Folding Paper, Polymers, and Robots: Origami and Math

February 15 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Mayser Gymnasium

  • Thomas Hull

Thomas Hull

Associate Professor of Mathematics at Western New England University 

Origami, the art of paper folding, has been practiced in Japan and all over the world for centuries.  The past decade, however, has witnessed a surge of interest in using origami for science.  Applications in robotics, airbag design, deployment of space structures, and even medicine are appearing in the popular science press.  Videos of origami robots folding themselves up and walking away or performing tasks have gone viral in recent years.  What's more, the National Science Foundation has recently found origami valuable enough to fund millions of dollars for studying engineering and science applications of origami.  But if the art of paper folding is so old, why has there been an increase in origami applications now?  One answer is because of mathematics.  Advances in our understanding of how folding processes work has arisen due to success in modeling origami mathematically.  In this presentation we will explore why origami lends itself to mathematical study and see some of the applications that origami-math has inspired.  

This event was proposed by ChengCheng Zhai '18 and is sponsored by the Math Department; Office of the Dean of the College; Office of Multicultural Affairs; and the Art Department.

Common Hour enables the entire Franklin & Marshall College community to gather for culturally and academically enriching events at midday each Thursday during the academic year. This opportunity to engage in a campus-wide dialogue originates with Common Hour and then extends beyond the confines of 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. into classrooms, house commons, dining halls and beyond.