Posts Tagged craft

STEM Tuesday– The Science of Art– Author Interview with Karen Latchana Kenney

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Karen Latchana Kenney, author of FOLDING TECH: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology. Booklist says, “From folded cranes to collapsible solar sails, this offering provides an enticing look at a unique STEAM crossover.”

Mary Kay Carson: How did you come to write Folding Tech?

Karen Latchana Kenney: My editor Domenica DiPiazza at Lerner Publishing approached me with this topic after watching the PBS documentary The Origami Revolution. I loved the idea of connecting art with technology and wanted to expand it even more. I had questions—what other influences could help engineers find new folding techniques? And why is folding technology so important—what is it used for?

I found that folding technology is important in space, due to the spatial and weight restrictions necessary for rockets to reach Earth’s escape velocity. So, to get large solar arrays needed to power telescopes into space, they had to be able to fold up compactly within a rocket’s body and then unfold efficiently (without direct human assistance) when in space. Another area where folding is important is inside the human body, where it is useful to have compact tools enter small wounds and then expand inside the body. Smaller wounds are not only more aesthetically desired, but they decrease healing time and possibilities for infections.

Folding Tech covers not only where folding technology is needed in our lives, but also the artistic and natural inspiration for new folding techniques and the mathematics behind different kinds of folds. I spoke with and researched mathematicians (like Tom Hull, professor at Western New England University), professional origamists (including Robert J. Lang, who’s worked on a foldable space telescope lens), software engineers, and entomologists. I also included folding activities for kids to try, such as the natural folding patterns created through a force folding technique developed by Biruta Kresling. It was especially fun to connect these ideas with developing technology, like deep-sea collection tools inspired by origami.

MKC: Anything special about the book you’d like us to know?

Karen: I really like the interactive nature of this book, with origami folding exercises to try and Lerner’s AR app. The app brings images to life, like NASA’s InSight Mars lander image in Chapter 5. It shows how the lander’s solar arrays unfold from their compact shape. It’s really cool!

MKC: Care to share a favorite research discovery from Folding Tech?

Karen: One of the most fascinating bits of research I found was related to the folding mechanisms of insect wings, particularly the study of ladybug wings. Beetles have these delicate and large wings compactly folded underneath hard elytra, which rapidly unfold (in less than 1/10th of a second!) when they want to take flight and escape predators. Because they are hidden under elytra, it was difficult to study their folded shapes and the ways they unfolded and then folded back again. The scientists could not take high-speed photographs or videos of the unfolding process.

source: Saito et al. (2017)

The solution came from someone not involved with the research—a secretary working with the researchers. She proposed replacing an elytron with a prosthetic made from UV-cured clear resin (commonly used in nail art). It worked, and the researchers were able to see and record how the wing unfolded and folded back again! They found that the wings’ veins stored energy like a spring when folded. That’s how the wings popped out so quickly to unfold. I love how a surprising idea from an unexpected source was key to solving this mystery. Here’s a diagram from the study that shows how ladybugs fold their wings.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books?

Karen Latchana Kenney’s award-winning and star-reviewed books have been named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a 2015 Book of Note from the TriState Review Committee, a 2011 Editor’s Choice for School Library Connection, and Junior Library Guild selections. Visit her website or follow @KLatchanaKenney.

Karen: I love the curiosity and wonder inherent in working with STEM topics—the initial moment when scientists find the question they want to answer, the methodical experimentation and documentation they undergo to find clues to the mystery they want to solve, the collaboration across multiple disciplines needed to fully understand a problem, and often the surprising accidental discoveries scientists make when trying to find their answers.

Part of my interest in STEM is simply that I enjoy learning more about science and the natural world and writing about these topics helps me learn about unusual discoveries and scientific connections. I like seeing how concepts connect across multiple contexts—like the way ancient arts can influence space technology. Another big part of my interest in writing about STEM topics is my desire to promote respect and awe for the wonders of our world. I hope that my books will help kids have more respect for the environment and see what may have become mundane in the natural world in a new and exciting light. I hope these kinds of books initiate new questions that need to be solved by our future scientists.

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Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The River that Wolves Moved, Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday– The Science of Art– Writing Tips and Resources

Quantities and Questions

The Science of Fashion book cover

Me, I like to analyze things. Pick them apart and put them back together again. And I’m not just talking about breaking into an old blender to see how it works. When I’m looking at a piece of writing, I do it too.

Literary analysis usually comes in the form of studying symbolism, figurative language, etc. But what if we go past the words and dive into some numbers? How can we quantify a piece of writing? And what might we learn from that?

 

Cool Paper Folding book cover

Counting Counts!

  1. Grab a book from this month’s theme list, flip open to any random 2-page spread and start counting.
  2. Start simple. How many paragraphs? Here’s what I found:
  • Folding Tech 6.5
  • Cool Paper Folding 3
  • The Science of Fashion 5

This simple activity brought up questions: Is each speech bubble considered a paragraph? What about each bullet point? Within each book, how consistent is this number from spread to spread? Comparing books, why might the number of paragraphs vary so much? What factors are involved in paragraph length?

And that might lead to another level of counting: How many sentences per paragraph?

  • Folding Tech 4
  • Cool Paper Folding 2
  • The Science of Fashion 3

Of course, that led to more questions: What’s the average on one spread? How much does it vary from spread to spread? From book to book? What factors might an author consider when making decisions (consciously or subconsciously) about where to break for another paragraph?

Folding Tech book coverThis analysis might lead us to dive even deeper: How many words per sentence?

Which might then lead us to: How many letters per word?

For the most authentic inquiry, I find that it is best to begin this analysis manually, but once a writer become curious about patterns across a book or between multiple books, the counting can become laborious. Time for some tools!

Check out your word processing program. I’ll bet you’ll find a word count feature and more. Snag a bit of text from a book and put that tech to work!

Compare that text to a similar portion from one of your own pieces of writing. In what ways are the quantities similar? Different? In what ways are the intended audiences similar? Different?

Visualize it!

As I was performing my analyses, I noticed that both Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology and The Science of Fashion (Inquire Investigate) used another really cool tool that can be used for analysis: word clouds! I love the way these turn data into visuals.

Word cloud

  1. Find a word cloud generator online. Lots of options at https://coolinfographics.com/word-clouds Here’s one of this blog post.
  2. Create a word cloud in the shape of the topic of the text.
  3. What other fun ways can you analyze and visualize your writing?

Quantities and questions can lead to an entire realm of learning about writing. Try it yourself!

 


When not analyzing words written by others, Heather L. Montgomery writes books for kids who are wild about animals! Snag some text from her recent Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other to see what you can see! Learn more at www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

STEM Tuesday– The Science of Art– In the Classroom

Art may at first seem in opposition to logical pursuits like mathematics and engineering, but innovation comes from inspiration and creativity. Sometimes art can even help scientists see possibilities that seem absolutely illogical. Integrating art into STEM education opens doorways that allow inspiration and connections to come through. It can just be fun for student too. How can you use STEAM activities in your classroom? Check out some of our STEM Tuesday books for this month and try these activities with your students.

 

The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan and Micah Rauch

With a mix of invention, experimentation, and art, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest thinkers of all time, gave the world a number of new insights into science, engineering, and much more. With STEM activities and questions to think about, this book encourages children to look at our world in a deeper and more connected way.

 

Activity

DaVinci created a machine to help artists accurately portray perspective in a scene. He called it a Perspectograph. Have students create their own simple Perspectographs (and use them to make art) with this activity!

What you’ll need:

  • acetate sheets
  • tape
  • window
  • eye patch or scarf
  • marker
  • chair
  • white paper
  • pencil
  • paint or colored pencils
  1. Fist tape the acetate sheet to a window. Put a chair in front of the window. Place the back towards the window.
  2. Then cover one eye with an eye patch or scarf. Sit on the chair so that you face the window. Now put your chin on the chair back and keep still.
  3. Trace what you see outside onto the acetate sheet. Do not move your head.
  4. Next, tape a piece of white paper over the acetate. Trace the drawing onto the paper.
  5. Color the picture with paint or colored pencils. Make sure to look outside toes the true colors of distant objects. They are darker than closer objects appear.

 

 

Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology by Karen Latchana Kenney

Origami, the ancient art of paper-folding is increasingly being used to stunning effects to solve some of the most pressing problems in the world today. This book takes a look at all those technologies that use folding – proteins, space probes, self-assembling robots, and many more.

 

Activity

There are so many interesting activities available that combine math and origami already, so I thought I’d list a few here for you to try.

 

Inside in: X-Rays of Nature's Hidden World - Schutten, Jan Paul

 

Inside In: X-Rays of Nature’s Hidden World by Jan Paul Schutten and Arie Van ‘t Riet

Who knew X-rays could be so jaw-droppingly beautiful! Using amazing X-ray photographs, this book shows us creatures and their natural habitats in unique ways. This book is a perfect blend of science and art.

 

 

 

Activity

Leaf prints can help you see the engineering inside a leaf. They reveal the structure of its veins and midrib. Try this activity to reveal the insides of a leaf.

What you’ll need:

  • various kinds of leaves
  • paper
  • markers
  • rolling pin
  1. Place the leaf on a table with its back side facing you.
  2. Now color the back side of the leaf.
  3. Carefully turn the leaf over and place it on a piece of paper.
  4. Slowly roll the rolling pin over the leaf one time. Do not let the leaf move.
  5. Remove the leaf to see your print below. Can you identify parts of the leaf’s structure.

 

These are just a few STEAM activities to try in your classroom. Find inspiration for other ideas by reading all of the books on this month’s reading list!

 

Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. Visit her at https://latchanakenney.wordpress.com.