The designs of objects found in nature and of so many things we use are related to origami: insect wings, leaf buds, brains, airbags, and robots, to name a few. I was blown away by all I learned about origami in Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology. I am excited that I had a chance to find out more by interviewing the author, Karen Latchana Kenney.
About the Book
Hi Karen! Thank you for sharing Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology with me. It was such an informative read that got me interested in learning about so many different STEM topics (who knew that heart stent designs are based on cucumber and pineapple origami patterns!).
Can you give us a short summary about the book?
Folding is not necessarily the first thing that comes to my mind when thin
king about technology, but it’s really important if you want to send massive solar panels or telescope lenses into space or minute surgical tools or drug delivery systems into the human body. Folding transforms objects in surprising ways, and
engineers are being inspired to find new ways to fold technology through unexpected sources—the ancient art of origami and natural folding patterns found in insect wings and leaf buds. This book explains how art, science, and mathematics intersect to develop new folding methods that can be used for space and medical applications. It also includes some DIY folding activities along with really cool augmented reality features that show folding tech in action.[Here’s more about Lerner’s augmented reality feature: https://lernerbooks.com/pages/augmentedreality ]
When does the book come out?
It comes out on November 3 (Election Day—be sure to vote!) from Lerner Publishing, under their Twenty-First Century Books imprint. https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/20401
Tell us who would especially enjoy this book (as it’s more than just kids—and adults—who enjoy origami!).
I think teens interested in space technology, insect and plant biology, and medical engineering would enjoy this book too.
Tell us a short summary about your writing journey. Did you enjoy writing as a child? Did you plan on writing middle grade nonfiction, or did you start out writing something else?
I always loved reading (and being read to by my mom) from a young age. One of my first favorite books was a nonfiction book about being a reporter. I thought—that is what I want to do when I grow up. Being able to share ideas and information through writing and books is something I’ve wanted to do since then. I always wrote stories, and was lucky enough to have a wonderful third grade teacher (Mrs. White) who encouraged me to continue doing so. I love writing nonfiction—and find endless inspiration in the real world. STEM and STEAM topics are some of my favorite to write about.
What is your connection/background with STEM?
I have no formal connections with STEM, but it’s a huge interest for me. Some of my most memorable moments are spent in nature, on long walks or bike rides on the many Minnesota trails. I believe we have so much to discover about the natural world and I view scientists as the innovators that solve some of the most interesting problems humans and our planet face.
This book has so much great technical information in various branches of math and science. What kind of research did you do to understand all the various concepts you write about?
I did a lot of reading for my research—books and articles in scientific journals—along with watching some really interesting documentaries, from a TED talk by Kaori Kuribayashi-Shigetomi to NOVA’s “The Origami Revolution” to the PBS Independent Lens film “Between the Folds.” But I always think the best research comes from talking with experts in the field, and I was lucky enough to interview two origami and mathematics pioneers—Western New England University Mathematics Professor Thomas Hull and former NASA physicist, scientific researcher, and now origami artist Robert J. Lang. Their insight, passion, and research really informed my writing and helped me understand more of the mathematics behind folding. Plus their websites are packed with their complex and really interesting origami creations, information for readers, and other resources.
What was the most fascinating tidbit you researched? (Personally, I loved the information about ladybug wings, especially how scientists made a see-through top wing to see what was happening beneath it.)
Here are a few of my favorite discoveries found while researching this book:
- Earwigs have some of the most elaborately folded wings in the natural world. The surface area of its lacy wings grows ten times larger when unfolded!
- One of the first origami-inspired folds went into space in 1995 on the Space Flyer Unit, a Japanese spacecraft.
- That an Indian mathematician (Tandalam Sundara Row) made some important contributions in the late 1800s that linked mathematics with paper folding. Being of Indian descent, this was especially interesting to me!
- Folding tech is being used to gently capture fragile deep-sea specimens—I’m fascinated with all the strange creatures found in the deep sea.
This book has me itching to teach math (and science) again! How can math teachers use this book in their classrooms?
Math teachers could try some of the folding activities shown or discussed in this book—like the Miura-ori Fold or Thomas Hull’s PHIZZ unit. Students can look at the geometric shapes and angles revealed within the folds of their finished creations.
How about science teachers?
(And, personally, I think it would be wonderful as a guided reading book—so much to discuss and annotate.)
Oh, there’s so much in nature that’s involved with folding and mathematics. Students can research how beetle wings fold in unusual ways, how leaves fit compactly within buds, and more. They could even try designing their own folded creations to see how much they can reduce the surface area of a piece of paper.
How can we learn more about you?
You can find out more about my books on my website (https://latchanakenney.wordpress.com) or Twitter (@KLatchanaKenney).
Thanks for your time, Karen.
Thank you, Natalie!
Karen Latchana Kenney will be giving a copy of Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy.
*This giveaway is only available in the United States
Folding Tech is available here: