Buckminster Fuller, the father of tensegrity, called this the Vector Equilibrium or Jitterbug. Also known as the Bucky Jitterbug. Simple and profound, this intriguing model can be transformed into a myriad of geometrical shapes. Buckminster Fuller says the jitterbug contains the whole phenomenology of universe. Great for kids, teachers, classrooms and curious adults alike!
Amazing physical manipulation of geometric shapes ranging from the simple triangle to the more complex icosahedron. With plenty of shapes to discover and many structural concepts to explore, the Jitterbug is a mathematical and scientific phenomenon! Delight young minds by twisting, turning, and folding your way into structural entities that make math, science, and physics come alive!
The Jitterbug, is a complete set of transformations: vector equilibrium through icosahedron, through octahedron, down to the tetrahedron, the three basic structural systems of the Universe. Expansions and contractions are balanced equally. Vector equilibrium represents the basis of all atomic structures and all oscillations and wave phenomena that are articulated in our electromagnetic world. Out of this Bucky made up the word “TENSEGRITY” from the words tension and integrity. Tension occurs when something is stretched and pulled, and integrity is a state of wholeness or completeness.
Let’s Play with the Jitterbug!
Squares: Put the Jitterbug down on the table in front of you with one of the squares on the table. Play with that square on top. Pick it up and squeeze each square into a line. You’ve just demonstrated a square has no structural integrity, it will not hold its shape. When you draw a square, what ever you draw it on will hold the square’s shape.
Triangles: Now, pick up the Jitterbug again and, this time, play with the triangles. Do you notice the difference? That’s structural integrity.
Octahedron: Place your Jitterbug back on the table with a triangle at the base sitting on the table top. Place one of your hands flat across the triangle on the top. Slowly, yet firmly, press it as far down as you can without breaking it. This is an octahedron. Mathematicians call structures that are made up of regular shapes the polyhedra. This is a Greek word meaning many faces. They are classified by counting and describing the relationships of their faces, edges, and vertices that’s where the corners meet (singular vertex). Octa- means eight.
Large Triangle: Now hold the Jitterbug with one hand on a top triangle and the other hand on the triangle base. Twist your hands in the opposite directions to make a large triangle. Place is on the table with one hand holding the center triangle down.
Tetrahedron: While holding the Large Triangle, use your other hand, and pull two of the outer triangles up to the center. Let go of the center base triangle anduse that hand to pull the last triangle to the center. Now you have a tetrahedron.
The tetrahedron, the octahedron and the icosahedron are the structural systems in the universe.
Icosahedon: Put the Jitterbug on the table with a triangle at the base. Place your hand flat across the top of the triangle and slowly press down so it looks like squares are diamond shaped. Imagine a line across each diamond. This creates the six missing faces to form the 20 equilateral triangular faces of the icosahedron. This is how Bucky made his famous geodesic dome.
Now let’s do the Jitterbug dance! Put the triangle face on the table. Hold the top triangle face with your thumb, index finger and pinky finger around the triangle. Create a “pumping” motion, pushing down and unwind up. When you contract the entire system at a symmetrical rate (evenly twist and push), you create a vector equilibrium. This is why it’s called a Jitterbug!
See Buckminster Fuller playing with the Jitterbug
Or Read a more serious paper on Jitterbug