Jeanna Chilton and Dr. Gary Lawlor, Mathematics
The work I was able to do for the research on the minimal surface area of the octahedron was time consuming, but unfortunately did not bring about any profound knowledge for anyone besides myself. Through correspondence with fax machines, my professor sent me many different problems for me to work on to help with my research. I worked on them for hours, but was not able to solve any of them. The next fax that came had to do with construction an octahedron. I was given instruction that with a certain number of kites and triangles which had certain dimensions I could construct an octahedron. I thought this would be easy. I first started with paper material. I scaled the measurements a little bigger and cut out shapes with a razor. This did not turn out very accurate, and as I worked on the project I realized how hard of a task constructing an octahedron would be. I researched octahedrons at the library but could not find a picture that could teach me how to construct one. I went to the hardware store and got some foam board and continued with my efforts of construction. While this was going on, (I would work on it almost every day for at least two hours), I was sent another fax. I was now to build equilateral pyramids and try and see the original ways I could put five together. In the meantime I worked on this. I tried to find at least nine different ways. I worked on this for many days and countless hours. After I got about five or six of them, I continued to look for more, but never found any. These shapes were supposed to somehow be connected with the minimal surface area of the octahedron, but I never got to find out how they were related. So, I worked on these figures almost every day, and after a while was making no progress. I would bring them to work where people would try and help me with them with no progress still. Finally my husband, who knew I had been struggling with the project and his brother tried to help me one day. My husband had not tired to help before this because he was not very confident in his math skills. However, he and his brother, (who is an artist on the side), along with myself and the things I had learned were able to figure it out. We just kept piecing things together and I already knew most of the things that would and would not fit. We taped, and then when we thought we got something right we glued and then ended up having to re-glue, and re-cut foam board a lot I was amazed when we finally got it. I had thought it was impossible or that we had been given the wrong number of kits or rectangles to work with. I learned from this that even though I worked endless hours on putting this shape together, there was something about it that I could just not see that someone else could. Luckily they were able to see it right before the summer ended. Maybe there are more original pyramid shapes that I could not fit together. I would say it was impossible because I worked so hard to find another original shape and could not, but from my experience with constructing the octahedron I found that things are not always impossible that seem to be. This research was very challenging, frustrating, and fun at times. More than anything I wish I could have contributed much more than I did, and hopefully other people who are still very interested in this research will continue to work on their project.