Illuminating Geometry

Playing with light and being able to use it to create different colours and moods is a fascination with adults and children. As part of this year’s schools programme there will be an opportunity to do exactly that using simple materials such as recycled paper to make eye-catching lanterns in the form of the Platonic solids.

Illuminating Geometry is a workshop run by Creative Learning and Engagement Consultant, Jenny Dockett. The school workshops will be available on Friday 2 September, and also on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 September. It will run as part of the Family Day on Saturday 3 September.

Making the lanterns is an exciting activity which can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it, Jenny says. You can start simply by decorating paper bags (a workshop which is suitable for P3 pupils and upwards) or you can get stuck right in to the mathematics and geometry of the activity by designing and making your own templates.

For those who are more interested in the craft side of the activity Jenny can supply ready-made templates which can be used to fold paper circles and then glue them together to make one of the Platonic solids. These are 3D shapes where each face is the same regular polygon and the same number of polygons meet at each vertex.

There are five of them altogether: a cube, with six square sides; a tetrahedron with four sides which are equilateral triangles; an octahedron with eight sides which are equilateral triangles; a dodecahedron with 12 sides which are pentagons; and an icosahedron with 20 sides that are equilateral triangles.

Paper which can be used includes recycled envelopes, tissue paper, old wrapping paper and copier paper. The lanterns normally range in size from 10cm to 60cm in diameter and are lit from the inside with a small LED bulb.

The lanterns glow gently in low light and a group of them together can make a stunning feature.

Illuminating Geometry has already been part of several Maker Faires and was part of the Abu Dhabi Science Festival last year. Earlier this year it was at the Scottish Parliament during the Edinburgh International Science Festival, providing a family activity to complement the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s exhibition on lasers.

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