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Modular Origami exhibit, workshops coming to UMPI

Monday, 25 January 2010

This spring at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the founder of the Maine Origami Society will present an in-depth and interactive modular origami display and offer a series of workshops to teach members of the campus and community about the art form that combines paper folding and geometry.

Eva Szillery - who also serves as the Director of the Maine Junior Engineering Technical Society and the State Director of the American Mathematics Competitions - has presented similar exhibits and workshops at sites across Maine, including in Lewiston, Bangor, Orono and Portland. Her visits to Presque Isle are being presented in collaboration with the University's Math Program and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Szillery's modular origami pieces come in all shapes, sizes and colors - sometimes resembling cubes, stars and flowers, sometimes looking more like three-dimensional cubist art - and come with impressive names like Stellated Rhombicuboctahedron and Truncated Icosahedron.

Her Interactive Modular Origami Exhibit will be on display soon at the University's Library and remain up throughout the spring semester. The public is encouraged to stop by the Library now for a sneak peak of some of the pieces Szillery and her students have created in past classes. Two smaller "sneak peeks" are available for viewing at the Wintergreen Arts Center and the Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle.

Members of the community are especially invited to take part in the free Modular Origami Workshop series Szillery will be offering at the University this spring, tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays from 3-5:30 p.m. and 5:30-8 p.m. Participants are encouraged to attend one or both Wednesday sessions, as their schedules allow. The classes are open to beginners and modular origami folders of all experience levels, ages 10 and up. Students who are 10 and 11 should be accompanied by an adult.

During the workshops, students will learn the basic principles of modular origami as the group proceeds through models of varying difficulty. An exciting component of the workshops will be a unique class project - creating a large-scale modular origami model to be donated to the Wintergreen Arts Center for permanent display.

Modular origami involves several identically folded paper units (or modules) assembled into a finished model. Modular origami is also referred to as geometric modular origami or polyhedral geometric origami. Modular origami has wide range of practical applications, in fields as diverse as robotics, hydraulic tube bending, protein folding, sheet-metal bending, and air-bag folding. Math lovers, engineers, scientists and physicians will be excited to note that most models resemble the crystal structures they work with - the models most often are based on the Platonic or Archimedean solids, on prisms, antiprisms, Kepler solids or Johnson solids. However, participants are not required to know all of this before taking part in the workshops.

Szillery has been folding modular origami for 10 years. She became involved in the art form as a way to teach mathematics to her students in a fun and exciting new way.

"Because modular origami involves assembling several identical modules, it can fit easily in anyone's busy schedule: after learning the folding steps of a unit, the folder can do the repeated folding and assembly at their own pace," Szillery said. "Modular origami is one of the newest forms of art as well as an excellent tool for teaching mathematics and a new area of research within the field of mathematics. One of the main attractions to teaching mathematics through origami is that it requires active participation; students do not fall asleep while folding a Rhombic Cuboctahedron. And the folder cannot fold these models without, often inadvertently, understanding the fundamental spatial relations of the model."

During her visits to northern Maine this spring to deliver the workshop series, Szillery also will conduct presentations on modular origami for local middle school students.

Szillery obtained her Ph.D. in Mathematics in Hungary at the prestigious Eotvos Lorand University. In 2005, she received the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation Educator Recognition Award for Programming Excellence for her work with MJETS and the Maine Mathematics, Science and Engineering Talent Search Programs.

CEU's [continuing education units] are available for this workshop series. Teachers of mathematics, gifted and talented teachers, special education teachers, artists, and paraprofessionals using modular origami for therapeutic reasons, social connectedness or improving fine motor skills can earn CEU's towards recertification through these modular origami classes. The cost of the course for 4.5 CEU's is $120, and requires 45 hours of attendance and the completion of prescribed projects. For inquiries, please contact Szillery directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

For more information about the exhibit, or to sign up for the free workshop series, contact Susan Pinette at 768-9452 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .