Traveling MoSAIC Festival celebrates mathematics, art

Petronela Radu (left), associate professor of mathematics at UNL, along with her children, interact with Paul Hildebrandt of Zometool at the MoSAIC Festival. LINDSAY AUGUSTYN/UNL CSMCE

The MoSAIC Festival, a national traveling exhibit celebrating the Mathematics of Science, Art, Industry and Culture, visited the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nov. 14-15 in the Nebraska Union.

The free public festival consisted of lectures, hands-on workshops, short films and an art exhibit. Presentation topics included origami, famed graphic artist M.C. Escher, tessellations, Zome construction tools, ceramics and quilting. Students and adults alike enjoyed creating two- and three-dimensional artwork inspired by science, geometry and other mathematical concepts. One father-daughter team traveled all the way from Denver, Colorado, to participate in the event.

Participants called the festival “thought-provoking,” “inspiring,” “blind accessible” and “unbelievably cool.” One third-grader commented, “It was really fun, and I wish I could do it 20 more times.”

Christopher K. Palmer, renowned digital fabrication lab manager at the University of California, Berkeley, was among the featured presenters and a favorite of the attendees. Palmer’s work has been highlighted in documentaries on origami and mathematics, and in the book “Shadowfolds”, a treatise and guide to creating folded geometric designs in fabric.

Other featured presenters included David Reimann of Albion College, Violeta Vasilevska of Utah Valley University, and Paul Hildebrandt of Zometool, Inc. UNL’s International Quilt Study Center and Museum and the Sheldon Museum of Art also presented workshops, as well as Nick Owad, a mathematics graduate student, and math department alumna Sondra Bravo, a fifth-grade teacher at Catlin Magnet Center in Omaha Public Schools.

The MoSAIC Festival is sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the Bridges Organization and the Simons Foundation, with assistance from the Department of Mathematics and the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education. For more information, visit the MoSAIC website.