SOMA Crystal
SOMA News 29 Nov 2000 revised 27 may 2002

The worlds largest SOMA

Once upon a time, in a place far away .....

This is the start of many fairy tales, but in this case the story takes place in Holland(Netherlands) - Europe.

For more information, check the Uden school homepage:
Jan Kappen:
Jan is working on the "Havo Vwo" department of the "Uden College" Address: Schepenhoek 101, 5403 GA, Uden, Netherlands.

It all started in October 2000, as they opened a new school building and the departments were asked to develop an activity for all the visiting citizens of Uden. Jan came up with the idea of making this big SOMApuzzle, made of 12mm plywood, each cube is 40x40x40 cm.

After use, they could be used by the drawing department, as seats or on stage with schoolplays.

It was a lot of work but it was worth it, as it was a great succes.

I a letter, Jan writes (18.11.2000):
This is what happened at Uden.
Two years ago, a new way of teaching in the last 3 years of our VWO schools was introduced. It also ment the introduction of "practical research" assignments. At the same time we merged with a neighbouring school and therefore a new schoolbuilding next to ours had to be built for the students of the so called "tweede fase"(second fase).

This building was officially opened in october and every schooldepartment was asked to organise something for all the visitors.

The idea of the giant SOMApuzzle came because I liked the idea of making something that also could be used out of the mathsetting. for example as seating elements in the schoolcafeteria or with schoolplays.

Everybody liked the idea, but it was turned down because everything had to be lowbudget. Can you imagine, they build a school for over 20 million guilders, have a nice buffet for the bobo's and there is no 600 guilders for a project with revenues for the school even after the opening days.

But luckily a collegue had some ideas, so we could carry on after all. My collegue of the technical department, Jos van Sambeek, made the design for the cube, got the plywood(12 mm) and helped me sawing the whole lot and then in the autumn holiday I first made the 27 cubes and then made the 7 SOMA pieces. I transported them back to school and then my fellow mathteachers helped with sandpapering and painting.
In the mean time I came up with the idea of using the somapuzzle in the form of a practical assignment for the visitors (inspired by the site of Jon Basden) because the starting level is very low and it gives people an idea of how our students work part of the time.

So we invited people into a classroom to find for themselves the 7 SOMA forms, they were then asked to go to the next room where they could try to make one of the SOMA figures with the smaller SOMA puzzle (cubes: 4x4x4 cm), of which I made in the mean time also 5 sets. When they succeeded we built the form together using BIG pieces and made a picture. It was a great success. Up till now a group of students is trying to make all the forms they can find on the internet. An interesting spinoff is the following:

They tried to make the figure number 24 but failed. So they decided thet it was probably an impossible figure. I then told them to try to proove that it was really impossible. They are now working on it.

The tasks given to the students were:

Playing with cubes
Practical math assignment.
1. Investigate how many nonregular figures you can make using a maximum of 4 cubes.
This is NOT a figure:  # #
This is a regular figure: ####

This is an nonregular figure: ##
2. Record these figures by means of a drawing in parallelprojection and by means of three views (American projection)
3. Now make these figures yourself by glueing cubes together
4. Show that with the figures you have made you can make a cube, and think of a way of describing the build up of your figure
5. Make five of the figures you see on the next page (Not shown here) and give your solution using the method you developed by no 4.
6. An internet-investigation in order to find out about the origin and name of this puzzle. Keywords are Piet Hein and Soma.
7. Put the above 6 points together in a report.

Written by Jerry Solinas, edited by Thorleif Bundgaard.

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