Mandalas, Mathematics, and the Art of Arduino

MandalasWhen: Saturday, October 15 & Sunday, October 16

Where: 1st Floor Lobby – CERAS Building, Stanford

Who: Chad Norman (Pathfinder Learning, Mount Vernon School District, Mount Vernon, WA, USA)


Integrated projects incorporating culture, art, and progressive technology is an engaging way for students to learn and create in the classroom.  Participants will engage in a multidimensional project that will explore the mathematics of the Tibetan mandala and the amazing visuals created when mixed with an Arduino controlled strobe light.  Participants will use a standard Spirograph set to draw a nested image with various radial symmetries on a circular piece of paper mounted to a blank CD.  Next, each group will construct a mounted CD motor circuit with a switch.   Participants will then construct a simple Arduino controlled strobe light using basic components found in most makerspaces.  The interaction between the spinning mandala and varying strobe rates creates surprising images that lead to rich discussions around math, science, and art.   There are entry points for beginners and advanced makers.  Concepts explored will include radial symmetry, ratios, electrical engineering, and basic Arduino programming.  The lesson is flexible in its appropriate grade level and has intrigued students from first grade to college.  

Workshop schedule:

  • 10 minutes:  Introduction to lesson, theory, and circuit sets.
  • 5 minutes:  History and mathematics of mandalas.
  • 15 minutes:  Create mandalas-  Blank CDs, paper, Spirographs, and other drawing tools.
  • 15 minutes:  Build and mount CD motor circuit with switch.  
  • 20 minutes:  Build and mount Arduino controlled strobe light.
  • 15 minutes:  Load and modify code for strobe light to manipulate resulting visual designs.
  • 15 minutes:  System modifications-  Add LEDs to spinning CD, control strobe rate with potentiometers, three dimensional modifications, drawing while spinning.
  • 5 minutes:  Conclusion and questions.