Calder and the Center of Mass

The sculptor Alexander Calder is well known for his mobiles: beautiful moving sculptures made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes. In this seminar students apply engineering and physics principles while creating Calder-like mobiles. As students experiment with static equilibrium, they consider the forces of gravity and convection air currents. Students discover that just as artists balance forces to create intriguing mobiles for people to enjoy, engineers balance forces to create safe structures for people to use.

Faculty: Kathy Rosborough - Science 8

Dates Offered

March 8, 2019
March 15, 2019

Explore More

Interested in exploring this topic more deeply?

  • Go to:  The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest exhibit of the works of Alexander Calder. The NGA Calder exhibit webpage includes many beautiful photographs and a podcast tour of the exhibit.

  • At home: Continue construction. Use a few coat-hangers, peruse the recycling box, and let your imagination run wild, all while applying newly learned principles of physics.

Road trip: The official Calder website includes a list of major exhibitions through the US and other countries.

Why Calder?

Building mobiles engages students in hands-on learning, allowing them to physically realize variables such as force, mass, gravity, static equilibrium, center of mass and Newton’s Laws. After building a mobile, students can more easily extend these concepts to an engineering context and understand how forces are balanced during the design and construction of buildings and bridges.