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Reverse (Winter 2014)

Reverse Engineering: Chairs and Farewell

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

For our last Reverse Engineering challenge, we tackled rolling chairs. Chairs are a puzzle. How could something so ubiquitous be so complex, so difficult to make?

We are so proud of this group. Every session had an atmosphere of fun and focus. People got to pair up with old friends and collaborate with new partners. It was lots of shared frustrations, joys and laughs--just like building should be.

Thanks so much, Cam, Tay, Giatta, Milan, Nick, Deke, Sarah, Michael, Milo and Yuriy. Y'all are great problems-solvers--keep practicing and getting even better!

Lifting with the Crane We Built

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

Today we finally put together the three working parts of our reverse engineered crane! That is, we could move the hook horizontally and vertically to pick up weights, and rotate the whole darn thing!

When we put the crane atop the tower, it was a bit wobbly--Giatta diagnosed the problem and delivered a solution (cinderblock as counterweight) in less than 10 seconds. We were all blown away by how rapidly she defeated the problem.

We all took turns operating the crane in teams of three (rotator, horizontal mover and vertical mover).

After the session, we took time to draw out where we would make improvements in a second iteration.

Crane Components Working!

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

The team is showing epic, adult-level focus on their first mechanical project: the reverse-engineering of a crane with three (three!) different types of motion! 

Moving parts are starting to work together...

We're increasing our precision...

Choosing our techniques and tools carefully...

And giving every task our full concentration...

Each team has completed multiple iterations of their mechanism. Next week we start in on the big challenge: Taking three mechanisms that work well independently, and making them work well together!

Reverse Engineering: First Steps on Crane

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

We began 2014 with a new challenge. One that will move us beyond static objects (like the desk we reverse-engineered previously) to an object with moving parts. And this time, we won't have the object directly in front of us--we'll have to study it through pictures and videos.

So, what is this mystery object?

A crane! We divided ourselves into three teams: Vertical motion of hook, horizontal motion of trolley, and rotation of tower mast. 

After each team has tackled its problem, we'll come together and build a/some crane/s with all three types of motion!

Check back for updates!

Reverse Engineering: Our First Success

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

We reverse engineered the desk! By looking at an object carefully, closely and together, our group taught themselves how to make it!

The team poses with the TWO desks they built.

The team did two extraordinary things that made success inevitable:

1) the first tool the reached for was the pencil: they had a complete cut list and a building plan before touching their first piece of wood

2) they worked together as a unit, fluidly assigning themselves tasks and aggressively seeking opportunities to help one another

Some of the team's notes.
There were many moments of true one-piece flow. Here, Giatta clamps legs in place, then Uri drills pilot holes. Nick was following behind sinking screws. Flow!

We will go one break for the holidays, then come back and reverse engineer objects that are even more complex!

Welcome to Reverse Engineering

Reverse (Winter 2014)Sean Murray

Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation. It often involves disassembling something...and analyzing its components and workings in detail... without using or simply duplicating (without understanding) the original...

The purpose is to deduce design decisions from end products with little or no additional knowledge about the procedures involved in the original production.


Giada passes safety training on the chop saw.

Most of the time, we learn from teachers, coaches, instructors. A person tells us how to do something and we do it. In Reverse Engineering, we practice autodidacticism--literally, self teaching.

We begin with careful examination of the artifact in question. We break complex structures down to their component parts. We speculate as to the order of operations, and the designers intent. The act of "copying" in artifact involves tremendous leaps of imagination.

Milan gets creative with drill practice.

In this class, we will become better autodidacts and problem-solvers. We will achieve this through three feats of reverse engineering. First we will reverse engineer a static object (i.e., no moving parts). 

Then we will reverse engineer a simple machine with moving parts.

Finally, we will reverse engineer a machine with moving parts and a power source. 

The journey begins with small, humble steps. The first target of our reverse engineering is simple desk built of 2x4 and plywood.

Sharing thoughts on how our stools were made.

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