Fold, Then Flip

This curved-crease sculpture, created for the opening of the National Museum of Mathematics, demonstrates the intersection of origami, design, and mathematics that is at the heart of this course. (Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine.)

This curved-crease sculpture, created for the opening of the National Museum of Mathematics, demonstrates the intersection of origami, design, and mathematics that is at the heart of the course 6.849 Geometric Folding Algorithms. (Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine.)

Quiz question: What do medical stents, car air bags, origami sculptures, robotic arms, satellite solar arrays, and morphing computer graphics have in common?

Answer: Folding, of course!

Oh, yes, and algorithms, too!

OCW has just published 6.849 Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra, a course by Professor Erik Demaine, which explores the universe of folding in one dimension (linkages), two dimensions (origami), and three dimensions (polyhedra).

The course is itself folded in the sense that Professor Demaine flipped his classroom using videotaped “inverted lectures” that students watched outside class.  Time in the classroom was devoted to answering student questions and to pursuing deeper investigations of the multifaceted course material.  Professor Demaine also invited students to optional “open-problem sessions,” at which students worked on cutting-edge problems in a collaborative spirit espousing the belief that “there are no bad ideas.”

The course is a revealing example of the ways that video lectures can actually free up the instructor to engage with students in a more hands-on, thought-provoking way. The course publication on OCW includes all of the video lectures (from Fall 2010) and videos of the class sessions (from Fall 2012) as well.

Professor Demaine explains his thinking behind the course in his This Course at MIT page. The class sessions were shaped by forms that the students filled out online after watching the lectures, so Professor Demaine could prepare for the sessions to address student questions and incorporate the latest research, often with stunning computer graphics and animations.

Professor Demaine liked this format so much he flipped another course he teaches, 6.851 Advanced Data Structures. As he says in the course description, “You interact with data structures even more often than with algorithms (think Google, your mail server, and even your network routers). In addition, data structures are essential building blocks in obtaining efficient algorithms.”

A champion of open sharing, Professor Demaine published this course with full video lectures and a reflective This Course at MIT page on OCW. This allowed him to share a number of lessons he learned from his first flipped experience and to outline the adjustments and improvements he made for his second.

You can see many other OCW’s This Course at MIT pages here. They are part of OCW’s innovative Educator project.

— Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

One thought on “Fold, Then Flip

  1. Pingback: Mega Menger: Building a Menger Sponge at MIT (MIT News) | Open Matters

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