LSU Mechanical Engineering Seniors Design Unique Structure for LSU School of Theatre

Capstone team stands inside their structureMay 27, 2024 

BATON ROUGE, LA – As part of their capstone project, six LSU Mechanical Engineering seniors designed a truncated icosahedron—a sphere-like structure—for LSU’s School of Theatre that will be used by students when they perform in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer.

LSU School of Theatre Associate Professor of Movement Nick Erickson said that he was trying to decide how to get the icosahedron designed, so he approached LSU’s College of Engineering. Once the six ME students chose to work on his idea for their capstone project, Erickson began fundraising and the students began design.

LSU ME seniors Emily Baudier and Julia Ducote of Slidell, La.; Scott Hew and Dylan Dupre of New Orleans; Lydia Carriere of Austin, Texas; and Blake Hidalgo of Morgan City, La.; began working on the project in October and spent nine weeks this spring actually building the icosahedron. They finished this month in time for the theatre students to begin rehearsing with it in June.

“This project is to inspire and empower our students to create and present their work on a global scale at the largest arts festival in the world in Edinburgh, Scotland,” Erickson said. “Through this experience, the theater students are exposed to world-class performance in all genres and types from over 80 different countries, encouraging and inspiring them to become global citizen artists whose voice has impact.”

The first icosahedron was built by an LSU Civil Engineering student in 2014 and had a limited capacity of three people. Part of the new design was to make the icosahedron more durable so that it could hold up to six people, and its pieces could easily fit into luggage for travel.

The students call the icosahedron “buckyball” since it is the exact shape of the Carbon 60 molecule known as Buckminsterfullerene, which has a cage-like, fused-ring structure made of 20 hexagons, 12 pentagons, and resembles a soccer ball. The “buckyball” is 6.5 feet in diameter, weighs 108 lbs., and is comprised of 90 links, 60 joints, and 180 fastener sets. The joints were mass produced using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) and CAD models, while the links were individually and manually machined through a multi-step process using a bandsaw, lathe, mill, and belt sander.

“A lot of the other [capstone] projects were able to outsource or just buy equipment, but we had to handmake everything except for bolts and screws,” Hew said.

The total budget for the project was set at $7,500, which Erickson secured through the Provost’s Fund for Arts & Humanities. The students were able to complete the project using only $5,837, which meant the rest of the money could be used to send the theater students to Scotland this summer.

“We had a pretty tight budget with the pieces that we had to manufacture, but when we did our manufacturing at LSU, we shaved off $1,000 and also got a lot of hands-on manufacturing experience,” Baudier said.

Though the capstone team found the project challenging at times, it is pleased with the results and enjoyed collaborating with the theater department.

“We had a lot of fun,” Baudier said. “The piece is beautiful. It’s artwork. When you see it in person, it’s very shiny, and we’re proud of what we put together and happy that the theater is satisfied.”

Erickson is thankful for the engineering students’ hard work, which allows his theater students to flourish in their field as well.

“The personal and professional growth from my students’ experience at the festival has a lasting and positive impact on them for years and decades to come in future leadership, artistic, academic, and corporate positions,” he said. “I have been contacted by alumni of past trips expressing their gratitude for how the festival shaped their future.”

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Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Manager