Can Origami Make You Smart?

By: Calista Jaskiewicz

Information Access , Specialist

According to the National Math & Science Initiative, we are in STEM crisis: 54% of high school graduates aren’t ready for college math and 69% of high school graduates are not ready for college-level science.

The United States is losing its competitive edge in math and science while the rest of the world soars ahead. Our knowledge capital, which fuels innovation and economic growth, is at risk. Since there are only one million minutes of high school, American youth need to be more engaged in STEM studies at a very early age. 


Our mission is to inspire learners to think outside of the box about STEM studies by studying folding. We inspire the world to fold for good.

Origami Salami decided to do something to encourage STEM studies by publishing digital curriculum called, "Investigation: Paper Engineering" for K-12 curriculum (publisher; Lincoln Interactive). It is an innovative way to encourage learners to stick with STEM subjects long enough to enjoy the engaging applications in the sciences that lie years ahead in college and in one’s lifelong career. In our program, we link paper folding with scientific applications so that even the earliest participant discovers surprising scientific possibilities that lie hidden in a “hobby” -- for example, we study satellite tethers (the simple accordion fold), the new heart stent (adapted from the water bomb base), air bags, the human brain (folded so that more information can be stored), proteins (one mis-fold and disease ensues), and RNA.     

IPE targets the middle school market, but is easily adapted for elementary and high school students. Though the course is fully digital, it comes with a toolkit containing assorted papers and items required to complete the basic assignments. IPE went live on June 1, 2011, and is full of fascinating tidbits about the world history of paper folding, the role of paper engineers and what it takes to become one. It engages societies and clubs to become dedicated to origami, and the sneaky way to adapt STEM studies into a series of really cool folding projects. This course provides news you can use as a springboard to creative STEM studies that only the student's unique mind could imagine.

IPE and its materials are organized in a way that exceeds educational standards but is fascinating and simple to deliver, so that both teachers and students look forward to working together, every day, in STEM exploration through folding. The desired outcome is that students want to know more, and are excited about the possibilities. Teachers have no fear of instructing students because the material is easy to follow, hands-on, and tons of creative fun.The whole thing is spatial, and 3-D skills are critical for engineering.

Team Members

  • Calista was a student at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and is currently enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Progression program at Robert Morris University. Calista is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education. Calista developed and teaches a program to inspire learners' interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through origami. Officially founded in 2009, it is called Origami Salami (because it rhymes, you can fold circles too, and STEM is a tasty mix of fabulous disciplines) and models the science of folding. She volunteers to teach the fun of STEM through origami to groups. Calista has conducted over 14 community programs from folding for seniors, to church groups, summer camps for elementary and middle school students, and programs at Carnegie Mellon University. Calista authored a digital course for middle schoolers called, "Investigation: Paper Engineering," which published on June 1, 2011 and is currently marketed nationwide by national curriculum provider Lincoln Interactive. In the development of IPE, Calista was also called on by the publisher to author a series of 13 scripts for videos to embed in the course; Calista is the featured folder in each video and learned to read from a teleprompter to get the job done."

  • Nathan Boerner

    Beta Chapter President

    Nathan Boerner is a five time award winning youth origami artist in the Annual Origami USA Competition, Children’s Division. He made 25 origami dragons along with Calista that raised over $1000 for Cincinnati Children's Hospital International Adoption center. He also teaches classes at his local library on how to fold origami. Nathan joined his family through international adoption and was born missing his right arm at the shoulder. Nathan does not see missing an arm as something that holds him back. He inspires others with what he has overcome. Nathan is kind to his 3 sisters and 3 brothers, and is always willing to help them and teach them. Nathan was given an origami dinosaur pack for Christmas one year and has been folding ever since. He has gone from practicing preliminaries (a fold), to wet folding, and now, designing his own models. He loves sharing his passion for origami with others through teaching classes and also enjoys displaying his work through OrigamiUSA Origami Children exhibits. He wonders in the magic of origami and it's amazement in going from a plain piece of paper to a beautiful model. The mathematics behind origami is fascinates and challenges him to think about math in a new way.

  • Jessica Wu's greatest passion is giving back to the community with her talents. In the summer of 2011, she started the chamber group “On A High Note” with her younger brother Joey. The violin duo focuses on introducing classical music to disadvantaged, disabled, and long-term ill kids throughout Massachusetts but performs at general venues as well. Music has been a joy in Jessica’s life, and through sharing the magic of music with others in transformative settings, Jessica has come to appreciate music in a new way. In the summer, the violin duo plays at festivals, where they also hold lemonade stands to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a foundation that supports pediatric cancer research. During the school year, Jessica regularly performs at special care facilities and homeless shelters, where she offers the children music lessons, using instruments collected through instrument drives. Another of Jessica’s foremost passions is origami. She shares her love of the art with others in school, where she is the founder and captain of Origami Club, in hospitals, where she teaches paper-folding to aid rehabilitation, and in homeless shelters, where she teaches women arts and crafts to increase confidence. Recently, she has started a local chapter of Origami Salami, an organization that promotes folding for good and encourages students to study STEM subjects through exploring the art of origami.

  • Owen Byrne

    Origami Salami Iota

    Owen Byrne’s love of origami led him to Origami Salami and the Folding for Good project, which folded peace cranes for distribution to the Sandy Hook, CT community. He has organized ‘folding parties’ at his local school, as well as at local Scouting groups, gathering nearly 500 peace cranes. When Owen read that Folding for Good wanted to reach 10,000 peace cranes, he took it upon himself to fold over 1,000 peace cranes, helping Folding for Good reach and exceed their goal. Owen lives by a simple motto: do one good deed a day. As a result, he has volunteered his time at local food pantries and homeless lunches, as well as for various local charities, such as collecting personal hygiene items and delivering them to those families affected by Superstorm Sandy. He is the first to volunteer, and his enthusiasm inspires both family and friends to take action, too.


UK Students use origami design concepts to help refugees!

Feb. 23, 2016

This is such an amazing innovation!

Jefferson Foundation Award

May 11, 2015

I received an award from the Jefferson Awards Foundation, “the longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service” in the United States.

Read more here:


Check me out on "Pittsburgh Today Live!", KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! 


In June 2011 I developed a course to inspire learners' interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Enginnering and Mathematics) through origami. We called it “Investigation: Paper Engineering” (IPE) Lincoln Interactive

IPE discusses a variety of practical scientific and engineering applications for folding that are being employed today through RNA unfolding and heart stents, solar sails, and telescopes. The course also offers students the opportunity to fold a variety of origami models that begin with the basics and increase in complexity to allow students to develop skill over time.

I am proud to announce that as a result of that work, I was awarded the  2013 Award for Aspirations in Computing from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT.)


PHOTO: Charlotte Farmer and Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz

The purpose of the NCWIT awards program is to identify high-potential young women who have an interest in computer science and introduce them to like-minded peers in order to provide a support mechanism to guide them into college and a career.

You can learn more about it here:


Calista is a Nestle Very Best in Youth 2013 National Finalist, Prudential Spirit of America 2013 Distinguished Finalist, and a 2013 recipient of the gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is a Davidson Institute Young Scholar Ambassador and Teen Mensan.

She is a third-year participant in the NASA INSPIRE Online Community and an avid follower of NASA news. On August 5, 2012, she attended the NASA Curiosity Landing festivities at Ames Research Center in Mountainview, Calif.

Calista was a team member on the FIRST FRC robotics rookie team “Girls of Steel” in 2011 in Pittsburgh, and served as a volunteer referee at regional  FIRST Tech Challenge competitions at Robert Morris University in 2012 and 2013.

Some of my other notable accomplishments include:

Recognized by The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (PITA) as “…a pioneer and a leader in advocating STEM education.” February, 2011

American Association of University Women National Blog Feature, “Girls Aren’t Who They Used to Be,” October 4, 2011   

Davidson Institute for Talent Development National e-News Update Newsletter Feature, “Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz: A Young Scholar Making a Difference," January 2012.

Profile Post to Davidson Institute Public Online Database, “Young Scholar Ambassador Program: Calista’s Project,” January 2012.

Named to Kids are Heroes, January 20, 2012

Featured artist profile on Origami, June 11, 2012, “Interview with Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz.”

Featured in Robert Morris University Blogspot and homepage highlights, “Folding for Good,” July 20, 2012.

Featured on Origami, September 3, 2012, “Using Origami to Make New Friends.”

Holiday Tree 2014: Night at the Museum

Origami USA's annual origami holiday tree at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City via Crafts by Dana Hinders. Festive for every season. An annual tradition, the delightfully decorated Origami Holiday Tree has marked the start of the holiday season at the Museum for 40 years. The theme of this year’s tree is Night at the Museum. Volunteers begin folding in July to complete hundreds of creations that will be displayed on the tree. During the holiday season, volunteers will be on hand to teach visitors of all ages the art of paper folding. More...


Please log in to leave a comment.

Similar Projects