Assignment 1: Teardown

Your first assignment is a Teardown, where you’ll take apart a product with electronics inside and document it. The best candidates for this project are devices that play sound, light up, and have buttons. This year I’m supplying the devices for you, sourced fro my local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. We will do a Yankee Swap in class to distribute the devices.

Some devices aren’t complicated enough for this project, like hairdryers, wired headphones, and most kitchen appliances like toasters.

Warning! Do not select something that is dangerous to take apart, like a CRT monitor (if you even know what that is anymore). Ask me if you are unsure if something’s unsafe. Be careful not to puncture or bend any lithium batteries that may be inside your object, especially if it’s a phone.

You’ll likely need a small screwdriver and other small tools.

Check on the iFixit website (Links to an external site.) to see if your device already has a teardown guide you can follow.

You will be evaluated based on the following guidelines:

  1. Take lots of well-lit photos during the disassembly process
  2. Consider taking video as well (optional but encouraged, consider timelapse)
  3. Photograph all the parts spread out on a table in some kind of order (consider knolling your parts)
  4. Identify the materials used for each component
  5. Identify the manufacturing techniques/equipment used to make it
  6. Look up part numbers on chips and find out what they do (searching the part number + “datasheet” helps)
  7. Make a list of the tools and techniques you used to take it apart
  8. Select two design elements that interest you and describe why you think the designer(s) made it that way

Your assignment will be turned in as a blog post on, with the following requirements:

  • Blog post title will follow format of Object Name + “Teardown”, for example “CD Player Teardown”
  • Blog post must be in the Teardown category
  • Due by 8:00 pm ET (14 hours before class) Sept 13.

For inspiration:

Here’s my first teardown from 2006, much simpler than the ones you’ll turn in but hopefully encouraging anyway!

Next week we’ll have informal presentations and a group discussion about your results. Let me know if you have any questions, either on Slack or email.

Author: Becky Stern

I love to make things and share them. I live in New York City and when I'm not making or publishing, I ride bikes and motorcycles. I love my pit bull dogs. I'm a full-time content creator and also teach part-time at SVA. Find me as @bekathwia on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.

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