If you haven’t seen Wallace and Gromit in action, I’ll wait here so that you can catch up. Go on.
There, now that you’re all caught up, you probably feel all warm and fuzzy, right? There is something incredibly appealing about Nick Park’s Gromit, and what’s wonderful is that it isn’t the normal saccharine sweet nauseousness that children’s characters so often have. Building on that, three of Bristol’s world leaders in engineering, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce, and the University of Bristol, worked to create three interactive Gromit statues as part of a fundraising initiative for the Bristol Children’s Hospital called The Wallace and Gromit Appeal.
Bristol Children’s Hospital treats over 100,000 children per year and serves as the largest catchment area of any children’s hospital in Great Britain. In addition to providing cutting-edge treatment for children with severe medical conditions, it also has programs that allow families to live free of charge near the hospital while their children are receiving intensive care treatment through Cots for Tots and Paul’s House. All of that costs money and undertakings such as this one are designed to help ease the burden.
Renishaw’s engineers worked to create the sculpture titled Gromitronic, which is an interactive piece, portions of which — such as the tail and collar, which features resin miniatures of famous Bristol landmarks — were fabricated on 3D printers. The sculpture has a multitude of buttons, each of which causes some sort of effect in the sculpture, from regulating the speed of flashing lights to causing it to give some trademark Gromit eye moves, all while the statue wags its tail. The team, consisting of nine young engineers and a senior designer, got the project brief in mid-October and all told have spent about 1,100 hours getting the creature ready.
In addition to the advanced manufacturing used to create the Gromitronic, hand craftsmanship provides a nice foil to the technology in details such as the placement by hand of the cogs on his leg and the by-hand application of the gold foil to his ears and other areas. Sarah Cannon, one of the engineers who worked on Gromitronic, described her experience working on the project:
“He has been designed to work like a circuit board, combining mechanics and electronics. Each of the buttons operates something different. Everyone working on Gromitronic came up with different ideas for the project. It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s great to see it all working.”
While Renishaw was working on Gromitronic, Rolls-Royce assembled a team of 40 volunteers to brainstorm ideas for their sculptural contribution. The result of the collaborative thinking was Gromjet, a sculpture that uses the same technology the company utilizes in its Pegasus engine found on both the Harrier and the LiftSystem on its F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The hybrid engines in the sculpture actually allow it to lift above the ground and levitate at a height of about three feet.
The final Gromit in the trio is named A Grand Gromplication and was created by three engineering students from the University of Bristol whose design was selected as the winner from those submitted for consideration to the Faculty of Engineering. It has as its source of inspiration the intricacies of clock and watch making, which gives the piece a decidedly steampunk aesthetic and also serves as a nod to Bristol’s history, which put the town ahead of London before the establishment of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884. University Faculty of Engineering Undergraduate Education Director Colin Dalton said:
“Creating such a special and innovative Gromit with the Grand Appeal has been a brilliant opportunity for our students, allowing them to develop their skills in a real world context. We’re really excited to be part of what promises to be a truly innovative trail, working alongside partners in the city to raise vital funds for the children’s hospital.”
The sculptures of Gromit will be placed around the city of Bristol when the appeal goes live on July 2nd. In addition to the sculptures of Gromit, there will be an additional 60 or so sculptures placed around the city including characters such as the pooch’s faithful companion Wallace, the Watson to Gromit’s Holmes, and also of his arch nemesis Feathers McGraw. Seekers will be able to download an app to help them locate the sculptures across the city and a printed map and passport that allow them to track how many they have encountered.
See more of the sculptures in Bristol Live’s gallery.
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[Source/Images: Bristol Live / Video: The Grand Appeal]