Chain Reaction machines

by Luigi Anzivino

To look at individual photos, please look at the complete set. I’ve tried to include brief descriptions of the most intriguing ones, but it’s a daunting task to describe them all!

Chain Reaction is a P.I.E. activity in which participants get to build contraptions using a variety of materials: homemade switches, motors, re-purposed toys, and everyday and "art" materials are combined to set each other off. Each two-persons "team" gets a piece of real estate on a tabletop, and a specified input-output square. At the end of its run, each contraption will trigger the next one on the table; therefore each team’s creation contributes to the whole final performance.

The Learning Studio hosted a workshop for the awesome Exploratorium Explainers, much like the Marble Machines one that I got to participate in last year. Just like before, half of the explainers participated one day, and the other half the next: someone has to help those poor kids out on the floor to explore!

An extra motivation for the workshop was preparing for the upcoming Pi Day at the Exploratorium, when we will try to replicate a version of this activity of the floor, for the general public (Yikes!). So we provided each time with a Pi(e)-themed object to somehow incorporate in the contraption. See if you can spot them…

Oh, coincidentally March 14 (3-14, get it? Pi? Nevermind…) is also Einstein’s birthday, so there were a few Einstein-themed knickknacks too.

Once again I was amazed by the capacity this group has to create brilliant and fun machines in a really short amount of time, with elegant and somewhat quirky solutions to a variety of problems along the way. Go Explainers, go!

If you have any comments about the activity, either as a participant or as an external reader of this blog, that’s what the comment box is for. Go for it.