Check out this awesome display which has been installed in the atrium of the School of Engineering at The University of Birmingham. It is a powerful collaboration between the STAM research group in the School of Mathematics, the School of Engineering and the origami artist Coco Sato.

Marking the anniversary of the first lockdown back in March 2020, students, staff and the public across campus have created these stunning origami paper butterflies – selecting the colour which most denoted their feelings during the pandemic:

Angry – United – Lonely – Anxious - Grateful

Staring up at the swarm of butterflies invisibly suspected above, it is striking to witness how alike and yet how difference our experiences of this time have been.

So, what does this project have to do with Maths and Engineering?

Origami is already being investigated and used to aid many different areas of engineering due to its usefulness in deployable technology and simple design from the folding of a single sheet of material. NASA have been testing out different types of ideas using origami to pack and deploy solar arrays on satellites for example. Origami has also been looked to for shape changing buildings due to its beautiful, yet functional nature.

More than simply an art installation, this piece reflects the ongoing simulation work of STAM - a multidisciplinary research leadership award focussing on Shape Transforming Active Microfluidics in conjunction with the Schools of mathematics and Engineering. Working to understand how programmable shape changes and active matter can be used in tandem to precisely control microscale fluid flows, this research uses mathematical modelling, numerical simulation, and experiments with soft microscale 3D printing, with the goal of creating a Universal Microfluidic Device, that can perform many different tasks, without needing to be remade.  The collection and movement of the particles seen within the installation reflect the simulation work performed here. Moreover, origami is being used in conjunction with the smart active matter to create folding systems that work at tiny scales.

An inspiring fusion of Maths, Engineering and Art in cutting-edge research!

(Information courtesy of The University of Birmingham)
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