The class readings for this past week were about tinkering, a simple word that I had not used at all before starting graduate school. So to better understand
the term before starting to read, I looked up the word online and found that the word tinkering was used to describe ways to experiment with something in an unskilled manner. One could see the appropriateness of the chosen words by the authors of the class readings to describe tinkering: playful, exploration, iteration. Hence, within this context, we went to the makerspace to make a scribbling or dancing machine and paid attention to our tinkering.
I had never seen a scribbling machine so I was excited to see one work and make one on my own. After seeing a commercial version of the scribbling machine, I identified three main components: a DC motor, a battery, and some kind of structure as the body of the small machine. We had available small DC engines, batteries, small recycle containers and we could use any crafting material found in the makerspace.
First, I started the design process of my machine by figuring a way how to secure the small DC engine and AA battery to the small yogurt container I got. I made an incision on top of the container and after not being able to slide the motor shaft through it, I decided to cut a bigger hole with the scissors. I used some duct tape and hot gun to secure the whole engine to the inside of the container and also to glue a piece of craft stick to the rotating shaft of the engine.
Then, I had to figure out a way for the engine to move the machine as the motor rotated, and that moment is when I thought of gluing one old coin battery to one side of the craft stick (see figure 1). As the motor rotated, the coin battery on the craft stick made the whole structure vibrate and move on its own due to the dynamic unbalance. This dynamic unbalance happened because the center of gravity was not in the axis of rotation and there were some centrifugal and couple forces.
After seeing that the machine was moving after connecting it to the battery, I started to look around for materials that I can use to “dress” the machine with. I wrapped the machine with a cool silver duct tape to make it look metallic and robot-like. Then I thought about showing it to my baby daughter, so to make it more visual appealing to her, I decided to use some colorful fiber chenille stems as antennas and the tail, and use a pair of colorful buttons as the eyes (see figures 2 and 3).
At the beginning of the lab I had no idea of what to make and what materials to use, but the fact that we had a model of an existing commercial product helped me identify the main components that I had to include and build around. I also found that the diversity of the materials available in the makerspace helped me trigger different possibilities and configurations for the machine. Similarly, it was helpful to be in the makerspace surrounded by others within a safe community where I did not feel judged but encouraged to try and fail and try again. This activity definitely helped me see what Resnick and Rosenbaum (2013) said about tinkering as a “valuable style of working, characterized by a playful, exploratory, iterative style of engaging with a problem or project.” (164). By the way, my daughter liked touching the machine and playing with it until I turned it on and it started to rotate and move all over the place… he he. To see the machine in action, watch the video below.
Resnick, M., & Rosenbaum, E. (2013). Designing for Tinkerability. In M. Honey & D. Kanter (Eds.), Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. New York and Abingdon, Oxon., Eng. Routledge.