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Puzzlemania maths exhibition

In the first few months of 2005 I was contracted as Science Consultant for a collaboration between Glasgow Science Centre and Explore@Bristol on a maths exhibition. The exhibition was based on an existing exhibition that Explore@Bristol had acquired. My job included these tasks:

  • to evaluate all of the existing exhibits (of which there were about 80)
  • to take part in the decision about what would be kept and what wouldn't
  • to do further research on the exhibits where necessary
  • to design replacements where necessary
  • to write user texts and training documents for gallery staff
  • to source components
  • to work on the actual construction of the exhibits

My collaborators at Glasgow Science Centre were Jo Beswick, Drew Irvine, Robin Pollok, and Grant Slinn. From Explore@Bristol, we worked with Emma Cook, Clara Lim and Andy Cathery.

Visitors using the Battleships game

Visitors using the Battleships game. I did most of the work on the actual battleships board. This included applying the letters and numbers to label the cells in the board. I spent a lot of my spare time at school printing, and the 4 hours I spent with the Letraset getting the spacing and alignment just right is proof that my printer's heart is still beating.

My original sketch for the battleships game

My original sketch for the battleships game.

A puzzle to illustrate the 4-colour map theorem

I designed and built this jigsaw-style puzzle to illustrate the 4-colour map theorem.

Tiling exhibit with mirrors

I like this tiling exhibit simply because it is beautiful.

Exhibit on the travelling salesman problem

This exhibit is about the Travelling Salesman problem. I wrote a Visual Basic program to calculate the length of all the 362880 possible routes between the towns on the board, to find out which was the shortest. I used this program as a way of selecting a set of towns for which the shortest route would not be immediately obvious.

Globe in its stand

I designed and built this globe holder. This globe is part of an exhibit where the visitor finds the shortest route between two places on a globe and then sees that this route is not a straight line when plotted on a flat map. The globe is a loose fit. The visitor can rotate it until the two places of their choice lie against the arched rail. The rest of the rail then shows the shortest route between those places.

Galton board

While building this Galton Board, I learned how difficult it is to build a good one. The trouble is making sure that there is no correlation between the direction in which a ball enters the gap between two pegs and the direction in which it leaves. My solution was to use a light, bouncy ball (a table tennis ball) and to reduce the clearance between pegs and ball to the mininum so that the ball rattles between the pegs before falling through. This arrangement gave a good match with theoretical results, and as a bonus gave a pleasing busy-ness to the ball's journey down the board.