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Ball Run (Spring 2015)

The Drop Turn & The Bump Stop

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Tuesday's Ball Run Tinkerers have hit a critical mass with their ramp building. This week, we completed all of the ramps necessary to elevate our tracks all the way across the workshop from ground level all the way up to "taller than Amanda." (Amanda is five foot, four inches tall). 

Once we completed the long straight away, the next order of business was to incorporate our turn prototype, as well as add one additional turn (to make a full 180 degree shift over the course of the track). Because our first turn prototype didn't address a change in height, I proposed that we try something that we started calling a "drop turn" -- just to see if it was possible.

To complete a drop turn, the ball would need to change direction while dropping a distance. What if two of our ramps came together in an "L" shape, and the ball was able to drop from one ramp to the next? We tested this theory with two of our existing ramps, and it seemed to work just fine.

So, the team started taking measurements to make a ramp that was "taller than Amanda" on one end, and then "taller than Nathan" on the other end. This new ramp could drop the ball on to the next shorter ramp, and complete a 90 degree turn all at once. 

After some quick measurements, some team building, and a lot of racing against the clock, the Tinkerers built the Taller-than-Amanda-Taller-than-Nathan ramp, and we set it up for the final test run of the day.

We tested, and rather than a drop turn, we achieved what the group called a "bump, stop." Rather than continuing down the tracks, the ball just stopped. The end. No ball run.

What happened?!

There was a mis-measurement, and the shortest end of the tallest ramp ended up at exactly the same height as the taller end of the next ramp. The result: the ball rolled to the end of ramp #1, and had to bump over the rail of ramp #2. That bump was enough to slow the ball to a complete stop. 

Oops!

During our quick closing circle, we determined that for next week, we definitely have to fix that tallest ramp. And, because next week is the last one of the session, we have a lot of work to do!

Gathering Through Application

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

The focus of this Tuesday was to finish assembling all the vertical ramp pieces for the longest straightaway for the ball run. Applying the systems developed last session we had a solid understanding of what needed to be done, where to begin and how to execute. After a quick circle up the group set swiftly into assembly mode. Check out the photos below for a caption of our progress.  

 Maite grabs a drill and gets to work helping attach all the vertical ramp legs using the system established last week of driving only a single screw so they can be rotated upwards before being secured into place. 

Maite grabs a drill and gets to work helping attach all the vertical ramp legs using the system established last week of driving only a single screw so they can be rotated upwards before being secured into place. 

 Teamwork time! Noah and Luca work together constructing the ramp holders and setting them in place to keep the entire operation flowing smoothly.

Teamwork time! Noah and Luca work together constructing the ramp holders and setting them in place to keep the entire operation flowing smoothly.

We clamped, drilled and assembled so much track that we practically covered the entire shop floor with our horizontal ramp supports. Once everything was assembled we gathered together to review how to safely rotate the ramp supports into the air and flip the entire structure to its final upright position. Then we broke into two teams to hold the structure in place and sink the final four screws.   

 Success! Teamwork Tuesdays strike again!!!  

Success! Teamwork Tuesdays strike again!!!  

Establishing Systems for Ball Run Assembly

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

One of the most difficult concepts to pitch to young Tinkerers is the importance of establishing systems, and their direct correlation with the progress of a project.

Sometimes there's this impression that Tinkering is an active, immediate, off-the-cuff activity -- that we just do and then re-do in a way that makes sense only in the moment. When the reality of it, the nitty-gritty truth of it, is that the most successful and generative Tinkering moments are often a result of the creation and the following of systems.

On this sleepy, rainy Tuesday after spring break, while we didn't accomplish much focused building, we did actually take the opportunity establish a lot of systems.

During the previous working session, we discovered that our ball run track was sometimes built inconsistently. To help combat our inconsistencies, we created a few new tools (jigs-like items, for those woodworker readers out there) to help our progress. A new spacer will make sure we keep the correct distance between tracks.

We also developed a system for attaching our vertical ramp legs to the straight away tracks. While it was easy to attach the first couple of ramp legs, as the sections got taller and taller, it became evident that small humans had a hard time with that task. Our group developed a way to attach the vertical legs on the floor, and then twist and raise the ramp when ready.

Last, we needed a way to keep track of our vertical pieces as we cut and assembled them. With the use of a quick diagram that noted our measurements, the chop saw team easily recorded their progress with a system of checks and tallies.

And now next week, we will know where we left off and where to begin again!

Distance and Height

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

Tuesday's Basketball run is really getting off the ground, quite literally. Today marked the halfway point of our project sessions and was an awesome example of how much we can accomplish when we work together. We began by taking measurements for the longest "run" of track needed for our design (over 3o feet). The length was so long we had to use a second measuring tape just to calculate the distance!

 Isaac helps determine the length of track needed for the longest segment of the ball run. 

Isaac helps determine the length of track needed for the longest segment of the ball run. 

Then we broke off into teams. One team made all the cuts for the track length and perpendicular ties on the chop saw while the rest worked in groups of three-four to attach them all together. We discovered that the trickiest part of the track assembly is keeping the ties flush at both ends. 

 Maite and Luca trade off making cuts for the track to keep everything moving along.

Maite and Luca trade off making cuts for the track to keep everything moving along.

 Natalie uses her body weight to hold the pieces flush while Adrian and Isaac drive screws to attach the ties to the track.   

Natalie uses her body weight to hold the pieces flush while Adrian and Isaac drive screws to attach the ties to the track.   

 We pause mid-afternoon to lineup all the assembled track segments. Checking for consistency in track alignment and celebrating all our hard work!

We pause mid-afternoon to lineup all the assembled track segments. Checking for consistency in track alignment and celebrating all our hard work!

While some of us helped tidy up the left overs of such a successful construction session others put their heads together on determining how we would get our track into the air. This tough challenge was accepted with a lot of excitement by a few members of the group who had been patiently awaiting this problem since we began our design phase over a month ago. Designs were drawn up and measurements were taken to ensure the slope was steep enough to keep the ball moving from one segment of track to the next without gaining too much speed. In the end a "rise" of four inches between track segments was agreed upon and tested with success!

 The team determines standard dimensions for a brace designed to hold suspended track in place. 

The team determines standard dimensions for a brace designed to hold suspended track in place. 

 Lincoln shares with the rest of the group a plan to rise the track segments into the air. 

Lincoln shares with the rest of the group a plan to rise the track segments into the air. 

 

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:

Sharing ideas and workload

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

Our second session is dedicated to revealing our group project, capturing ideas and designing a master plan. Tuesday's group project and challenge to build something that will transport a bowling ball from one side of the shop to the other without touching it. We had a lot of great ideas come out our of our design phase ranging from pulling a wagon to constructing a roller coaster.

 Check out that design focus! 

Check out that design focus! 

  Big idea's require big designs. Ida's car on a track design expands across three pages just to hold all her ideas!

Big idea's require big designs. Ida's car on a track design expands across three pages just to hold all her ideas!

When sharing our ideas we noticed that most of the kids described the need for some sort of track. So we broke into smaller groups to tackle making a prototype. 

  Natalia and Anand get some inspiration from flipping over a built stool used in the shop. 

Natalia and Anand get some inspiration from flipping over a built stool used in the shop. 

  Meanwhile Lincon and Justin sit down with Amanda to work out out the details and dimensions.  

Meanwhile Lincon and Justin sit down with Amanda to work out out the details and dimensions.  

 We discover how using scraps materials can really help everyone visualize the design.

We discover how using scraps materials can really help everyone visualize the design.

After the design was complete it was time to start construction. It was great to see the kids organically break into two groups. Some went into the chop saw room to prepare cuts while others began affixing all the pieces together. 

 Everyone was on board to lend a helping hand!

Everyone was on board to lend a helping hand!

 Natalia and Lincoln learn how the chop saw stop can be used to help you make multiple cuts of the same length without having to measure and mark each one.

Natalia and Lincoln learn how the chop saw stop can be used to help you make multiple cuts of the same length without having to measure and mark each one.

 Anand and Justin team up with drills to help assemble the track prototype.

Anand and Justin team up with drills to help assemble the track prototype.

 We finish building for the the day just in time for a fest run.

We finish building for the the day just in time for a fest run.

Track Iterations and Spacial Mapping

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Last Tuesday, we left the sessions with a couple very important lessons concerning the ball run project: our original track prototype was a little too wide to balance the ball, and our original ball was too heavy (+dangerous) to start from the height that the Tinkerers proposed. 

So this week, we started the session with a few simple objectives: take the prototype apart, make it better, and make a second one, and then, start work on our master plan/design. 

With the "take it apart" objective quickly completed, the "make it better" objective took up most of the session. We built and tested, and re-built and re-tested.

With patience and impressive persistence, we learned quite a few things that will make building this project successful and more efficient. The straight-away tracks can be built with only four pieces. The two tracks need to be connected with 10 inch ties to assure that the ball can balance on the tracks. Because we are now using a lighter ball, we no longer need guard walls on the track 

The time we put in today will make it so we can build more tracks, faster, and have time to add some decorative and mechanical surprises along the way. 

While the track team perfected their iterations, another group of Tinkerers worked on the master plan -- which, of course, included a proposal to start the ball run on top of the chop saw room. Measurements were necessary to perfect the design proposal, which includes a couple of zig-zags through the shop. 

Halfway through the session, both groups came together, pitched their designs and shared their progress. The design team's zig-zag proposal presented a new challenge to the team working on the track -- how are we going to make the ball turn?

The session ended with talks and speculations about a 90 degree turn. Next week, we test!

Practice is Just as Important

Ball Run (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Today was the first day of the Tuesday After School program. Even though this spring's group is mostly made up of alumni Tinkerers who have been through tool training once, twice, or even more times, we started the session with an opening circle where we talked about the training agenda for the day: chop saw, drills, and, if there was time, clamps. 

Clamps? In the middle of the explanation, a voice yelled out "I still don't understand clamps!"

For familiar faces, sometimes the same information over and over can seem like old news--but as we discovered, with power tools, practicing a skill is just as important as knowing a skill.

Today was about practice, about warming up, and reminding ourselves that Tinkering School is just as much about the process of doing something as it is about the result. 

And, now that training is over, next week we will kick off the session with a project reveal! I know I can't wait! 

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