Project 73: assembling A Tensegrity model with one string and self-assembled poems

Tensegrity Icosahedron

Here is a tensegrity icosahedron (T-icosa) made of coffee stir sticks, yarn and elastics. This is the T-icosa I made a couple years ago, restrung with one string. (Here is a video of Graham Scarr assembling a tensegrity icosahedron with a single string.) I have been consumed with learning how to do this for the last few months and especially in the last few weeks.

On each strut, I wrote something about tensegrity structures.

This is a tensegrity model.
This is not a biotensegrity model.
A model of forces of tension, compression and tension-compression.
Compression struts floating in a tensioned network.
Bouncy
Auxetic

I first learned how to put this model together using a method taught by Chris Clancy, which she learned from Susan Lowell de Solorzano. This video from Susan, shows how to construct a collapsible tensegrity model made of modular units constructed from simple materials. If you intend to make your own model, I would recommend learning this way first. No matter which method you use, for the majority of the process, it will look like this…

…helping hands or feet may may make things easier…(These are Anita’s talented feet.)

…until the last string is joined and the structure is completed, popping into its wholeness.

I made more models out of twigs and even bamboo stakes for the garden. I borrowed Graham Scarr’s book, Biotensegrity -The structural basis of life, from a friend and in the appendix, noticed two different sets of directions for assembling a tensegrity model., Susan’s method and the one string method, that he claims is easier than the first method once you learn it. I was intrigued. The learning curve requires comfort with the messiness of navigating a pile of sticks and string untensioned.

Learn to make a tensegrity model with one string

If you want to string together a tensegrity with one string. I would gather the materials for two models. 12 complete struts in total, 6 loops of string and some more string. (Watch Susan’s video for details and dimensions.)

  1. Make a collapsible tensegrity model using the modular method by Susan Lowell using the first 6 struts.
  2. Take the completed model and with a piece of yarn (-a different colour is nice,) trace through the single string path overtop of the existing string.
  3. Put together the second set of 6 struts using one string, using the first model as a reference.

Here is the sequence of steps to put together the model with a single string as outlined and illustrated in Graham Scarr’s book. The sequence is not unique, there are certain steps that could be done in a different order. I began to see the pattern of a diamond that is the repeating unit used in the modular method. This is just one repeating pattern that exists that can be helpful in seeing what is going on as you learn the single string method.

Just for fun, I wrote down the order of joining the struts as a repetitive self generated poem, writing down the words on the strut as it was being joined up. I like the repetition and different combinations of the words and phrases that resulted. Each strut is named with its word or phrase as well as being colour coded. If you have not played with a tensegrity model before, build it and then choose some words to write on your struts if you choose to do so.

Colour coded struts in the order that they are first joined,

Tensegrity Icosahedron – a self-generated poem / tensegrity generating poem

The diagrams below show pairs of parallel struts and which end of the strut to join up. The colour coding is for assembly purposes. If your struts had the same phrases as my struts, you would attach the string to the end of the strut with the bolded text. Followed in this way, it is a tensegrity generating poem.

The length of the string between joins is about 60% of the length of the strut. In my models, I used twigs from my yard and cut slits into each end of the twig struts using a jig saw. The string I used was not elastic like some models out there. Those are fun too and would exhibit different properties .

This is a tensegrity model.A
This is not a biotensegrity model.B
This is a tensegrity model.A
A model of forces of tension, compression and tension-compression.C
This is a tensegrity model.A
Compression struts floating in a tensioned network.D
This is not a biotensegrity model.B
BouncyE
This is a tensegrity model.A
BouncyE
A model of forces of tension, compression and tension-compression.C
Compression struts floating in a tensioned network.D
A model of forces of tension, compression and tension-compression.C
BouncyE
AuxeticF
BouncyE
This is not a biotensegrity model.B
Compression struts floating in a tensioned network.D
AuxeticF
A model of forces of tension, compression and tension-compression.C
AuxeticF
This is not a biotensegrity model.B
AuxeticF
Compression struts floating in a tensioned network.D
This is a tensegrity model.A

Illustrations of the single string path to join a tensegrity icosahedron using the diamond shape associated with each strut to help guide the assembly

Complete the diamond belonging to the red strut.

Connect to the green strut, connect the bottom half the diamond of the orange strut ( acute angle of the diamond ). Connect upper half the diamond of the blue strut. (obtuse angle of the diamond)

Complete the diamond of the yellow strut.

Connect the purple strut and complete the diamond of the blue strut.

Complete the diamond of the orange strut (top half). Join the other end of the the purple strut.

Complete the diamond of the purple strut.

Complete the green diamond, (front half) and you are done!!!!

I’m not sure if I agree that this way is easier than the modular method. Maybe it is faster once you get the hang of it, but it sure is easier and quicker to do than to write out the instructions. The process has helped me to learn how to string up a tensegrity icosahedron with one string. It is easier to learn the modular method for the first time, but this single string method is growing on me.

Here a few snapshots of how it actually looks…

Another tensegrity poem

I write very infrequently on this blog and I had planned to write about tensegrity model building at the end of May. But then murder of George Floyd and the response to it online and in the streets happened. This post has taken much longer to write than expected. A month later, some change has happened, good news and new injustices are reported, and we have a long way to go. Our own Canadian systemic racism has come into the spotlight as well, including anti-indigenous racism. A beautiful, quietly powerful, sad and angry re-write of a song, We didn’t start the fire, by April Martell lists some stories of injustice.

Social media and connectivity is becoming the nervous system of the world. Messages being sent and prevented from being sent, amplified or manipulated, subversion, propaganda, fluff, lies, truth, beauty, darkness and light reverberating through the whole system. Though there are still quiet spots where the signal is not being detected or received and uneven distribution of internet access, 95% of the world can now afford mobile internet. This time, maybe because so many of us were on pause with the pandemic more people got the message and got curious and started to take action. May we continue in this, pay attention and support those for whom this has been an ages old ongoing struggle. Black lives matter.

Some of the preliminary action has filled my inbox and social media with reading lists, recommended videos, podcasts and calls to action from everybody (even diy blogs, food blogs and grocery stores.)

There is a connection between tensegrity structures and our world. A tensegrity model is a model of forces and a model of wholeness and a model that is helpful in describing the natural world. A balanced tensegrity structure requires even engagement of all parts for optimal functioning. As seen in our simple T-icosa and in much more complex systems, uneven tension and compression patterns in one area have global effects and only by looking at the whole system, can we remedy the inequity and move towards balance. Small movements and vibrations can reverberate through the entire system. May each of us remember our part in determining what kind of world we live in. May we listen to more voices and see a through a wider lens the state of our world. May we amplify truth and beauty and playfulness in subverting and dismantling institutional violence and take advantage of the power of resonance that can take hold with small individual inputs into a system, like pushing a swing, like marching across a bridge in lock step at the bridge’s natural frequency causing it to sway and collapse, like the way music moves us all, like the k-pop fans crashing of Dallas Police i-Watch app. This may be part of the reason why protests engaging 3.5% of the population rarely fail. I am hopeful that things are moving in the right direction, even as we have a long way to go.

Any 6 lines can be arranged into a repetitive recombination of phrases generated by the tensegrity assembly. The pattern is ABA CAD BEA ECD CEF EBD FCF BFDA, I wrote 6 lines about recent events and following the pattern of repetition of the tensegrity assembly, you get a juxtaposition of phrases that could be a contemplative inquiry.


Black lives matter.
I see and listen and learn a history of injustice, laws to dehumanize.
What is my part now?
Drops accumulate to bring a tidal wave, change comes in choices.
For those crushed under the weight of injustice, what do we owe?
How can we share the responsibility to remove the crushing load?
Black lives matter.
I see and listen and learn a history of injustice, laws to dehumanize.
Black lives matter.
What is my part now?
Black lives matter.
Drops accumulate to bring a tidal wave, change comes in choices.
I see and listen and learn a history of injustice, laws to dehumanize.
For those crushed under the weight of injustice, what do we owe?
Black lives matter.
For those crushed under the weight of injustice, what do we owe?
What is my part now?
Drops accumulate to bring a tidal wave, change comes in choices.
What is my part now?
For those crushed under the weight of injustice, what do we owe?
How can we share the responsibility to remove the crushing load?
For those crushed under the weight of injustice, what do we owe?
I see and listen and learn a history of injustice, laws to dehumanize.
Drops accumulate to bring a tidal wave, change comes in choices.
How can we share the responsibility to remove the crushing load?
What is my part now?
How can we share the responsibility to remove the crushing load?
I see and listen and learn a history of injustice, laws to dehumanize.
How can we share the responsibility to remove the crushing load?
Drops accumulate to bring a tidal wave, change comes in choices.
Black lives matter.

June Written by:

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    July 9, 2020
    Reply

    June, what a gift to read-see-feel how you have run with tensegrity. Inspired creativity! <3 <3 <3

    • June
      June
      July 11, 2020
      Reply

      Thanks Chris!

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