Extreme Origami

MIT has an Origami club, that doesn’t just make frogs, boats and paper cranes. Because that would be too easy for them. Instead, they make models of the university logo, and, perhaps more impressively, a 17-foot-long triceratops among other “extreme” paper creations.

With a mailing list of 200 members drawn from every segment of the MIT community, the club holds weekly meetings and workshops and sponsors campus-wide competitions that challenge MIT’s best and brightest to fold their way to glory.

The burgeoning interest in origami is hardly confined to the MIT campus. Websites like Origami Tube, where scores of how-to folding videos can be found, and Origami Database, which posts model diagrams, viewing galleries, and information on books and other materials, have contributed to the surge. “Between the Folds,’’ an award-winning 2008 documentary focused on origami’s most visionary practitioners, has likewise added to its newfound cachet.

One reason extreme origami has been flourishing at MIT, though, is its mathematical underpinnings — specifically geometry, the branch concerned with shapes, angles, and how they fit together — and structural engineering, which applies to how paper can be manipulated, so that the right-sized flaps are in the right places before folding.

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