• Female Cardinal, an original design by graduate student Andrea Hawksley.

    Photo / Brian Chan

    Full Screen
  • #2, a modular origami design folded by Xiao Xiao '09.

    Photo / Brian Chan

    Full Screen
  • Tyson McNulty '08, right, and Jason Ku '09 study complex modular origami by various contestants.

    Photo / Brian Chan

    Full Screen

Folding art and science

MIT students showcase origami at annual exhibit

At MIT, origami is more than just art -- it's blend of the ancient Japanese paper-folding tradition with scientific principles that make it possible. There's no place that is more apparent this month than at the Weisner Student Art Gallery, where entries in the annual student origami contest are on display.

Now in its sixth year, the competition blends the ancient art with mathematical and scientific background, according to one of the competition's judges, Professor Erik Demaine.

"What's great about an exhibit like this is you get to appreciate science from a purely visual point of view," said Demaine, the Esther & Harold Edgerton Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "It is one way of expressing the beauty of science."

Demaine said the competition gives students the opportunity to branch out and see realistic applications of work they do in class.

"They get to experience the blending of (art and science)," he said. "Not just do their science, not just do their art."

Demaine, who studies origami mathematically and algorithmically, judged the competition alongside graduate student Brian Chan; MIT alumni Elsa Chen SBEE '89, Anne LaVin SB '85 and Jeannine Moseley PhD '85; and Martin Demaine, a visiting scientist in the MIT Lab for Computer Science.

About a dozen-plus entries are now on display--and will be 24 hours a day through March 31.

The students participating in the competitions included both undergraduate and graduate students--and offered a wide variety of takes on origami, from the intricate to the intriguing.

"Female Cardinal," an original design by EECS graduate student Andrea Hawksley, employed a technique where Hawksley affixed one piece of red paper to the back of a piece of brown paper to achieve the color scheme needed for her bird, Demaine said. Other artwork used creative--though unconventional--paper, including one made out of a schematic printout of an MIT building.

The top winner, "Butterfly" by Jason Ku, a senior in mechanical engineering, was folded precisely "so that the legs come out at the right place … the antennae come out at the right place," Demaine said.

The competition was co-sponsored by the Office of the Arts/Student & Artist-in-Residence Programs and the MIT Japan program. For more information, visit http://web.mit.edu/spair/origami.html.

The winners of this year's competition were:
• Best Original Design: Butterfly, by Jason Ku '09
• Best Technical Folding: Faerie, an original design by Jason Ku
• Best MIT Themed: Beaver #3, an original design by graduate student Andrea Hawksley
• Best Use of Paper: Female Cardinal, an original design by Andrea Hawksley
• Best Color Change: Sailboat, an original design by Andrea Hawksley
• Best New Take on a Traditional Technique: Connected Cranes (brown), by Pei Lin Ren '11
• Best Miniature: Crane on Snowflake, by Pei Lin Ren '11
• Best Modular: #3, folded by Xiao Xiao '09
• Honorable Mention, Modular: Colliding Suns, a double icosahedron by graduate student Joel Lewis
• Best Simple Model: Green Heart, by graduate student Yuan Gong

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 19, 2008 (download PDF).

Topics: Arts, Students


Back to the top