Australian scientists make child’s dragon dream come true

Science body creates 3D titanium model for seven-year-old girl

Actor Kyle MacLachlan  and his son Callum with Toothless the dragon at a DreamWorks exhibition at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, New York, in 2012.  Photograph:  Kevin Kane/Getty Images

Actor Kyle MacLachlan and his son Callum with Toothless the dragon at a DreamWorks exhibition at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, New York, in 2012. Photograph: Kevin Kane/Getty Images

Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 01:00


In what might be a textbook example of how to interest more girls in science, a seven-year-old who wrote to Australia’s national science agency asking for a dragon has had her dream come true.

Sophie Lester wrote to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) after her father told her about the work of the scientists there.

“Would it be possible if you can make me a dragon?” Sophie wrote. “I would call it Toothless if it was a girl and if it is a boy I would call it Stuart.” (Toothless is the dragon in the How to Train Your Dragon series of books by British author Cressida Cowell.)

The CSIRO posted the letter online and said they were “looking into it”.

“Our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire-breathing variety,” CSIRO said. “And for this, Australia, we are sorry.”


Viral
But the letter went viral, leading to worldwide interest and prompting CSIRO to create a blue 3D titanium dragon at its additive manufacturing facility in Melbourne.

“Her letter was very hopeful and it was very polite and we wanted to encourage her curiosity and encourage her love of science,” said a CSIRO spokesperson.

The scientists in the Melbourne lab are used to printing anatomically correct insects, biomedical implants and aerospace parts, so they thought a dragon was possible.

“Being that electron beams were used to 3D print her, we are certainly glad she didn’t come out breathing them . . . instead of fire,” the lab’s Chad Henry said.

Toothless is now making the 1,686km journey to Sophie’s home in Queensland’s capital, Brisbane.


DreamWorks
Hollywood animation studio DreamWorks, which made the film version of How to Train Your Dragon, also got involved.

Sophie’s mother Melissah initially thought the phone call from Dreamworks was a prank.

“Someone from Dreamworks called this morning and the director had asked to ask Sophie why Toothless is a girl? They were fascinated that Sophie thought Toothless was a girl,” she said.

Ms Lester says her daughter is now very interested in science. “All her friends are now saying they want to be a scientist and Sophie says she now wants to work at CSIRO,” she said. “She’s saying Australian scientists can do anything.”

Ms Lester said that although Sophie may be an internet sensation, she is not aware of it.

“She doesn’t know. She knows she was on television on Wednesday evening and she knows she’ll be in the local paper but I’ve left the rest of it out,” she said.

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