Introduction: Creating a Coral Reef

Picture of Creating a Coral Reef

The following information is a single lesson in a larger Tinkercad project. Check out this and more projects on Tinkercad.

Coral are small organisms that live in shallow water in the ocean. They get their energy from the sun and create structures made out of calcium carbonate, the same material as seashells. These structures can cover large areas that are known as coral reefs. Coral reefs are similar to forests because they help support life for many other sea creatures.

Coral create many different shapes and colors. Some have linear symmetry, radial symmetry, or are fractal. Linear symmetry is when an object is split down the middle and both halves are similar. Radial symmetry is when an object has a pattern that repeat at similar angles within a circle. Fractals are a set of repeating, self-similar patterns made from scaling a single shape. The image below shows examples of different coral shapes. Can you tell which ones are fractal, have radial symmetry, or linear symmetry?

  1. Choose one of the next three step to create your own linearly symmetrical, radially symmetrical, or fractal coral.
  2. Continue to the next step.

Step 1: Linear Symmetry

Picture of Linear Symmetry

The following information is a single lesson in a larger Tinkercad project. Check out this and more projects on Tinkercad.

The tools used for this lesson will be Mirror and Duplicate. This lesson is an example of how to make something that has linear symmetry. Coral comes in many different shapes and sizes. Feel free to use different shapes to make your own unique looking coral.

  1. Create a Box. and scale it down to 4mm.
  2. Lengthen one side of the Box so that it is about 45mm.
  3. Use the Workplane Tool to place the grid on the side that will have leaves growing out. Place a shape for the leaf. Here a Paraboloid was used.
  4. This end of the box will be the tip. Scale the leaf (Paraboloid) down to about 2mm.
  5. Center the leaf on the side of the Box using Adjust>Align.
  6. Make a Duplicate of the leaf. Scale the width and length up by .5 mm. In order to move an object less than 1mm, change the Snap Grid amount to .5. Snap Grid is in the lower right corner of the work area. Change the height of the leaf to 4mm.
  7. Choosing Edit>Duplicate again will apply the changes automatically (if the first duplicate wasn't deselected). Continue to make duplicates until you are about one third of the way down the Box.
  8. Make one duplicate and change the size and shape in a slightly different way than before. In this example, the leaves' width will grow quicker than the height.
  9. Once one side is all done, change the colors of the stem and leaves. Select all of the leaves, Duplicate the part and then choose Adjust>Mirror. Hover over the black arrows that will flip the leaves to the other side.
  10. Here is the end result.
  11. If you have time, choose another coral from the list or help a classmate work on theirs.

Step 2: Radial Symmetry

Picture of Radial Symmetry

The following information is a single lesson in a larger Tinkercad project. Check out this and more projects on Tinkercad.

In this lesson, we'll use Custom Shapes, Duplicate, and Align. This lesson is an example of how to make a coral that has radial symmetry. Coral comes in many different shapes and sizes. Same as before, you can use different shapes to make your own unique looking coral.

  1. Place a sphere on the workplane.
  2. Flatten the sphere on the Z axis until it is about 3mm tall.
  3. Place another sphere on the workplane and scale it on all axes to about 6mm. Tip: Holding SHIFT will evenly scale on all axes.
  4. Select both spheres. Choose Adjust>Align tool. Align the two sphere so they are centered on all axes.
  5. Next, place a thin torus on the workplane.
  6. Align the thin torus to either of the spheres. After selecting the Align tool, left click once on a sphere to have the torus move towards it. Change the colors of objects to be more vibrant. Hint: After selecting align, left click once on a sphere so the torus moves towards it, while the sphere stays in place.
  7. In the object menu on the right, scroll up until you find the Custom Shapes menu (you may need to click the small triangle to expand the menu). Choose the wire spring on page 24.
  8. Rotate the spring on its X axis. In the Inspector window, change the values to match what is in the attached image.
  9. Align the spring with one of the objects already aligned.
  10. Press W to switch to the Workplane Tool. Select the bottom face of the spring as shown in the image.
  11. Place a thin torus on the new workplane. Scale the torus down equally on all axes until it is about 2mm. Move the torus so it hangs from the spring. Change the color of the torus.
  12. Group the spring and the torus. Make a duplicate of the group and move it to the other side of the coral. Choose Adjust>Mirror and flip the group so it faces the opposite direction.
  13. Select both spring groups. Hold Alt and rotate 45 degrees on the Z axis.
  14. Repeat the last step until you have springs all the way around.
  15. If you have time, choose another coral from the list or help a classmate work on theirs.

Step 3: Fractals

Picture of Fractals

The following information is a single lesson in a larger Tinkercad project. Check out this and more projects on Tinkercad.

A fractal is a pattern that is self similar. This means that it repeats using a copy of the original form. The duplicate tool is perfect for this.

  1. Place a Paraboloid on the workplane. This will be the main stalk of the coral.
  2. Scale the main stalk on the Z axis, increasing its height to about 60mm.
  3. With the main stalk selected, choose Edit>Duplicate to make a copy. Move the up on the z axis and scale it down 1/3 of the original, or so the height is about 20mm.
  4. Rotate the new branch 40 degrees.
  5. And move it into place.
  6. Select Edit>Duplicate again.
  7. Select the two branches and make a copy of them. Move them to the other side of the main stalk. You can rotate the copy 180 degrees or use the Mirror tool. This will be the base shape that will be used for the fractal.
  8. Select all the objects and group them together. Make a duplicate. Scale the duplicate down a third on all axes and move it to a branch on the base shape. The image shows the base shape in white and the duplicate in purple.
  9. Now you can choose to choose Edit>Duplicate again or you can start from the main stalk to add more branches and move them where ever you want.
  10. This step shows that the lower branch can become the base shape as well.
  11. The purple branches are a copy of the new base shape moved to the other branch.
  12. Here is an example of what your coral fractal should look like.
  13. If you have time, choose another coral from the list or help a classmate work on theirs if you have done them all.

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