Tuesday, September 10, 2013


By Michelle Harris

I recently constructed kits for two hundred plus Bucky Balls with  one push pin, thirty toothpicks and twelve half-inch portions of plastic tubing. These kits were distributed to two hundred children at a local school. Learning how to make the Bucky Ball for class illustration, I started with, ‘How does this go?’ Having seen several Bucky Balls I could envision the end product but found myself challenged to repeat the process without further instruction. When helping the kids assembly their Bucky Balls, ‘How does this go?’ was a question asked at least two hundred times. The theory of the Bucky Ball appeared absorbed by the task of technical creation.
Theory and technical application, however, are intrinsic to the other. In researching Bucky’s Ball I learned about Buckminster Fuller’s tensegrity models. I felt that in the tensegrity model there is a fascinating balance of theory and technical application. To fully understand the tensegrity model you must understand compression and tension. Compression is the reduction of a volume due to forces acting upon it. Tension is the pulling force upon a structure. Recreating the tensegrity model I find that the structure needs more thought than stringing thread through 3 straws. The complex balance between each portion is achieved by strategic application.
This strategy is the unification not only between tension and compression but also technical and theoretical application. Understanding the multifaceted balance found in design offers that there are also applicable means of finding balance in other extremes. Nature is a prime candidate of illustrating balance in extremes.
The extremes found in nature begin at an atomic level. Neutrons and protons cling together while electrons orbit the perimeter. The reason for imbalance in nature and parallel metaphors is the energy released in one direction or another. This energy may be for the better in the case of students and myself learning to create, worse in the sense of collapsing building and in atoms relative to the context.
Achieving balance might be formulaic, but context is ever changing and worthy of the question, ‘How does this go?’ With this question the initiative behind the formulaic begins to find definitive place. With trial and error my Bucky Ball was created, also a pattern for creating tensegrity models and the atom remains theorectical in tact. The process of the expended energy in creation is to comprehend fully.

Herrin City Library, August 27th Facebook.com

Difference Between Compression and Tension:
How to Build a Bucky Ball:

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