In the Learning Studio we’ve been doing some prototyping and experimenting with making pop-up books. As a first introduction to paper folding a few months back, Paul S. showed us some basic techniques and since then we’ve been looking at some how-to books like The Pocket Paper Engineer Vol. 1 and Elements of Pop-Up. A few weeks ago we spent couple of hours testing out some simple folds and then tried to make them more personalized by adding printed photos of ourselves and cut-outs from thin-cardboard food packages. Although we still have a lot to learn about the rudiments of folding, we wanted to see if we could tack on an extra layer of awesomeness to the cards by adding coin cell batteries, copper tape, and LEDs and trying to get the pop-up action to act as a switch to turn on a light.
As a way to celebrate our development process we wanted to bring out this half formed idea in full view of the visitors to the museum. We used the tube wall and set up a small workshop space in a corner of the Tinkering Studio for some staff and explainers. Lianna made a super cool pop-up sign with springs on the letters to let the people know that we were in the early stages of developing the activity in hopes that one day we would be ready to share it on the floor with visitors.
The activity turned out to be pretty hard because we were fighting against the natural way that the card behaves when it folds, meaning it would be easier to make a switch that turned on if the card was closed with two sides completing a circuit. We ended up trying variations of a fold that looked like a bird beak with the top and bottom of the mouth almost touching when the card was wide open. With some aluminum foil, copper tape, and a bit a wiggling, we finally got a LED to turn on when a card was opened!
We think that it might be worthwhile to try more pop-up experiments both in our workshop space and out in the museum in the tinkering studio. The bird beak fold showed some promise and Gabriel was also working on a more complicated switch-like mechanism that deserves further exploration. Although on the museum floor we had to work in a more chaotic space than we’re used to and we had to run back and forth a few times for supplies, it felt nice to be able to interact with visitors and explain what we were up to. I especially was happy to see a mother and her son get interested in checking out some of the books that we brought out and also it was great to see some of the explainers really get into building pop-ups.
With Walter installing some wooden framework around the musical bench and Nicole working on painting the letters on the oscylinderscope signage, it really felt like a active tinkering space today. It’s fun to get to the point where we are building, prototyping and trying out new ideas in close proximity to kids and adults doing the same thing. Hopefully we’ll keep working this way more and more as the summer continues!