Livestreamed President's address inspires engineer and son

Published: 25/01/2017

The livestreamed President's Address got Fiona's son thinking about bridges

Fiona Gleed discusses how convenient the livestreamed Presidential Address was for a working parent, and how it inspired her son.

As a parent, it can be difficult to attend evening meetings, even when they are local. Six PM starts are great for those able to go straight from work but are not so easy for those with childcare demands. So I was delighted to see that the President’s Inaugural Address was available on Livestream. I tuned in a few minutes late, but without the embarrassment of clunking doors and finding the last remaining seat! 

By the time Ian Firth started speaking I was happily settled and beginning to appreciate further benefits. As a shorter then average engineer I am used to seeing only part of presentation slides - unless the lecture theatre has a particularly generous rake, or I have managed to get right to the front. This time I could see every slide and catch every word. The talk itself was interesting and entertaining; well worth catching up with if you missed it. However, the unexpected benefit of the evening webinar was revealed later.

My son first walked through the room as pictures of buildings following natural disasters were on the screen. He quickly concluded that structural engineers were not yet rivalling Danger Mouse in keeping London safe, and returned to the TV. However, a quarter of an hour later he rejoined me, just as Ian was talking about the need for bridges in poor developing societies.

This really grabbed his attention, not just because the children were of a similar age, but because he also relies on a bridge for his daily walk to and from school - across the River Frome in Bristol. He continued to watch with me through to the end, though was rather dismissive of the Robot bridge building method as he’d seen it all before on Dick & Dom’s Absolute Genius: Monster Builds!

During our walk to school the following morning we were able to discuss the talk further and think about how he would improve the bridge. This led rather neatly into a weekend where we saw both the Second Severn Crossing and the Clifton Suspension Bridge from unusual perspectives. 

So thank you to the Institution for allowing me the opportunity to see such an interesting talk - and thank you Ian Firth for inspiring not only me but a ten year old - who is already considering whether he might be able to follow Brunel beyond the Avon Gorge.

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