lake of the Ozarks. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to blow stuff up and go to my favorite resort. [Devin Wilson] I like three things: fire, chemicals and chemical fire. I’m a senior in chemical engineering. [Jerry Vaill] Okay, not standing over the tube. Remember that’s a loaded gun barrel. So we’re just gonna drop it down till you
hear it get bottom. Make a small loop from the inside. Tighten it up on the inside. Somebody grab a couple of those. We’re gonna untangle these. This is what we call a finale chain. What do you guys remember about any fireworks show you’ve seen? What part of it? Anything special? [Class] Finale [Jerry Vaill] Finale, right? So when I’m setting up, I will typically set my finale off to
the side a little bit and protect it. An electronic failure, anything happens
during the rest of the show you’ve saved the finale. None of the spectators know if you screw up. Or if something broke. Now we’re in standby mode. We’re just waiting for showtime. [Jerry Vaill] Stand by! Three, two, one, go! [Multiple loud explosions] 2:19 Good job, good job! [Car horns blaring] [Student] We set off car alarms! Woo hoo! [Chance Moore] Wait till we give you the OK. [Jerry Vaill] Let’s go check them. [Chance Moore] I didn’t have any Jerry, did you? [Jerry Vaill] Nope. One hundred percent! [JerryVaill] Chance and I have visually inspected the tubes. Everything went! One hundred percent show!
That’s a job well done! Normally, you might have two to three maybe five
percent in a larger show that doesn’t go. One of the necessary evils…cleaning
the trash. Good job! I’ll see you guys next week. [Tanner Trivitt] I took this class because I really enjoyed blowing stuff up. I’ve had the
opportunity to do this from a very young age. This past summer, I got to put on a
23-minute show. We had everything from just stuff you can go out and buy at a tent
all the way up to 10-inch mortars. [Chance Moore] Good job guys! [National Anthem] “Rockets red glare…” “The bombs bursting in air.” [Chance Moore imitates fireworks] Boom-boom-boom-boom. Yeah, I mean, pretty much whenever it
bursts that’s that’s kind of your audio cue to go next. [Gabe Underwood] I think it’s going to be fine, but I don’t want to mess it up. [Stadium announcer Tim Albers] And now at this time we direct your attention to the skies over the scoreboard for tonight’s fireworks show. Which is being presented by the Missouri S&T explosives engineering program. [Chance Moore] Go! [You guessed it. More loud explosions.] Depending on their construction, fireworks can exceed 150 decibels. [Chance Moore] Go faster. You should be halfway through. Go, Go, Go. Alright, you are doing good. Good pace. [Time for more explosions] [Chance Moore] There you go! [Gabe Underwood] I thought I pushed that one button and it was a dud. And I was like, “Shoot, they missed one.” But I mean it was great. It was exhilarating I guess. It would be the word I’d say. [Chance Moore} There were five here that didn’t light. They either got pulled or the wires got cut off because it was laying over. Be careful whenever you’re laying wires.
I’ve seen mortars going off rubbing those wires and it’ll short out
right there and it won’t go. It was a good show. Thanks guys. [Instructor Matt Sutcliffe] Okay, today this is as fresh as it comes right here boys and girls. We are going to be shooting off a barge
show tonight. Your barge needs to have sufficient strength and stability to withstand what we’re about to do to it. Okay? You don’t want to be shooting your
fireworks show… pla plump, pla plump, pla plump. Zing, zing, zing, pla plump, pla plump. Thunk! [sound of water spraying upward] Now you’ve got water shooting up like a mini Old
Faithful. In the unlikely event that that happens you need to shoot faster. [Student] When I pop the lid off some black powder
came out. [Instructor Casey Helfrich] Yeah if it’s a little bit it’s cool. I don’t know if that’s an actually just a booster to kick a main charge or if that’s part of the main charge. If a
little bit comes out you know that’s fine. Always work with this out
towards you and start with the lower number on your left. [Leanna Lincoln] I’ve been talking to
some companies lately. I’m on an online forum thing. And one of the companies
that I really want to work at basically when Beyoncé needs a concert, when U2 needs a concert, they call this company to do the staging. They’re also
branching out I think they might do some pyro of their own. Drones, sound, like that
company does it all. So that’s where I want to work. A really big stage stuff. [Instructor Matt Coy] You gotta do the hair flip! [Brandon Allen] Yeah, well, it’s definitely really hot out. As far as the hands-on stuff, it’s not too challenging. It’s a lot to take in for a short period of time, it seems like. At least in the lectures. It’s definitely something I would recommend to anyone who is even vaguely interested in this sort of thing. [Instructor Casey Helfrich] Everything’s
pre-programmed to put the show together. Generated the script for you guys to load your shells from. Matt’s gonna send me music and with that music is timecode. And when my FM radio receives that timecode and the music it’ll fire it in
sync with music. And it knows because I pre-programmed it where every shot
should be and at what time. [Leanna Lincoln] It’s not glamorous, look what we are doing. But it’s gonna look really cool at the end. So, I think it’s worth it. [loud firework explosions over lake] [Kool & The Gang’s song, “Celebration,” plays in time with the explosions] [Dr. Matt Coy] Did you guys like, even with it just playing on my little phone and “One, Two, Three, Go. Everything lined up really well. [Leanna Lincoln] So support the show! Work for the show! So confidence, definitely Day One when
we were doing a football show, just matching things up, like okay if I do this wrong is it going
to explode on me? I don’t know, so I’m going to be very careful. Since then I’ve
learned, okay, this isn’t going to explode on me it’s all good
Be fast because we have clouds coming in we have a show later. We have two shows
going on today so there are fewer of us here. Later I get to be the one pushing
the button, you know, setting the fireworks off. Which is just super exciting! [Devin Wilson] I’ve learned that these explosives and such are only as dangerous as you let
them be. I’m comfortable working with these things. At first I started out I
was a bit nervous. I was nervous when things would like go off or just for a
particular explosives in general. But now these are little bombs and it’s like,
yeah, as long as I don’t do anything stupid they’ll be fine. We can have a
happy little relationship here. [Leanna Lincoln] I’ve been applying to internships at theme parks for next semester. Various theme parks will do fireworks shows. Also you have some big stage shows which is more close proximity pyrotechnic stuff. [Brandon Allen] Are those all going in like this queue? [Chance Moore] Yeah, leave that last rack empty. [Brandon Allen] I definitely feel like I know a lot more of what I am doing. I am a lot more comfortable dropping these shells in for instance . I didn’t really expect that I would be hand lighting anything at all. It seemed like one of those things would be too dangerous to have a
lot of students doing so I just figured it was unlikely. It’s kind of terrifying
but also sounds fun so I’m looking forward to it. [Chance Moore] All right, let’s go. Hop on up all there, buddy. [Sounds of flares hissing and explosions] Light it. [Sounds of flares hissing and explosions] Take a deep breath. You are fine. Light a couple. Go! [Sounds of flares hissing and explosions] Here you go. [Sounds of flares hissing and explosions] Next one, pull two off. [Sounds of flares hissing and explosions] [Crowd applauds] [Chance Moore] You did all right man. Believe it or not. [Brandon Allen] That was a really cool experience. [Tanner Trivitt] Lots of adrenaline. [Brandon Allen] Yeah, definitely, yeah! [Tanner Trivitt] And there are unexpected things that happen like your flare going out and all that. [Brandon Allen] I looked at the flare and the flare is just like, it’s normal fire, it’s not flare fire. I’m just like they’re trying to get it to light with
just a normal fire and by the time I get it to the other hand to like show Chance
that it was messed up. It was like completely out. It was just like, what the hell is this? [Leanna Lincoln] We still got 21. [Jerry Vaill] Don’t touch anything. [Leanna Lincoln] [In time with music] Bam, bam bam, bam , bam bam. It’s the only thing going through there. Um, yeah, picking a rhythm, hoping it looks good. Otherwise, it’s like. “If anything bad goes wrong, I’m over here. I can’t do anything about it.” It’s like now I’m starting to feel it. Like, okay, come on! It’s show time! Let’s do it! Opening night, let’s
go, let’s go! [Jerry Vaill] Some of the best advice Dr. Worsey ever gave me, is that “It’s just another show.” [Jerry Vaill] Stand by.
[Leanna Lincoln] Standing by. [Jerry Vaill] Three, two, one, go! [Sounds of fireworks assending and exploding overhead.] [Jerry Vaill] Go, switch.
[Leanna Lincoln] Switch [Sounds of fireworks assending and exploding overhead.] [Jerry Vaill] Good job, good job! Kicked that one right on the money! Good deal! [Leanna Lincoln] Whoo hooo! [Jerry Vaill] Here you go. Give me five! [Jerry Vaill] Good job! Outstanding! Oh, look at the smoke!

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