The Fractal Foundation Integrates Education and Entertainment

By: November 8, 2017 8:40 amViews: 35

Entertainment and education go hand in hand, perhaps better than one might think. The modern struggle of educators is to keep a genuine interest from students and cultivate a long-term comprehension of material. This thoroughly realized when the learning environment is designed to be interactive, fun, and immersive.

The Fractal Foundation is a local Albuquerque initiative made to teach students, of all ages, the intricate relationship between mathematics and nature. Formed in 2001, the group has come to be known for their fractal presentations in the Natural History Museum’s Planetarium on the first Friday of each month: the “First Friday Fractals” and “Fractal Rock” shows.

Both of the shows are hosted by Dr. Jonathan Wolfe, president of the Fractal Foundation. More commonly referred to as “Fractal Friday,” the former program utilizes a more educational aspect with Dr. Wolfe describing the fractals as mathematical equations, as well as their place in the natural world.

The latter, “Fractal Rock”, holds emphasis on zooming microscopic depths of the various 2D and 3D fractals and varied amount of music to pair with the visuals. In the planetarium, the visuals are displayed on a dome shaped screen that covers most of the ceiling, which sufficiently immerses the audience in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and patterns, all based on mathematical equations.

“First Friday Fractals have lots of mathematics and natural imagery. The fractal rock show are just the microscopic zooms.” Said Fractal Foundation’s director of education Emma Eckhart.

“We try to sneak the educational aspects in the rock show too, because people like to hear about what they’re seeing, but they’re also distracted by what they’re seeing at the same time. It’s very complicated, but fractals are cool that way. You latch on to one idea, and then it just spirals out into all different kinds.” She said.

Eckhart uses the platform to bring fractals to schools in New Mexico, and integrates the foundation’s core values in science, math, and art to students across the state.

“We host a lot of field trips to the planetarium, basically the same kind of shows but school groups come in during the day and participate firsthand. For a lot of it too I go to schools and we’ll do different hands on activities and fractal presentations, anywhere from Kindergarten to Middle school. But between school outreach and the planetarium shows, we’ve taught over 100,000 students of all ages.” She said.
For students interested further in fractals, the foundation’s website has an assortment of downloadable fractal programs as well as hands on activities to experiment with.

“The XaoS [Chaos] program is the student version of the fractal software, which is available for free on the website. It’s an open source program that lets you explore around thirty different fractal formulas, and also make your own. The ones in the dome are made using more complex programs such as Ultra Fractal or Mandelbulb 3D, all of which are made by Dr. Wolfe.” Eckhart said.

Since the inception of the Fractal Foundation, the shows have been licensed to various planetariums across the world and have taught a wide assortment of students. The “Fractal Friday” and “Fractal Rock” shows themselves have become well known in Albuquerque, with almost every show selling out their tickets in a matter of days.

“When you look at an image, your eyes move in a fractal pattern from the big elements to the small elements. It even is applicable to animals searching for food, their eyes move in the same fractal patterns. There are fractals everywhere. It’s a fractal world.”

Learn more about the fractal foundation at fractalfoundation.org or check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/fractalfoundation

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