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Folding his way to gold: SMU paleontology student is an origami Olympian


Travis Nolan attends Southern Methodist University and ranked 5th in the world last year after taking gold in the IOIO, the International Origami Internet Olympiad. He’s a 20-year-old paleontology student who’s been into dinosaurs since the time he could talk.

Travis Nolan, SMU paleontology student, likes to hang in the basement of Southern Methodist University’s Heroy Hall. When he’s there, he’s his element; surrounded by fossils in the university’s Shuler Museum of Paleontology.He’s been obsessed with dinosaurs since he was barely able to talk. One recent summer day in that very basement, he arranged a few items on the table before him. The fossilized vertebrae of a Plesiosaur, thin pieces of specially treated paper, and ancient animals no larger than Nolan’s hand. – most are smaller.
“They were monsters. You know, crazy animals, but they were real. Like, dragons are cool,” Nolan said, “but as far as we know, not a real thing. Dinosaurs? Just as bad-ass, but they were really stomping around.”The crazy beasts on the table were designed and folded by him and are accurate to scale; and represent small masterpieces of his art, his origami.“This is a Dimetrodon, a Microraptor, a Therizinosaurus and a Triceratops,” he said as he pointed out each creation.Nolan is an international prize-winning, paper-folder. In last year’s International Origami Internet Olympiad, he took gold in the original design category for his Anomalocaris, a 500 million year-old predatory shrimp. His 5th place overall finish helped the U.S. rank third out of 60 participants in the 2021 Olympiad, America’s highest finish to date. READ MORE