Step 4: Understanding the construction
The tensegrity structure we envisioned had never been built before to our knowledge. At first we weren't even sure it was going to be stable, and then we weren't sure it would be viable to construct even if it was.
I started by making models. The first model used 3 foot long wood rods and only a small number of strings. It was similar to a normal tensegrity shown in the photos here. It seemed to work so then we made the 2nd model using 12 foot long wood 2x4's. The 2nd model we strung together using standard 1/4" yacht rope with about half as many rope segments as the final. This helped us arrive at a mathematical model of the design, and also gave us a good understanding of the construction challenges.
Our structure replaces each of the single ropes shown in the "normal" tensegrities below with an entire spline of 12 ropes. From building the models, we learned that tensioning all the ropes equally was difficult. We needed to build a tensioning mechanism into our structure.
In our structure, each rope starts inside a tube, goes through 2 holes in a 2nd tube and then to a tensioner at the center of the 2nd tube. So, there are 3 holes for each rope total.
Making a model like this can be done in a couple hours, you can make a small one yourself at home! See the last step of the project.