Christmas Lights Competition 2015

· 730 Words


Standards are high at the annual Christmas lights event. It’s important that every entry is a strong in order to outperform the competition.

Prototype : late 2014

Research and development for this year’s entry started approximately 12 months ago. The early prototype for this year’s competition was deemed such a success that it was entered in last year’s competition. A geodesic dome with frequency ν = 1 from organic-derived structural material.



The dome was constructed a secret location away from the exhibition site. This minimised the opportunity for espionage. This both limited the chance of a derivative work being entered in competition to our own and provided our competitors with plausible deniability, allowing them to save face should they find themselves accused of such.

Off-site construction did mean that we were unable to perform a full on-site test before unveiling. Using expert estimation methods we imagined the appearance of the hemisphere under low illumination conditions and attached serial luminaires at regular intervals along every vertex.


Meanwhile it was necessary to construct a decoy lest competitors come to the realisation that a first-order geodesic hemisphere was being constructed at a secret site. After consulting the rules of engagement and assessment criteria we decided to maximise the height criterion.

Using novel construction methods we elevated a single luminaire. This required a tripod structure. It was connected to secure mounting points and braced to a central anchor point.


The luminaire was estimated at about 7 metres. The precise height above ground level can be calculated with access to the River Thames level records which may be obtained from the Environment Agency. Notice the unique flexing ability of the structure, allowing it to withstand high winds.


As the time for switch-on neared, final safety checks were performed. The decoy high-altitude luminaire was prepared.


Under cover of darkness the geodesic dome was transported and installed at the illumination site. The appraisal committee scored the installation highly in most categories.


This photograph shows the relative elevation of the two luminaires and their supporting structures.


Along with the other entries, the 2014 entry scored was awarded a First Class, with particularly strong showing in the Elevation and Learning Outcomes categories.


Research and Development for the 2015 entry was deemed to be a success. The outcomes of the 2014 trial were deemed to be sufficient to conduct a full scale production.

During the course of the year 2015 the parameters of the final product were adjusted, modelled and refined. By December 2015, there was enough data to put forth a Procurement Plan and raise the relevant Purchase Orders.

A number of semi-rigid organic rods were procured and trimmed to the appropriate length.

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The initial Pentagrammic skeleton was laid and bound with flexible couplings.


From this a three-dimensional extrusion was possible. Use of couplings with a Young’s Modulus of approximately 0.01 gigapascals ensured the structure was able to self-correct as the cardinality of verticies converged on its final magnitude.


Before too long we had arrived at topological parity with the 2014 prototype. We attempted to take a similarly posed photograph (with an engineer standing inside the structure).


One final round of tensile adjustment was required once the sphere was completed.

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The precise details of how the luminaires became attached to the sphere cannot be revealed, suffice it to say there is an even distribution in area coverage and tangental alignment.


A mast was erected on the upper deck of the vessel. It was braced on either side by a pair of lateral high-tensile stays.


The illumination circuits were temporarily activated to ensure electric integrity of the installation.

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And the installation was complete.


At the appropriate moment, the lighting ceremony was set in motion. A brief musical idée fixe, not much more than a short quotation from Also Sprach Zarathustra really,_ _to remind the viewer of 2001: A Space Oddessy, was played on a trumpet that was to hand.

And the lights came on.


The judges were particularly impressed by the elevation and fulfilment of the newly-introduced Space Assessment Criteria.


We were up against tough competition this year, as in previous years. Exhibit 1 is a scene from the film E. T. This animated vignette scored particularly strongly in the Narrative category.


Exhibit 2 is an articulated peep-hole scene depicting the vastness of space. An animated globe enters the frame and travels toward the viewer. Quite alarming.




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