Jul 16 2014

Fibonacci Sequins Cube

Fibonacci Sequins 1,2,3
As you may know from the previous Modular Origami Bedlam Cube post, an anniversary a couple years ago was Fibonacci themed. While exploring gift ideas to make, I thought of or stumbled across (I don’t recall, but I’m certainly not the first to think of it) the play on Fibonacci sequence, Fibonacci sequins. I decided to put this to work on a cube I had already made for another purpose.
The cube is an old t-shirt cut into two 1 unit by 3 unit rectangles and held in the shape of a cube with fabric glue baseball-style and dryer lint stuffing.I made them mostly inside out like one would if one was sewing a pillowcase or something.
The die features “1,2,3,5,8,13” in glued on sequins. I opted to start with 1 and 2 because it allowed me to get to the 5, 8, 13 portion of the sequence, which was the important part for the anniversary.
Fibonacci Sequins 5,8,13
Because half the numbers are higher than the traditional 1-6 die, you might try it for games you want to speed up. It is also soft, so it can be used when harder dice might be too loud.

Jul 13 2014

Magic Square 15-Puzzle Bookshelf Covers

Magic Square 15-Puzzle Bookshelf on Make A Gif

Finally, after at least a couple years after the concept popped into my brain, I have completed the Magic Square/15-Puzzle Bookshelf Covers. Before we moved to Madison we picked up this Ikea bookshelf. Long before we got one, the 4×4 design immediately led me to think about the two aforementioned number puzzles that utilize such a grid.
I collected a whole bunch of cardboard scrounging through our apartment’s recycling bin. Each square is two layers with the corrugation crossed to increase the strength and magnets glued to the back.
Square back
I wanted a solution to attaching them to the bookshelf without damaging it, so they could be removed later if we wanted.
I finally decided to go with can lids with holes poked through like buttons, stirring straws affixed to the back to better hold them in place, and then tied around the back with fishing line.
can buttons
Here is a magic square arrangement.
magic square
And here’s a solved 15-puzzle position:

Jun 16 2014

Paper Pulp Pentomino Chess Board

Back when Asante was starting to get into chess, I decided to try out this riff on my theme of paper pulp and puzzles. Similarly to the Bedlam Cube (because they both have 64 units), the 8×8 pentomino chess board uses 12 pentominoes and one tetromino, a square in this case. The difference is that because these pieces are effectively 2D, there exist only 12 pentominoes total. Also, because they need no specific thickness, I made these pieces only half as thick as the pulp units featured in the soma cube and snake cube. This allowed them to dry much faster.
I checkered it with a small amount of watercolor paint. It is made out of paper, so getting it even moderately wet is a bad idea (unless you are recycling it into something else).
This is a challenging puzzle without the checkering, but with checkering it can be brutal. If you are just looking for a quick game of chess, you may want to memorize or write down a solution.

To go along with the board I made some abstract chess pieces from a mix of paper pulp and homemade playdough. The playdough serves two purposes: it shapes better and gives a bit of weight. Also, it seems I set these up on the other side of the looking glass, because the queen and king have swapped places.

Jun 14 2014

Modular Origami Bedlam Cube

Tiffany and I celebrated our 8th anniversary last year. Because we were married May 13th, the Fibonacci sequence popped into my head (particularly the 5,8,13 part). So to commemorate this special day I romantically created a Modular Origami Bedlam Cube. I choose the Bedlam cube, not to represent the state of our household, but because it is a thirteen piece puzzle made predominately of pentacubes, thus achieving the 5 & 13. Additionally, I wanted to embed the Fibonacci sequence, so I created a clear plastic ‘0’ piece using the single tetracube, then created the other pieces in color groups for the next numbers in the sequence. Each piece, besides the ‘0’ piece, was created using a modular origami technique from mini-post-it notes. The number of modules needed matches the number of faces of the pieces. Putting them together is pretty straightforward but takes some practice, especially for the inward corners. I found using a straight pin to push from the inside helped shape the pieces.
The modules are a great thing to do waiting at the bus stop (or proctoring an ACT) because they easily slip into your pocket.
If you’ve mastered the soma cube and snake cube, this 4x4x4 puzzle is a good next step. This great resource can help if you get stuck and just need a solution. It also alerted me to the Big Brother cube, a very similar puzzle which uses a different set of 12 pentacubes from the 29 possible that I have yet to try.

Happy building.

Jun 12 2014

Snake Cube

This paper pulp snake cube I actually did finish back in Philly.
I made 27 paper pulp cubes. I’m sure you could make them more uniform than I did but they get the job done.
I then drilled holes in all of them; some directly through and some on two adjacent sides so the holes would meet. To figure out how many of each to drill, look at the picture of the unwound snake. If the cubelet forms a corner (that is, the snake changes direction at that cubelet) then drill two adjacent sides. The others, including the ends, drill through.
I then created a chain of rubber bands to feed through the holes using a pipe cleaner as needle. The corner pieces can be a bit tricky. If the pipe cleaner can’t get you through the bend you may have to drill a little more diagonally.
Also, a note about the drilling. You can shred your paper pulp cubelets pretty easily, so I recommend a fairly small bit to start and have it spinning when it hits the cube. You can always wiggle the bit a little to widen the hole.
I also recommend building the rubber band chain as you go so the sizing is right. You will probably want it tight enough to hold together but loose enough to spin and stretch some without fear of breaking. I safety pinned the end of the chain so it couldn’t slide through the hole. Also, to ensure that your snake can coil into a cube (3x3x3 cubelets), thread the cubelets in careful order, which you can match from the image.
After they are all threaded, safety pin the other side and you’re finished. You could fancy up the exterior, but I didn’t.
Simple, fun to make, and fun to play with long after.

Jun 11 2014

Faux-Rubik’s Soma Cube

Back when I was a SAHD-by-day, tutor-by-night the kids and I did a lot of paper pulp projects. We always seemed to have plenty of paper built up, so we had pulp for the making whenever we wanted. As a way to reopen the blog after more than a year without posting (and hardly any before then) I plan to feature a few of those projects, and any other projects I may do over the summer; hopefully, including a bigger project I’m in holding on final stage of.
This post features one I started back in Philly that I haven’t touched for a long time and decided last night (inspired by some painting my kids did) to finish it.
This project is pretty straightforward. It is simply a soma cube, the pieces of which are made from paper pulp, dressed up with a nice Rubik’s-inspired paint job.
Using rubber bands and the kids’ wooden blocks to construct the formed, I mashed in the paper pulp. I had created a paper pulp soma cube a during my first stint as SAHD that was much uglier. The wetness of the pulp and the amount of smushing need to be fairly consistent to get similarly sized pieces and they still are not going to be tightly fitting. If that is important to you, use a different medium or be much better than me.
After all the pieces dry, put them together to form the cube and write down the configuration. I did a 3D exploded sketch of them and then beside them put six directional arrows labeled with the colors of the Rubik’s cube. Look at a picture of the cube to arrange them appropriately. I first outlined each piece with black acrylic paint, then completed the face colors.
It was a pretty simple project to create but I’m still pretty happy with the concept and the final project, not to mention the relaxing process of creating it.

Feb 10 2013

Living Life and Blogging It Too

My seemingly tireless wife who blogs at tiffanymalloy.com and playeatgrow.com on top of working full time and managing a home of nearly six is featuring  one of my projects on her blog with a link to here. If you followed that link to get here, you can see that we are not equally adept at living and blogging our lives.  I do have a number of projects that I would like to write up and share, but don’t hold your breath. Whereas I am able to simultaneously be a dragon, a doctor’s patient and a basketball player, I have yet to manage being a stay-at-home dad, a husband, and a tutor very well, let alone a blogger.

Thanks for checking in. If I start blog awesomeness, I’m sure Tiff will let you know, so you can just keep reading the great posts she, Christina, and MaryAnn churn out.

Jun 20 2012

Why I Make

I make because…

I can see the beginning and end

The problem is solvable

My field of study doesn’t even have clear questions, let alone answer

I can be productive

It eases the pain

It give me the illusion of accomplishment

I can’t wrap my mind around the world

Part of my mind becomes external to me

When I make, the world is smaller, less scary, and I am forming it.

That is why I make.

Jan 20 2012

Apple in Education

The apple is continuously an icon for education (Malloy, forthcoming [jk]). Here is my quick pro/con list to this video about apple textbooks and ibook author.


1. the program looks and acts in attractive ways

2. it is a great digital step for textbooks (far better than scanned pages of traditional textbooks)

3. they are giving author free (which, I may try to use)


1. Classic publicity hype “tech as cure to schooling problems” oversell rhetoric. Easily could have changed the name of the item and had the same claims for over a hundred years.

2. Most importantly to me, the most this innovation will do make the traditional form of schooling a bit better. It fully ignores any constructivist (or critical) notion of learning. Notice it never mentioned students using author to make their own textbooks and the note-taking focuses on fact memory.

It follows the pattern of reform as bettering a given structure, which I think it could do well. It does not, in any way, challenge that structure or encourage students to do so, which is superficial reform and a shallow concept of education. This, like any technology, will not make huge changes in education.

That’s my take. Have I been fair?

Jan 4 2012

Masters Paper Draft 1.0

Here is my draft visualized (top 60 words) at 10,033 words.

thesis 60 of 10033

Dec 9 2011

Parking Spots & Cheap Clothes

In our Sunday morning Bible study class we were discussing Micah, the book, not the new guy. We got talking about corporations who seem to “plot evil on [their] beds” and the obnoxious complexity of our globalized community that makes justice challenging. What I mean by that is it is hard to tell where our money goes when we put it in a bank, whether items made overseas or locally improve or degrade the quality of life for the communities involved, etc.

For me, personally, it is overwhelming and nearly debilitating since it’s so far over my head, but here’s, I think, a starting point:

We have to radically reorient our thought processes. Though few of us stay up plotting evil, we do spend a lot of time figuring out how to do or get what is best for us.

My suggestion for a start: Don’t take the best parking spot. Even if you see closer spots, just park farther away. Think about the fact that getting an awesome spot is not actually any kind of victory. Scratch that. Consider it a victory that someone else will enjoy. And take some time to think about that other person.

And then it keeps going.

Soon you aren’t hunting for deals, so you can get more clothes for less money. You are thinking about the effects your clothes have on other people. It may even effect how you educate your children if you have them.

Justice in our hyper-connected day is difficult. But apparently it has been difficult for every generation.

Oct 28 2011


A conversation I just had with Asante:

Jake: Listening to your parents and obeying them is a way to show love and respect to them. How can parents show respect to their children?

Asante: You’ve got to let me have more responsibilities for myself

Jake: That’s insightful.

I love talking with my kids.