Running for Office - Twenty Twelve

George Hart

Here's a big construction I made with a group of students and faculty at Albion College in Michigan.  It recycles plastic campaign signs that weren't needed anymore on the day after the election.  There are sixty components and each looks vaguely like a running man.

The first step was to make a master template and then trace it on stacks of signs.  These signs are 18 inches by 24 inches, so the template is scaled to just fit in that area.  If you want to make a copy of this design, start by printing out the template (pdf version) at the appropriate scale for your material.

We made stacks of nine sign boards and held them together with sheet-rock screws.  This allowed cutting nine at a time in one operation.

A band saw easily cuts this corrugated plastic.  For the slots, you need to cut out a width roughly equal to the thickness of the material. 

Two holes are drilled in the back feet.  Cable ties will later go through the holes to hold the parts together.

At the assembly event, we started by making modules of three parts.  The slots at the head join in a cycle, so one ear needs to be bent to make the third connection.  But it straightens out nicely and can't slide apart.

On my laptop, I brought along a computer model of the final result that we could use as a guide to assembly.  Twenty modules are arranged more or less like an icosahedron. The feet meet in groups of six and the connection is hidden under another module, so it is tricky to visualize how everything interweaves.

We started by working up in the air, holding the modules in their relative positions and making foot connections.  We first did a cycle of five modules, then another group of five around those. 

Looking up from below at the first five modules shows how they form a pentagonal opening.  When complete, there will be twelve of these openings.  The "Twenty Twelve" in the title is the number of modules and openings (and also the year).

Here's what the foot connections look like. Each front foot mates with a back foot, and the three back feet join like the corner of a cube.  It is all held together with three cable ties that go through holes in two adjacent feet.  The connection is tricky because all this sits in the basement of another module, which gets in the way when you try to access the holes.

With ten modules together, we turned it over and sat it on the rug.  The assembly algorithm is just to keep adding more modules to the growing structure.

All the slots fit with no problems, but reaching inside to thread the cable ties through the holes wasn't easy.  All together, it took about two and a half hours in the shop to make the parts and then an hour and ten minutes for the assembly. 

The result is strong enough to hang from one point so it spins slowly with the air currents.  There's a nice view from below.  To get a better understanding of the design, watch the assembly video.

Thank you very much everyone who participated, including Andrew French for providing the signs and Ron Fryxell for use of his shop, with a special thank you to Dave Reimann for inviting me and taking these pictures.