Homework 1 – Machine Research

Machine Research

The beginning of every design process should include research. This may be visual research to find out what something should or could look like; it might be to find out if there is a solution to your problem that you can just buy instead of building it; it could be to see if anyone else has attempted to solve your problem before. Whatever your research is for, it takes skill, practice, and experience to find the information you need quickly and reliably. For this project, you will need to research a machine and then explain it to the class. This is similar to work you might do on a show, when you need to explain different technical options to other people on the production or artistic teams.

The Details

You will need to find a cool machine, dig up some documentation about how it works, then write an Openlab Post that explains your machine: what it is, how it works, why you think it is cool, and how/where you learned about it. If applicable, identify any simple machines that are included in the machine’s design. The machine should be primarily a mechanical device, so computers, electronics, and software are out. The machine could be a tool, a piece of hardware, a toy, a sculpture, or any other mechanical device.

Checklist for your reference:

  • Choose a cool mechanical device
  • Write an Openlab post that explains your machine
    • What it is
    • What it does
    • How it works
    • Why you think it is cool
    • How you got the information about it
    • Which simple machines are included in its design
  • Read and comment on some of your classmates’ posts

Grading Criteria

You will be graded based on:

  1. Your ability to clearly describe your research and decision-making process
    1. How/where did you find your information?
    2. Why did you choose your machine ?
    3. Did you correctly explain how it worked?
  2. Your ability to follow instructions and complete the assignment

3 Responses to Homework 1 – Machine Research

  1. Charlie says:

    For the Machine Research assignment I wanted to find a mechanical sculpture because I think they are commendable machines. I looked through various ones, in past exhibitions in museums such as Mattress Factory to archives and artistic journals. But I looked back to my past high school stagecraft organization when our school stage manager showed us a video of a puppet horse for the National Theatre play “War Horse.” I found the puppet beautiful, its movements expressing similar emotions that to a real horse but chosen by the actors.


    I looked further to find information on how the puppet actually worked. I couldn’t find a website or an academic journal with the technical information of the horse but I searched further and found multiple videos from the productions including one on how the puppet works.


    The puppet contains three simple machines: lever, wheel & axle, and a pulley. The horse is operated by three actors. Each actor is responsible for a body section; they are the head puppeteer, the heart puppeteer, and the hind puppeteer. The head puppeteer holds unto the head with one hand and operates its ears and head motion from the other. There is a rod connected to the head that contains three levers. The actor uses their other hand to either move the rod to express head and neck motion, or pull one lever to move the head up and down, or pull on one of the two other levers that control the ear motion. Each lever in the horse is connected with bike brake wires that work as pulley systems. The heart and hind puppeteer for example use the wires to move the hoofs of the horse and the knee is the pulley of the system.

    The heart and hind puppeteer have a aluminum frame over their shoulders. Through the movement of their knees the puppeteers can express breathing of the horse. The tail is also connected by wire and levers that is controlled by the hind puppeteer.

    The back legs of the horse, as I saw from the videos, operate as a wheel & axle. The thigh of the legs work as a wheel with the center connected as perpendicular axle to the body.

    All these simple machines created a complex puppet that imitated the emotions and thoughts of a horse through the dynamics of its body parts controlled by live actors. No electronic devices were added to the puppet. It’s emotions were able to collaborate with the seriousness of the production that touched many audiences.

    Charlie Oniszczuk

  2. Sharon Miller says:

    Machine Research Assignment

    For my “Machine Research Project” I decided to discuss the homemade wooden rolling ball clock. In my research I found a few that interested me, however, the Turnvater Janosch pendulum version intrigued me the most, because of its design and accuracy. I will be discussing the Janosch version specifically within this assignment.

    The wooden rolling ball clock is completely mechanical and requires no software, or electronics. The idea is to be able to tell time via a strategic chain reaction of events, similar to a Rube Goldberg machine, involving wood, plastic gears, small steel balls and a pendulum. The body of the clock is made of wood, with pathways for the marble balls to travel on built out of steel wire. The clock runs for 12 hours and is only off by 1 second within that entire time. The clock has 3 levels of wooden traps, which denote time and hold the steel balls. The clock is set to work in 1 minute, 5 minute and 1 hour increments. Each minute that passes, a steel ball is lifted up from the base of the clock and sent down one of the steel wire pathways to its corresponding time trap. When specific time increments are reached, such as 3:00 or 8:45 for instance, the steel balls are released from the traps and sent back to the base, where the process repeats all over again. The clock is weighted by a 5 lb flat iron and driven by a pendulum, which swings in 1 second intervals.

    I thought this machine was really cool because of how accurate it was in telling time and how much thought and logic had to be involved to create it. I liked the design aesthetics of this machine and could easily display this machine in my home. I am also wondering how I could possibly one day build one myself.

    Below is a link to the wooden rolling ball clock discussed in my assignment:


    Below is a link to a similar clock:


    Below are links to other information used within my research:




  3. Charles says:

    Machine Research Project- Sewing Machine
    I just used a sewing machine for the first time recently and I was intrigued on how it actually works. To be honest, if it wasn’t for this paper I would have never actually looked into it. I never knew or thought it would be so complexed.
    Typically there is an electric motor that connects to a belt which rotates the drive wheels. This in turn spins the drive shaft. This shaft maneuvers the cranck (pulls needle up and down on the machine). Then there is a belt that connects to the other drive shaft (lower one) which connects to gears that feed a linkage which is connected to a feed dog. The feed dog creates a loop in which the needle passes through to create a knot to hold the stitch.
    A sewing machine has:
    1. Gears
    2. Wheels
    3. Pully
    4. Screw
    Work Cited

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