Student’s origami-centered project wins 1st place at state Science Fair

McKinney student’s origami-centered project wins 1st place at state Science Fair

Photo courtesy of Tina Huynh – Faubion Middle School eighth-grader Carolyn Huynh shows off her first-place project last week at the state Science Fair in San Antonio. Huynh’s project won the junior division’s mathematical sciences category through its display of how math relates to origami.

By Chris Beattie,

Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 4:43 PM CDT

Carolyn Huynh is passionate about math and origami. Science, not as much.

Yet, together the former fostered achievement in the latter. Huynh won first place for the mathematical sciences category at last week’s state Science Fair in San Antonio.

And she did it with parabolas and paper folds.

“The purpose was just to show the relationship between math and origami,” said Huynh, an eighth-grader at Faubion Middle School in McKinney. “Not many people know about that.”

Including Huynh until about a year ago. She won a Math Moves You scholarship with her essay about a hobby’s relation to math. Her assumed simple hobby since elementary school: origami.

Paper cranes and blow-up cubes come easy to Huynh, who admits to times folding the creations, bored otherwise. That’s not surprising, given her mastery of the project’s correlated companion. Huynh has skipped two levels in math and takes pre-calculus – a subject often for high school seniors.

“Math has always been my favorite subject, so this all came easily to me,” she said of her project, calculations strewn across a Science Fair presentation board. “I still had to spend a lot of time understanding the proofs and writing it in my own language.”

Making it scientific, in other words. Margaret Parry, her eighth-grade science teacher at Faubion, tasked Science Fair participants with a year of prep time. Her parameters fit Huynh’s idea.

“The only guidance I gave them was what the requirements were, and because this was so in-depth, they needed to pick something they were really passionate about,” said Parry, who accepted Huynh’s award last Friday.

Huynh enhanced last year’s essay idea and researched origami’s mathematical and real-life connections. From a technical side, she discovered its relation to axioms – folds used in the art – and their ability to explain Euclidean postulates, how a line can be formed from any two points. Outlined on her project are diagrams and related explanations for solving cubic equations.

Parry helped her “make it more science,” Huynh said, through organizing the information amidst material lists and proofs – Science Fair musts – and Huynh’s father aided with a few necessary math components like derivatives and parabolic slopes. Algebra, angle trisecting, trigonometry – that was all Huynh.

“Wow,” Parry said of her initial reaction to the project. “Just the complexity and the math formulas, and even the originality. That’s what judges are looking for these days – those original thought patterns, not just a basic cut-and-paste Science Fair project that comes out of a book.”

Huynh’s ingenuity was enough to win first at Faubion, hers the only math project. She got third place at the regional level, where her project went up against school winners from districts around North Texas. In ensuing weeks, she improved and added onto her project, further expanding its scientific look and mathematical nuances.

Last Thursday was state competition, a gathering of hundreds of participants who’d placed in their respective regions. Huynh’s category alone had 20 to 30 participants, she said.

Still, her unique, albeit math-heavy topic proved beneficial for the junior division decision-makers.

“One of my judges was already studying color-folding and stuff that has to do with origami, but he didn’t know you could solve cubic equations,” Huynh said. “So he was really interested in my project idea.”

His co-judges shared his interest and voted the project tops among all middle school participants in the category. Parry texted Huynh’s mother, Tina, once her victory was announced.

Huynh is the first McKinney ISD student to place at the state Science Fair at least since Parry began taking participants five years ago.

“I was shaking like a leaf; it was amazing,” Parry said. “It reiterates the need for having science fair. It’s kind of taken a backseat role in our district, and I still promote it every year.”

Only high school-age participants compete at the national and international levels, Parry said, so Huynh’s run this year is likely over. She’s got plenty of time to think of something new.

Or simply build – rather, fold – more into her origami connection. In her pursuits, she learned of famous origamists who’ve created software to make fold patterns for complex objects. Solar panels and airbags follow a similar foldable concept, techniques necessary for large-scale transport.

Origami really is math – and science – at work.

“I really liked folding origami because it was relaxing and fun,” Huynh said. “Now I have a whole new appreciation for it because of how it’s related to real life.”

via Star Local News > Mckinney Courier-gazette > News > McKinney student’s origami-centered project wins 1st place at state Science Fair.

The Workyard Kit: Teaching science & math through play | KaBOOM!

Posted by Kerala Taylor on January 3, 2013

How do you recreate the value of playing with sticks and dirt? When it comes to playing, industrial designer Cas Holman admits, “You really can’t beat letting kids play in nature.” But that hasn’t stopped her from trying.

The Workyard Kit, Holman’s latest invention, riffs on the idea that “play is children’s work.” Consisting of wooden planks, ropes, pulleys, hooks and pails, the kit is designed for deeply engaging, open-ended play. Or, as Holman puts it: “cooperative, constructive imagining.”

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

A key creative force behind Imagination Playground, Holman was approached by Friends of the Highline and asked to come up with a way to engage families and kids in New York City’s High Line Park, which converted an old railroad into green space. She wanted to take advantage of the narrow park’s many nooks and crannies and harness its industrial spirit.

Photo by Rowa Lee, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Photo by Joan Garvin, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

And so the Workyard Kit was born. Seeing its success, Holman realized that the kit could have potential beyond The High Line and set about designing it for mass production.

The kit is currently being tested at a number of pilot schools around the country, where Holman hopes it can enhance STEM curricula. In fact, Holman says, STEM should really be STEAM, because without an ‘A’ for ‘art,’ how can children flex the creative muscles they need to excel in science, technology, engineering and math?

The Workyard Kit has no “right” solution. It’s not a puzzle. It’s designed for open-ended prompts that help children think spatially, use their imaginations, and work collaboratively. Examples include:

With these parts, how can you make something that would hold a 10-pound bag of potatoes?

How can you make something that would fly to the moon?

What can you build with 10 parts?

Left photo by Rowa Lee, right photo by Adriana Stimola. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

If we here at KaBOOM! got our way, every classroom would have a Workyard Kit and every schoolyard would have an Imagination Playground. Because when it comes to true learning, hands-on, creative, collaborative play beats a standardized test any day of the week.

Cas Holman teaches Industrial Design at Rhode Island School for Design and is part of its STEM to STEAM initiative. For more information about the Workyard Kit and to learn about a backyard version, visit To see Cas Holman’s other projects, visit To find the Workyard Kit on the High Line, visit

via The Workyard Kit: Teaching science & math through play | KaBOOM!.