Saturday, April 13, 2013

Parts, Parts, Wonderful Parts (or the Making of a Maker)

This is cross posted from my other blog A Make Per Day.

Recently I picked up an old dead photocopier. It was heading for the landfill anyways so I figured I could take it home and strip it of anything useful.

Turns out that the parts are only a side benefit. The the best part has been getting my boys to help take it apart. My 3 year old has a short attention span but my 6 year old has been eating it up.  He can't stop yammering on about the robot insects that we will make.  This is a huge learning opportunity for them.  As we take off parts I describe what they do (when I understand the purpose).  He sure is excited.

As a society we need our children to understand that these machines are not magical boxes that do wonderful and mysterious things.  They are systems an we need them to be able to look inside and figure out how things work.  They need to see that  you can figure out a purpose for each part.  Once they can see the purpose of the little parts then they can start figuring out the bigger system. This is important if we want our children to become makers instead of just consumers.  Consumers just buy magic boxes and then throw them out.  Makers create wonderful things.  Or messes - but messes can be wonderful too.

This photocopier is a wonderful experience for my children.  Today we hooked some of the motors and gearboxes up to batteries to see if they worked. The whole project is a great way for them to learn.  It cost nothing.  If they break something while trying to take it apart it doesn't cost anything.  If we burn up a part, oh well.  It was free.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great parts on this machine.  I have my eye on a couple of big stepper motors.  They are already earmarked for some CNC projects.  Lot of the other motors, gears, and belts will make great projects.  The machine contains countless hardened steel shafts and even the metal brackets are getting saved.  This junk will be supplying projects for years to come.

While this isn't really a project where I am building something tangible, I am definitely creating something in my children.