Monday, February 29, 2016

Lessons Learned when Taking Things Apart

Break-Make sessions have been wildly popular here at the Museum. We've run them twice now and I have learned a few lessons.

This combination of mechanics and
circuitboard made for some good learning.
Lesson 1: Finding the Appliances

We "broke" old toys, a toaster, blender, hair dryer, answering machine, CD player, and coffee maker.
The first time we ran the session, I went to a local recylcling store and found a variety of small appliances that I knew would have something motorized in them. Old CD/Tape decks have pulleys in them, for instance.  I avoided anything with glass. No computers. No microwaves. The lower-tech the better.

Wow did the goop in this handmixer STINK
The second time we ran the session, we asked for donations. That was a big mistake as we received all sorts of small appliances that we really couldn't use. I had to take a carload off to the dump. During that session, one student took apart a hand-mixer. It was full of interesting gearing, but wow did it SMELL. There was old food stuck way up in the mixer. I will hesitate to use one again.

Lesson 2: Safety

The kids weren't wearing safety glasses. While nothing did fly about, I would make them wear safety glasses next time.   I will also cut the power cords so the kids don't try plugging in the appliances. Nobody tried, but who wants to have a first time on this?

We should have had safety glasses.

Lesson 3: Having a purpose for taking apart

At our first break-make series, we all came back together to make something new from what we had taken apart. I had stickers, markers, pipe cleaners, lots of washers/screws/metal gizmos, and the all-important glue gun available.  These two girls ended up making a robot out of parts from the boombox they had dismantled.

These girls enjoyed the artistic portion of the program.

At our second series, I put out images from the calendar published to accompany the Smithsonian's exhibition, Things Come Apart. I suggested that we take apart our appliances with the goal of figuring out what all the components were and how they went together. This session was a more thoughtful session and we ended up with some cool photographs.
Here is the display created by one participant.

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