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Students eyeing World Record after mathematical balloon modelling success

13th January 2020 – Tags: A Levels

A group of A Level students from Paston College have successfully created a 5 metre high 3D fractal made entirely from modelling balloons – and now have their sights set on a World Record attempt later this year.

Trial run a success

Twenty-one Maths and Physics students took part in the trial run. It took them around 3 hours to create a stage 4 fractal model, made up of 64 identical tetrahedra, using around 400 modelling balloons.

In addition to mastering balloon modelling skills, the students had to prepare by carrying out all the mathematical calculations required to put together this giant fractal – including the number and size of balloons needed so their model would fit within the college’s sports hall.

This unusual extra-curricular project is being led by Paston College A Level Maths lecturer Wlodzimierz Szczerba.  It is being supported by some of the current World Record holding team - Caroline Ainslie from Bubbly Maths, Steve Benton, Taylor Drayson and Ray Huntley.

Current World Record

The existing Guinness World Record for a 3D fractal made from modelling balloons is held by Caroline Ainslie from Bubbly Maths.  The record was achieved with 768 modelling balloons at the Guinness World Records head office in London on 24th February 2015.

The finished sculpture, known as a Sierpiński Tetrahedron, stood at 219.1 cm (7ft 2in) tall and averaged 264.6 cm (8ft 8.1 in) along its outer edge.

Summer World Record attempt 

Mr Szczerba and his students, with Caroline Ainslie and the current record holding team, are now planning for a World Record attempt this summer, after the students have completed their A-Level exams. 

To achieve the World Record, Mr Szczerba estimates that around 160 participants would be needed, and it is hoped that students from schools and colleges from across Norfolk will get involved.

What is a fractal?

A fractal is a geometrical shape in which each part has the same statistical character as the whole.  There are a wide range of applications of fractals in areas such as animation, computing, and engineering. 

Students could become World Record holders

Paston College Maths Lecturer, Wlodzimierz Szczerba, commented:

“After the students had done some preparatory work in the classroom, carrying out the mathematical calculations needed to plan out the 3D fractal, it was brilliant to see them go ahead and create it using the modelling balloons.    

“It will take a lot more planning and preparation to go for the World Record, needing thousands of balloons and many more participants, but it is a very exciting prospect that students from Norfolk could become official World Record holders later this year.”