Categories: Ellen Foster, Science Club, [Lessons]
Tags: Appropriated Technology, E-Waste, Motors
Toward the end of last semester and for the past weeks of this new semester, a group of 7th graders have committed time to meet after school to learn more about issues of E-Waste and physically appropriating technology for new uses.
The end goal of this after school group is to encourage kids to think about technology obsolescence and how they might creatively remix and reuse technologies that are considered unusable or unwanted. They have had fun making old printer motors run, learning about how sound waves look, and exploring issues of chemicals leeching from E-Waste into ground-water supplies. They have also watched a short documentary on “DJ Focus,” a young teenager growing up in Sierra Leone who has taught himself to build a radio and other technology out of throw-away materials – his hope being that radio communication will foster discussion and connections within his community. The overall intention is to think about technology’s implications, uses, and shaping in society as a whole and within locally situated communities.
The kids were excited to take apart old electronics (mainly old printers and radios) and check out their insides — the circuitry, the gears and moveable parts. We focused on getting out usable components, such as the motors, while talking about the differences between stepper motors and DC brushless motors — how they each function, and might contribute to different projects. One day I brought in some old computer towers with the DVD player motors still intact. Two kids worked diligently to expose the motor power connections of the player and hook it up to a 9 V battery. Here is the result!
They also had fun hooking up the DC brushless motors to batteries and seeing them run on their own, separate from the equipment they were helping to cool.
It was a raucous good time for kids to tear things up, but sometimes it was hard for them to focus on the task of extracting the motors and getting them to run. This has since made me realize that I need to give them more concrete projects for creation and instruction beyond exploration and play – although I think enabling them to work in this mode is important.
Teaching them the basics of component parts (what is a resistor, capacitor, motor, circuit, etc.) by looking at E-Waste was a helpful foundation for them to think about what parts are salvageable from E-Waste, and which are potentially dangerous immediately or to the environment. These foundational skills will hopefully keep them building in the future, or at least give them pause when thinking about throwing out old electronics and the possibilities for what those objects could become.
Since first exploring circuitry and electronics through E-Waste, we have moved on to other projects but that is material for another post.