In this rendering provided by the University of Maine, a prototype of the SunRule sculpture can be seen. The prototype will be installed in Spring 2022 in Webster Park. Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine

An installation at an Orono park that was shrouded in mystery two weeks ago will be a sculpture that uses the rays of the sun to get more people interested in math.

Orono’s Town Council on Monday gave its full approval to installing a prototype of the SunRule in Webster Park by the Stillwater River. The council two weeks ago approved installing a base for the sculpture, but councilors at the time didn’t know what would go on top of it because it was subject to a non-disclosure agreement between town staff and the University of Maine.

The SunRule was created by two UMaine professors as a prototype for a product designed to promote students’ interest in math.

“We’re concerned about mathematics education,” said Justin Dimmel, one of the creators and an assistant professor of mathematics education and instructional technology. “Mathematics is often a gatekeeper to lucrative careers. But you could ask any math teacher at any level — stoking and maintaining student interest in it, and helping students understand that learning mathematics is more than just taking medicine you’re not interested in, is difficult.”

The SunRule is interactive and allows users to visualize multiplication and division using the rays of the sun. The sun shines through a series of slits in a ring onto a bronze plate. Users can change the angle of the plate, which allows them to manipulate the sunlight to multiply by different numbers.

It was created through the university’s Maine Innovation Research and Technology Accelerator program that aims to turn prototypes into products. Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Eric Pandiscio invented the SunRule with Dimmel. Gregory Ondo, an associate professor of art, designed and built the sculpture with the help of sculpture studio technician Sam Hoey. Recent UMaine graduate Emma Reedman was also part of the development team.

“I look at this and see kids loving this, playing with this,” Councilor Terry Greenier said.

The sculpture will be installed next spring, and the base will be placed before this winter.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...