Sep 13, 2015 | By Kira

Now that it’s back-to-school season, thousands of kids across the world are probably hunched over their math books, daydreaming about the beach. But what if their memories of the beach actually involved math, and made turned it into something fun, accessible, and visually stunning? Two separate Thingiverse users from the sunny Pacific North West came the same conclusion this summer, and decided to design 3D printable tools that will mathematically enhance your sand castle creations.

The first is user Michael Burton, who took one of my favorite childhood toys, the Spirograph, and remodeled it in Blender in order to create stunning, geometrical shapes in the sand. The spirograph consists of a two different-sized plastic rings with gear teeth on the inside and outside. With the help of a tracing gear and rotor, a wide variety of intricate patterns can be traced. Burton’s design in particular creates a hypotrochoid roulette curve, and works best in flat, moist sand. 

To keep the assembly and 3D printed parts to a minimum, Burton created a two-gear system rather than one that would require a complex scissor extension arm. He also designed a unique guide wheel that supports the tracing gear, keeping it level on the sound while still allowing the gear to rotate. “My sand spirograph brings math from your school desk to the beach,” he wrote.

In nearby Bellingham, Wash, math teacher Will Webber was also hard at work designing a collection of sand castle tools, from rollers to cookie cutters, “made with math to play with math.” His designs include rollers to add texture to the sand, mathematical shape molds, two types of polygon cookie cutters, bucket molds and a sigil. “All of my design work is done with Mathematica,” he said, “so everything is created from formulas as parametric plots.”

Each piece has distinctive features that were designed and re-designed after a summer of trial and error at Birch Bay Washington beach. The rollers come in a wide variety of brick, window, and texturized patterns, and two are based on a space filling Hilbert curve that can create a labyrinth—because “every self respecting castle has a Labyrinth.” They all come with a hole in the middle that allows them to slide onto standard paint roller handles, and when summer’s over, can even be used to decorate cakes, piecrusts, and other goodies.

As for the shape molds, Webber really let his mathematical creativity fly. “Being a polyhedral guy I started with the platonic solids. Then for kicks I did one of the Archimedean solids and my favorite Johnson solid. It is not everyday that you see a triangular hebesphenorotunda, and even more rare that you see one at the beach.”

Even though I’m not totally sure what the means, the results are gorgeous and certainly make me want to look up triangular hebesphenorotunda’s more often. And that is exactly what Webber wants to achieve with this project: to make math cool. “One theme of my career as been to make people say ‘WOW’ when looking at something mathematical. My training is in geometry, so this challenge was right up my alley,” he said, adding that while he was setting up the castles at the beach, many people, including kids, would stop to look and even him questions. “Did they learn any math? I don’t know. But their experience at the beach was enhanced because of it.”

The 3D printable files for Webber’s ‘Math at the Beach’ tools and for Burton’s Sand Spirograph (in large and small formats) are available to download for free over at Thingiverse. Fall is quickly on its way, but there’s still time to run out, find some sand, and give these mathematical creations a try. Who knows? It could make math class that much more fun…or at least give you an excuse to be at the beach.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Glenn Westmore wrote at 4/7/2016 1:31:32 PM:

Throughout history, Geometry has been widely considered as one of the seven liberal arts. For some inspiration to get your kids interested try to get them to see the beauty in what you can create see

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