The Most Wonderfully Over-Engineered Way to Fix a Broken Clock

The Most Wonderfully Over-Engineered Way to Fix a Broken Clock

There’s an old proverb that says, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But as ‘Developer Hendrik’ demonstrates on Instagram, even if it is broken, you don’t necessarily need to repair it if you’ve got the skills to program a tiny robotic arm to help an object like a busted clock carry on its important, time-telling duties.

It’s an approach seemingly inspired by the 1989 comedy, Weekend at Bernie’s, where a pair of friends try to convince everyone their boss is still alive by turning him into a human puppet. But that iconic piece of ‘80s cinema wasn’t just an entertaining romp, it turns out. It was also a prophetic, and potentially cautionary, look at one possible use for robots that few in the field have contemplated: resurrecting dead tech.

In this case, it’s something as innocuous as a broken clock, which could be busted, or simply out of batteries. Either way, bringing it back to life was probably a simple fix, but not an entertaining one. Why pop in a fresh pair of AAs when you can instead throw a considerable amount of engineering and other technology at the problem? Developer Hendrik’s solution was to employ a DIY robotic arm they’d developed which the internet had helped named Serworm Michael simply because Serworm (it looks like a servo-powered worm) and Michael both got the most votes.

The structure of the arm can be created using a standard 3-D printer, but it’s brought to life using a series of Dynamixel XL330-M288-T servos, which can be found for about $US20 ($28) each, as well as an Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 module and a Raspberry Pi. You’ll need to supply the electronics, but all of the other details needed to build and program your own Serworm Michael arm can be found in Developer Hendrik’s GitHub account.

The arm’s functionality is basic, but its use of servos gives it a level of precision that, as demonstrated here, can be used to accurately advance the hour and minute hands of a clock so it can perform its sole task once again. Could an army of these little arms be used to bring your boss back to life too? It’s hard to say, but the movie version of that experiment will be fun.