The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 31, 2020 1:00 am

March 23, 1962: Checking out a robot

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Readers were asked to share fun captions for photos in this month's History Journal column.

When I came across the negative for this photo, I had to double check that it wasn't something from a retro sci-fi movie that got misfiled. Then I started to wonder what those kids where thinking when faced with a life-sized robot.

"Where does the coffee come out?" That's what Dicia Barnhouse of Churubusco imagines these kids pondering as they check it out.

Or perhaps they were thinking more like this suggestion from Sandy Rebman of Columbia City: "Let's see what happens when I flip this switch!"

Some other captions:

• "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" – Mary Evans-Davis, Fort Wayne

• "No luck! Where's the instruction book?" – Joan Morgan, Fort Wayne

• "Oops, do you have a dime?" – Dave vonGunten, Fort Wayne

• "I think this is where we put in the nickel." – Kevin Cismowski, Fort Wayne

• "Waiting for their money from the first ATM." – Linda Chapman, Fort Wayne

• "I think this is what old people called a phone booth." – Mark Racine, Fort Wayne

• "May I speak with Mr. Bradbury, please? I found a typo in his 'Martian Chronicles.'" – Chuck Chapman, Fort Wayne

• "How many miles per a charge?" – Al Lichtsinn, Fort Wayne

• "I wonder what will happen if I turn just this knob?" – Herm Abbott, Auburn

• "Hazel at the first ComicCon." – Amy Beatty, Fort Wayne

• "Ooohhh! That tickles." – William Krebs, Fort Wayne

• "Before I take you to my leader, I need to know what this switch does." – Dan Kelker

• "Meet George Jetson." – Thom Obergfell

The real story: George Petersen and Kevin C. Craig, students at L.C. Ward School, take a look at a robot as projects were being loaded in for the Northeastern Indiana Science Fair at Allen County Memorial Coliseum.

The robot was a project of Elmhurst High School senior Charles Bailey, who had entered an unfinished version in the previous year's fair. With six 24-volt motors, this finished robot could walk and talk. The full story from 1962 is below.

To suggest a date or subject for History Journal, email Corey McMaken at


"Science Fair Ready," by Dell Ford (March 24, 1962)

Rocks and rockets, chicks and chickens, entomology and archeology.

"Life Cycle of a Blood Cell," "Do Flys Dance?" and "Brain vs Machine."

Young boys and girls, budding scientists, engineers, chemists, physicians.

It's Regional Science Fair time in Fort Wayne once again.

The Exhibition Hall of Allen County Memorial Coliseum was humming last night with "students at work" setting up their prize projects for the seventh annual Northeastern Indiana Science Fair. The deadline for completing the set-up work in 9 a.m. today. Then, the 26 judges take over the arena to study, ask questions and analyze the projects submitted by elementary, junior and senior high students in Allen, Adams, Wells and Whitley counties.

When the judges have completed their scrutiny, the doors of the Exhibition Hall will be opened to the public.

Since the 1962 fair will be open to the public one day only (as compared with two days in the past), the aisle ways most likely will be carrying a heap of traffic between 1 and 9 p.m.

Of course the big moment arrives at 8 p.m. today when the Senior, Junior and Elementary division winners are announced. The most coveted prizes are the Senior Division National Science Fair Representation awards which go tot he two most outstanding exhibitors and the five-day Navy cruise award which goes to the exhibitor with the best project in a science directly or indirectly related to naval needs.

It goes without saying that not all the 371 boys and girls entering projects in the fair will win awards. But the experience of just being in the fair is gratifying. this year's fair entrants come from 75 schools in Allen County and 12 schools in the other three participating counties. Of the total number, 77 are entered in the Senior Division, 204 in the Junior Division and 90 in the Elementary Division.

Today is all spit and polish. Or so it should be. Everything in apple pie order. Ready for the judges. Ready for the public.

Last night, however, it was work.

Many exhibits already were in their assigned places on their assigned tables by 7:30 p.m. Everything had been checked out to the last detail. Including "Please Do Not Touch" notices.

But some were still working, others just arriving.

Among the students still working on setting up their projects was Charles Bailey. Charles, an 18-year-old Elmhurst High School senior, brought to the 1962 fair the project he had entered as "only partly finished" last year. It's all done now. A maze of wires and nuts and bolts all neatly packaged in a bright tin body. It's got a brain, (tucked in the vicinity of where a man's feet are located) and a head (in the exact same spot as a man's head), arms and eyes. It walks and talks. And for lack of an official name, call this project Mr. Robot.

Charles, who said he will enroll at Purdue University and study electronic engineering, spent what amounts to a year putting Mr. Robot together. The Tin Man's present brain is his third. And Charles said this year's project is "practically all different from last year's – except for the motors."

The motors? Yes. Four main motors and two small motors. The designer and builder of Mr. Robot explained all the motors are 24-volt. The Elmhurst senior said he is well acquainted with all the working parts of the Tin Man. And he knows what to do to make the parts work. Which is a good thing. Otherwise, there would be a berserk robot clanging about the Exhibition Hall today. And if a guess is good, there just won't be room for a berserk robot and all the people who will want to see the seventh annual Northeastern Regional Science Fair.

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