Ambassador Program: Calista's Project

Young Scholar Ambassador Program
Calista’s Project
Origami Salami & Folding for Good

Inspiration for Origami Salami and Folding for Good:

My interest in folding science is something that just snuck up on me. It started with a gift of a beginner origami kit when I was 6 years old. I had fun with it from the start. Origami is a portable hobby and it catches peoples’ attention, so it is a great way to make friends. I started entertaining at birthday parties, folding flapping cranes out of party napkins. Then I began making models to donate, like a project I did for a local rehabilitation facility where patients not only could choose a model, but also their family members could pick one from a basket - those were unbreakable, brainteaser, conversation pieces. And it cheered everyone up, including me! Origami is a satisfying process.

I learned that ancient origami designs are inspiring scientists and researchers to innovate and invent things that could make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Citizen scientist teams were competing at online gaming sites to try to unravel the mysteries of protein folding - just one mis-fold and cancers or Alzheimer’s might surface. NASA used folding techniques in the design of the James Webb Space Telescope (the JWST), Curiosity (now on its way to Mars where it will unfold itself in August 2012), and in space tethers. A new heart stent was inspired by the action of the origami balloon. And retail products, even high fashion, are all taking inspiration from origami.

Then, I observed that many students experience a freak out in the math progression somewhere around geometry, and yet, those same students thought nothing of fooling around with origami, which is all math, certainly geometry. I figured I was witnessing the crisis in STEM education in the United States right there before my eyes, and thought that if learners connected the fun of origami with STEM applications, I might contribute to closing the STEM gap by cooking up a project that would advocate for STEM studies in an undercover sort of way, that is, through origami.

The Young Scholar Ambassador Program gave me the support to launch Origami Salami, whose primary purpose is to inspire learners to make the easy connection between the ancient art of origami and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) studies; and its’ community outreach component, Folding for Good, which teaches the fun of STEM through folding. Origami Salami and Folding for Good officially launched in 2009.

The Young Scholar Ambassador Program

Origami Salami really developed in the warm and welcoming Young Scholar Ambassador incubator. The Ambassador Program sponsored awesome online seminars addressing how to grow a project, the right way. We were coached on how to build a valuable community project and in so doing, become a force for positive change in the world. And at every step of the way, I got great advice from the professional Ambassador team.

Just a few months into the Ambassador Program training, I noticed that a folder named Brad Hansen-Smith, founder of Wholemovement, which is dedicated to the study of the circle and the folding of circles, was scheduled to present a series of workshops at a Young Scholars event. Through the Ambassador Program facilitators, he became my “mentor” and a great source of new ideas.

Only six months into the program I signed a contract to develop a digital curricular product for middle schoolers with a national curriculum provider. My product would eventually be named, “Investigation: Paper Engineering;” through it, I would not only become a better researcher and writer, but I would learn how to write a script (13 of them) to embed in the course, how to read from a teleprompter, and how to navigate teleconferences with my assigned course staff. My personal knowledge base was now getting polished, and real. And I realized my biggest long term goal---to get the word out, officially, about the awesomeness of STEM as seen through artful origami in a format in which students could achieve real school credit, and in a way that would make learners want to know more about STEM, was happening. IPE published on June 1, 2011. And the newswire press release was picked up by over 100 news outlets, including Becomeateacher.com. Word got out.

Folding for Good is the community outreach spin-off of Origami Salami which explores the fun of STEM through origami and real world applications of origami. I staged several events through local organizations, and was soon receiving invitations to present interactive lessons for all ages.

Now, there are chapters of Origami Salami and Folding for Good in three states. By the end of the year, I hope to add three more.

I also maintain a website and Facebook page.

Free Time

In my free time I enjoy Taekwondo, viola, piano, computer gaming, and Arabic language and culture. I am a volunteer cat socializer at a local no-kill animal shelter and organize “Operation Happy Sock” events at which small groups produce safe catnip toys out of recycled socks (stuffed with poly foam and lots of catnip) for shelter cats.

Learning Environment

For the past 10 years, I have been enrolled in a cyber charter school through which I get a mix of online and live learning experiences. I am also a 2011THINKer and have participated in many fascinating YS online seminars. Now, I am a dual enrollee at Robert Morris University, where I take most of my classes in the School of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

My Plans for the Future

My future professional contributions to the world will likely surface in some STEM field, and it seems like I can identify some folding component in most. As our world and our technology become smaller, we will be pressed to find ways to “shrink” information storage and technological devices. Maybe somehow I will be a part of that.

It is completely possible that we artful, STEM-types around the world will make a positive contribution to the betterment of humankind in our time, and it is completely possible, even likely, that lives will be changed because we studied folding together.


The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.

Close Window