The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a project of the Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles that combines mathematics, art, crafts, marine biology and environmental science in creating crocheted reproductions of coral reefs. A satellite reef is now being locally constructed, sponsored by Roanoke College. Students and faculty at Washington and Lee University and members of the community will now have the opportunity to learn about the project and to add their own contributions
"It mixes all the disciplines and seems perfect for a liberal arts college," said Elizabeth Denne, assistant professor of mathematics at W&L. Denne has invited organizers of the Roanoke Valley Reef to give a talk at W&L on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Robinson Hall 6 at 4:40 p.m. Refreshments will be available in Robinson Hall 2 at 4:20 p.m.
Contributors to the coral reef will use basic crochet stitches to produce reproductions of corals that mirror natural coral. The many individual contributions will then be combined to create a coral reef which will be exhibited at the Olin Gallery at Roanoke College in January 2013.
"We need to do this project this semester," said Denne, "because there's a January deadline for contributions for the exhibit. I've already started crocheting some pieces of my own and I'm hoping that we'll meet once a week to work on this.
"It's just meant to be something fun. People can learn about the project and if they want to take part I will teach them how to crochet if they don’t already know. It's one of the easier crafts to pick up. People also don't need to know any math because I'll explain that as well.
The Mathematical Association of America will be holding a meeting at Virginia Military Institute in the last weekend of October and Denne hopes to create a small exhibit of the coral creations at that meeting.
According to Denne, the crochet technique that causes the yarn to curve so interestingly was invented by the mathematician Daina Taimioa. It is the geometry of a hyperbolic plane that allows for the creation of a variety of coral-like shapes.
The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef has been exhibited at museums and art galleries around the world, including the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian, and is one of the largest participatory science and arts projects in the world. Its Satellite Reef program now has a global network of more than 5,000 active participants.