Kenneth Snelson: “Tensegrity describes a closed structural system composed of a set of three or more elongate compression struts within a network of tension tendons, the combined parts mutually supportive in such a way that the struts do not touch one another, but press outwardly against nodal points in the tension network to form a firm, triangulated, prestressed, tension and compression unit.”
“Buckminster Fuller coined the word tensegrity from tension and integrity five years after I first demonstrated to him the principle I had discovered.”
Looking for more info on these fascinating structures I found The World of Geometric Toy by Akira Nishihara’s. He writes: Tensegrity structure is composed of tension(rubber band) and compression(rod). The grammar is not perfect, but the idea is made clear.
George Hart (a guy crazy about polyhedrons; linked to him a long time ago) has a page about Soda Straw Tensegrity Structures which he suggests as a classroom project for middle and highschool students.
Jim Leftwich built an 18″ 270-Strut Tensegrity Sphere and has a lot more information and interesting links on his page. He also founded a company called Design Science Toys (and I don’t dare to look at all the stuff out of fear that it might want to buy everything… ).
In case you want to cool down in a cool way, go ahead and build a tensegrity shade structure.
Ah yes, and last but not least: the children’s toy that inspired me to find out more about tensegrity is Skwish, a colourful tensegrity structure that I saw on a photo of a friend’s six-months-old son. If toys like that had been around about thiry years ago, I might have a more impressive job than math teacher today…
If you want to link to this entry, please use http://serendipita.org/tensegrity/.
[Originally posted on January 20, 2005.]