The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 21, 2014

Artistic automatons: Programmer makes robot figures with repurposed parts (w/VIDEO)

JOPLIN, Mo. — Edward Emanuel, like most computer guys, has a lot of computers that don't work. The printers, hard drives, keyboards, drives and other components take up plenty of space at his south Joplin place.

But unlike other computer guys, Emanuel is breaking them apart -- even the parts. Keys from keyboards get popped off one by one. Printers are disassembled for their plastic gears and rotors. Power supplies are ripped from motherboards.

In other words, he's not scavenging for parts like other computer guys.

"For a long time, my wife was annoyed that we had this huge stack of computers and boxes of hard drives," Emanuel said. "Over time, a lot of this stuff becomes obsolete and completely useless. But I didn't want to let it go. It should still have a purpose."

Emanuel has found a purpose. He uses the stripped components as pieces of homemade robot decorations.

Working under the name Device Zero, Emanuel attaches the computer parts to painted wood blocks, creating vivid, colorful characters that are as endearing as they are ingenious.

Emanuel has made an army of the characters, all for sale through his Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/DeviceZero. He also displayed them during the recent Hip Handmade Market last month in Webb City. For the last three years, he has honed his craft and transformed recycled, repurposed items into art.

A graduate of MSSU, Emanuel is a programmer for SideCars, a reinsurnace business based in Joplin. He has also worked for his alma mater and for Leggett & Platt.

His love of computers started out when he was 12. After his parents bought a TRS-80 home computer, he got his start in programming with BASIC.

About three years ago, one of his sisters gave him the inspiration to do something with the piles of electronics in his workshop.

"She had gotten on to Etsy and sold some paintings," Emanuel said. "She said I should do stuff with computer parts. She inspired my first couple of projects, little robots that stood a couple of inches tall. I had used some scraps off of a computer, and they came out really good."

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