The Soda Locker Vending Machine

With the rising popularity of electronic textbooks and laptops being used for schoolwork, the ubiquitous high school locker is becoming less and less necessary. So, students are left with a private storage space that they don’t really need. Why let it go to waste when you’re an enterprising young man with budding electronics and fabrication skills?

[Mistablik] is one such high school student who decided to take advantage of his unused locker. After a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” discussion with his friends, [Mistablik] decided to use his summer break to construct a soda vending machine that fit entirely within his school locker. Quite an ambitious project for a high school student, but the result speaks for itself.

Using an Arduino, coin acceptor, LCD screen, and a handful of other components, [Mistablik] started by prototyping the electronics in a shoebox. After his prototype was proven, he used his school’s laser cutter to fabricate an acrylic control panel and enclosure. Other than a couple of hurdles involving false coin triggers caused by static electricity, the process went smoothly and he was able to move onto the soda dispensing part of the build.

Because [Mistablik] was building this in his school locker, it was important that the build was entirely self-contained and that it wouldn’t require any modification to the locker itself. Once again he turned to the laser cutter to build a two-chute system for dispensing two varieties of soda. Using Fusion 360, he designed and 3D printed the dispenser mechanism.

The finished product fits nicely into his locker, and quickly became a source of chatter around the school. [Mistablik] even used the vending machine to ask his girlfriend to prom, a technique sure to win any geek lover’s heart. Vending machines are popular builds for hobbyists, as they are a fun way to combine electronics, mechanics, and programming. But, this project stands out for its unique requirements and inspiring story.

[thanks to Slartibartfast for the tip!]

27 thoughts on “The Soda Locker Vending Machine

  1. On the one hand, I highly appreciate the novelty of this, and am impressed by the practical know-how required to do it.

    On the other, I also can’t help but be a little jealous that I didn’t really have access to the info and spending money to do similar when I was in high school…

    1. Don’t need technology or much cash, just need hustle. We had folks making good money picking up bags of bagels and selling them at break time. They would undercut the official fundraisers, and the folks doing it started as a sort of a protest against the typical fundraising purposes (school sports teams etc). They eventually got official status as a school sponsored club, and would also do parody assembly announcements / performances.

      1. I actually got muscled by the drill team / dance team / pep squad den mother because we were selling bulk candy to students during the school day because we were intruding into her profits that she was literally giving to her daughter and saying it was an official school fundraiser. Needless to say it was like the mafia had come to tell me that if we didn’t stop we would be dealt with so something like this would have gotten me thrown out of school. Nobody would be praising our ingenuity that is for sure.

  2. It looks impressive… but I can guarantee the thing would be smashed to pieces and the contents stolen by the day’s end at my high school.

    (Students weren’t beyond smashing the 5¼” drive bays on computers and nicking the CPU+RAM out of the running machines!)

    1. While I’ve never taken CPUs or RAM out of running systems, I did get access to retired systems after they were wiped. I got my first computer running with those parts. Pays to make friends with the IT staff.

      1. Yeah… this wasn’t about getting parts for a home computer… they would have been nicked for the same reason they nick the drive belt from the CD-ROM drive tray mechanism, shove nails in the PSU and steal screws from desks and chairs (the latter presumably because they aren’t getting screws from their girlfriends).

        The machines were Slot-1 PIIIs running at 500MHz if I recall correctly… not exactly speed demons, even in that time (around 2000-2001).

          1. People would steal the mouse balls so they wouldn’t have to do any work. They did that in college labs as well. When we got those laser mice the worlds justice was restored.

      2. I built a couple of computers in high school that way too. Complete retired desktops were sold off to students for like $20, so I bought a couple and had enough good parts to build working ones.

    2. Can confirm, wouldn’t last three hours at my old high school.

      Vending machines kept getting thicker, more restrictive cages around them before they gave up, removed the machines.

      and of course the same kids i KNEW got in trouble vandalizing them whined about not having vending machines.

      typical.

    1. Given that he doesn’t have an outlet, I’d imagine he could just bring a carton full of ice cubes in each morning and stash it on top of the dispenser. Or better, just bring in cold stock and add some insulation to the dispenser.

  3. I wish my school was this cool.

    We don’t have color printers and this guy gets a laser cuter.
    Also the administration would likely no see the ingenuity and creativity required and exhibited in this project and would instead arbitrarily make me remove it.

  4. “Impressive. Most Impressive” – Darth Vader

    Our school had a metal shop, a wood shop and a plastics shop and we were able to make stuff if we supplied our own materials. I’m really thrilled that schools now offer up access to laser cutters & such, and kudos to Mistablik for having the skills needed to do this. The task of jamming a machine of some purpose into an existing space can be quite challenging – so good job!

    I can’t imagine that the school would really want a student machine selling soda but I suspect it was more about the challenge of the build than making a few pennies on warm soda. I’d be interested it know whether it was vandalized. Kids can be quite cruel, especially to nerds.

  5. this is fantastic, I never would have had the patience to build something like that as a kid. Our school wasn’t so much ‘jocks against nerds’ as ‘students against administration’ so we’d have had people clamoring to get in on this and there would be a hall of nothing but locker soda machines in all different flavors, but only if the principal thought it violated some imaginary rule.

  6. Wow. Student lockers. Talk about “Old School.” My local school district removed those several years ago because they were afraid that the students would store drugs and guns in them. So now the drugs are in hollowed out books in their backpacks and the guns are tucked “gangsta-style” in their waistbands.

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