what if? machine derby silk mill

Back in 2012 I coordinated an event put on during Derby Feste 2012 at the Silk Mill Museum. The idea of the day was to create an elaborate “Rube Goldberg or Heath-Robinson” it was a great success for the Silk Mill and when I heard they wanted to do it again I was keen they got in touch with me to run it.

A lot has changed at the Silk Mill since we ran the last event in September 2012. They now have a very well equipped workshop with lots of tools and off cuts and that sort of thing. The main difference in approach between this years and the 2012 event was that I asked teams to complete a machine “about pallet sized” away from the Silk Mill and bring it in. This worked okay, but it’s a big commitment to build a machine, it can take hundreds of hours.

This time we gave everyone a sort of starter kit to get them going. They had a pallet to build from as both a guide and a solid bit of wood to get them started. We had about 5 teams more or less including 2 family teams! Everyone worked well and without needing any real help at all. Once the teams had been shown some general principles and encouraged to experiment physically and test their assumptions. “The Brio Train will knock a switch!”… “Will it? Let’s test it!”

The Saturday build day went well, with the teams who tested their machines making the most progress. Sunday started with much tinkering, decorating and tweaking. Sunday, being the run day was much improved by the addition of Sally Thompson, a comic book illustrator who I’d hired in to live-draw the event. Her work shown below tells the story of the day beautifully.










I’ll be putting these illustrations together into a proper portfolio page about chain reaction machines at some point in the future. I’d like very much to run these sort of events more often as they can be great fun. Here are some of the photographs and videos from the day too.

Just like the way you should think about your chain reaction machine, starting with the end and working to the beginning, I’ve loaded these pictures the wrong way. It took a while so they are staying that way.

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and a very roughly edited video done on my iPhone. Some of it is made of Vines and so is portrait, blame Vine it makes you do it.  There is talk of another What If? Machine event next year.