Thursday, March 21, 2013

Math, Physics, Art and the Spirograph

imageWhen I was a kid there were a number of spirograph toys available. Some, like the ones available today, had gears and circles with sprockets. One very old toy that belonged to some people my father knew also incorporated moving “arms” that held the pen. Either ways we were able to create interesting drawings using a mix of colors. This was an interesting mix of physics and art. And I suppose Mathematics as well. The Wikipedia article has a whole section on the mathematical basis of the Spirograph so let’s say math as well. Smile These days we can have a lot of this fun with programming though.
Last week I posted about a little project I built using Turtle graphics in imageTouchDevelop. (TouchDevelop–This is Cool! ) Someone replied to that with a link to their post (Teaching Coding: Where Do You Start?) that focused on drawing using Logo. One of my teaching colleagues has written his own simple turtle graphics program to introduce his students to programming. Small Basic also supports Turtle graphics and I have had fun with that. Obviously (?) there are more ways to do it these days.  Any way you look at it turtle graphics is a simple way to get students creating interesting and often unexpected “art work.” At the same time they learn about programming.
Back when I was in college a number of my more mathematically inclined friends experimented with graphing different equations and variations on those equations to see what showed up. Some of them were very interesting visually. Add in a mix of colors, offsets in the location of “0,0” and some outstanding images appeared. Math and art is a lot more closely related than we often think they are and graphing equations can bring that idea to light.
A friend, Doug Peterson, was saying to me last week that the spirograph got him thinking about physics mixed with art as a young person. There is a lot of art mixed in with the sciences for sure and people are talking more about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math) these days. I think that is how it should be. I enjoy mixing some art and math in with my computer science these days. Spirograph programming for everyone.
FWIW the images here are from some sample Small Basic demos I’ve used and had laying around.

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