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Dear IO, do you think? How did you make IO? I want to know, how did you invent IO?

Pierre Kerr,, is the inventor and builder of IO. IO was made just for you , at Grant school, in the fall of 1994. He explains how that came about.

Thanks for all your interest in IO. The math, science and computer committee wanted to find out what you were curious about and we decided that it would be nice to get questions from you. Rather than just collect them from the teachers we thought it would be more fun if you could put them into a mail box.

Well, we couldn't have just any mailbox, so I thought about what would be more interesting. I volunteered to build the question box, and with the help of my two children Robert and Heather, we created IO. Their two cousins Jared and Morgan helped to torture test it, and it survived.

I knew that the mailbox had to meet these specifications:

  1. It had to have character. We wanted to be sure that it was interesting to you.

  2. It must stand on it's own feet, not hang on a wall, since we weren't sure where we would put it.

  3. It had to be safe. We didn't want it to fall over and hurt anyone and it couldn't have any rough or sharp edges.

  4. It couldn't cost a lot of money. Actually, we hoped that it wouldn't cost anything and in fact it cost $2 for the hinges.

  5. The questions, once posted in the box, couldn't be removed except by someone in charge of the box. This is just like a post office mailbox. Once the letter is in the box, only an employee of the post office can get it.

I first started to design the top part, the box, but I had trouble picturing what it would look like. Then I got the idea of giving it shoes. I had an old pair of running shoes that didn't fit me very well so I used them as feet. You'll notice that IO actually has a third foot, sort of, so that it won't fall backwards.

Then I had to decide how tall to make it. This is where Robert (he's 6 now and in Mrs. Bradley's class) came in handy. He's 3 years old, almost 4, and it was important that someone his height could reach the box. Of course, taller students might have to bend over a bit but I knew you could handle that.

Now, my basement looks a bit like a junkyard. I have lot's of parts for computers and other things. I needed to design IO's face so I looked for something to use as a mail slot. I found an old floppy disk drive that didn't work and took off the face plate. That began IO's character.

Then he needed something like eyes. After all, IO was suppose to look a bit like a Grant school student.

IO's left eye is an old transistor. I don't know if it still works, but it looked good. IO's right eye is a ROM. That's Read Only Memory. It came from an old computer and I think that it has real gold on it. They used to use gold for computer chips because it didn't corrode or rust. (Too bad, somebody borrowed his right eye.)

Finally, I thought that it might be good to be able to see if there were questions in IO so I cut a round hole just about where a mouth would be. Now a hole wouldn't do because someone could take out a question so I covered the hole with thick plastic on the inside.

Now the problem was how to get the questions out. I wanted a door that would open wide and could be locked. After thinking about having the back swing open, or maybe the top, I decided that the side would be the best place for a door.

I built the frame of the box and cut the front a back pieces. I cut out holes for the mail slot and window and then drilled little holes for the eyes. They are held in place by the electrical connectors on the transistor and ROM chip.

I attached the front to the box, and then cut through the side where the door would be. I had to carefully put the hinges on the door and checked that the door opened and closed properly.

The fun part was to build the feet and put on the shoes. I built the feet and attached them to the lower platform. Then I put on the shoes, and socks, and made the third foot so that IO would stand up straight.

Finally I attached the upright from the shoe platform to the head. I checked once more that IO stood up straight and was fairly secure.

The latch to keep the door closed was something I found in a box of "junk". It turned out to be made of brass that shone like gold after a bit of polish. IO has a lot of gold parts so I thought it should be painted with gold paint. I left the face white and painted the upright with some bright orange.

What do you think? Does IO look good? Does it stand up straight?

If you were to make a question box like IO, would you make it differently. If you like, you can place your comments on one of the question forms and give it to IO. I'd like to hear from you.

Now, about whether or not IO thinks, we'll, I doubt that a few pieces of wood and old computer parts and sneakers can think. IO certainly makes the math, science and computer committee think. I think it makes you think too. So maybe in a way IO does think. And, since IO is just a mailbox, it doesn't speak English French or any language. The Scientists can answer questions given to IO in French.

Thanks for your questions.

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