Hey Look, a Swizzle Stick! (Genius Hour Junkyard 2.0)

A swizzle stick. What a lucky day!

Normally, happening upon a swizzle stick on the ground is not such a great find– unless you are running a junkyard. A Genius Hour Junkyard that is.

A few years ago, a couple of colleagues and myself implemented Genius Hour (see Put a Genius Hour Junkyard in Your Classroom). I taught math and science back then and we did it once a week during homeroom. I am now a STEM Teacher doing Design and Modeling, Automation and Robotics, and Rapid Prototyping (see syllabi at the top of the page for more information on those) and it is kind of like Genius Hour almost everyday down here in the old remodeled industrial arts shops, now known as The STEMLab. But, I kept the junkyard and boy does it come in handy for design and build projects. Need to make a sign for the top of your spinning contraption? Go to the junkyard. Need a part for your model of a slithering robot? Check the junkyard. Need to add some weight to your prototype of a tip resistant chair? The junkyard is your best bet.

Figure 1. Genius Hour Junkyard 2.0

My first junkyard consisted of boxes of stuff on an old bookshelf. It’s undergone an upgrade since then (See figure 1). I bought a parts bin rack off Amazon for a bit over $100 and it has made it much more usable. It has 22 bins in three sizes to allow for related items to be kept together and easily sorted through. My categories are:

  • rubber
  • small wood
  • small metal
  • small plastic
  • random hardware
  • modeling clay
  • small cardboard
  • toothpicks
  • craft sticks
  • pipe cleaners (call them chenille sticks if you want to)
  • rings
  • card stock
  • bottles
  • caps/disks
  • wire/cable
  • tubes/cylinders (although the label has been accidentally changed to “large rings”)
  • fiber
  • straws
  • textiles
  • random plastic (larger than small plastic)
  • stuff (pretty much anything else)

In addition, there is a good supply of foam on top and a big bin full of cardboard off to the side.

Kids love using it. You never know what you’ll find in there. It changes all the time.

It is easy to keep stocked with weird and useful items. All you have to do is keep your eye out for errant swizzle sticks and the like.