Last spring break, I traveled to NKU and ICTCM. Andy Long, a mathematician at NKU, generously gave me a home for a few days while at NKU, and on the last night he confessed that he had a “Function Machine” in his basement. A what? A function machine. You type a 3-D function into MatLab, and it builds the function on this machine he created. No kidding.

Although this would be a fantastic device to have for visually impaired students, it would also be great for students who just have difficulty envisioning curves in 3-D. Here’s the inside of the machine:

The machine is based on metal pins with rounded tops. Each pin is pushed upwards to the correct height. Creating the 3-D surface on the top of the machine.