Modular Origami

Modular origami involves several identically folded paper units (or modules) assembled into a finished model. Modular origami is also referred to as geometric modular origami or polyhedral geometric origami. Modular origami has wide range of practical applications, in fields as diverse as robotics, hydraulic tube bending, protein folding, sheet-metal bending, and air-bag folding.

Math lovers, engineers, scientists and physicians will be excited to note that most models resemble the crystal structures they work with – the models most often are based on the Platonic or Archimedean solids, on prisms, anti prisms, Kepler solids or Johnson solids.

Paper folding has applications in sheet-metal bending, packaging, and air-bag folding., biology and medicine Unfolding polyhedra has applications in manufacturing, particularly sheet-metal bending. Computational origami is a recent branch of computer science studying efficient algorithms for solving paper-folding problems

The mathematics of modular origami has been in-depth analyzed by mathematicians, engineers, scientists and architects.  Most folding and unfolding problems are attractive from a pure mathematical standpoint, from the beauty of the problems themselves. Nonetheless, most of the problems have close connections to important industrial applications. Linkage folding has applications in robotics, hydraulic tube bending, and has connections to protein folding. Protein folding is a major problem of interest in biology and physics. The standard problem is designing synthetic proteins that fold stably into a particular configuration. Protein Folding Is 'Hit And Miss' Process, Sometimes known as “nature’s origami”, the way that proteins fold is vital to ensuring they function correctly. This is a ‘hit and miss’ process, with proteins potentially folding wrongly many times before they form the correct structure for their intended purpose.

Teachers have discovered that Origami is an activity that fits ideally into interdisciplinary and multi-cultural programs. Paper folding combines the advantages of being instructive and attractive. It appeals to the creative, inventive and constructive abilities of children. To the unsuspecting child, the transformation of the flat sheet of paper into a three dimensional form, using only two hands, seems almost magical.

In this learning by doing activity, (in which co-ordination and motor control play an important part), there is a continuous interaction of the action and thought process. Children watch how each fold leads to a more advanced one and how together they all progress to create a life-like pliable material, which they, the children, duplicate or, use their creativity to form a new one on their own. In that aspect, Origami is a method of “active research”. There is a gradual progression, a sequential order, research into new relationships of folds, and creative possibilities which encourage the advancement of new ideas.

Origami for  Therapists and Special Education Teachers

Paper folding provides children with a multi sensory hands on approach, which is particularly beneficial to children with learning difficulties. The child is exposed to speaking, listening, seeing, observing, touching and doing. In the process of learning a new model and duplicating it on his own, the child has an opportunity to improve multiple cognitive skills in an enjoyable way. A partial list of these skills includes: visual sequential memory, eye hand coordination, spatial perception and fine motor. The child also develops the ability to follow directions and associative thinking skills, and improves patience, concentration and attention to detail.

Flexible & Convenient

  • Can be practiced any place, any time,
  • Can be a form of non-verbal communication
  • Can be carried out indoor or outdoor
  • Paper is easily accessible
  • Colorful
  • Non-threatening
  • Affordable cost
  • Least restrictive
  • Simple & safe
  • Only paper is required
  • No tools are needed
  • Safe with clients with self harming behavior
  • Safe with clients with unpredictable or potentially aggressive behavior.
  • Provide choices
  • Different colors
  • Different patterns
  • Folds from simple to challenging
  • Present as an observer or a participant

Practice by self or with others

Eva Szillery obtained her Ph.D. in Mathematics in Hungary at the prestigious Eotvos Lorand University. In 2005, she received the University of Maine Educator Recognition Award for Programming Excellence for her work with MJETS and the Maine Mathematics, Science and Engineering Talent Search Programs.

She has been folding modular origami for 14 years. She became involved in the art form as a way to teach mathematics to her students in a fun and exciting new way.  She has been teaching teachers and students for modular origami in Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, Presque Isle, Camden, Bath, Brunswick, Boothbay and has presented modular origami exhibits at sites across Maine, including Lewiston, Presque Isle, Bangor, Orono  Portland and Gorham.

For more information or library workshops  and / or for teacher workshops please contact Szillery by e-mail:   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call at 207 356 0207