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The worry shredder

Thomas Age 8

London, UK

This idea has been made real

London, London, UK

I run a makerspace called Machines Room and i'm Chief Maker at Little Inventors!
I studied art, and love design. I do lots of DIY, fixing and helping others make things.

Magnificent maker4 made real

UK winner of the A future as big as your imagination, challenge!

The Worry Shredder was invented by Thomas as a way to put worries at bay. You feed your worry to the worry shredder and it provides a heartwarming solution to cheer you up. It even gives you a chocolate to make life even sweeter!

The Worry Shredder was brought to life by our Chief Maker Gareth Owens Lloyd. It really shreds your worries... You can post your worry in the top of the worry shredder and the solution prints out of his nose! The chocolates are hidden in the Worry Shredders mouth!

Gareth took the finished worry Shredder to Thomas’s school for him to test it out!

Thomas was super happy to see his idea in real life!

As the winner, Thomas also received £250 of arts vouchers for his school, and the opportunity to travel to Sharjah to see his invention idea displayed at the Sharjah Children's Biennial 6th Edition! How amazing is that!

Maker blog entries

Gareth Owen Lloyd has been working on making this idea real.
Making the Worry Shredder
Posted by Gareth Owen Lloyd

Thomas’ design for the Worry Shredder struck me because he managed to convey a really clever idea with a simple drawing. I could see the shredder helping in three ways. Firstly the act of writing down your worries can be helpful and I thought that shredding it after would feel good. Secondly I thought it would be quite magical when shredder prints out solutions, thirdly everyone feels better after a chocolate!

Thomas wrote that the Worry Shredder “shreds worries and prints out solutions and gives you a chocolate.” So I started at the beginning and researched shredders. I first looked into how to make a shredder, then I looked at hand powered ones, but in the end I decided to buy an electric one. It was important that it was small and had a removable bucket as I would be making my own case. The shredder turned out to be the cheapest part of my make and only cost £19.95!

Making the Worry Shredder
Posted by Gareth Owen Lloyd

Thomas’ design for the Worry Shredder struck me because he managed to convey a really clever idea with a simple drawing. I could see the shredder helping in three ways. Firstly the act of writing down your worries can be helpful and I thought that shredding it after would feel good. Secondly I thought it would be quite magical when shredder prints out solutions, thirdly everyone feels better after a chocolate!

Thomas wrote that the Worry Shredder “shreds worries and prints out solutions and gives you a chocolate.” So I started at the beginning and researched shredders. I first looked into how to make a shredder, then I looked at hand powered ones, but in the end I decided to buy an electric one. It was important that it was small and had a removable bucket as I would be making my own case. The shredder turned out to be the cheapest part of my make and only cost £19.95! 

I took the shredder I bought to my studio and took it to pieces straight away to see how it worked. I thought it would have some complicated electronics and maybe some sensors but I found that the wiring was actually really simple and was just two switches and a mechanical timer. I removed the safety switch and soldered the wires together, The safety switch was there so that it would only shred if it was sitting on top of the bin but wasn’t using that bin so didn’t need it. Now I had a shredding mechanism that worked whenever I wanted it to, I tested it with a few worries and could see this was going to be fun!

I decided to get the mechanism working before I designed the case and the next challenge was getting the printer to print. I bought a receipt printer and an arduino online. Having working in makerspaces for the last five years i’ve seen a lot of projects using these little prototyping boards but I had never used one myself! I set out learning how to get it to work. The first tutorial is how to get the little light on it to blink on and off. It turns out despite all the scary wires and code to be quite easy. They next step was to get a switch working, if i could get an on and off button to work then maybe I could find a way to turn the printer on. Luckily the printer I found some really good instructions on Adafruit.com (https://www.adafruit.com/product/597) and after an evening of playing around (and a bit of soldering power adapters) I had a working printer that could print at the press of a button. 

I am no coder so the next step was one of the biggest challenges. I needed to somehow get the printer to print out a random selection of nice thoughts each time the shredder was used. After a lot of searching I found Andrew Nohawk’s blogpost about his compliment printer (https://www.andrewmohawk.com/2018/01/25/compliment-printer/ ). His compliment printer uses the same printer that I bought combined with a big red button. When people hit the button the printer prints out a random compliment for them to take away. Andrew has kindly shared his code on GitHub and I was able to adapt it for Thomas’ Worry Shredder - all I needed to do was replace all his compliments with some solutions to worries. 

Now I had the printer working with the push of a button the next step was to somehow get it to print when a piece of card went through the shredder. I had two failures! I found a light /motion sensor and thought that I could get it to trigger when the paper moved in front of it; however it was too sensitive and the printer just kept on printing! I thought that maybe I could use electricity as the trigger for the switch as there is already a switch for the shredder when the paper goes through the shredder. So I wired the arduino up to the switch inside the shredder, this was a very bad idea. I forgot that the shredder runs on 240 volts and the arduino only runs on 5; this meant that when I tried to use the shredder the arduino blew up - an expensive mistake! Luckily I found another arduino in the box-of-random-electronics in the studio and could hook it all up again. Looking at the shredder I realised that i could utilise the switching mechanism that was already in place. Using a limit switch I bolted it into a position where when the paper went through the shredder the switch was pressed. Finally I had a working system! 

All I had to do now was make it look good. I took Thomas’ drawing and tweaked the face so that the features became thicker and darker and then I turned the image into a vector line. This meant that I could cut out the face using the laser cutter; I thought it would be fun if the shredded worries came out of the face’s mouth. I made a cardboard case around the shredder so that I could work out the rough dimension and then a modeled that in Sketchup. Once I was happy with the 3D model I used an online box maker to generate a tabbed box template which I could then edit in Inkscape a free vector editing programme. I found some green perspex that matched Thomas’ drawing and then cut all the parts out. For the first time ever, every part fit together perfectly! I only needed to do a few tweaks to fit the printer and and get the correct hole size for the worries to go in. My final touch was to create a pen holder and a place to keep the cards. 

Now the shredder was done all that was left was to take it to Raglan Primary and unveil it to Thomas. On our way to the school I bought the final - essential - ingredient, a box of green chocolate to be hidden inside the shredder’s mouth. We arrived at the near the end of their day and two classes where crammed inside one room, as I unveiled the shredder I asked everyone to cross their fingers (I was obviously worried it would not work!). On a countdown from five Thomas inserted his worry into the shredder and slowly, to gasps and oohs, the little printer unscrolled a solution from the shredders nose. Thomas then read out the receipt:

“When you are worried focus on the next 10 seconds only, climbing mountains happens one step at a time. Thanks for shredding your worry, please take a chocolate!”