Domino exhibit brings RIT tiger to life with math

Christine van Oostendorp

Students in PiRIT sorted thousands of dominoes by type to recreate the RIT tiger logo on a massive scale for Imagine RIT. PiRIT is the RIT Association of Student Mathematicians and Statisticians. Here, Tamalika Mukherjee, PiRIT vice president, works on the project.

The RIT tiger logo will come to life in dominoes at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 2 at the Tigers Earning Their Spots? exhibit created by PiRIT, the RIT Association of Student Mathematicians and Statisticians.

Visitors to the PiRIT booth in Gosnell Hall might be unaware of the mathematical concepts lurking behind the eight-foot by eight-foot portrait composed of 81 sets of dominoes, or 2,268 individual tiles.

PiRIT vice president Tamalika Mukherjee, a fourth-year BS/MS student in applied and computational mathematics from Kolkata, India, encourages visitors to come a little closer to learn how the students arranged the dominoes. They promise, the dots won’t bite.

“We want people to see how advanced mathematical topics like graph theory and linear algebra can be applied to create something that is tangible and artistic,” Mukherjee said. “We will be explaining the math behind the algorithm generating the domino portraits in more detail at our exhibit.”

The PiRIT team depicted the large-scale logo in dominoes using an integer linear programming model proposed by Robert Bosch, professor of mathematics at Oberlin College. Ten members of PiRIT followed the algorithmic blueprint and laid down domino after domino.

“We are really excited about creating this exhibit,” said Christine van Oostendorp, president of PiRIT. “Sometimes it can be difficult to convey mathematical concepts. Imagine RIT gives us the opportunity to show that all the computation and numbers can result in an eye-catching product. Last year, our Sierpinski Triangle was definitely a focal point for the College of Science, and I know many are looking to see what we do next. ”

Visitors will see for themselves how math and art intersect by building smaller domino pictures of tiger paw prints using the same concepts applied to the massive RIT logo.

“We want to scale the size down so that people visiting our exhibit can build their own domino portrait and take it home with them,” Mukherjee said.

In addition to Mukherjee and van Oostendorp, exhibitors include students Ellen Baillie, Kyle Cutler, Ben Evans, Renee Meinhold, Erin Neidhart, Eric Peterson, Mike Spink and Evan Witz, and professors from RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, Michael Cromer, Matthew Hoffman and Paul Wenger.


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