Innovation and Interdisciplinary Learning Has Students Doing Math in Orono’s Webster Park

SunRule Sculpture

Would you go to the park to do a little innovative learning connecting math, science, and art using the sun? Students from nearby schools did just that on October 21, 2022!

A unique partnership between the University of Maine and the Town of Orono made it possible for students, and members of the public, to go to the park and explore multiplication and division using the sun. The interactive sculpture, the SunRule, was unveiled in a public ceremony in October.

The project was a part of UMaine’s MIRTA accelerator program that is designed to advance research to commercialization with a focus on innovation and real-world connections. This type of work brings to light the connections within and across the content areas (math, science, and art) and community partnerships that opens doors to student curiosity, engagement, wonder and joy for learning.

The concept for the sculpture began as an email between UMaine Associate Professor of Mathematics Education and Instructional Technology, Justin Dimmel, and Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, Eric Pandiscio, in 2019 just before the pandemic started! The concept went from SunRule 1.0 (a sawhorse with dowels) to cardboard boxes and then was shared with UMaine Associate Professor of Art, Greg Ondo, and Sculpture Studio Technician, Sam Hoey. With the artistic influence of artwork using sunlight and further planning, a prototype sculpture was created and then a final sculpture of granite and bronze was produced and installed in Webster Park on North Main Avenue in Orono.

Using the sunlight to measure the shadow of an object is something that has been done in math classes for a very long time. The SunRule concept uses the sunlight, not the shadow, to show the continuous nature of multiplication by using a scaling model, showing that for every discrete number (1, 2, 3, etc.) and all those in between, there is a product.

You can read more about the SunRule at UMaine News.