Posted February 20, 2013
by Lensyl Urbano
Our school was recycling some old computers, so my students convinced me that it would be worthwhile o dissect a few of them to see if there was anything worth saving. It was quite remarkable to see just how interested they were in examining the insides of the machines — a few desktop computers and a monitor — but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, it’s getting harder and harder to open up their iPods and other electronics, and even more difficult to repair and repurpose them, so I can see why students would jump at the chance of looking inside a device. Also, they tend to like to break things.
To get them to think a little more about what they were seeing, I got a couple students to draw a scale diagram of one of the motherboards, and write up a report on what they’d done.
Some of the other students spent their time trying to make all the motors, LED’s, and lasers work by hooking them up to 9-Volt batteries. Then they found the fans… and someone had the brilliant idea that they could use it to make a hovercraft. Using a gallon sized ziplock bag and some red duct tape, a prototype was constructed.
The fan would inflate the bag which would then let air out the bottom through small holes. I convinced them to try to quantify the effectiveness of their fans before they put the holes in by hooking the bag up to one of our Vernier pressure sensors that plug into their calculators. Unfortunately, the sensor was not quite sensitive enough.
This was not how I had planned spending those days during the interim, but the pull of following the students’ interests was just too strong.