Come Take a Virtual Tour of the TMF


I am thrilled to offer you a quick tour of the TMF (the Turtle Manufacturing Facility).

Let’s start outside, near a bustling street corner here in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In the street-level windows, we have a small Public Math project. We have rendered a scaled-up version of a gorgeous Pattern Block design by Hana Murray in translucent vinyl. Learn a little about the origins of Pattern Blocks, and maybe scan that QR code so you can make some Pattern Blocks designs of your own on your light rail ride home.

Now come on inside. 

You’ll want to work the Math Vending Machine. Maybe you’ll get tiny tiling narwhals (an Aran Glancy design), or perhaps a 1-inch ruler (a Chris Nho design, and super handy for measuring small things, such as tiling narwhals).

A capsule-dispensing vending machine; the kind where you insert a token, twist a handle, and the capsule drops down behind a small metal door.

We had an open house for folks in the building today, so the front room is looking clean and tidy. 

Interior view of a long, thin room. The windows we saw earlier are at the far end, and there are tables with colorful math toys arranged invitingly. One wall is exposed brick, and there is a high tin ceiling.

This is where I do my Desmos work most days. Sunny days treat that window display very nicely.

Sunlight streams through the large window, casting the colorful shadow the large pattern block arrangement on the floor.

This is also where we pack Public Math vending machine capsules every so often. 

I built those two wooden tables, and they’re great for work and for play; sometimes both at once. Pro tip: if you’re building something big, start closer to the middle.

An elaborate pattern made of light and dark wooden diamonds. The pattern contains about 200 tiles, and has five-fold symmetry.

Please, take a shape.

A "Please Take a Number" machine as you might see at a deli counter, but this one says "Please Take a Shape". A ticket with a sort of muffin shape in place of a number sticks out the front of the machine.

Now let me show you the back room. That’s a brand new Boss Laser LS2440. 

A large black, red, and white laser cutter (and associated machinery) in front of two tall windows.

It is running like a dream, but it is also kind of noisy so I usually keep the door closed. There’s a Mac Mini running LightBurn software to control the laser, but I do the bulk of my design work in Illustrator on my 2014 MacBook Air.

This concludes the tour. What questions do you have?

Where do I buy the mathy toys I see in those open-house pictures?

Right here on this very site!

Can I come play?

For sure. I’ve got heaps of toys, and I welcome the company. Get in touch and we’ll find a time.

Can I borrow some of those toys? 

Absolutely yes. Get in touch, and we’ll find a time for you to come pick them up.

Can I bring my Girl Scout troop/kindergarten class/high school robotics team for an event?

Probably not yet. I’m not insured for having public events or a bunch of children running around. Get in touch and maybe we can figure something out. For now, Math On-A-Stick is still the main place where I get to work directly with kids and families.

Through Public Math, there will be volunteer opportunities in the coming months. Small groups (including children) would be most welcome at those!

How can I find out about those events? 

My Talking Math with Your Kids newsletter is the most reliable source. 

I have an idea for a thing that would be laser cut. Can you do that for me? 

Probably, yes. Get in touch and we can talk ideas, costs, and timelines.

How did the TMF come to be?

I made turtles at a maker space in Northeast Minneapolis for six years. That maker space closed, so I started  looking for alternatives. Lauren Siegel at the MathHappens Foundation reached out, and I ended up contracting to make her a large quantity of a conic sections model she designed. That contract paid for the laser cutter and the first year of rent on the TMF. 

How can I get my hands on a conic sections model?

Get in touch with Lauren. If you’re in a position to get a dozen or more into the hands of teachers, we’d be delighted to get them to you at no cost. Get in touch with Lauren.

What’s next? 

Who knows? I’ve dreamed of a permanent math play space for a long time now. Maybe this will evolve into that; maybe we’ll need a new location. Details and timelines unclear. For now, making sure we’re secure for a second year is the main priority. Stay tuned!

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