University News

Dr. Thomas Hull Receives National Recognition for Research in Theoretical Kinematics

Published: September 14, 2016 | Categories: Arts and Sciences, All News

"We hope our work will allow engineers to design origami-inspired mechanisms"

Dr. Tom Hull with award

Dr. Tom HullWestern New England University Associate Professor of Mathematics Thomas Hull, has received national recognition for his research in the mathematics of paper folding, also known as origami.

Hull, along with his co author Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo, received the 2016 A.T. Yang Memorial Award in Theoretical Kinematics given by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) at the 40th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference in Charlotte, NC last month.

The award is in recognition of their paper "Self-foldability of Rigid Origami," which proposes the first attempt for a mathematical model of self-folding materials. 

"The past five years have seen a huge increase in applications of origami-inspired mechanisms in engineering and science," says Hull. "Researchers are using origami to design solar panels to be deployed in outer space, folded airbags for cars, and tiny folded heart stents to unblock clogged arteries. These mechanisms must be able to fold and unfold by themselves. This turns out to be difficult to do reliably, and the material can sometimes get jammed or fold up in the wrong way."  

Hull and Tachi's mathematical model gives researchers a way to know when folding mechanisms will self-fold in a desired way or in an incorrect way. "We hope that our work will allow engineers to design origami-inspired mechanisms more easily and in a more cost-effective manner by predicting what will work and what won't," says Hull. 

Hull and Tachi began working on the research for this paper during a visit by Hull to the University of Tokyo while on sabbatical from Western New England University.  Hull states, "I am honored to have my work recognized by the ASME, and I am grateful to Western New England University for their support in this research.”