This fun project combines art, math and engineering to get kids into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Using a strip of paper and a piece of tape, your child can make a mathematical curiosity called a mobius strip, transforming an object with two sides to an object with a single surface. Creating a mobile with the strips allows your young learners to practice engineering by playing with design and balance.
What You’ll Need
- Paper or card stock
- Paper Straws
- String or fishing line
- Paper clips (optional)
Safety Tips and Hints: Your child will have to slide things around on the mobile to balance it, once she has it put together and hung it up.
What To Do
Step 1 (Math): Help your child measure and cut several strips of paper that are 1.5 cm wide and 15 cm long. Note: Once your child gets the hang of making mobius strips, she can cut paper strips of any dimension.
Step 2 (Math): Have your child count how many surfaces (sides) a strip of paper has. If she needs help, remind her that the front side plus the back side is 1 side +1 side , which equals 2 sides.
Step 3 (Art): If the paper is white, ask your child to add some color or design to the strips.
Step 4 (Engineering): Show your young learner how to turn each paper strip into a loop, and then flip one of the ends over before taping the ends together. Let her try it. The odd loop created is called a mobius strip. Make at least four mobius strips to hang on the mobile. You may need to work the paper with your fingers to smooth out bends.
Step 5 (Math): Before you put the mobile together, ask your child to make a plain white mobius strip. Using a marker, help her draw a line parallel to the edges of the strip without lifting the pen. She should end up in the same spot where she started. Ask her how many surfaces (sides) the strip of paper has now. She'll see it only has one!
Step 6 (Engineering): Create the frame for your mobile by helping your child tape two straws together.
Step 7 (Engineering): Attach the mobius strips to the frame using fishing line and/or paper clips.
Step 8 (Engineering): Let your young engineer balance the mobile and hang it up.
Make a large mobius strip and cut it down the center line. What happens?
Make a mobius strip and attempt to draw it from several angles. If it casts a shadow, draw the shadow too.
The STEAM Behind the Fun
A mobius strip is a mathematical marvel. Although it’s made from a single piece of paper with two sides, or surfaces, a mobius strip only has one surface and a one boundary (edge).
When you draw a line on a mobius strip or trace the edge of one with your finger, you’ll end up back in the same spot, without lifting your pen or your finger. If you cut a mobius strip along the center line, you’ll end up with one long strip.
You can find more experiments like this one at kitchenpantryscientist.com, and in my books Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), and my upcoming book STEAM Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Projects Exploring Science, Technology, Art and Math (Quarry Books, summer 2018).
© Quarry Books, 2018/STEAM Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Projects Exploring Science, Technology, Art and Math
Photos: © Quarry Books