Un-making & Learning

Usually we think about kids making things, but the other day I realized that un-making things can be every bit as important. Maybe it’s how we begin tinkering & building things, learning how existing things work by taking them apart.

It started with my daughter and her friend asked to watch a movie. IMG_9401_1I suggested they go out in the garage instead to tear apart some equipment that I’d gotten for our maker group to build things with. The old equipment was made mostly of 80/20 extruded aluminum (some call it erector set material for adults) and it was held together with lots of things that needed to be unscrewed and disassembled.

I was a bit uneasy thinking that it wouldn’t go over well. I wasn’t sure they would like it. But turns out I was wrong… they loved it!! 45 minutes later there was nothing but a pile of pieces laying on the garage floor!

In the process, I learned something from watching/helping the kids take it apart. I really never thought about how to use a screwdriver, you just sort of well… do it. But then in watching it hit me at some point I must have learned from someone else.

Little things like knowing how the blade or hex wrench should go into the screw head, keeping the screwdriver straight up so it doesn’t slip out and get the best torque – even using the long side for leverage with an allen wrench to break the screw loose are things that is best experienced. With some occasional guidance and encouragement you also don’t give up on the task and keep learning. Kinesthetic, hands on learning isn’t the same as reading it in a book or watching a video. And the girls started encouraging each other and before long I was hearing “I get to do that one…”  – and they were having fun while doing it!!

So get out and help some kids take things apart. Building things is good fun too – don’t miss the opportunity to help them learn the tactile and hands-on portion of learning to use tools and components whether it’s making or ‘un-making’ things. Goodness knows there’s not as much in schools anymore.
Maker Materials
In fact, we’re going to host a tear down session of more equipment for the Castlemakers group this Saturday @ 11 am. We got lucky enough to get more old equipment to tear apart. Join us if you’d like – I can’t promise how long after that it will stay assembled, but we’re going to have fun tearing it all apart!!


I’ve been negligent by not talking about some other maker events going on here in Greencastle. Putnam County Library has been having Maker Tuesdays – short 1-2 hour events at the Public Library. I’ve only seen a flyer on it posted at the library but I was able to find something on the Putnam County Library online calendar. There’s another event coming up Tuesday July 29th, or stop by and I’m sure they can give you more information.

Aviation Exhibit

Cold War Gallery of the USAF National Museum
Part of the collection of planes at the USAF Museum

There’s an incredible aviation exhibit about 3 hour drive from Greencastle – the National Museum of the US Air Force. Well worth the drive, it’s just slightly east of Dayton and south of I-70. It’s been decades since I was last there & full of technology and just general “Wow’s”.

They have over 350 actual planes organized by era in 3 gigantic hangers with some smaller building additions for more displays. One of the ‘smaller’ building displays, the space exhibit, holds several Titan missiles along with a Mercury and Gemini capsule plus cool spacecraft ‘accessories’ on the way to that building. I didn’t realize they had a space shuttle there, check out the viewing port if there with the onboard toilet (some view!). There’s also a smaller outside display of aircraft and a WWII control tower.

Insider tip – the presidential gallery tour (located on the base not at the museum) fills up early. You have to register for this & we missed it, takes a shuttle bus to get there. One highlight is the John F. Kennedy Air Force One plane in use when he was assassinated.

Admission is free, except for a charge for the IMAX theater movies if you do that but it does go to the museum. There are kid friendly things to do (try the scavenger hunt & walk inside the space shuttle), they also have bigger STEM / kid oriented events on certain weekends. An upcoming one that looks promising is the annual Spacefest 2014 on May 16-17.

And while you’re in the area if you’re interested in surplus/source materials to build things I went in one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been for that – Mendelson’s Liquidation Outlet in downtown Dayton. Heard about it many years ago at one of the ARRL/Dayton Hamvention events but never had been there. I’m still speechless about the ‘stuff’ in that place (and yes the picture is correct that’s a 6 story building – another one seems to be across the street too not in that picture).