Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Make it Monday: The Useless Machine

There is this website that I love to browse through and look at diy projects and stuff. If I'm not careful I can spend hours scrolling through instructables.com. One of those times while looking through projects like a cnc router mill or a self-balancing skateboard I somehow came across this "Most Useless Machine Ever". I was immediately entertained, intrigued, and wanted my own. I began to research all the ways to make them. At the time I didn't have a servo or an Arduino, both of which were needed in the original project I looked at. I found a few that didn't use either but they didn't work as fluid. I finally came to the conclusion that it would be a project for the future.

Fast forward to Saturday, July 30, 2011 at Maker Faire Detroit browsing through the Maker Shed I found it. I was looking through the tent at all the projects and electronics kits when I saw this little, black, shiny box that said "Make: Something Useless" on it. I flipped the switch and sure enough it shut itself off. I wanted it. A kit from solarbotics.com with all you need except batteries and paper directions (which you really don't need). This kit does require soldering and some patience, especially if you were to try to do it by yourself. With this project I was happy to have a second set of hands to put the screws in while I held the nuts in the poly box.

When I got home at the end of the day Saturday I showed Jake a video on YouTube of the useless machine. He thought it was just "AWESOME". So when I asked if he wanted to build one he began to jump around the kitchen and yell, "Yes! Yes! Yes! I do! I do!" I didn't think we would actually be able to wait till Monday, not just because of Jake but because my desire as well, so we built it on Sunday afternoon while all others were napping.



First, We had to dump all the pieces all over the table. Notice the ugly brown of all the pieces, that's not the pretty black poly that I saw at the Faire. Yes, you have peel all that stuff off. Jake did not like this part, he had trouble getting under it to start it. I think he did four pieces front and back while I helped with  the rest, but he did them all by himself.


Next, it was time for soldering all the parts together. I actually did think about trying to allow Jake to help me, but then decided against it. I think I'm gonna wait a few more years before I teach him how to solder. I may have taken me five minutes at most to solder everything. By the time I was down to the last two wires Jake was asking with a great plea tone in his voice, "Dad, are you ever gonna be done with the soldering?"

Once you have all the electrical soldered you must test the circuit. It would be much easier to fix an improper connection now before you put it in the box. The instructions on solarbotics site tell you this fact multiple times. They even have you double check the circuit three times before you complete the entire assembly. I simply followed the pictures and had no problems nor fixes to make.

Now that the circuit is done and tested to work properly, you must assemble the box. This is the part that I thought was the hardest, yet still simple enough. The poly is assembled with a "T-slot" construction so you have to hold the nut in place while you thread in the screw from the other side. This was where Jake did a lot. Both of my hands were holding poly pieces and nuts in place so Jake went to work threading screw and tightening them down with a screwdriver.


After the entire box was assembled I found a flaw in the design of the kit. It isn't something that the creator thinks is a flaw and it is in the directions to do this. You have to tape, yes tape, the top to the bottom. I will be eventually putting actual hinges on mine but for now we taped. Oh, and you need to install the toggle switch in the one lid at this point.


And that's it! Just flip the switch and enjoy! When we finished ours it was about time to start waking everyone up for the evening service at church. Jake ran in to our room and kept chanting to Mommy, "Mommy, come look at the box we made! We made a cool box, wanna come see what it does?" He was a little excited bouncing all over the place and couldn't wait to show off the box. He made sure tell everyone at church that night as well.

There is just something about this box that is just so cool yet so useless. There really is no real point, yet I can sit there for quite a while "fighting" with it. You should really get one or make one and see the addiction of its simplicity.

I tried to capture Jake's ecstatic excitement on video but to no avail. The first portion he is controlled, but the last three minutes I just let him do what he wanted. Its during those three minutes when the funny stuff starts to happen.


(Just an extra note the original "Useless Machine" was made Claude Shannon and was called the "Ultimate Machine". A picture of the original can be seen here.)
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1 comment:

  1. you were not kidding! this is just USELESS! ha

    ReplyDelete