Tool Dissection at Open Make: Tools


Hello, once again, I am going to blog about our Tool Dissection activity. As I have posted several times (1, 2, 3) about our preparation for the event, at Open Make:Tools, we finally tried the activity with visitors!

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(click to enlarge photos)
The activity turned out to be really fun for each participant. I would like to share with you how we did this activity and some memorable moments that I saw during the activity.

The set up
Visitors chose what they would like to take apart from a pool of "tools" we had prepared. Those tools ranged from simple (such as power drills) to complicated (such as an old adding machine and typewriter).
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Also, we had displays of accessories, art pieces, and figures that we made out of “dissected” tools. Visitors usually got excited when they heard that they could take apart any of these tools. Plus, showing them the samples of the accessories seemed to add an additional surprise and spark their motivation, especially girls and women's.

A lot of tool use
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In keeping with the theme of Tools, the activity required a variety of tool use in the process of dissection. Most of the stuff required screw drivers to start off, but soon visitors started asking other tools such as a wrench, a hacksaw, a vice, a teeny tiny screw driver, a hammer, and a snip, etc. Some visitors didn’t know wrenches or vices, but they knew what they needed to accomplish their goal. So visitors often communicated with us through hand motions showing what kind of tools they were looking for, which I thought was interesting and a good way to learn new tools.

Finding what's inside is just amazing!
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When this woman found a prism in a binocular, she sounded excited as if she struck gold! She is a jewelry designer and, of course, made several beautiful necklaces using the prisms and lenses from the binocular.

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These are the inside parts of a handdrill (left), an adding machine (middle), and a typewriter (right). Again, it was amazing to find these complicated and beautiful mechanism hiding under the cover. And more than that, it was great to see that some parts were exchanged among the visitors to create accessories.

A lot of paths to enjoy this activity
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A six-year-old boy, Ryan, worked together with his grandfather nearly for two hours. For Ryan, a handdrill is something familiar because he uses it at home, but never had a chance to see the inside. His grandfather helped Ryan taking apart and looking into each part of the drill and showed him how it works. After the dissection, they put back the handdrill's plastic covers and glued them (the drill he holds in the photo is actually empty inside!). They told me that taking them apart and learning how it works was more meaningful, rather than doing artistic creations.

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Some kids worked on big stuff like the typewriter and the adding machine. I wondered how these old machines looked in their eyes. Then parents explained to them how these machines were used and how precious they were, and they said "We are getting the best part of the event!" So they spent a long time with us being actively engaged in their taking apart projects. Later, some created badges and key chains out of the parts of the machine, others enjoyed collecting interesting shaped parts.

People take over the dissection
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And of course, the big and complicated typewriter could not be taken apart completely by the first group, so the a second group took it over and continued taking it apart. Then a third group came in and took it over... The girls, wearing a ring of the typewriter's keys, created several accessories by combining parts from different machines.

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What I particularly liked was that there were so many ways for visitors to participate in this activity. It was visitors to decide what kind of experience they would like to get out of this activity. And in that sense, I thought the Tool Dissection is very open-ended and rich with full of content. You might enjoy taking things apart using a lot of different tools (Yes, it was not really easy to open them!). Or you might enjoy seeing what is inside and learning how stuff works. But if you like creating something, making accessories out of the parts you found would be a lot of fun! You would be especially proud that the materials you use for your creations are not something that are given to you but actually something that you dug out from old machine and tools.

I would love to try this activity with visitors again in the tinkering studio on weekday afternoon. We still have several old machines that no one worked on. Let's take them apart and create something cool!

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