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Ever feel like you are just cranking away and not getting anywhere in life? Well, at least with Blake Fall-Conroy’s Minimum Wage Machine, you are guaranteed to get paid as long as you crank. The idea is that you generate power by turning a handle, which in turn powers a change machine that pays you in pennies, one every 5.035 seconds. It’s a work in progress, but Blake was kind enough to share these photos and some information about how it works with us:

The minimum wage machine pays the user minimum wage in real-time in
pennies– the smallest unit of currency in the US. Being in NY, with minimum wage at $7.15 an hour, this equates to 1 penny every 5.035 seconds. The machine has a crank attached to an antique change sorting machine (circa 1913, ebay) and by belt to a small DC motor (salvaged from a printer). The crank turns the motor’s shaft which, in turn,
acts as a small generator. The voltage produced goes through a 5V regulator and powers a Basic Stamp. It also powers a stepper motor (same printer) moving a small wheel at the mouth of the change sorter and a small motor inside the change reservoir of the machine.

As the user turns the crank, they spin a platter in the change sorter which begins lining up the pennies at the mouth of the sorter, blocked by the stepper motor’s wheel. They also start spinning the generator, which powers on the BASIC stamp. The basic tamp begins its countdown of 5.035 seconds. When it gets to zero, it activates the stepper, which turns the wheel, releasing one penny from the mouth of the sorter, which falls down a shoot into the collection bin of the minimum wage machine. The whole process repeats. Every third cycle, the BASIC stamp also activates the small motor in the change reservoir which churns up the pennies with a small arm at the opening of the change sorter to make sure the pennies fall from the reservoir onto the spinning sorter platter. If the user stops turning the crank (or turn it too slowly), power to the BASIC stamp stops, and the stepper does not turn, halting the release of pennies.

So, being powered by the crank, by the user’s own energy, the machine only pays if the user performs work.

In the future, I see possibility in a lot of these machines hooked into a grid, with people performing basic human labor for money. Perhaps a new form of renewable energy generation? A new kind of supercomputer with thousands of people performing basic calculations at minimum wage “stations” across the world? Who knows?

I like the use of old and new materials in the machine construction, and especially the LEGO parts stuck in there. Nice work!



  1. Eric says:

    Electricity generated at 0.1 hp per person and $7.15 per hour costs about $0.96 per kW-hr, more than four times the rate of an expensive power utility in the U.S. Not a new form of renewable energy. Existing solar cells are already better than this.

  2. Inventorjack says:

    Well, hook it up to a bicycle, and make those lazy workers do 4 times as much work. Or even 5 times as much, so you get some profit! Problem solved. ;)

  3. Will says:

    I like how no matter how much harder you turn the crank, you still get the same pay rate…

  4. James Provost says:

    This seems like a good way to dispense kids’ allowance. Not because turning a crank is a good use of their time – because it encourages them to find a creative solution to NOT have to ‘crank away’ at a day job.

  5. Bob says:

    Somehow my life feels just a little less meaningful after reading this article. Like I’m just standing in front of a box turning a crank for pennies.

    For the full effect, the device should be covered with the same fabric used for cubicle walls.

    1. J says:

      “Somehow my life feels just a little less meaningful after reading this article. Like I’m just standing in front of a box turning a crank for pennies….”

      Just do what we did. Cancel the:

      cell phone,
      dont eat out,
      dont spend money on entertainment,
      dont buy any new clothes,
      one gift medium sized gift for christmas for immediate family and cards for everyone else, buy fresh food instead of the boxed garbage ( it costs more but less makes you feel full)
      cut down to one vehicle

      Finally sit back and watch the economy go down the toilet.

      I am “underemployed” and make half what I did in 2001. There are too many people in my situation. It is only a matter of time before the whole charade collapses.

  6. glennwithnolastname says:

    this is like my idea (which I released into the public domain) of having a gym where each machine generates electricity, and your membership is free if you exercise enough