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President's Day Camp - Day 4

Accounts at BrightworksComment

It was hard to imagine when we started today that a frame and random kangaroo parts would come together in time to join our puppet parade. 

At one time or another throughout the day, everyone collaborated on some part of the kangaroo whether it was covering the head, attaching the finally-mastered articulated leg, to the last minute construction of the tail frame structure (sometimes it takes one iteration to see the stress points), to applying the kangaroo "hide." As a team we were successful pulling it together. 

After a week of dedicated and creative work the kiwi squad was set to focus on the fine details of their project. The Tinkerers drafted a summary of their process, made a license plate, and autographed Gary the really long kiwi. The finished kiwi cart measured just over 8' long and had a beak that opened and closed, 4 bendable legs, 4 seats, a bell and 6 wheels.

This incredible team of two worked start to finish on creating the amazing kitten pencil. They worked so hard that they found the fabric bench to be a cozy break area. Not only did they build something life-size they also built a friendship together over the week. Without a doubt the Kiwi and kangaroo had a great kitty pencil to play with.

The people box truly brought collaborators together. Throughout the week they made great progress, so today's focus was on the finer details of people box labeling and distribution. 

Like most great weeks at Tinkering camp, all of the Tinkerers took great pride in showing off their puppets. They were treated to one more full length reading of the Mad Lib story by Gever before the puppet play began. Afterwards the Tinkerers showed the inner workings of their puppet to their families and everyone participated in a group deconstruction. At Tinkering School we know that the process is as important as the final product. Deconstruction is a great reminder that the focus always starts with the process.


President's Day Camp - Day 3

Accounts at BrightworksComment

Day 3 started with a reflection on the amazing progress from the days before and a check-in about the tasks needed to complete our respective goals. We may have even strategized a plan to make it to the park - if we tried harder than normal.

After two days of seemingly random limbs, suddenly the kangaroo started taking shape. Not only did  the kangaroo team get to learn from their mistake in frame assembly and get to do it twice, Claire Dragon took a deep dive in articulated joint construction. 


Claire showing the moveable kangaroo leg


On the kiwi crew, the focus was 100% and the eagerness to build was off the charts. The team quickly gathered to identify the tasks that needed completion, and split up to get the job done. Owen and Kaden collaborated to make a cylinder for the head that could hold the beak, as well as firmly attach to the body. Meanwhile, Emma, Scarlett, and Sophie worked on attaching the bendable legs onto the sides.

The Kiwi crew attaching the opening and closing mouth

Lunch break at the park

After lunch, Claire and Gever collaborated on bringing the kangaroo to life. Tinkering School finds that collaborating one-on-one on technical skills helps the tinkerers' skills to leap forward. 

The kiwi team really pulled it together today with tireless problem solving and moments of fun. In the image below you can see the sense of pride in Sophie's face as she shares the finished kiwi legs.

Sophie with a pair of kiwi legs

Tinkering really is all about collaboration and building things bigger than ourselves. The kiwi team really personified that this week. Not only do we have have a reeealllly looooonng kiiiii-wiiiii, it was our pleasure to watch friendships form through the power of imagination.

Taking the Ki-wiiii for a test drive

President's Day Camp - Day 2

Accounts at BrightworksComment

We had a fabulous day! It was sunny and full of helpful collaboration between our teams. Everyone arrived with lots of energy and excitement about the projects for today. After a lively check in, we separated into our teams to continue working on our Kangaroo, Kiwi, Pencil Kitty, and People Box

While most teams are working with wood, the pencil kitty team decided to work with fabric to make the kitty soft. It's important to remember that tinkering goes beyond wood, and that learning any process through the exploration of imagination meets the tinkering definition.


It was such a nice day that we took a break to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. We played an educational relay race, enjoyed each others company in the sun and got back to work.

We measured and sawed wood, outlined and cut fabric, drilled holes, and mastered the band and jig saws to create the shapes that will become the kiwi and kangaroo.

We had a safe and fun time. We should be right on schedule to complete or project by the end of camp.


One thing that makes Tinkering School hum is when we have return tinkerers who are willing to share a skill they've learned before. Soleil really understands the dynamics of wheel and axel and led her own workshop for members of the kiwi team.


Even our smallest tinkerers can be empowered to use all the tools. They may need an additional hand here and there but they are always able to get the job done.


Nearly everyone had a learning moment today. There were mistakes and opportunities for children to grow, learn, and do better. And that's what its all about.

President's Day Camp - Day 1

Accounts at BrightworksComment

The first day of the Tinkering School President's Day camp began with an opening circle to meet each other and discuss group agreements. 

Our first order of business was tool training. Kids rotated between stations learning how to safely and properly work with the chop saw, drills, and clamps.

After lunch, Gever shared what we were going to build by posing a Mad Lib. A Mad Lib is a series of sentences with missing words - the kids fill in the blanks. Our finished paragraph goes as follows: 

"One day a giant KANGAROO met a really long KIWI. They found a KITTY ERASER and played with it all day. Afterwards, they went to the PEOPLE BOX stand because they were hot and sweaty.

And so our project was born - lets build a giant kangaroo, really long kiwi, kitty eraser, and a people box stand. The kids broke up into small groups to make sketches and brainstorm what they would make as a prototype.

After sketching, the group started working on their collective ideas. The kiwi team began by making an 8' base which could hold PVC pipe (which will serve as the kiwi's ribs). The kangaroo squad and the kitty eraser crew traced templates of their parts onto butcher paper, which would eventually be cut on plywood.

The people box team worked individually to make 4 different prototypes. Each representing a different idea for what a people box stand can be. 

At the end of a productive day the whole tinkering group came together to share their ideas and begin to think about next steps.

New Year Count Down - Winter Break Camp

Amanda SimonsComment

On Day Three of the New Year Count Down Winter Break Camp, we started with quite the conundrum! Both projects had been worked on for two previous days with two different groups of humans, and now on day three, we set out to try to finish them both and then make them communicate with one another!

But what were we building, anyway?! Oh, just a machine to count down to the New Year that also triggered a machine that launched a celebration into the air!

For the Celebration Machine team, this feat first meant taking stock of the parts that were already created, making some observations about the prototypes from the day before, and then asking a bunch of questions!

We learned we had three parts that were meant to combine into a catapult of sorts. We assessed the problems, asked some questions, and then got to work!

There was so much work! This team really came together and helped each other complete some mentally and physically complicated tasks.

The Count Down Team, on the other hand, began the day with a clock that rotated and counted down from 10 to 0, and not much else. 

The next tricky step was to figure out how to use the counter mechanism as a means to launch something that triggered the Celebration Machine. The team settled on using a bowling ball. The only problem? Telling the counter-downer to release the bowling ball and then making the bowling ball travel the circumference of the structure and then drop into the Celebration Machine. A small task for an afternoon of building!

The team got to work...

The team also rested. 

At the end of the day, we had a Count Down machine that triggered a bowling ball to release. The bowling ball (sort of) traveled (with the help of some adult hands!) down some tracks and around the structure -- it then dropped to the floor. There was a mismeasurement, and the track didn't QUITE connect to the Celebration Machine. Also, the Celebration Machine turned out to be a REALLY HEAVY catapult that balanced crooked on a REALLY SMALL base!

So, our count down triggered a manual celebration, and the Tinkerers screamed and threw ribbons into the air. IT WAS AWESOME!

New Year Count Down! - Winter Break Camp

Lindsay JonesComment

Today some tinkerers returned to finish what they started, with the help of some new faces!

After tool practice we visited each project: The Count-down Machine and The Celebration Machine and talked about the goals of each machine and what had been accomplished the day before.

Then the kids started brainstorming how to improve or complete each machine.

After sharing ideas and discussing possibilities the Celebration Machine decided that the large lever/catapult was too big to figure out how to make the mechanism work, so some prototyping began!

Today was a great day for Collaboration our first goal of Tinkering School and these kids worked really hard together to make several different versions of a seesaw type launcher:

Over at the Countdown Machine we were rearranging supports that were making the clock tower more wobbly than stable.

We also had to figure out how to keep the clock face from sliding off the rod and the rod from sliding out of the clock tower!  Part of the team got use the drill press again, to make some giant end caps!

Kai makes a giant arrow, so we know which number to all yell together.

Kai makes a giant arrow, so we know which number to all yell together.

After using the band saw and the drill press there are always tons of scraps and saw dust to sweep up!

We got to drill through metal!

We got to drill through metal!

We collaborated to install the end caps and then put everything together!

By the end of the day we had a hand-crank powered count-down clock ready with an arm to bap something!

And also one catapult that was launching ribbons kind of up in the air!

Tomorrow we hope to connect the two  machines! If we don't succeed......will we be stuck in 2016 FOREVER?!?!?!?!?!

More action shots at our Flickr Album!

New Year Count Down! - Winter Break Day 1

Amanda SimonsComment

Today was Day 1 of a 3-Day Winter Break Camp here at Tinkering School. This Break Camp is unique because we will have an entirely new group of humans EACH DAY, but the project for all three days is going to remain the same. The folks who showed up on Day 1 were able to lay the foundation of the project -- they designed and started the whole ordeal, only to leave the rest of the week's Tinkerers to learn about and add on to an existing structure throughout the week. 

Yeah, yeah, that's all well and good, but what are we building?!

Oh, just a New Year Count Down Machine. 

So far, the machine is split into two parts: a countdown machine and a streamer launching machine. In the end, (hopefully!) these two parts will connect and communicate and launch New Year streamers all over the building! 

But first, tool training!

Everyone was trained on how to operate the chopsaw to safely cut wood into pieces. 

Everyone was trained on how to operate the chopsaw to safely cut wood into pieces. 

We all got a chance to practice this new skill. 

We all got a chance to practice this new skill. 

Also! We practiced using clamps to make silly structures. 

Also! We practiced using clamps to make silly structures. 

In drill training, we were able to explore the functions of the tool and ask a bunch of questions. 

In drill training, we were able to explore the functions of the tool and ask a bunch of questions. 

We also practiced attaching pieces of wood together with screws. 

We also practiced attaching pieces of wood together with screws. 

After tool training, each team brainstormed designs and ideas for how to build the machines. 

After tool training, each team brainstormed designs and ideas for how to build the machines. 

And then we had to all figure out how to decide on a design that we would build together. 

And then we had to all figure out how to decide on a design that we would build together. 

The launching machine had a particularly long design session, which also included brainstorming ways to effectively talk to one another during the session, ideas for what the machine might look like and also do, as well as a list of things we needed to ask the other team. 

The launching machine had a particularly long design session, which also included brainstorming ways to effectively talk to one another during the session, ideas for what the machine might look like and also do, as well as a list of things we needed to ask the other team. 

Both teams were also able to use the bandsaw for the projects today. Training for this tool is done on an as-needed basis, and it turned out we NEEDED a lot of pieces cut!

Both teams were also able to use the bandsaw for the projects today. Training for this tool is done on an as-needed basis, and it turned out we NEEDED a lot of pieces cut!

By the end of the day, neither team completed the project -- which is totally fine, because it's never a Tinkering School goal to finish -- plus, we have a new group of humans coming tomorrow to pick up where we left off!

Winter Break Camp Day 5

Caroline ScanlanComment

WHOA! What a day. We are exhausted and so pumped about our week. We definitely built some thing (many things, in fact) bigger than ourselves. Here are some of the highlights from the last day of TEAM IDITAROD!

Making a list and checking it twice...

Brainstorming a design for the lip of our sled. Sometimes you just need to brainstorm with your hands!

Putting the finishing touches on those arctic trees:

Working together to put the wheels on the sled. It came down. to. the. wire. But we got it done!

Trying our hardest to work on the bridge. It turns out that we didn't finish it all the way. Sometimes that happens at Tinkering School. But that's okay, because "finishing the project" is never one of our primary goals!

Having fun with this cool thing that we'd built at the end of the day! Guess what...it worked!

Winter Break Camp Day 4

Caroline ScanlanComment

Make Mistakes and Learn from Them!

Here at Tinkering School, we have four big goals that keep us motivated to tinker, tinker all week long:

  1. Collaborate and Make Friends
  2. Make Mistakes and Learn from Them
  3. Try Harder than Usual
  4. Build Something BIGGER than Yourself!

We  do a lot of other great things here in this building, like learning how to use cool tools and building neato projects, but those are just the icing and sprinkles on top!

At the end of each day this week, we've been reflecting on one of those four goals. Today, we asked the tinkerers to "think about a time during the day when you made a mistake and learned from it!" Everyone had a moment to reflect privately, record their thoughts on paper, and share with the larger group. Every single person had a story to tell! Here, we hope to normalize failure as an essential part of the learning and discovery process. But we don't just stop there...mistakes and failures are most useful when we have lessons to learn from them! 

Check out a few of the mistakes and failures that we learned from today!

Here are a handful more photos that capture the tinkering that took place today! Remember that you can always check out the larger photo albums on our Tinkering School Flickr feed !

Winter Break Camp Day 3

Caroline ScanlanComment

By Wednesday, we've usually hit our stride here at Tinkering School. We've completed bits of our projects and are ready to move on to next steps. There are often cool opportunities for learning new concepts and new tricks once we've gotten a handle on using the tools and working with others. 

The Sled Team was presented with a big dilemma as we were getting ready to mount our benches. Our 8ft long sled was "banana-ing" (bending) all over when we elevated it off the ground. Since we were planning on mounting the sled on wheels, we realized we would have to do something to make it more sturdy before we could put any weight on it. Why was it "banana-ing?" Why wasn't it as sturdy as we wanted it to be? 

These wonders provided the perfect segue into a mini-lesson on the strength triangles! We built rectangles with scraps from the chop-saw room and quickly noticed how it easy it was to stretch and compress them. Not so sturdy! As soon as we added a piece of wood across the diagonal, the compression stopped and our shape stayed nice and solid. Triangles to the rescue! We next decided to put those triangles to work and strengthen up our sled base!

Wednesday was also a busy day for the bandsaw. A few tinkerers learned how to use this tool for the first time, and one even cut an intricate star for the very tippy top of our arctic tree!

Meanwhile, the building was a-buzz  with lots of other tinkering going on. Stay tuned for more news from Team Iditarod!


Winter Break Camp Day 2

Caroline ScanlanComment

You always need to make a PLAN!

On Tuesdays, we start our day with a design meeting in our building groups. We brainstorm ideas, develops plans, and make cut lists for the chop saw room. This is an important part of our morning ritual, as it gets all tinkerers on the same page and ready to collaborate for the rest of the day. 

Sometimes, we need to prototype and act things out before we know what our design will end up looking like. Today, the sled team experimented with a few different bench configurations before agreeing on a design that would accommodate three tinkerers per seat.

After agreeing on the dimensions, we hit the chop saw room to make our cuts. Sometimes it's useful to write the length of our wood on each piece so that it doesn't get confusing later on...

At Tinkering School, we always practice helping each other out to get a job done. Often, we need a person to keep the project still so that it doesn't slide across the floor as we drill and drive into the wood!

With our benches finished by the end of the day, our next step was to figure out a layout that would work on our sled. We tried out a few different configurations before deciding that we all wanted to be facing forward.

Meanwhile over at Team Terrain, tinkerers  were working hard to figure out how they could get their starting line to stand up straight. After some brainstorming together and careful design deliberation, the tinkers set off with a plan! 

A few triangles, braces, and stabilizers later...and the starting line stands up on its own!

In tree land, it was time for our sturdy trunk to grow some branches. There was also agreement that more trees were needed! One tinkerer remarked at the end of the day that the second tree was faster and easier to build because they had already worked out the dimensions and design the first time around. See...sometimes it's really useful to have a plan!

We're having a blast here and have tons more to share. Stay tuned for later installments of Winter Break Camp 2016!


Winter Break Camp Day 1

Caroline ScanlanComment

Winter Beak Camp 2016 has begun!

After goal setting, establishing shared agreements, and making some wacky name tags at the beginning of day one...

...we dove right into tool training! We learned where the essential tools could be found in the shop: screws, drills, driver bits, safety goggles, clamps, the chop saw, and more!

We learned effective ways to use our tools.


And always practiced safety first.

We had the opportunity to practice good form when operating the saw.


And make a few clamp-a-ma-jigs!

We broke up our day with some very serious play at the park.

And then returned to Tinkering School in the afternoon to learn what our building theme would be for the week...IDITAROD!

We got busy right away, designing quietly before sharing our ideas with the larger team. We decided we would start by breaking up into groups: the dog sled team! And the arctic scenery (biome) team!

Next, we used our collective, creative brain power to develop the beginning of our design plans for the week!



Finally, the building began. We made lots of measurements and determined design dimensions for cuts in the chop saw room!

We got our clamp on and learned how to attach 2x3's at right angles. 

And even attached some wood at funky angles, too!

We worked collaboratively, in pairs. 

And finished the day with a great start to our week of building...

Thanksgiving Break Camp - Day 3

Frannie DiBonaComment

Today was a day full of great alterations and great successes, the perfect way to end this three day workshop! Our giant's "food cube" got a revamp to the "food cone" and the mouth got some serious accessories. A full spread of thanksgiving food was also created for our giant.

As usual, we started our day with tool training. Sofia, pictured here, makes her first cut of the day.

Zach creates a clamp structure. As the days have gone on, the clamp training structures get even more intense! 

We did another test run so that we could all see our progress so far, and then talked about what needed to be accomplished today. We decided our food cube needed to be lighter, and the mouth needed some dressing up and a better bumper. 

Laila and Ethan think about how we can make our rope better.

To solve our weight problem, we decided to scrap our food cube and turn it into a food cone!

Marabelle shows the camera how the food cone will look like the cones on her shirt, but upside down.

Zachary shows off the finished cone! Way lighter, and way more neon thanks to some paracord!

We did a test run with our food in it and located some small bumps we needed to fix! But overall it's looking like a success!

We write down our tasks and get to it!

David and Siena find some eyes and they bring our giant to life!

When everyone finished their tasks, they created food!

We set up for our final tests...

...and they worked beautifully! Everyone got a turn to try out feeding the giant, and we finished this week with an air of success and completion and a giant with a very full belly! 

Thanksgiving Break Camp — Day 2

Daniel BiglerComment

It's another fantastic day of Thanksgiving Break Camp as we resume our epic challenge of building a Thanksgiving feast for giants! (Or rather, just one giant. We have to watch the grocery bill.)

Before we begin, we gather as a group and take some time to get to know everyone — there are some new tinkerers today, as well as some seasoned pros who were here yesterday. We also discuss the ever-present goals of Tinkering School:

  1. Collaborate and make friends
  2. Make mistakes and learn from them
  3. Try harder than usual
  4. Build something bigger than yourself!

With those in mind, we jump into tool training.

Here, collaborator Molly introduces the Chop Saw…

… Dahlia and Jake try their hands at using drills…

… and Eli uses the wonder of clamps to build a gigantic clamp-bridge out from the table.

After a brief break for some snackage, we get straight to work on our grand project. After surveying what the teams constructed yesterday — the giant's mouth/head, the zipline structure, and a food cube to sail down the zipline — ideas are discussed and plans are made for what might need to be improved, what we want to add, and where to go from here. Then we're off to building!

Zach and the Giant team discuss what to do about the structural… errr… issues that we ran into with the Giant's Head at the end of our build session yesterday, while others cart away the Giant's Mouth to be further embiggened and tooth-ified.

After some work to make the Giant's Mouth bigger, the tooth-ifying begins! Summer, Sienna, and J.J. (with some help from Laila's foot) give the giant some more pearly whites to help it chew better.

Nearby, David, Simi, Laila, Nick, and collaborator Max work on fortifying the Giant's Head with the help of some triangles. (Triangles = structural magic.)

Meanwhile, over at the food delivery system team, work is underway to improve the zipline base structure. Dahlia, Zach, Brian, Dash, and Eli (who have also been infected by the magic of triangles) take the lead.

True to his name, Dash works so fast you can hardly keep up with him.

Collaborator Frannie and Zach begin to construct a platform floor for the zipline structure.

Brian, Dash, and collaborator Lindsey stop by to survey the progress and offer a helping hand.

Sophia, meanwhile, seems to be helping out everywhere — and with a trusty measuring tape at her side, is also available to help with all your measuring needs.

Chop saw cuts are constantly made by all throughout the day, but here we get a special look at Summer, Jake, and J.J.'s super chop saw-ing concentration.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jack plays Hide-and-Seek. (Bonus points to you if you can spot him…)

As the day progresses, things begin to take shape. Looking good!

With just a few minutes of building left, Simi makes one final, but important, addition: the eye bolt contraption needed to hold the zipline in place.

With that, our building time is up. We gather together as a group to discuss the day and share our most epic mistakes and what we learned from them.

The day wouldn't be complete, though, without a chance to test our gigantic Giant-Feeding contraption!

We soon discover one huge flaw in our project design: the food cube is just too big and heavy to go on the zipline. Nobody's all that despondent about it, though, since finishing a working project has never been one of Tinkering School's main goals — and sometimes, the fun is all in the building anyway.

… also, platforms. Having platforms to climb on top of is a lot of fun, too.

Thanksgiving Break Camp — Day 1

Frannie DiBona2 Comments

Day one of Break Camp! The project for this short three-day week is to build a thanksgiving dinner for giants! To do this, we've decided we need to build both a "mouth" and a "food delivery system." 

Before we start work, though, it's always nice to get some energy out. Molly and some of the kids do relay races up and down the sidewalk, seeing how fast they can make it down and back... so far, it's looking like the record is 30 seconds. Pretty impressive!


At morning circle, Jack and Nick demonstrate how hard they usually try versus how hard they're going to try today.

Before we dive into building, we always go over with a little training to get acquainted with the main tools we'll be working with. Here, David uses the chopsaw for the first time!

So does Siena...

Meanwhile, Cesar and Elijah get acquainted with another useful tool — clamps — by making clamp stairs off the table.

JJ and Laila get a quick tutorial from Max on to use the drills.

With tool training and a quick snack out of the way, the project is introduced and the teams get to work drawing out their ideas.

The food delivery team lists their goals and ideas for their project. Much discussion is had about the making of a taco truck, an idea which gradually morphs into maybe just making a regular food truck (it is Thanksgiving after all, although it is pointed out that tacos can also be a delicious T-day delight), which eventually crystallizes into simply making a "food cube" that will fit on the zip line.

After stopping for lunch and a quick game of charades, it's back to work!

The food delivery system splits off into two groups to build the zip line and food cube. The zip line team starts putting together their launch platform. 

The food cube begins to look like a cube!

Meanwhile, the team in charge of making the giant's mouth has put together a head that will house their mouth. Siena drills while JJ gives a helpful "partner push."

David and Siena put together the corners of the mouth with some serious concentration.

A pulley is attached to the food cube for zip-lining purposes, and the rest of the team adds walls to keep the food in.

Labeling is always an important task.

David and Siena strike a pose while drilling in some teeth!

"I'm drilling like a beast." – Matthew

The platform sides come together with help from everyone.

Sadly, after turning the head, the corners start to crack! We reposition it carefully and decide that we will reinforce it and make sure it is strong in order to receive food — but for now it's time for day one to come to a close. We'll resume building our giant Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.

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