Wednesday, February 22, 2012

workday with the apro students

Backtracking somewhat, in the middle of finishing up the mill i was asked to spend half a day showing the students what i was working on. At this point i had the machine pretty much all the way built, but i hadn't finished the table entirely, so neither were hooked up. It was a good chance to explain to them the process that was happening with the mill, as well as an opportunity engage them in some of the constructing of it. It also seemed like a really good idea to get everyone working on building a new machine together. I gave them the option of blender, water pump or electricity generator; blender hands down.

We pulled out several bikes that seemed good for the job. I set the students about cutting and grinding the main tubing. As some worked on that I showed others how to use the stick welder and had them practice. Simultaneously I had other students working on drilling holes and putting the final screws into the table for the mill. Its always interesting jumping into instructor mode, gauging people’s skill and interest level, juggling tasks to keep everyone engaged, and constantly keeping an eye on everything happening simultaneously. Its kind of like cooking a complicated meal.

Whereas we didn’t produce a finished blender- more cooking required- we produced a fair amount of the preliminary parts so that someone could jump in and finish it up. One of the students, Eleva, was particularly excited about working on the machine and decided to take it on as a personal project. I should also say that Eleva was great about helping out in general, she was really excited about pedal power and metal working in general. She spent a lot of her free time helping me out with the mill, fixing up the shop, and even more finishing up the blender.

I don’t actually have any shots of the blender that Eleva built in its final state, only these few of it in process. Eleva really did a great job of working on it, she spent a lot of time getting it done, and really poured herself into it, even though at times it drove her crazy (it was mostly the welding, trying to weld anything as thin as bicycle tubing with a stick welder, which is made for welding things like armored vehicles, is incredibly frustrating). When the end of the course came up Eleva had it done just in time, and everybody was pretty impressed.

Another student, Preston, also got pretty stoked on the idea of pedal power and decided to make a washing machine. I was really impressed with his initiative, he just jumped in and did it, and didn’t really even ask for much help. He made a pretty funky looking spaceship-esque machine, adorned with a theoretical phallic soap dispenser. It sat high on a table and hinged at its base so that you could put a bucket underneath and lower it back down. It utilized a set of fork blades run of off a bevel gear swiped from an old style hand drill as the agitator. He showed his at the same time as Eleva, though we didn’t actually get to see it do a load of wash. Honestly, I’m not sure that it could have, which is too bad because it was a pretty cool project.