PrinterGuts

My new book coming out! The working title is "Robotics Projects with Upcycled Electronics." Book should be out in November (since I'm in the midst of writing it). I'm also preparing an academic journal article in Science Scope, with emphasis on classroom use of PrinterGuts.

In the picture above, we see a whole van-load of PrinterGuts. These parts are about to go to the Los Angeles city E-waste recycling center. Every batch of parts was one student-team's project. In a PrinterGuts lab, the students take apart the printers to "harvest" useful parts, particularly motors. Then they build something new with the parts. At that point, it often becomes an art project - "Can we build a machine that draws, like the Mechanical Man in the movie Hugo?"

Link to CTY 2018 IROB Communications Form - class pictures, other questions.

Link to Sand Drawing Video from Ukrainian artist Kseniya Simonova

See PrinterGuts at the National Science Teachers' Convention - March 17

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Printer Guts: Reverse Engineering Printers to Make a "Hugo" Drawing Automaton

Saturday, March 17 2:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Georgia World Congress Center, C213

High student engagement. Very low cost. Full STEAM! Surprisingly rich in engineering content. Students take apart free printers to make their own machine that draws.

Presenter(s): Mark Bell (The Country School: Valley Village, CA)

FORMAT: Presentation

GRADE LEVEL: 7 - 11

SUBJECT: Physical Science, Engineering-Technology-and the Application of Science


The "Printer Guts" labs use free, discarded ink jet printers to engage middle students in engineering analysis and design. First, a Socratic dialog - "In your mind, design a printer. How many motors must there be?" Class discussion leads us to a paper-forward motor, and a back-and-forth motor. Then, our first rubric: Your two-student team extracts both motors, with wires intact. The motors are then driven with the correct voltage, requiring research into the specific motors. (Google the part numbers.)

Students then gather hot glue guns, other printer parts and lots of cardboard to begin a “Hugo” automaton. Clips from the movie tell the story of a machine which can draw. The A in STEAM jumps out as students determine what their automaton will look like and its “personality.” Then the second rubric – that is, the “what” of engineering design – takes center stage.

One – draw a straight line. Two – what will it take to draw a square? Three – can you make it draw a circle? The most straightforward approach is manual control, using switches or simple contacts to make the motors move back and forth. An extension is to use Arduinos.


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