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By Glen Whitney for the Museum of Mathematics

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Before we leave the topic of Sierpinski Tetrahedra, with which many Math Mondays have been concerned, I wanted to highlight the story of one particularly impressive Sierpinski Tetrahedron which has indirectly inspired a host of young makers.

Namely, it’s this record-setting order-seven “Rainbow Tetrahedron,” built in Cleveland in 2002:

A group of kids at the Alexander Hamilton Middle School built this out of 16,384 small paper tetrahedra, and in the course of the project, it happened that children’s author Shelley Pearsall came there on a school visit and saw this in progress. Over time, this project ended up inspiring one of Pearsall’s books, All of the Above. That book, in turn, has inspired a generation of other tetrahedron manufacturers. Here are just a couple of examples.

The Copley Middle School:


Chagrin Falls Middle School:

And one more, a fly-able tetrahedral kite built independently by students in Bakersfield, CA, interestingly enough at about the same time as the Rainbow Tetrahedron in Cleveland:

(Note that this one, although a recursive tetrahedral structure, is not quite a Sierpinski tetrahedron like the others.)

Maybe you can help a local school group in your area to build a giant tetrahedron and be inspired by the beauty of geometry and the joy of making things. Let us know what transpires!

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See all of our Math Monday columns

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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