In the nation’s only pyrotechnics course offered for college credit, University of Missouri-Rolla students are lighting up the skies with fireworks displays at football games and other public events throughout Missouri.
The class’s most elaborate display, assisted by Premier Pyrotechnics, will take place at the "KUDL Christmas in the Sky" beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, at Longview Lake and Beach near Lee’s Summit, Mo. The UMR pyrotechnics class, Commercial Pyrotechnic Operations, is responsible for 75 percent of the show’s setup. This will be the third time UMR has participated in this event. KUDL’s eighth annual fireworks presentation at Longview Lake is free to the public and serves as opening night festivities for Jackson County "Christmas in the Park" displays.
UMR offers Commercial Pyrotechnics Operations as an off-campus course with students from as far away as Florida participating. It teaches safety, design, choreography, permitting and the setting up big fireworks displays. The classes are held on three weekends over the course of the fall semester at Premier Pyrotechnics Inc. located near Richland, Mo.
Working with Premier Pyrotechnics — a major display fireworks importer, wholesaler and display company responsible for more than 2,000 displays in the United States each year — UMR students have participated in fireworks shows all over the state. Most recently, this year’s class of 34 students choreographed a show for Rolla High School’s homecoming football game. Other displays included two night football games at UMR, a fireworks shoot for the Special Olympics at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and a Founder’s Day display in Richland, Mo. The class also holds practice shows at various locations throughout the semester as part of the course.
Some students are interested in a career in pyrotechnics, but others are simply there to have fun and become involved in shooting fireworks displays, says Dr. Paul Worsey, professor of mining engineering and one of the course instructors. After taking the course, several students have received summer jobs with Premier Pyrotechnics for additional experience. Other course instructors include Matt Sutcliffe and Marty Gillette, both of Premier Pyrotechnics.
"This is the only college opportunity in the country where you can get this kind of hands-on experience in pyrotechnics," says Worsey.