In which Miss Molly plays with gears.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope yours is full of love and fun. And you don’t have to have a significant other to have those things. I have a fun-filled storytime planned at the library today, and here’s hope it’s as awesome as I hope. I will fill you in on it next week, surely. In the meantime…

Just when I think I’ll write a post on something that isn’t related to iPad and screen time practices, or science programming, it’s Mangled Messes time again. It seems to keep creeping up. I think I have time to wax poetic on storytime and BAM. SCIENCE.spiro1Not to say that I don’t love MM, because I really do, and this month’s program was especially awesome. We talked about the math behind hypotrochoids…you know, Spirographs. The cool part about this is, I don’t own a spirograph machine, so I made one for us to use out of old bike chains and broken gears. I contacted a local bike shop in town, and asked if they’d humor me and donate some bits and bobs for the project.

They said yes, which is awesome for a few reasons. Obviously the first is that I would be able to do the project without having to spend any program budget money. The second has to do with one of my mentorship goals.

I’m not sure if I announced it, but I was accepted into the ALSC Mentoring program, which is a really great way to make connections, professionally and personally grow, and to get a little guidance in the library world if you’re a relatively new librarian, or even if you’ve been in the field for a while, but want to continue to grow. I’ve applied for the past 2 rounds, but it is a highly coveted program to get into. And, as they say, the third time’s the charm! I’ve been working with my mentor since September-ish.

Anyway, one of my goals was to work on creating, maintaining, and strengthening local partnerships. Working with the bike shop is a new partnership, and one that is great. The guys are so nice, and really helpful. They even opened and closed different sections of chain for me when I couldn’t do it myself.

So, I had found several tutorials online about creating your own spirograph out of bike gears and chain, and decided I needed to do it. So, I did. I ended up roughly using a tutorial I found on Toward a Green Sculpture, though I did several things differently, to make my life easier.

For one, I used cardboard for the base. It was a very sturdy cardboard, but it was much easier to cut and work with. spiro4Secondly, I used a crafting tool, much like a compass with a blade, to cut the circles I used. spiro3I did 3 sizes, and then adjusted the chain accordingly (hence why the lovely guys at the bike shop helped me out twice…getting the chain apart is not as easy as it looks if you don’t have the proper tools). spiro2Third, I used a heavy duty glue, rather than hot glue. It worked well, but I had to  get it out of the spaces of the chain, so the gears wouldn’t stick too badly. 2015-02-04 11.25.01I also painted the cardboard. As you might have noticed in a few of the pictures, there are grease stains…this is because I used old pizza boxes. That cardboard is good stuff, man. Gotta use everything. I’m all about reduce, reuse, recycle. Hence revamping broken bicycle parts. I mean, why NOT use old pizza boxes? I wiped the boxes down with a bleached cloth, let them dry, and then painted them before putting the chain in place. So, it was nice and even and smooth. 2015-02-04 18.35.18

I started by talking to the Messers about spirographs and hyprotrochoids. We also talked about how our brains are hardwired to pick out patterns, and how finding those patters is how we, as humans, make sense of what we see. Be they shapes, themes, images, you name it, our brains pick it out.
We then use math and science to explain the things that we are naturally observing, answering the questions HOW and WHY do these patterns happen and can I repeat them consistently?

We briefly looked at the terrifying equations that map out the path the circles take and how they create the various shapes and then I broke it down. Basically, imagine a fixed point set inside one circle that travels along the inside of a second circle. The different hypotrochoids are determined by the differing diameters of the two circles and the position of the point inside the center circle where the line is drawn from.

Ta-Da. Then it was experiment time. I had made 3 spirgraph contraptions of varying sizes, but I had 12 kids. And while they had to work together (one to hold the contraption steady, and the other to move the gear inside the fixed circle), that still left 6 kids who needed something to do. 2015-02-04 20.09.57So, I set them up on the computer with a virtual spirograph machine, which is ridiculously awesome and offers a lot more variety in terms of what kinds of shapes can be created.

Everyone got turns with everything and everyone had a picture to take home. It was a great program and tons of fun. 2015-02-04 20.07.05

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