Tinkering School

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Thinking to Drawing to Prototyping

Amanda SimonsComment

During the second session of After School -- after all the basic tool training is complete -- we do project release, and on Wednesday, we announced that our group project is making a functional wooden pinball machine!

Now, that moment when the Tinkerers learn what we're working on is exciting for sure, but it's also a little confusing. When we, as Collaborators, put a name on the project, the Tinkerers immediately have all sorts of associations, impressions, and ideas. Most of them have played pinball before. They've certainly seen a pinball machine, and they also have a number of pretty specific expectations associated with the object -- the size, the sound, the scoreboard, the lights, the functionality. Rather than discuss all those images that pop into their head, right after project release, we immediately grab paper and pencils, and take some time to gather thoughts independently.

During the design phase, we try to capture all those expectations and translate them into a language (outside of our brains!) that everyone can understand and also add to. We think, draw, and label, and when we're ready, we share our ideas with the group. Working as a team, we brainstorm by chatting, gesturing, and note-taking, and sometimes we even grab scraps from around the shop to help think visually.

During our super productive design phase on Wednesday, we came to some conclusions: the scale and size of the pinball machine are easy. We measured and quickly determined some rough numbers that we'll use later. The functionality, however, is a little more complicated. What sort of mechanism will launch the balls? How do we make those flippers? Is it possible to keep score without electricity?

We decided to tackle the flippers first. A couple different prototypes are in the works, and by next week, we should be able to figure out which is best to use in the final design.

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