by Angela Marroy-Boerger, Director of Schools + Partnerships and Learning

Leah Hucker’s ninth grade students at the Baltimore Design School recently had the opportunity to explore the vibrant world of paper engineering in a residency with teaching artist Amanda Pellerin.  The field of paper engineering bridges many concepts and curricular areas, from geometry to physics, to mechanical engineering, and beyond. Pellerin’s residency was designed to provide an accessible way for students to reach design goals and create something functional from something as simple as a piece of paper. 

Prior to the residency, students had explored aspects architecture by working in a digital app, but were only working two-dimensionally. This work was the perfect preparation for the paper engineering residency and for building out their ideas in three dimensions. Students first learned and practiced by making layers and accordion folding, and then worked up to more complicated designs using X-acto knives in class. This led into a Bauhaus cutting and folding lesson, and culminated in making Miura Ori folds, a flat-folding technique that compresses a piece of paper into a three-dimensional shape with a tessellated crease pattern made of repeating parallelograms. This technique allows materials to be packed into a compact shape and unfolded in one continuous motion. Incidentally, it was named for the Japanese astrophysicist who used this origami technique in designing solar panel arrays for space satellites!

Students used the concepts taught as the starting point to explore how small variations have the capacity to give materials new properties and create something new. Some altered their designs by changing the direction they cut, some altered the amount they cut vs. folded.

Students loved having the autonomy to alter engineering designs based on their own creative inspiration, as well as using an artistic medium to explore concepts in math and astrophysics!