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Kinetic Sculpture Challenge by John, Elly, Nick and Linnea

We're John, Elly, Nick and Linnea--and we're the F.A.T. 4! What's that? We're an engineering squad that's participating in the MIT Museum's annual Friday after Thanksgiving Chain Reaction event. It's a crazy science fun-for-all where teams of inventors create kinetic sculptures of everyday items. All the teams hook their chain reactions together for one, big extravaganza. Our question: How can we make a cool chain reaction?

What did we do?
First we went to the MIT Museum to look at the Gestural Engineering exhibit, which features the work of Arthur Ganson. Arthur is the guy who dreamed up the F.A.T. event. His sculptures are a cross between machines and really intricate works of art. We thought they might inspire us! Then we took some time to brainstorm what we wanted to do. We came up with three basic parts: falling dominos, a soda and mint eruption, and the firing of a straw rocket. Next we drew a diagram and used it as our blue print to start building.

What did we find out?
The building process helped us work out a few kinks in our plan. Turns out not everything that works on paper works in reality! We continued to tweak our chain reaction, even as we were setting up at the F.A.T. event. We weren't the only ones! All together, there were at 48 teams at the event and everyone works until the very last minute. Luckily, our part of the chain reaction went off like clockwork. Three cheers for the F.A.T. 4!

What can you do?
  • Develop a chain reaction contraption of your own, but start small. For example, focus your creativity on the the challenge of spelling out your team name in an unexpected way. Use ordinary mechanical devices to move letters into place, or unroll a banner, or something else.
  • You can think of a gravity-powered cuckoo clock as a kind of kinetic sculpture that also serves a purpose. Find an everyday object around the house (clock; doorbell; light switch) and design on paper a new and artistic way to carry out that object's function. Be sure to give it some style!
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