Youthful Destruction At Maker Faire



Who didn’t get in trouble for taking things apart as a kid? The TakeItApart booth at the 2014 Maker Faire was among my favorite. It let anyone (especially the kids) grab a piece of electronics headed for recycling and crack it open just to see what is inside. The good news being that you didn’t need to be able to put it back together again since it’s just going to be ground up for its constituent materials anyway.

There’s something cathartic about watching a 7-year-old stabbing at a Walkman radio with a slotted screwdriver (those plastic cases are more robust than you might think). I asked if anyone had managed to slice open their hand back-to-the-future style in the process and thankfully the answer was no. But there was at least one instance of “free daycare” where the parents wandered off — there are plenty of distractions at MF — much to the chagrin of their progeny.

Seeing this made me think of this recent interview with [Bunnie Huang] in which he mentions taking chips out of their sockets on an Apple II when he was a kid. He would pull them and replace them backwards to see what effect it would have. Ha! If you have a similar childhood experience to share we’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you just want to see the guts of a bunch of stuff head of to TakeItApart.

28 thoughts on “Youthful Destruction At Maker Faire

  1. I’m glad they had a booth like this for everyone (especially the kids.) I’ve been taking things apart for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, I have an iPhone 5s on my ESD mat that I’m about to crack open!

    1. I had a friend do that in 6th grade. Except it was one of those small glass Christmas tree style light bulbs. We found melted glass embedded in the floor. I was blinded by the flash, and I had my back to him. He HATES me telling that story. Mostly because a minute before that, he asked me what would happen if he did it. And I told him. And he did it anyway.

      …learning science the hard(Fun) way

    1. I had a display using el wire mounted behind a plastic pane to avoid wandering fingers, usually I like to have everything touch-able, but the 200VAC hurt me enough. That didn’t stop kids from reaching around. Most don’t know what a shock feels like! I told one kid to lick a 9V as he’d never done so before. Next time ill bring a piezo igniter for just that.

    1. I still feel a bit sheepish a bit sheepish about buying parts. There’s so much e-waste it seems like a lot of stuff should be salvageable. But with smaller and small surface mount parts I find I have a dwindling supply of things to harvest from.

  2. I like the idea of “Take it apart” but just stabbing a Walkman, irks me.
    I think it would be much better to show them how to unscrew it and once open show and tell them what the parts do. Along with that, salvage some parts, (e.g. switches, motors, lights, speakers) for parts boxes or such. All the while separating stuff for recycling, metal/ plastic/ PCB…

    1. As a child, I started by twisting off components with pliers and crushing them to see what was inside. In a few years I was building new circuitry.

      My nephew loves for me to chuck an end mill in my drill press so we can lay waste to scrap PCBs together. It’s not too interesting for me, but for him it’s fascinating.

      The destructive impulse can be off-putting to adults, but it’s a critical first step: stripping away the black box mystique from something formerly off-limits. We start by doing anything. That’s how we learn to do everything.

    2. Hi, one of the TakeItAparts here. I agree completely that it is better to be meticulous than violent when taking things apart. For the older (or calmer) kids and adults we explained the function of different components, shared some of the history and likely design decisions behind products (when we knew), and we isolated parts for other projects. We had several people visit the booth throughout the day and ask for parts. It’s hard to contain a group of elementary school kids, though destruction may just be a first step for them.

      All of the waste from the day went back to Green Citizen–a local Bay Area recycler–for responsible disposal. Those barrels were heavy…

  3. I was notorious for taking apart my toys. Often what I considered “toys” were my parents things. After watching my father work on a car all morning, I learned which tools I needed and upon his lunch break, proceeded to commandeer those tools to remove my training wheels from my bicycle. I was 5 or 6. It was a favorite activity after that. Nothing was safe. I didn’t get to learn much from my father before he passed, but there was an older kid in the neighborhood that was a whiz with engines and would work on everyone’s dirt bikes or go carts. The only stipulations he had was that you paid attention and learned how to do it yourself AND you held the wire every time it was necessary to check for spark. Shockingly, it was a very efficient way to quickly teach a bunch of kids general knowledge of motors. Things did get more painful once I got my first soldering iron though.

  4. This is how I learned most of what I know now about electronics, by dissecting e-waste (mostly from school dumpster) and experimenting with the stuff inside. I have done this as long as I can remember (1st – 2nd grade, dunno). When other kids in High School ask me how I know my stuff I just say that I am a tinkerer that has been taking things apart for a long time, and using the salvaged materials.

    It pains me greatly to see all the things that go in my school’s e-waste and are not used ( and I can’t take home ), I have issues taking too many things home and now I have to make sure my parents don’t see me take in that tower pc, or vintage oscilloscope :).

    IMHO tinkering is the best way to learn, especially when you find those obscure parts or IC with no datasheet online and have to figure our what it is and how to use it.

    I rarely, if ever buy my own electronics components, especially if they can be salvaged.
    The rare cases are the occasional microcontroller or dev board, but I usually wait for parents to get those for christmas/birthday. (but you can get free MCU samples from some nice companies!)

    I was lucky to see that booth at MF on Saturday, and got a few hard drive enclosures and readers, as well as a binary clock. The binary clock is powered by a strange 9V AC source and has a diode recitifier on board, a PIC chip, and an RTC. Will have to dig in my wall wart bin or bypass the recitifier…

  5. Heh. I remember the two-for-one special I got as a kid. I had run out of C cells for my cassette recorder, so, as the power port listed 6 volts, I blithely hooked up a motorcycle battery to it. I’ll learned about amperage AND ‘magic smoke’ that day!

    1. 6V “backwards” or 12 batt on 6v ? lol

      reminds me of the one time i stuck/forced the power connnector the wrong way on a (collectable) hard disk drive from the days of MFM and RLL… 12 volts on 5v non-cmos logic… smokey!

        1. pps Seagate was the FIRST with a hdd interface card that could work automatically with ANY drive by Seagate without having to know all the details like Cyclnders,Heads,Sectorspertrack,Interleave/WriteCompStartsector,WriteCompFactor,LandingZone

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