Students to build geodesic dome

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JAY — Eighth-graders at the middle school are going to build a geodesic dome with the help of teachers and community members. The plan is to use it to grow vegetables and flowers and learn how to sustain a garden.

A lead group of honors algebra and geometry students, including two seventh-graders, are working out the details for the project with help from teachers, Julie and Rob Taylor, husband and wife, who also have children involved in the project.

The group has received funds from Time Warner Cable and the Maine Commission for Community Services, 21st Century Tiger After School Program and the Partnerships for Success Gear Up Program. The entire project will cost about $11,000, Rob Taylor said.

There is a public planning meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, in the middle school cafeteria. The hope is that community members will attend and then help students build the dome in June. Other grades will also be involved in some way.

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Lead students in Julie Taylor’s math class worked on follow-up packets on Wednesday for the dome project.

“We started by getting a grant from Time Warner for $4,000,” said eighth-grader Erik Taylor, the Taylors’ son. “Me and Dustin Jones helped dad write the grant.”

They bought a dome kit with the money, Jones said.

Jay Public Works Foreman John Johnson has met with students to discuss the project. The town crew will do the excavating and other related work.

The plan is to use crushed glass from the town’s recycling center as a base, eighth-grader Corey Ridly said.

“We’ll use it instead of gravel. The glass is all rounded off and has no sharp edges. It will be all packed down and will make a good foundation,” Jones said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to put gravel on top of it.”

All eighth-graders are either learning or will be learning how to build a geodesic dome. The class recently visited a geodesic dome at Lincoln Middle School in Portland to see what it looked like, student Kayla Meserve said.

That dome had a tiled floor and a compass rose embedded in it, she said.

It had radiant heat in the flooring, Emily Taylor, the Taylors’ daughter, said.

The dome they plan to build is going to be 24 feet in diameter and 10-feet, 10-inches high, Jones said.

It will have 2-by-3 wood struts to make the triangular frames, Lexan glass triangular panels to go in the frames, and aluminum for the hubs to connect the struts, he said.

All the Lexan panels are double glazed, which means it is more effective in retaining heat, Jones said.

The dome will be built outside near a smaller, existing greenhouse.

It will be used as a classroom to let students interact with the plants, and to find out how it all works, Emily Taylor said.

“We’ve been doing a lot of projects with dome work trying to understand structures and the how the sunlight reflects on shapes,” student Lucas Preble said.

The lead team experimented with toothpicks, gum drops and Gummy Bears to build different shaped structures and domes.

They also built a paper geodesic dome model out of five pieces of paper and learned how they needed to cut the paper and toothpicks to fit the shapes.

“We had to use different sized toothpicks,” seventh-grader Tyler Ritter said, to find the right shape.

They cut toothpicks in different sizes and made hexagon and pentagon shaped panels as they worked to get the right shape, Sydney Bishop said.

“We had to calculate the angles and the shapes to build the geodesic dome,” seventh-grader Noah Parker said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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