Menger chal­lenge on

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS ETHERIDGE

KI­WIS are com­pet­ing in a world­wide chal­lenge to build a gi­ant cube out of 50,000 business cards.

The Univer­sity of Auck­land team has about 35,000 cards so far.

And it’s invit­ing peo­ple to help build the cube, known in the maths world as a menger sponge.

The sponge is an in­fi­nite ge­o­met­ri­cal shape which looks the same no mat­ter how close or far away you are.

Ni­co­lette Rat­ten­bury works in the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s maths depart­ment and is one of those help­ing build it. She says the team has re­cov­ered from an ear­lier set back over Labour Week­end when its first menger sponge broke dur­ing con­struc­tion at Auck­land Art Gallery.

The team is com­pet­ing in the Me­gaMenger chal­lenge in which 20 other coun­tries build cubes the same size.

She says the ex­er­cise helps in­tro­duce peo­ple to maths in a hands-on way.

‘‘It en­gages peo­ple but it also shows an over­lap be­tween math and art. ‘‘Maths can be beau­ti­ful.’’ Her 6-year-old son Wil­liam is also help­ing build the cube, which will even­tu­ally be 1.5 me­tres-cubed in size.

Fif­teen peo­ple from the Univer­sity of Auck­land maths and physics de­part­ments have worked on the project so far. They hope to fin­ish the menger sponge by De­cem­ber 19 for the depart­ment’s end of year cel­e­bra­tions.

Ten com­pa­nies have helped spon­sor the project. The maths depart­ment sourced dec­o­ra­tive cards to cover the cube with and ‘‘mo­ti­va­tional’’ pizza for helpers, Rat­ten­bury says.

The menger sponge is avail­able for pub­lic view­ing on the fourth floor of the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s sci­ence cen­tre.

Email ni­co­lette.rat­ten­bury@ auck­land.ac.nz.

Build­ing blocks: The univer­sity team build­ing the menger sponge, which sits be­hind them. From left, back: Nick Rat­ten­bury, Thomas Haase, Bon­nie Yu, Martin Donachie. Mid­dle: Fiona Pan­ther, Ni­co­lette Rat­ten­bury and her son Wil­liam.

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