An interactive sculpture that harnesses the sun’s rays to help users explore multiplication and the division will be housed in Orono’s Webster Park, the product of a unique partnership between the University of Maine and the City of Orono.

This will be the first public installation of the SunRule, which was invented by UMaine Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education and Instructional Technology Justin Dimmel and Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Eric Pandiscio. The sculpture prototype was designed and built by UMaine Associate Art Professor Greg Ondo and sculpture studio technician Sam Hoey. Recent UMaine graduate Emma Reedman ’21 was also a member of the development team.

The SunRule sculpting concept evolved through UMaine’s MIRTA Accelerator, a program designed to advance research towards commercialization, transforming laboratory innovations into real-world products and services of public interest.

“We entered MIRTA with a portable device that works in much the same way and, thanks to customer feedback, we have rotated to develop the interactive sculpture that can be installed in parks, schools and museums to complement the portable device, ”says Dimmel. “The program provided the support, structure and goals to take our preliminary idea in an exciting new direction. What we landed on is not only functional as an educational tool, but beautiful, and we are happy to be able to share it with the Orono community first.

The opportunity to install the first sculpture in Orono grew through the SunRule team’s relationship with Orono’s Director of Economic Development, Mitch Stone, who served as an external advisor during the MIRTA program.

“The SunRule represents innovative and educational public art that will be a great addition to Webster Park,” says Stone. “The people of Orono will have the opportunity to explore mathematics from a different perspective and to help UMaine researchers test this technology in the real world.”

The SunRule presents multiplication and division in a new way and in a new environment, bringing learners to the outside and allowing them to visualize, using a scale model, how these fundamental mathematical concepts work. . The sun shining through a series of slits in a ring that surrounds a circular bronze plaque is reflected off a grid on the face of the plaque. The angle of the plate can be adjusted by users, allowing them to manipulate the beam of light to multiply it by different numbers.

“It represents multiplication as a continuous and expandable concept, which differs from the way it is traditionally taught,” explains Pandiscio. “This representation provides a solid foundation for relating multiplication to ideas of ratio, scale and slope, which become essential concepts as students progress through the school years. It also provides a hands-on outdoor learning opportunity, a benefit we were keenly aware of when working on the SunRule during the pandemic. “

The installation was approved by Orono City Council on Monday evening and will be installed in stages, with the 30-inch base for the sculpture placed this fall and the 24-inch bronze plaque is expected to be added in the spring of 2022. UMaine does donation of sculpture to the city.

“We are delighted to partner with the Town of Orono to install the first SunRule in the university’s home community,” said UMaine’s assistant vice president for innovation and economic development and MIRTA Program Director, Renee Kelly. “Bringing UMaine research to life for the benefit of the people of Maine is a key goal of MIRTA, and the SunRule facility at Webster Park provides both a learning opportunity for Orono residents and visitors, and a live demonstration. of the concept that the team can share with other potential partners. This is an important development milestone, and we share the team’s enthusiasm and celebrate their hard work.

Contact: Ashley Forbes, [email protected], 207.581.1429