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.

  • 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.


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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...

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