STEAMworks Ability lab has 2 harmonographs that I use to teach people a bit about STEAM education. You see I do not believe that STEAM is ONLY about tech stuff like 3d printers and drones. There are elements of STEAM in everything, not just new technology.

So what is a harmonograph? According to Wikipedia: A harmonograph is a mechanical apparatus that employs pendulums to create a geometric image. The drawings created typically are Lissajous curves, or related drawings of greater complexity. The devices, which began to appear in the mid-19th century and peaked in popularity in the 1890s, cannot be conclusively attributed to a single person, although Hugh Blackburn, a professor of mathematics at the University of Glasgow, is commonly believed to be the official inventor. Check out our gallery of harmonograph drawings here:

Harmonograph gallery

The technical jargon in this definition does not give a person a good visual idea of what one is, so I’ve attached a video here:


Why does STEAMworks use harmonographs? Bottom line: They are just super cool! Nothing gets a persons interest in whatever is going on without being super cool! They are awesome to teach people a bit about physics, technology, art, math and engineering. They get to physically see how all of the factors of STEAM combine to make something awesome.

STEAMworks has two harmonographs, a 3 pendulum rotary harmonograph and a hybrid 2 pendulum lateral harmonograph. To make it easy I call them Charlotte and Wilbur respectively. I built Charlotte as a project to display at the New York State Fair. The first time I tested it in public i realized that there was a major design flaw, if a person is shorted than 48” or uses a wheelchair then they cant use Charlotte to create theses really cool designs. So I built Wilbur. Wilbur is shorter, but the pendulums are built externally of the table so it takes up a lot more room. But it is a great tool to use to show kids what is happening and teach them about the science that is happening.

STEAMworks has been using the harmonographs to introduce the concepts of STEAM education all around the CNY region.  They have gone to the state fair, local community events and will soon travel to the Utica Children’s museum.  A 4 pendulum harmonograph that will draw large images is currently being designed soon, look for it in the spring! Many people have asked for a workshop to build a harmonograph and this is something that I am currently exploring.  If you are interested in building your own or would like more information about the STEAMworks harmonographs please contact me using the form below!