Royal London Hospital children star in TV’s Christmas science lectures on BBC4

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head - Credit: Royal Institute

Youngsters spending Christmas in the Royal London Hospital are the stars of a BBC TV children’s science show seen by millions of viewers on three evenings next week in the run-up to New Year’s Eve.

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head - Credit: Royal Institute

They were invited onto the Christmas Lectures series on BBC4 to join in the experiments, recorded this week at the Royal Institution.

Nine-year-old Isla Firth even went head-to-head with herself. She had a copy of her head-and-shoulders churned out on a state-of-the-art 3D printer by Prof Dannielle George, the show’s presenter.

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head - Credit: Royal Institute

Isla was joined by two other young patients from the Royal London in Whitechapel, 13-year-old Cara Smith and 11-year-old Shaan Ali, who also took part in TV experiments including exploding balloons which brought thrills to the audience of schoolchildren in this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

Shaan, who is from East Ham, said afterwards: “I’ve watched the Christmas Lectures on TV before, but this was my first time seeing them live. They talk about different kinds of science and try to make it exciting—they’re doing a good job!”

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head - Credit: Royal Institute


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This year’s lectures on “how to hack your home” had an electrical engineer take three great British inventions—the light bulb, telephone and a motor—to show how the next generation can hack, adapt and transform these everyday technologies in the home to have fun and make a difference to the world.

The first lecture, which is being transmitted on Monday, December 29, is inspired by the inventor of the electric light bulb, Joseph Swan, who demonstrated the first working light bulb in a north London warehouse in Edmonton in 1878.

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head

Head to head... Isla Firth, 9, and the 3D print-out bust of her head - Credit: Royal Institute

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There were some exciting ‘light bulb’ moments on the show, too, like sending wireless messages using a barbeque, controlling a firework display with a laptop and using a torch to browse the internet.

The next two lectures are transmitted on Tuesday and New Year’s Eve Wednesday.

The Royal London’s nursing director for children, Sally Shearer, said: “It’s vital that a child’s education doesn’t come to a standstill simply because they are unwell.

“Some children face long periods of absence from the classroom and may not be well enough to enjoy school trips, so we ensure they have similar opportunities when they’re well enough for activities to encourage them to think about the world around them and what role they can play in it.”

The hospital’s medical director Dr Steve Ryan said: “Having fun is one of the greatest ways for children who are battling serious illness to learn new things, realised through advancements in medical science.”

The three TV lectures aim to get young viewers to think more about the wonders and applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, bringing these subjects alive. This year, they are also helping children at the Royal London on the road to recovery.

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