This Week in the Wonder Ground: Gadget Inspectors


They say you can’t learn to make an omelette without breaking some eggs. So this month in the Wonder Ground we’re breaking all sorts of stuff in order to learn what makes electronics and gadgets work.

We started with a biography of a beloved historical figure from American history:

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller

Benjamin Banneker was a free born farmer in colonial America. A true self-taught renaissance man, he was widely admired for his work in science, mathematics, and astronomy.  This beautiful illustrated biography tells the story of a fascinating episode from his early adulthood.

The first time Banneker held a pocket watch, he was gripped by curiosity and wonder. Determined to discover what made it work, he carefully pried it open. Inside he discovered a tiny world of gears and springs that ticktocked in perfect harmony. His wonder drove him to learn the fine art of clock-making. Based on his observations, Banneker scaled up this tiny pocket watch to craft a striking clock for his mantel.

Activity: First, we took a tour of the Buffet of Broken Stuff supplied with an array of broken or outdated gadgets: clock radios, old-timey telephones, toys, video game controllers, adding machines, keyboards, and more. We took a few minutes to discuss what each device is and what purpose it serves. Then each kid grabbed a device, and got to work. First, they filled out a worksheet and recorded observations of the gadget they chose. They described what their gadget is used for, then drew a picture of what it looks like on the outside. Next, they turned the sheet over and drew what they imagined their gadget would look like on the inside.


Then, after a quick talk about how to use tools safely and effectively, we got to the fun part: destruction.

In the coming weeks, we will continue these take apart projects. As we do, we will learn all about the doodads that—when assembled in just the right way—make gadgets work.

Join us. We have selection of devices waiting to be destroyed. If you have a broken device that you’d like to dismantle, you’re welcome to donate it to this constructive destruction project. However, we will not be dismantling any toasters, televisions, microwaves, or other heating appliances as the power supplies pose a greater risk of electrocution.


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