Tinkering School

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Thanksgiving Break Camp, Day 3 - When it all worked.

Thanksgiving 2013Josh Rothhaas

The video of the machine in operation

And another view.

It worked.

There is a buzz in the air as we wrap up our last day of Thanksgiving Break Camps. Today we used an all new strategy. All day, one team, called the Finishing Team, focused exclusively on making sure the whole system worked. Our youngest created a complex series of bowling ball tracks. Another group spent all day working on a bowling ball pendulum. A third group created a sweet series of triggers and spinners that helped connect other parts of the machine. And the finishing crew helped connect the dots between these great ideas.

We started the day with a collection of machine parts from previous camps.

And went right into tool use and safety training.

After getting aquatinted with the tools available to us, we began considering the project ahead. A chain reaction machine ending with a catapult of paint, creating art.

We got right to our designs. The idea's flowed like water.

Then it was down to work. We had ideas from yesterday we wanted to perfect and new ideas to try out and make mistakes on.

There where bowling ball tracks to make. Even some that took 90 degree turns.

There were spiny things. We needed so many spiny things.

And of course, the elevator.

Today's exotic tool we got to pull out was the hand held circular saw. A mainstay in any builders repertoire but a bit tricky in our age range. The circular saw requires strength, a sure hand, a keen eye, and the ability to think and physically control a tool in 3 dimensions. It was a simple cut, but it garnered a patient and quite audience.

In a Rube Goldberg machine, precision matters. The very best way to draw a perfectly straight line is with a speed square.

One of the best moments of any project is when the hands hit the chin, the thinking get tough and real tinkering begins. The system works, but not all of the time. Consistency is key; really hard, sometimes boring, but always key.

In the end, we decorate. We stamp it as ours. A meditative practice that both helps us focus on the final few problems, and lets us feel like this isn't just a collection of pieces and parts, but rather that this is truly our creation.

As we ran the fully decorated machine of our making, the anticipation built at every juncture.

Until the very moment everything came together and our chain reaction machine worked. It really worked.

And only then, could we take a moment to appreciate the hard work and problems-solved of our co-creators. Each team dove so deeply into their own section that there we plenty of surprises to see when we looked closely enough.

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