This week the Teal Band set out to build and fly a tetrahedral kite, and along the way, learn some math, read some books, watch the man who started their school “fly,” and do some writing to contribute to this blog.
We began the week with a math exploration on tetrahedrons and some history around kites as modes of transportation. Huxley did some research into tetrahedrons and found out that “a tetrahedron is a polygon with four triangular faces, four vertex corners, and six straight edges. Tetrahedrons are one one of the strongest shapes for many reasons, but the main reason is that any force applied to them gets evenly distributed throughout their structure. Alexander Graham Bell, one of the major contributors to the invention of the telephone and a famous kite scientist, was the inventor of the tetrahedral design we used (for our kite.) He said he dreamed of “flying machines of the future” and theorized that kites could be controlled enough to transport humans. Tetrahedrons are also found in nature, and is a common molecule formation.”
We ended up deciding to build a tetrahedral kite together as a band. It required the band to construct a series of tetrahedrons. Patrick explained the process of building it: You can make one by making a tetrahedron out of straws then you put a layer of tissue paper over 2 of the sides. Next you put 3 of those in a triangle, and then put the fourth on top so the corners are touching. Ta-da! One tetrahedral kite! You can take four of these bigger ones and build an even bigger tetrahedron and so on and on.
To make sure we would have enough tetrahedrons for our kite and enough straws and string to build them, we completed a number of calculations. We found we needed 64 tetrahedrons, made up of 384 straws and at least 3200 inches of string. The amazing part was that this didn’t phase the team of kite builders, instead it pushed the crew to work even harder.
Jared wrote that our kite looked “amazing”, but was “afraid it won’t fly because we didn’t tie the knots tight enough, and it will fall apart in the air. The other half of me thinks it will fly perfectly, and it will have no problem flying at all, because we already tested a piece of it in a “wind tunnel”. A wind tunnel is a huge tube with a fan at the bottom of it. We also have studied about kites, so that’s another reason why one part of me thinks that it will fly.”
Freddie shared that on Thursday morning, “we looked into fractions and angles. We started by reading a book called Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith to warm us up. We followed along and did the math questions along the way. After we finished the book we took out pattern blocks. We used them for fractions and learned about the angles. We played with them for a while because that’s just what Brightworks kids love to do. After we got a feel for them, we started to notice how they are just like fractions and some fit with others.” After creating proofs around the angles and the different relationships, they built kite designs using the pattern blocks and transferred them to paper. Taking what they had discovered about the fractional relationships, they added up the “total” of their designs, choosing one of the shapes to represent the “whole.”
Thursday afternoon led us on a journey that not many students can say they have had or will ever experience. The Teal Band, along with the Orange Band, went to Mussel Rock Park in Pacifica to watch Gever fly, a.k.a. paraglide. Selina connected strongly with this trip and shared that, “Mussel Rock is (as you might have guessed) a rock, that got pushed up from in between two tectonic plates, and is from far away. But we didn’t go to Mussel Rock to study geology, we went to watch Gever paraglide. When you paraglide, you sit in a padded harness with strings attached to a large wing above you. The wing is actually two pieces of cloth sewn together with little compartments. The front of the wing is open, trapping the air and making it possible to fly. It’s really amazing to watch someone fly just using the wind coming from the ocean, but you can’t fly in normal wind, you need it to hit a mountain or a cliff and move upwards. Someday (once I convince my parents to let me), I want to paraglide, too.”
Friday was the big day. It was the day we would find out if all our hard work had paid off. If Jared’s predictions were correct. We headed to Bernal Hill with the Red, Orange and Violet bands. Piper shared her excitement around the day and our kite. “It flew really well, but we hadn’t expected it to fly because right before we got it in the air it kept falling apart and it wasn’t easy to put it back together. It was hard to get all the tetrahedrons ready and tied together before we had to go. We took turns holding the string to help it soar. It was so much fun.”
Aurora became our master kite flyer, testing out multiple ways to keep it in the air. She found that giving the string a “tug” now and then helped get it back up into the air if it began falling. She successfully taught a number of others how to fly it and was a great cheerleader for everyone who tried.
This was a week of not only building a kite that actually flew or learning more about geometry and fractions, but it was a week that really focused on being a team. The Teal Band didn’t end up with seven separate kites. They ended up with one kite that was truly successful because all seven band members had worked together to build it.