Thinking Outside the Box: Eames Do Nothing Machine

From childhood we learn that machines are created for a reason.  Simple machines like pulleys and levers help to make general tasks easier, while complex machines surround improve the quality of our life on a daily basis.  But throughout history there have been a few men and women who chose to celebrate the machine not for its function, but for its beauty.  I have blogged before about Rube Goldberg and his contraptions, and today I would like to introduce the Charles and Ray Eames Solar Do Nothing Machine.

 
tumblr_m1nxhe0EwW1qlwgtgo1_r1_1280.jpg
 
 

This machine (or is it a toy?) has no actual purpose beyond looking really cool.  It was commissioned by the Alcoa aluminum company in the 50s to display America's bright future with the new metal.  Charles Eames' interest was in play as an experience of discovery and intrigue.  His goal was to create a toy that would excite its audience in a way that would inspire some sort of curiosity and nothing more.  Goal achieved!

 
 

Why not integrate a similar exercise into the classroom?  Physics classes could be challenged to apply their knowledge of simple and complex machines to create some sort of beautiful mechanical object.  A Biology class could be asked to create a machine to explore how color and light are perceived.  The possibilities are endless, but any of them would also serve to integrate art (and design history if a lesson on Charles and Ray Eames is included) into the classroom and general curriculum.  Seems like a pretty perfect example of project based learning to me, what do you think?