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UK bridge expert proves engineers are not too boring for TV

Ian firth ted 3to2

Whoever said engineers are too boring for TV will now be eating their words.

While nuclear engineer Wes Nelson takes the world by storm in Love Island, UK bridge expert Ian Firth has been breaking the internet with his TED talk. 

Their audiences may be slightly different – and the content may be at opposite ends of the spectrum – but the success of both proves that engineering can be mainstream.   

Giving the only civil and structural engineering presentation at this year’s TED conference in Vancouver, Firth’s video has had 215,000 hits in less than 24 hours disproving the previous assumption that engineers are “too boring for TV”

Ian Firth's TED talk

Cowi director Firth gave the 13 minute presentation at the main TED conference earlier this year, but the video has only just gone live. 

In the presentation, Firth opens the world of structural engineering up to the wider audience and explains why bridges and more specifically, beautifully engineered bridges are so important.

In the talk he says it was hard to imagine a civilisation without bridges because they were so essential for growth and development of human society.

“But they’re not just about a safe way across a river or an obstacle,” he says. “They shout about connectivity – community. They reveal something about creativity, our ingenuity – they even hint at our identity.

“And when bridges fail, or are destroyed in conflict, communities struggle, development stagnates, people suffer.”

In the video he talks about the different forms of bridges, the unique designs and forms they can take and how the pace of change and innovation within bridge engineering is so much slower than in other industries.

When preparing for the presentation he said he found it “quite challenging” to know how to pitch the presentation which is aimed at a general audience. But added he had not been nervous, but excited about delivering the talk.

He said magnate Elon Musk had retweeted a clip of his presentation which focused on the Norwegian floating bridges being designed by Cowi. Firth said as a result, his twitter feed went “crazy” for at least a week.

TED is a nonprofit organisation which is “devoted to spreading ideas” by producing a series of short presentations on the themes of technology, education and design.

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