Tinkering School

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Pinball (Spring 2015)

Choosing a Theme For a Pinball Machine

Pinball (Spring 2015)Nathan Savoy1 Comment

This Wednesday was our final building session before we put the finishing touches on our pinball machine and prepare to play with it next week.  We began the day discussing the two necessary functional components remaining to be attached- our "3in toilet" catch system and the "side ramps" to prevent the ball bearing from falling out of the playing field by rolling out of the flippers periphery. Before we even set to work Luca's (who had been egger to design the pinball's scoreboard since the first day of design) brought up a concern.

"Umm, how do we score points?" When prompted to expand he elaborated telling the group that all pinball machines he'd ever seen had a theme. A solid observation that caught the entire group's attention and set us into an impromptu design phase.

 Henry shares his design pointing out where the obstacles will be on the board.

Henry shares his design pointing out where the obstacles will be on the board.

Amanda reminded the group how our board was still missing the "obstacles" discussed in previous design sessions and encouraged the group to consider how those may be incorporated into the chosen theme. Many ideas were discussed and explored but in the end a Baseball Theme prevailed.

The first and most important decision expressed by the group was to determine a team name. Some said The Giants others wanted to be The Doggers in the end the group agreed to be called The Drills (Amanda and I exchanged a quick smile. It was aparent this groups cooperation was coming together and taking shape just as quickly as the project). It was a mere coincidence that the triangular shape created by the flippers perfectly outlined a baseball so the design discussion continued on where player's would be situated and which ones would be worth the most "points" based on collision with the ball bearing. With a clear directive on what needed to be done we broke into two groups. One to attach the remaining functional components and another to design the "players" and "base" obstacles.

Then we broke out the wood glue and put down the "bases".

 

What a wonderful working session of focused teamwork we had. Everyone is excited to put the legs on and try it out next week!

 Also, introducing Teddy. Future tinker in the works! 

Also, introducing Teddy. Future tinker in the works! 

Making and Naming Parts

Pinball (Spring 2015)Amanda SimonsComment

Our Wednesday pinball project has rounded the metaphorical corner! We are getting closer and closer to moving from the stage of the project where we construct functional parts to the stage of the project where we can focus on the aesthetic bells and whistles.

But for now, we are still focusing on the functional details.

With that said, when we have a project that requires the construction and then later assembly of multiple small parts, it's important that the Tinkerers decide on names for those parts as we go along. It's so much easier to say "Let's work on the flipper mechanisms!" than "Let's cut out some rounded triangles that we can use to propel the ball when we play." Not only is such a practice a time saver as we build, but it also helps the Tinkerers chunk all that information, all those steps and separate components into something that they can quickly recall and understand as we progress from week to week.

One of the small components that we built this week was a ball catch system -- that is, when someone plays the pinball machine later and the ball passes through the flippers, there needs to be a section to catch the ball so that the player can reload and play again.

I asked a small team to draw out the design they envisioned, and as we started to talk through what it should look like, how it should be shaped, and where it should go, this emerged:

Yes. A three and a half inch wide toilet.

A toilet.

My first reaction was, "A what? Really? Let's be serious here." But, really, the component is actually a toilet shape. There's a bowl, and some sides, and it catches something. The name is easy to remember, and the name recalls the shape and function.

Brilliant!

We will attach and test it next session!

Really Small and Complicated

Pinball (Spring 2015)Amanda Simons1 Comment

As the Wednesday After School Crew continues their work on the pinball machine, it has become evident that the components of this project are, as Nick pointed out to me during brainstorming, "Really small and complicated!"

You're right, Nick.

The past few weeks, the progress has seemed to drag on. We might tiny improvements, and test out tiny, complicated things, but don't have much to show for it yet. And I think that's okay.

What we do have is two working flippers, and one ball launcher. Now, it's just a matter of attaching everything, building a box for it to live in, and then more testing, testing, testing.

I guess the lesson for this week is that sometimes it takes longer to make something tiny, and make it well, than it does to make something giant and semi-functional!

Applying What We Have Learned

Pinball (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

Last week our Wednesday group showed so much progress and focus while tackling the flipper mechanics that Amanda and I continued with the exploration after the session. So we begain the afternoon by demonstrating a functioning flipper. Everyone took a turn to try it out while we discussed the mechanics. Then we took it apart to better understand it's components before setting to work to build a second one together.  

Because the first step for any project to to come up with a design, we took measurements of what existed and came up with a really compressive action plan!  

It was clear there wasn't enough work to satisfy the entire group so some of us broke off to tackle the ball launcher design. We applied what we had learned last week about springs and decided that we needed to construct a box for a compression styled spring that would control a rod to launch the ball.  

The tool flow between groups was outstanding. One group made cuts while the other designed. Then one begin assembly while the other made cuts. The Wednesday after school crew today may have been small but by working together we made some mighty progress!

 Henry tests out how adding a second spring increases the tension on the rod of the ball launcher

Henry tests out how adding a second spring increases the tension on the rod of the ball launcher

Flipper Mechanics

Pinball (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

Woah, we worked through some tough problems on Wednesday with regards to flipper mechanics for our pin-ball machine. The group begun the afternoon by splitting up to finishing working on two very different prototypes. One team constructed a flipper that pivoted while the other tackled the mechanics of a button activated design.      

 Maddie drills a hole to bolt down the flipper

Maddie drills a hole to bolt down the flipper

 Henry and Sunny determine placement for the flipper to be controlled by pushing on a piece of PVC.

Henry and Sunny determine placement for the flipper to be controlled by pushing on a piece of PVC.

The simplicity of lever team's design allowed for time to consider how to control returning the flipper to a resting state. Using a spring was a unanimous decision. Nic brought out a box of springs he had seen on a shelf in the shop. The variety of springs to choose from was overwhelming but in the end we chose to add a tension-styled spring that could be easily be attached without the need to construct an encasement for the compression-styled spring.    

 Nic and Lukas take a construction break to take in a lesson on the difference between a compression and tension springs.

Nic and Lukas take a construction break to take in a lesson on the difference between a compression and tension springs.

 Working together to install a tension spring to the base of the lever arm. 

Working together to install a tension spring to the base of the lever arm. 

 Success! When the lever arm is released after being pulled toward the player the springs tension returns the lever to a resting position. 

Success! When the lever arm is released after being pulled toward the player the springs tension returns the lever to a resting position. 

About half way through the afternoon we regrouped to update each other on our afternoon's progress and challenges. Both designs still needed more work so we all decided to commit to one design and tackle it together. The button activated design reminded the group of a real pinball machine so with everyone on board we discussed ways to prevent the lever from making complete rotations. We tried adding a adding an object to the playing field to stop the flipper when it reached the desired height but the the flipper needed to be reset each time. Then we decided that a tension styled spring could hold the flipper down. When our box of springs didn't have the right tool for the job we decided to make our own out of rubber bands. This was great because it allowed us to control the amount of tension on the flipper. 

  The button activated flipper team d  ecided to add some washers to the base of flipper bolt to improve contact between the   circular piece of PVC and the flipper. 

The button activated flipper team decided to add some washers to the base of flipper bolt to improve contact between the circular piece of PVC and the flipper. 

 Lucas shares with the rest of the group the placement and way to attach a tension styled spring to the flipper

Lucas shares with the rest of the group the placement and way to attach a tension styled spring to the flipper

 Even with the spring in palace we are still running into some alignment issues.

Even with the spring in palace we are still running into some alignment issues.

Not all the work that goes into building in construction, there is a lot of thinking too! The entire group showed great focus trying to solve some really complicated mechanics. By the end of the day these Tinkers brains were tuckered out but everyone left excited knowing we are so close to having a design that works!

A practice in patience

Pinball (Spring 2015)Nathan SavoyComment

This spring our entire Wednesday team is comprised of After School Alumni (plus one very egger new addition). Experience has taught us that a kid's excitement surrounding tool training has an inverse correlation with the number of times they have received it. As collaborators, we came prepared to capture the engagement of veteran Tinkers, while still covering fundamental safety and operational protocol for our newest member, on their first day. 

Preparation wasn't enough to prevent practically every member of the group from excitedly inquiring, "What's the project?!" as soon as they entered the front doors. Anticipation was so high that we had to interrupt an all-inclusive entirely kid-organized 'Potential Project Guessing Game' just to gather for opening circle. Even though none of the kids had previously met more then one or two other group members, by the time we sat down for opening circle, introductions were practically obsolete. This group of kids immediately clicked!

Before training we challenged those familiar with each tool to share with us something new they had learned today. Following demonstration, we encouraged the group to think of a question relating to the tool's use. For the majority of this group our day-one training challenges didn't compare to the even greater time-old challenge of patience.  

Despite the entire groups anticipation, we reminded them that Tinkering School tradition permits us to announce the group project only after tool training is complete.  

When it was time for closing circle, we hadn't delve quite as deep into tool training as anticipated (we still completed the standard chop-saws, drills and clamps); however, we're confident that everyone definitely had the opportunity to practice some patience. This is going to really come in hand this session as we take on the greatest project challenge I've ever been apart of here at TS.

We also had a lot of fun with clamps! 

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