STEM skills from old technology

STEM is an amazing interdisciplinary and applied approach towards science technology engineering and mathematics but…
… the magic comes with applying these disciplines in practical applications that not only integrates the principles but empowers and engages your students to use what they have learned in practical ways.

It is my STEM skills that takes me to interesting places to explore how technology was used in the past, so I can share with teachers and students what STEM is capable of outside of the excepted areas of Coding 3Dprinting and CAD.

Keeping that idea in mind, Gil Poznanski looks at some old test equipment buried in a testing warehouse and finds an amazing example of craftsmanship when he finds an old handmade electronic meter.

It’s not just the devices function, but the whole way the test device is created, focusing on how old handmade electronics were put together, what they needed to do, and how functionality was designed into the device.

Thank you to TMG Test Equipment for allowing Gil to walk through your storage facility and get his hand dirty.


Hey guys, you know one of the great things that I love about my job and people who get to know me is they invite me down to really interesting places and right now I’m in Melbourne Australia and I’ve actually been invited to this incredible testing facility for all old electronics and you can see behind me it just goes on for as far as you can see
there are rows and rows of old-school technology in these buildings going as far back as the 50s and 60s and while I was actually going around and looking at what was available here it struck me that some of the incredible test equipment that you see around here. As I was actually searching through it I’ve realised that there has been a complete kind of fundamental change of how the equipment was made. From standalone equipment to modularized pieces to what we find now which is really software-based you know computers can pretty much do everything but there’s one piece that really caught my eye and the reason was kind of surprising. Let me show it to you and explain to you why this piece really kind of became my focus on this trip.

As you can see there’s lots of stuff here just look at all these cases I mean you know you’re talking about major history here from leather cases that would just store lots of electronic stuff to be moved all the way across here to we’ve got some metal cases which became the standard as aluminium was much stronger than leather to protect it and then over here we start looking at some of the hard plastic cases and I mean these guys use this just when they transport equipment and right around this, is what they go to so it’s pretty amazing stuff just the history in cases by itself. Heres some attache cases and NEC. This piece was it was an arc fusion splicer it sounds like something out of a science-fiction film. I’d love to know what that was all about but let me show you this find that really caught my eye.

Right over here this wooden box here is something that I just was completely blown away by. Let me grab it and show you what this is. All right so this is it first things first out of all the boxes that I saw this was the only one that was actually made out of wood looks like a kind of mahogany and I grabbed it and it was a pretty heavy piece one of the things that’s really kind of interesting here is that it says this piece of equipment was a property of the Commonwealth of Australia Department of supply. What could it be?

It shows you right here that’s it is a Radiometer indicator unit, radiometers are used to usually to take light and infrared light as well I haven’t seen you know like this before but let’s not that stop us there was actually made by EGG incorporated I did a few searches on the internet but this is what blew me away or anything else this wonderful kind of little tabs these little wooden tabs here I mean it sounds kind of crazy that I’m getting excited about a wooden box right but this is so beautiful. You have your test cable that would go into your sensor that actually just sits right in here and then on the other side and it locks in it I thought it was a magnet or something it’s actually a friction lock it’s kind of interesting because there is a piece of metal here that is just to reinforce the hardwood but there is no magnet and you just it just sits beautifully like that and on the other side you have your power cable so you have a very really beautiful system to keep all the equipment together in this in this kind of case that that would look not looking at a place on the mantle in someone’s home as they say in there in the castle you know that that definitely ends up in the poolroom. It’s also interesting here that this is actually your output so you can actually change your voltage output if you need be that’s kind of a really cool thing let’s take a look at the actual piece of equipment itself to unlatch it and you have your meter the sun’s actually don’t if you guys can see that but you’ve actually got an old-school needle indicator and then you have a whole bunch of really interesting again.

I’m a sucker for these kinds of old piece of equipment you have these beautiful kinds of knobs that change your multiplier you can whether you’re actually charging the unit or you want the recurrent current but you want to hold it integrate it or reset the settings but up here it actually it also says you can charge the unit so there must be some batteries involved turn the unit off till it’s aligned or again use the battery power so it’s a really interesting piece I mean I would love to know what the actual sensor is and I’ve got a feeling that if we wanted to pull this apart we’d have to.  Actually I’m gonna do that. Don’t tell the people that allowed me to visit,  let’s pull this apart and see what’s underneath here because this is obviously the way this instrument is actually packed there’s no other area in this box that allows you to get into it I have a feeling that in this simplicity of design and the need to be able to I’ve got a feeling we could publicly open that up quite easily to get to the batteries and see what else is there.

Let’s do it. That’s it. That’s all four screws that came out really simple and easy I’m using one hand because I’m using that to hold the camera as well so I’m going to try and see if I can lift it up one-handed it’s coming to see, yep there it is if I had my other hand free it would pop straight out you can feel it it’s just fitted beautifully into this case. Oh look at that come straight out and look at what’s look at how the units actually made beautiful, oh my gosh, this is and you can actually see where the cables actually come into us into these well this brass work again that there’s your power cable in this unit part here you’ve got your testing your cable that sits here what’s this a new batteries fitted what’s it say the first 1985 there you go fitted in my first 1985 black lead number it goes straight to number 11 and up here this would be a rechargeable battery in 1985 a high-level recharge battery yeah that’s a cell right there that popped out this whole thing would just come straight out. There’s a whole lot of electrical tape. You buy basically these batteries cells that you tape up. I don’t know if the camera will get this but so what you do is you would splice
or you would solder these together to make whatever power pack you’d need, tape
them all up and then put them straight back into the holder.

This is an incredible diagnostic machine that would allow you to be able to do it and what I love about this is this is nothing digital in this is the transformer which would also allow it to work and charge the battery and you have you’ve got some fuses we saw that before this is changing the amperage and the power that you need but this you know this is I would love to dig into the history of this machine this looks like spaghetti but it’s absolutely beautiful.

Look at this resistance and capacitors they have these things I’ve never seen these things before but the glass selector so that’s this thing where it’s just in here and again you can see how it’s all put together you’re not talking there ask this is obviously a PCB board but the rest of everything else is I mean these are the old-school this is a toggle switch on this side the insides of this is is almost as interesting as the case itself but yeah this is just incredibly put together old-school.

I’ll try to show you guys to see the idea that as you would toggle these this switch it will connect these two plates together you’ll have a number of these there that would actually bridge to allow you different functionality now this is the sort of stuff that kind of take for granted. Again look at all the cabling beautifully put together. I bet you anything that we plug this in it works probably better to charge the batteries first, but what a beautiful piece of test equipment that’s sitting
here literally in the dust not that anyone really has the need for a radiometric indicating unit such as this but I am really fascinated by it and again
what it actually was built together.

I’m actually not going to put it together this way I’m gonna have to feed those cables in and out so that I can make sure that they’re it they don’t cut off by the brass pieces you can see they’re just sitting there in like cold snakes I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna put it back together and I and again I’m gonna show the rest of this case because this is the sort of thing in my workshop I’m looking forward to building skills my woodworking skills so that I can actually have this level of casing for some of the equipment that I build. It’s just beautiful just below this the table you know would feed that through open that up all I need to really do push the cable through do the
same thing over here making sure the cable comes out. I mean this is the sort of
test equipment that I saw at NASA. One of the reasons why they had to stop using the Space Shuttle was because the actual equipment to keep it going was just out of date they couldn’t get any more specialized parts.

All right let me put this together and I will show you what this hole looks like four screws or just before I do that check this out I love how these ends they have inserts through the inserts in here that’s why I’m so easy to get those screws out so we definitely know it’s this machine is definitely 1983 was the last time that batteries in it

It is beautiful so here’s the piece all screw together we’ve I’ve been able to pull those screws back quite easily easy it was definitely a very easy piece of equipment to check test you know it’s
kind of beautiful I’ve got to put those cables back in but I’ll do that in a second.

Both those cables this is a really nice piece of history really nice. I wonder what type of sensor a
radiometric indicator unit uses because I would love to be able to test this, go out and get some readings on it definitely a piece from another era.  You can definitely see that as well from the
the case itself you know what the case originally was what caught my eye but then to actually open it up and see exactly what’s inside it’s just phenomenal.

This piece I would see could sit definitely on the mantel somewhere it’s beautiful and there’s some inspiration to actually build some beautiful cases for the equipment that I have in my own space
because that is just it’s incredible anyway this is a piece that I just wanted to share with you guys get some maker inspiration and it’s kind of nice to understand what it can do and also see the craftwork that went into not just the case but also the equipment itself that was not made by a machine that would have had to be each one of these would have had to be handmade there’s no way you’d be able to get all those components in and definitely in the fifties and sixties there was not any CNC or robotic equipment guys.

If you like this video and you’d like to find out kind of cool stuff like this feel free to quickly hit that subscribe button and the bell icon so you don’t miss out on anything like that if you happen to know what type of sensor would go on to an indicator light unit like this please let me know and I will bring
you more of this kind of cool stuff as I experienced it myself.

STEM skills