Behind the idol of a rock idol lies a novel way to introduce teenagers to IT. Jack Kenny reports. In the darkness, lights flash and Bruce Springsteen slowly rises out of a sea of dry ice. "Born in the USA" reverberates around the room as the Boss thrusts his hand aloft. Only the occasional jerky movement betrays the fact that this is a life-size model and not the real thing.
Animatronics is the secret of this revolving theatre show. The models strut their stuff in front of six screens which display archive footage telling the history of pop.
"Rock music is one of the most important influences in people's lives and this is the only place in which its past is celebrated," says Glen Furrie of Rock Circus. He is proud of the exhibition at the Piccadilly Circus venue in London. "This is real multimedia. We want to appeal to as many of the senses as possible. This show is built around computers and the impact comes from computers.
"The trend with exhibitions is to involve people more and this is what multimedia can do. You cannot celebrate something as vital as rock and show it as one would a painting. We have to try to capture some of the vitality and the sheer physical and visual impact of the music."
Rock Circus, anxious to work with schools, is running projects intended to involve curriculum materials developed by teachers and pupils. The curriculum side is being organised by the Hertfordshire Education-Business Partnership based in St Albans.
Patricia Ford, business development officer, explains: "Education-business partnerships ensure that any materials produced by the business will be relevant to the national curriculum and written in an accessible way. In the case of the Rock Circus project, it is showing developments within art, information technology and multimedia in an exciting way."
John Miles of Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden has taken part in a project held at the Tussaud Group Studios in west London where the models are made. "The time that I spent there was brilliant. I learnt more in one visit to the workshop than on any in-service training that I've ever had. I teach a general national vocation qualification media course and this has given me so many new insights.
"We've been able to look at the links between maths and facial construction and compared it to the work of Da Vinci and Durer. The distortions imposed by the media are interesting. The models judged best by the public are the ones that are created from photographs, the poorer ones are the ones that are taken from life. It looks as though we judge truth from the images created by the media."
Teachers often find it difficult to find practical applications of IT that will both engage and inform students, says Patricia Ford. "The national curriculum asks that we should help students to recognise the impact of new technologies on methods of working in the outside world. Because this particular project will motivate pupils, it makes it much easier to put across the idea that IT is transforming."
At the Rock Circus, she says, "the IT is there in the ticketing, in the management of the customers, the design, as well as in the exhibition itself. IT in this environment is about innovation."
For further information contact Patricia Ford, HEBP, on 01727 813566 or Glen Furrie, Rock Circus, on 0171 734 7203.