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Tensegrity Structure

copper and steel

Sometimes reading about projects is not enough, you have to build one to understand what they are talking about.  That was the case when we saw the Tensegrity article in MAKE magazine.  We had to build one.  We started the project a few weeks ago, but it has been a busy month and we didn’t get to finish it until this weekend.

Build the Tensegrity structure was educational from many different perspectives.  It gave us a chance to build something…always fun.  It also gave us an excuse to buy a rivet gun…even more fun.  However, the most amazing thing was it allowed us an opportunity to see math in action…incredibly fun.

When we were building the structure, it was hard to see how this thing could stand on its own without the tubes touching.  We are so used to joints, connectors, and angle brackets in our everyday things that making something held together by “tension” is very non-intuitive.

At first we thought we could solder the cables in place, but riveting them into place was much quicker.  The steel cables do not compress much.  We drilled the holes to be a little bigger than 1/8″ (size of the rivets).  In order to get everything to fit, we cut the cables to the proper length and spread the ends before riveting them in place.

Even before all the cables were tighten, the structure could support a surprising amount of weight.  The spool of steel cable is about 15 lbs.  The structure became very rigid once all the opposing cables were connected.

This small model is much stronger than the wooden model we made last month.  We are thinking it would make a pretty interesting frame for a stained glass project.  Hmmm.

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