1954 – “Magnamo” – Bill Allen (American)

Tin Can With An Idea – An imaginative Kansas teacher ( Bill Allen, Hamilton School in Wichita, Kan.) builds a robot to stir his students' interest in classroom science.

Disappointed with his first-year performance as a general science teacher at Hamilton School in Wichita, Kan., Bill Allen figured that what he most needed was something to stimulate his pupils' interest. In his garage workshop he gathered together a chemical drum and a paint can, some scraps of wood, wire, assorted pulleys and a couple of electric motors. Drawing on his knowledge of mechanics and electricity, he wired them together, creating an other-worldish, homemade robot he named Magnamo.
Magnamo walks on wheels, turns, raises its arms and holds objects with its magnetized hands, all under the control of a portable switch panel. It has proved a highly useful classroom aid to Allen in explaining the theory of electrical energy and the workings of magnets, transformers and pulleys But when his students enthusiastically declare that Magnamo is almost human, Allen reminds them that his creation (total cost: $50 and 80 hours of work) is really only a "tin can with an idea." – Life 13 Dec 1954

Eyes aglow beneath ornamental headdress, Magnamo the Robot glides up classroom aisle, followed by teacher Allen with control panel.

Emerging for work from classroom closet, Magnamo negotiates a narrow turn under Allen's control.

Demonstrating magnetism, robot shows how the electromagnetized hands hold metal globe.

Principle of pulleys is explained by Allen.

Effects of condensation in the study of formation of clouds are reproduced with a diet of dry ice, fed into a jar of water at top of robot's head.

Showing the works of robot's interior to an eighth-grader, Allen removes Magnamo's still-activated head to point out levers that operate arms.

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