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A 90 Degree Turn: Theory to Practice

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

This week, Tuesday After School started with an interesting challenge: make a rolling ball turn 90 degrees.

During this and nearly every Tinkering School session, I feel like we (as Collaborators) have been walking a delicate line between gently nudging the group in the direction of successfully overcoming a challenge, and allowing creativity to unfold organically, even if that means in the direction of certain failure. Before our group arrived, Nathan and I did some test runs, we figured out what worked and didn't work, and then discussed the plan for the day. In our iterations, we determined that to successfully make a ball on a track turn 90 degrees, we simply have to maintain a consistent distance between the tracks during the turn. In practice, this translates to constructing a semi-circular track that connects the two straightaways.

But how to explain this to six year olds? (Or, a better question, should we explain this to the six year olds?)

Luckily, no explanation was necessary. (I love it when this happens!)

Through a brief discussion about what happens when the track is too wide and what happens when the track is too skinny, a group of Tinkerers quickly determined that a semi-circle was needed to complete the turn, and they put their theory to practice. 

Taking turns, the group cut 3 inch pieces of wood on the chop saw, and then arranged them to connect the tracks. 

Using some nifty miter cuts and tricky attachment methods, we were able to mount the semi-circle to the existing track. The 3 inch pieces were attached from the back with one screw each so that we could adjust the angle of the piece if we needed to.

And then, just as the session ended, we were able to squeeze in two test runs. During the first run, the ball fell off the track.

After some slight adjustments, here's what happened:

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