As I mentioned in a previous post, we were awarded a team grant to study smart morphing materials. This project, once in full swing, will most likely bring together a couple dozen people, including scientists, engineers, materials scientists, mathematicians, artists, educators, and teachers. There are several overlapping subgroups of people working on various aspects of this project, and I need to be involved in it all.
I am dedicating all day today to getting this project up and running. First, I need to get everyone connected so that each person sees his or her individual role in the project and how each person's work fits in with the whole. Each team member must learn the expertise available to them from other team members and outside collaborators. A bottom up approach is the most effective, but for this to effectively come together, the initial conditions need to be set.
This morning, I sent out an email to team members that read,
I am writing here to the full team in preparation for our meeting on
Thursday at 10:00am PDT. I am asking that all co-PIs add to the "Team
Members and Responsibilities" file in the shared DropBox folder BY THIS
FRIDAY AFTERNOON. Being on the East coast, [Member 1], perhaps you can start
the process since your day is almost over. After you are done, please
let [Member 2] and [Member 3] know it is their turn. If you have not yet
identified students/postdocs, you can pass on this step for now. We can
add them as they join the project.
Next is the more tricky part. After the team member file is done, I
would like everyone, at least on the technical part of the project -
including student/postdocs, to invite each other to their "Circles" on
Google+. To do so, all of you will need to open a (free) Google+
account first. I want to get this over with ASAP. For the technical
meetings, we may need to run two parallel Google Hangouts (one for
video) and one for slides/documents. If all team members have an
account, this will allow us the flexibility of having at least two
available accounts and computers at each site. It also will help us
to deal with computer problems. And since we want to encourage lots of
interactions between various subsets of the full team, getting us all
interconnected is a good start.
I'll send out a an agenda well before the meeting.
There are lots of individual issues that come up with each team member. This morning, the well-known wire artist and team member Elizabeth Berrian brought up several ideas and had additional administrative questions. The excerpt, below, from my email response shows all of the wonderful ideas that this project is generating.
No need to apologize for making contact with me. I enjoy new ideas,
perhaps to excess! I apologize for my tardy response. My emails tend
to back up as I work on absolute deadlines, so sometimes it may take a
day or two for me to respond.
Glad to hear that you are getting back to thinking about hinges and
making wire structures that have the capability of motion. You bring
up several interesting points.
Your musings remind me of how recent developments in Oragami have taken
off exponentially when the constraints of the process were translated
into mathematical terms. Rather than showing its limitations, the
mathematics revealed huge new realms of what was possible; and perhaps
most significantly, provided a guide as to how to implement new
structures, unleashing a new wave of creativity.
Your activities and proposals give me several ideas of how we can
proceed. It may be interesting to get a mathematician or theorist to
be involved in the process. First is the question of the basic
elements. They appear to be what I would call a "knot" which can't
move, a loop around a wire which can slide, etc. In more complex
structures, the way things are arranged, even without "knots" can make
it rigid and immovable. It may be interesting to try to break the
problem into basic elements. There is lots of work in topology that
does exactly this, so bringing this to bare on the problem might be
quite fruitful and fascinating.
Origami works under the constraint of using a single sheet. Similarly,
our technology requires a single strand of fiber that caries light
without interruption. As such, it would be interesting to try to
understand how this constraint plays out in the kinds of structures
that can be made. Optical fibers have the additional constraint that
bends radii must exceed some minimum value. Finally, there is the
connection between origami and wire art. For our purposes, we need to
understand how sheets can be folded onto a wire structure so that the
underlying support, when activated photo-mechanically, can make the
whole structure move in interesting and useful ways.
I would like to start working with the simplest structures to develop a
better intuition about the important ingredients for various
functions. It might be useful if you could make some rudimentary wire
structures on a small scale that exhibit the basic elements, and then
combine elements to see how they work together. This could guide us in
the types of fiber that we make in the future and the types of
applications that we target. Also, these activities could directly
impact the development of educational modules that teach both simple
concepts, such as coordinates in 3D space and geometry, to more
sophisticated concepts such as topology. It is thus important that we
document everything as meticulously as possible. I will try to set up
several dropbox folders so that we can share this information
I will eventually set up individual meetings with the three of us, then
larger meetings with various subsets of the full group. I prefer
Google hangout, so in addition to Skype, it would be useful if you
could join Google+ (its free). Note that my priority this week is to
get the technical collaboration running, which involves coordinating
about a dozen people. This needs to be set in motion before our new
semester starts next week, which will add additional burdens. So, it
may be a few more days before I get around to contacting you again. Of
course, never hesitate to contact me. I always welcome ideas.
Looking forward to experiencing all the great things that this
collaboration will generate.
Below is an example of the exquisite wire art of Elizabeth Berrian.