Friday, June 27, 2014

Take-A-Part and Design

Taking apart old electronics, especially those with moving parts, is an especially engaging activity for the children. For many it is the first time that someone has given them something and asked them to take it apart. And for many it is their first exposure to a screwdriver.

Questions include:
What do you think is inside?
How can we find out?
What tool or tools can we use to take this apart?

As they begin to use the tools to take the electronics apart, they inevitable run into challenges. For instance they realize that the size of the tip of the screwdriver must match the size of the head of the screw. Some of the screws are in difficult places and at times hidden. Finding the screwdriver with the right length to reach hidden screws is also a challenge that keeps the children engaged.

Even the teachers can’t help but get into the action.

Once the electronics are taken apart we always have plenty of batteries and alligator clips on hand so that the children can begin to explore the function of the components. This group of children found a fan in one of the components and was attempting to recreate the air moved by the fan at the bottom of the wind tube.

Once the excitement, engagement and sharing of ideas begins to slow down, we ask the children:
What could you design using the parts you have here?
Around the room are examples of what others have done to re-purpose old electronic components, both physical examples as well as pictures of creations by other artists. Some could be works of art, others are made into toys, and some have been used for jewelry.
This extension of the take apart activity is a great introduction to the use of a hot glue gun. Another tool which many of the children have either never seen and used before, or know of a parent or grandparent who uses one but they cannot touch it. We walk them through safety rules and empower them to begin their designs. Here are some example of what was made.