DIY Bacteria With Zometool


No, I’m not writing about creating a strain of bacteria in a basement laboratory at home.  Or in a secret hideout somewhere in the middle of the city.  I mean using a really cool set my wife found recently and bought for my son to enhance his home school education.

Zometool is a seriously awesome set of pieces that can be connected together to form any geometric shape imaginable.  There’s an example of what’s possible up top in the header picture for this blog.  The middle picture above is of a fractal star we assembled a couple of weeks ago.

Zometool consists of balls and several different size struts, in a variety of colors, that can be used on projects that will help students gain a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, geometric concepts and relationships.  Want to build a model of a Phage Virus?  How about a carbon molecule?  Perhaps you’d like to make a model of a protein polymer, a DNA strand, or a crystal lattice.  Those who are more ambitious might decide to construct a rhombic dodecahedron.

One word of warning:  If you’re anything like me, your son might have to stand in line behind you to get to use the set.  I love math and geometry, and it didn’t take long at all before I was hooked on Zometool.  This is definitely a ‘toy’ bought for the kids that the dads will end up using.

It can be really challenging to build.  There’s more than a few models I attempted to put together and found myself having to take everything back apart because the way I was doing it was clearly not going to work.  The fractal star model I mentioned previously had to be restarted four times before I got it right. The pictures of the models look deceptively simple, but once you get started building them, it quickly becomes clear that you have a puzzle you’re going to have to put some work into to solve.  But no fear, there’s something for everyone here.  Models range from fairly easy all the way to constructs that could probably give a rocket scientist pause.

Here’s some images of a construct I assembled, with my son giving me an occasional pointer.  Yes, in this case, it did become a bit of the student teaching the teacher.  Notice on the two images looking through the center of the model how there seem to be several star-shaped patterns popping up.  One of the things a user will learn, if he didn’t know already, is how often the star pattern occurs in nature.  This is a great educational tool, and will help students gain a deeper understanding of the world around us.

This may look easy, but it does take a bit of planning.  Once you get past the challenge of figuring out what pieces you're going to use in building a model, you then have to figure out the right order to use in fitting everything together.  It's as much of a puzzle as everything else.  Several times I had to take it back apart and start over.

This may look easy, but it does take a bit of planning. Once you get past the challenge of figuring out what pieces you’re going to use in building a model, you then have to figure out the right order to use in fitting everything together. It’s as much of a puzzle as everything else. Several times I had to take it back apart and start over.

Note the recurring star patterns in the model, in this image and the one following.

Note the recurring star patterns in the model, in this image and the one following.

7a

You can check out Zometool yourself at their website.  I’m going back downstairs to build another model.

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2 thoughts on “DIY Bacteria With Zometool

    • No, they snap together. There are different colored rods, each color with a different shaped tip that fits into the corresponding slot on the balls. Part of the challenge of making different constructs is figuring out the right pieces, in the right order, to do the building.

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