Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tinkering with a Motor

Timelaps video of my Scribble Bot

Crafting this slow moving Scribble Bot was an exploration of materials and motion. Immediately drawn to the shiny solver tin, I selected tape and paper materials that would match with the silver color nicely. Getting the motor to run without the additional materials was easy, add on lead to the positive side of the battery and the other lead to the negative side of the battery. Depending on which lead you add where, the motor spins in a different direction. For my purposes, it did not matter in which direction the motor would spin.

The tip of the motor started rotating, giving me immediate feedback that what I had done was correct. Although I made motors spin many times before, I felt somewhat gratified. The technology told me I was treating it like it should. My approach to creating the rest of the Scribble Bot was through tinkering with the materials I selected. 

Tinkering is a playful, experimental, iterative, and bottom up way of learning. Tinkering can foster important ways for children to grow and educate their creativity and agility in preparation to recognize and make disappear future challenges adults cannot anticipate while educating children (Resnick & Rosenbaum, 2013). When thinking about designing contexts for tinkerability, Resnick & Rosenbaum (2013) reflected on 6 key aspects: emphasizing process over product, setting themes not challenges, highlighting diverse examples, tinkering with space, encouraging engagement with people not just material, combining diving in with stepping back.

While for me, these aspects seemed to have played a role in how I approached the design of the Scribble Bot, it is challenging to cleanly differentiate one aspect from another. Nevertheless, I am exploring my Scribble Bot building activity through these aspects to better understand the overlaps.

Emphasizing process over product – Form the beginning I knew that this Scribble Bot is going to have to use a motor and that it should move. Since there was a clear goal to the task, I tried to focus my explorations on the process of getting there. In the beginning I took notes, made scribbles, and even took pictures of the kinds of speed-bumps I encountered, e.g., avoiding short circuits when battery and tin can touch, or balancing the tin can so that the motor could spin a pipe cleaner. However, these challenges, while seeming to slow down my process overall, seemed to drive my project forward and into the shape it ended up being.

Setting themes not challenges – The activity was framed as an exploratory task. Although the task of creating a self-moving Scribble Bot was in the back of my mind, working with discarded and everyday maker materials seemed to help lower the feeling of having to get it down. There were so many different ways of getting it down, the theme of self-moving creature was open ended for anyone to interpret. 

Highlighting diverse examples & encouraging engagement with people not just material We started creating the Scribble Bots together at the Make Innovate Learn Lab (see also my site description   and 360° pictures of the MILL Makerspace). Everyone had their own approach. One person made the tip of the motor touch the table for the Scribble Bot to rapidly spin in circles, another person attached a string and a pen to the tip of the motor and let it dangle over a piece of paper to create abstract looking imagery. Seeing everyone's approaches unfold alongside my own was encouraging and helpful. While at first I did not know how to translate the motor's motion to the tin, I learned from watching and interacting with others how to unbalance the motor (in theory). It required some trickery, watching other projects, and talking with others to make it work.

Tinkering with space – Creating the Scribble Bot required some trickery, watching other projects, and talking with others to make it work. The material arrangement on the table supported the seeing of other projects and interacting with people. For example, the hot-glue gun was positioned at the opposite end of the table. To attach the popsicle sticks to my tin, I walked over and saw another person's project in action. The goodly eyes another person had left on the table invited me to attach eyes to my Scribble Bot. 

Combining diving in with stepping back – I could not finish my robot at the Make Innovate Learn Lab, and planned to continue working with it another day from my office. Revisiting the project after a few days, I turned it on and did not see the tin moving at all. After watching it for some time, I noticed that it was moving - just very slowly. I took a timelapse video (see above) to capture the Scribble Bot's slow motion. 


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