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Chuck Hoberman, Unfolding Structures Inventor
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Little girl trying out a Hoberman sphere

Little girl trying out a Hoberman sphere

More Photography:

Hoberman opening a large unfolding sphere
Hoberman opening a large unfolding sphere

Hoberman demonstrates his sphere to a group of school children
Hoberman demonstrates his sphere to a group of school children

How Did Hoberman Invent the Hoberman Sphere™?

“I wanted to figure out how to make a pop-up structure that could fold down small, and open up large in a smooth and continuous way.”

“I experimented with folding paper, then cardboard, plastic, and metal. Eventually, I came up with the Sphere.”

How does the Hoberman Sphere work? It’s actually an icosadodecahedron--a geometric solid consisting of 20 triangles and 12 pentagons. As the sphere expands and contracts, its hubs move in straight lines that radiate from the center. Each point of intersection reinforces the structure.

What are the keys to Hoberman’s success as an inventor?

“Half of invention is being able to get the ideas in the first place. But the other half is being able to pick between ideas, to pick the ones that have the best chance of success--of being built, of being exciting to people, of being beautiful.”

“At first, you really want to use your imagination. You want to just think of crazy ideas. When you look at something and think, ‘That could be done in a different way,’ or ‘I could come up with a better way of skateboarding or a new kind of game,’ don’t think that it’s a stupid idea. Believe that it’s maybe an interesting idea, and write it down, and draw things, and just start to use your imagination.”

What does Hoberman want to invent next?

“I’d like to make more functional pieces, like retractable roofs or tents and other shelters.”

Hoberman designed and built prototypes for a collapsible tent and a foldable briefcase. He’s created expanding-and-contracting works of art for museums, and he’s earned patents on the special folding techniques he’s developed.

Next: How Did Combining Those Interests Help Hoberman Invent? ›

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