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Taking Apart a Computer Monitor

A few years ago Gleek’s school class sent notes home advertising a “Take Apart” day. They wanted old appliances or technology which was broken so that the kids could take things apart and see how these familiar objects looked inside. We happened to have a broken laptop to send with Gleek, which thrilled her. She had the coolest take apart item in the class. Since that day, Gleek often requests broken things so that she can take them apart. I figure there is no difference between recycling the thing whole or in pieces, so when I have something I let her.

On Sunday Gleek and Patch took screwdrivers to my broken flat screen monitor. It was fascinating to see all the layers that go into making a monitor run. The kids loved unplugging the circuit boards and pulling loose the screws. We were fascinated to discover that the monitor screen had five layers. There were three thin sheets of various refractive qualities, one liquid crystal board which had electronic inputs, then a thick polycarbonate sheet which also refracted light in interesting ways. We examined the tiny florescent light bars before recycling them as possibly toxic when broken. Bits of metal and plastic went into the bin as well. I must admit I was as fascinated by the process as the kids were. I have a better idea of what makes monitors work. We kept the circuit boards and the interesting refractive sheets. I’ve got my eyes open to figure out what broken thing we can take apart next.

6 comments to Taking Apart a Computer Monitor

  • Kazriko

    Yeah, those tubes would be Cold Cathode fluorescent bulbs. They usually have Mercury vapor in them.

  • verisimilidude

    Other interesting things to do with kids with recycled bits. Does the plastic soften when it gets warm? Does it change color when heated? Pop bottles (labels removed) put in the oven for a few minutes can be blown larger like a balloon. Alternatively you can cut them into curly sheets that can be ironed flat (protect iron and ironing board with parchment paper). Four or five frozen food plastic bags can be ironed into a solid sheet that can then be cut with scissors and edges punched to allow lacing together into toy bins, coin purses, etc.

  • How things are made is always a fun discovery path. A good next step is if they can reassemble the items to possibly be operational as this helps them understand destructive vs non-destructive disassembly. Before long they might be able to fix things around the house, possibly leading to a career as an engineer of some sort as a friend of mine articulated at http://www.servman.ca/?p=74

    As for the circuit boards, if they are big enough could be made into a funky clock where you use the platter from a harddrive as the faceplate and get the clock works from a craft or hardware store.
    Examples:
    http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/laser-etched-recycled-circuit-board-clock/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdbQyW7eXfs