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January 4, 2018


MRH Conics: Advanced Mathematics Disguised as Art

Conics computer-generated art.Exhaustive, but satisfying.  That's how MRH High School students in Joe Spinks' precalculus class describe their annual "conics" project.

It's a 5-week exercise in which students select an image to recreate using a design program called Desmos. No free-handing allowed; every line, every curve, every angle is generated via mathematical formulas which the student calculate on their own.  Some of the images require 500 or more separate calculations. At the end of the project, after it was graded, a number of architectural firms also came to MRH to officially “judge” the projects for an additional competition.

Local architects judge the MRH conics entries.What is a conic? Simply put, it's the intersection of a plane and a cone. By changing the angle and location of the intersection, one can produce a circle, ellipse, parabola or hyperbola. Students are given a set of criteria of different functions that they have to use such as parabola and hyperbola. After that, they're on their own.  Mr. Spinks estimates most students spend between 50 and 70 hours creating their images, all on their own time.  

There are currently ten conics projects on display in the Research and Design Center from the ten finalists, narrowed from a field of 45.  Local architectural firms were invited to come in and evaluate the students' work. Based on the firms' data, MRH awarded bronze, silver and gold medals to the students.

The ten finalists' entries can be viewed here

(Thanks to the following organizations for their roles in judging: ADG, Washington University, Bond Architects, Grubbs, Helmuth Bicknese, V Three Studios LLC, SPACE, Eisenberg Architects Inc., Jugo Plus Architects, and Trivers.)

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.