Tinkering School

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Air Benders - Day 7 - Week 7 (SF Day Camp)

Air Benders (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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We are nearing the end of our tinkering experience with air-bending (manipulating elements of wind to harness power) – Tuesday was our last full day of building! All of our hard work in the past week and a half is shining through in the progress that we’ve made on our projects, our increased abilities to collaborate and co-create, and the dedication and innovation that everyone is offering to their teams.

After yesterday’s test run outside, the “Cheap Jeep” team spent a majority of today redesigning and reiteration their sail. They took apart the structure that was already made and began a completely new version of the sail. Based on what the team observed yesterday, they are making the new sail much bigger than the original design.

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Meanwhile, the “Tesla” team split up into two subgroups; one team began building a small charging station and ticket-booth, big enough for one or two tinkerers to fit inside, while the rest of us attached the last wheel and brought this bigger wind ship outside for testing. Bringing our creations into real life allows us to experiment with the functionality of the designs which have been primarily theoretical until now.

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Those of us working on the windmill were also able to test our creation outside this afternoon. While a group continued to sheath the outside of the windmill tower, some of us brought the windmill propellers outside to test how they would realistically catch the wind. The spinning mechanism worked well, and the opportunity for testing opened up new iteration points to perfect the design.

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Within the glider & launcher group, some tinkerers have decided to modify the original glider idea and instead to design a parachute to be attached to a ball that is launched. We experimented with four different parachute designs today, playing with variables such as paracord length and parachute size. Different combinations worked differently as we dropped the ball and parachute off of our office balcony. At the end of the day we even attempted launching the ball and parachute with our launcher, and that opened up another can of worms!

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Everyone is incredibly excited for the showcase tomorrow, to spend time outdoors with our wind-powered creations! Hopefully it is windy enough :p

To view the rest of today’s photos, check out our Flickr page.

Air Benders - Days 4-6 - Week 7 (SF Day Camp)

Air Benders (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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After a fun-filled day of exploration at the beach on Wednesday, we returned to the Palace for more days of hard work and building! Thursday and Friday were full build days, and we made many strides forward on our Airbending projects.

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The windmill has taken shape! The outer structure of the tower is completely finished and ready to be sheathed with plywood layers. Furthermore, smaller subgroups have splintered off to do intensive work on creating propellers for the windmill. Hopefully by Tuesday afternoon we will be in testing mode, taking propellers outside to see how they engage with the real-life wind!

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It is taking a lot of collective brainpower for our tinkerers to puzzle out the gliders. Although a very solid launcher is on it’s way to completion, it has proven difficult to design and create gliders which can soar through the air after being launched. The challenge offered by this project may have to include re-thinking our ideas of gliders, what we can feasibly launch, and how we can harness the power of the wind with what we are building out of wood, screws, PVC pipe, and plastic.

On Monday, after returning from the weekend, we continued to build in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day outdoors completing 2-hr build challenges on the beach :)

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One of our wind-car groups took this opportunity to test the functionality of their car! We wheeled the car outside and found a long strip of concrete to perform test rides. Ultimately, the group realized their sail is not big enough to allow the car to be fully propelled by wind. We are beginning to brainstorm a new sail design.

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Some tinkerers took on the challenge of creating new gliders and kites, while others delved into sand-building. We were offered the challenge of building the biggest sand-towers, and digging the longest channels from the ocean up to the beach.

Having time outside on such a beautiful day rejuvenated us and left us ready and eager to get back to project-building tomorrow morning!

For today’s photos, check out our Flickr page!


Air Benders - Day 3 - Week 7 (SF Day Camp)

Ava Koroshetz StevensComment
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This Wednesday was certainly one for the books! Due to an event in the Palace, we spent out day outside. When we arrived to the field campers waiting eagerly for the days challenge reveal: KITES!

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Tinkerers broke into their own smalls groups and were quickly swept away into their kite building world. They checked out all kinds of materials to figure out what would make the best kite. Although working in the swift San Francisco wind was a struggle with materials like plastic, our campers worked together to figure it out.

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Come lunch time we had built about 10-12 kites; a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. After eating and play time we packed up our stuff and headed to the beach for an afternoon of fort building and kite flying fun! Using some of our same pvc pipes from the morning, these campers turned on their tinkering brains to build some crazy forts.

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Building on the beach is always a blast

Building on the beach is always a blast

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To see the rest of the day’s photos, look at our Flickr page.

Air Benders - Day 2 - Week 7 (SF Day Camp)

Ava Koroshetz StevensComment
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Tuesday is our first full day of building and campers are very excited to see their projects taking shape. After beginning our morning with a plan session, our campers got right to work!

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As we began finding our groove with the tools we learned to use in yesterdays tool training, we were able to use these new skills on our projects.

The glider team was smooth sailing! Though through trial and error, this group was finding the most streamlined designs for their gliders. How will we launch them you might ask? That’s exactly what our launcher team asked themselves today. Deciding on a slingshot/catapult design they quickly got to work.

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Another fun day at the beach today! Digging has become a regular beach activity but today they discovered a fun treasure; the never ending tree :-)

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After lunch we were eager to get back to our projects. The Sail Car team made great progress on the frame of their cars. One team got creative and used fake grass to upholster the interior of their car. We’ve gotten good at using materials in new ways! After carpeting the floor and putting in 2 chairs the team began working on the walls.

The second car team has begun adding their wheels. It will be fun to figure out how it steers!

One of our gliders has truly started taking shape. Next step: testing.

One of our gliders has truly started taking shape. Next step: testing.

Tinkerers working on the big windmill had quite the productive day today. The project as a whole was broken into two groups. We had one team working on the blades and how they’ll connect and the other working on the base and tower. Our blade team tapped into a more mathematical mindset, calculating where to attach the blades without having them hit the tower.

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The windmills’ base and tower team made great progress. They built their tower and started brainstorming how a tripod base would work t0 hold up the windmill safely.

This session is flying by - even with it being extended to a week and a half. It does mean that we have a little more time to build so we’re taking the opportunity to spend all of tomorrow outdoors to build some one-day projects that can be immediately tested in the wind! We can’t wait to see what these energetic tinkerers create!

To see more photos from this week of tinkering, please visit our Flickr page!

Air Benders - Day 1 - Week 7 (SF Day Camp)

Air Benders (2019)Ava Koroshetz StevensComment

This Monday we embarked on another exciting week of tinkering! We began our morning agreeing on ways we would treat and work with one another safely. Branching out from our 4 Tinkering Goals of collaborating, building something bigger than ourselves, learning from our mistakes, and trying harder than usual, all of our campers shared their ideas.

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The day truly gets in motion when we begin our tool training. Campers are eager to learn about all the new tools they’ll be using throughout the week like clamps, drills, and the chop saw. It’s a hands on learning experience that we all benefit from and helps us stay safe.

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At the wonderful location we’re at this summer, we are lucky to have access to the Crissy Field Beach for lunch and play time! We get to spend time everyday building in the sand and getting some sunshine (if the SF fog allows it!).

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After returning from an exciting time at the beach, we finally learned what this week’s building challenge/theme will be: Air Benders! We will spend our week building incredible creations that will harness the air to move or even fly! Deciding whether to work on the 12ft Windmill, Sail Car, or Glider+Launcher is a tough one. After settling into their groups, the design session took off! Campers channeled their creative minds and brainstormed their ideas for their creations.

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After coming up with the big plan, we were off to a great start! We have one group that got started on a Sail Car that will have a big sail to harness the wind to move.

Our windmill team was deciding just how tall they could make their air bender without having it fall over! At Tinkering school we love to build BIG :) .

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Be sure to stay tuned tomorrow to follow this crews progress! To see more tinkering fun from the day, you can also check out our Flickr album!

Cartopia - Days 4 + 5 - Week 6 (SF Day Camp)

Cartopia (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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In order to be ready for Friday afternoon’s showcase, everything we’ve been working on all week had to pass significant safety tests. The past two days were chock full of hard work, dedication, and flexibility from every tinkerer to ensure this. Of course, within it all was also a ton of fun, excitement, and pride in our creations this week.

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The car-wash team was able to add finishing touches – getting creative with the supplies available in our shop, we installed a moveable ramp door, a scrubbing machine, a hose, and lastly an automated high-five machine for the car drivers as they rolled through. These tinkerers tapped into their empathy and humor, knowing that not only is the car-wash an experience for the car, but should also involve the driver! Building it was no easy task though and took a few iterations to ensure that the high-five wouldn’t accidentally hit the driver :-) In the end they were successful!

View of the elevator and two cars

View of the elevator and two cars

On Thursday, the elevator was completed and attached to the pulley system we had rigged up and attached to the ceiling. It took some finagling to attach ropes to each corner and meet in the center in a way where the elevator would be stable and flat.

This freed up the team to put all hands on deck for finishing the ramp! After we finished covering it with plywood, it took every single tinkerer to lift the ramp on Thursday, and attach it to the top of the 8ft. tall tower platform which the elevator would open onto. This was a super exciting step forward

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Friday was exclusively spent ensuring the safety of our ramp. Half of camp banded together, and with excellent and inspiring collaboration we were able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time while still working carefully and intentionally. We placed floor to ceiling support beams throughout the entirely of the ramp, and furthermore attached beams in a horizontal X shape between each pair of vertical supports.

Some of us created a design for railings along the ramp using plywood and 2x3s. Without these we absolutely would not have been able to take the cars down the ramp! After the design was made, we split into three-person subgroups to construct numerous small pieces of railing that could then be installed along the ramp.

Friday afternoon’s final Closing Circle

Friday afternoon’s final Closing Circle

Our car teams were busy double checking all of their mechanisms, namely steering and breaks. Each car had little details that defined them, and more details were able to be added including license plates, decorations, footholds, and doors.

By Friday afternoon, each aspect of Cartopia was complete and we were ready for our last Closing Circle, and to test the cars moving through the car wash, elevator, and ramp! It was incredible to showcase everything we worked on this week to the friends and family that came to watch.

Testing the ramp before riding a car down it

Collaborators tested the cars first. One at a time, the cares were placed on the elevator and lifted up 8ft. The elevator attached to the tower, and the car was wheeled out. Through the slightly nerve-wracking testing phase, one car was approved for full ramp usage, another for half-ramp usage, and the third was decided it would be best to enjoy driving on the flatlands.

Each car was magnificent and it was so so magical to finally watch our creations come to life!

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After passing the safety-tests, tinkerers lined up to test-drive each car through the car wash and down the ramp.

Needless to say, it was an incredible experience to work alongside this week’s amazing and innovative tinkerers. Within the theme of Cartopia, we truly built a thrilling experience and were able to see it through to fruition. And, we had a lot of fun throughout all of it :)

To check out the rest of the photos and videos from this week, look at our Flickr page!

Cartopia - Day 3 - Week 6 (SF Day Camp)

Cartopia (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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Today held many significant development points in each of our projects! Each of our car teams are working through iteration points on their steering mechanisms.

The handle-steering car made lots of headway – they attached all four wheels, and experimented throughout the afternoon with the placing the lever steering handles in different places. Furthermore, they are working on a convertible cloth roof, using rope to open or close the roof.

Many tinkerers are learning to use the drill press which allows us to make extra big and deep holes to hold car axles, for example.

Many tinkerers are learning to use the drill press which allows us to make extra big and deep holes to hold car axles, for example.

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The triangle car worked hard today to install an adjustable seat and a steering wheel. The steering wheel is attached to a wood beam which the axle runs through, thus whenever you turn the steering wheel it twists the axle and tires.

The T-steering car successfully built walls and a trunk for their vehicle; it is truly taking shape! The trunk has a door which opens and closes with hinges. They also added a single handle similar to a bicycle handlebar to use for their steering system.

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Our car wash certainly is looking more and more like a car wash. After spending the bulk of the first couple of days working on the overall frame and structure, they can now focus on the details. Already they have created a crank-operated scrubber out of PVC pipe and foam. They are beginning on the pulley system that spans the length of the wash and will pull each car through the service. There is even a high-five station at the end of the wash, to offer moral support for the driver of each car :) This will be attached with springs!

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Lastly we have the ramp and elevator project!

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The ramp is 4ft. wide and 24ft. long. The team is being careful to build with lots of support beams spanning the width of the ramp every few feet, so the plywood base can be adequately supported when cars fly down it. With these sorts of projects, safety is the most important aspect.

Other folks are working on a platform at the beginning of the ramp, a middle-way between the elevator and actually going down the ramp. Similarly, they focused heavily on safety in their design and build. The tower is incredibly stable and strong, and passed the safety test this afternoon. We were able to have three people sitting at the top of the 8ft. tower! They are moving on to install railings on the sides, and a ladder for people to climb up who are not taking the elevator up.

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Our elevator is nearly complete, with railings and a hinged ramp door that locks in place. This afternoon, the team realized a design flaw in the placement of their ramp door. The car will not be able to go in and out of the same door, because the location it is entering from is a different direction than where it will be headed at the top of the ramp. They began brainstorming ways to mitigate this issue.

It was a wonderful day at Crissy Field Beach this afternoon, when we took a break from building to play and eat lunch. It is always fun to arrive at the beach and observe what remains of castles built or holes dug the day before.

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Everyone is looking forward to our last full build day tomorrow, eager to bring our projects to the next level and see each different piece fall into place.

To view the rest of today’s photos, check out our Flickr page.

Cartopia - Day 2 - Week 6 (SF Day Camp)

Cartopia (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Making sure the legs of the car wash are level.

Making sure the legs of the car wash are level.

Team work makes the dream work :)

Team work makes the dream work :)

Tuesday is our first full day of building, and we always we get a significant amount of work done on our projects, and simultaneously realize the depth and breadth of the work to come! We begin to get into our groove and build momentum for the rest of the week.

Today was precisely that. We dove into projects immediately, hunkering down for a design session that set the tone for a fun and productive build time.

Intensive design sesh

Intensive design sesh

A moment of joy in the brainstorming session

A moment of joy in the brainstorming session

Our tinkerers this week have created a collaborative environment, working together in the design sessions to create a game plan that includes each team member. This becomes clear as most tasks necessitate more than one tinkerer to complete, and in looking around the workshop one sees many helping hands.

Each distinct car-making team has been very creative in their designs, and the cars look incredibly different. We have one roof-less rectangular car that will be elevated a few feet off the ground. They are utilizing a T-steering method. Another team is working on a triangular car, reminiscent of a NASCAR racecar or Star Wars pod-racer. A third team envisions a low rectangular car with a convertible roof, and a handle/lever based steering system. The final challenge for each group will be to add breaks, to ensure the safety of their riders when these cars are tested on our giant ramp!

Contemplating next steps

Contemplating next steps

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Speaking of giant ramp… our elevator & ramp team were hard at work today, getting much of their preliminary structural work done and learning how to add important support beams for the weight that they will be holding. Those working on the elevator began to envision how it will be lifted by the pulley system that we already have hanging from the ceiling here, and worked to install rope on each corner of their platform.

Our car wash team spent the day perfecting the design of their structure, figuring out how the cars will physically move through the space they are creating. They plan to work on the specifics of what happens within the car wash once the overall structure is built, and are taking it one step at a time.

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After an exciting and exhausting day of thinking and building, everyone was ready to go home and get a good night’s rest to prepare for tomorrow’s endeavors!

To view the rest of today’s photos, check out our Flickr page.

Cartopia - Day 1 - Week 6 (SF Day Camp)

Cartopia (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Learning to use the chop saw!

Learning to use the chop saw!

Drill practice (make a letter of the alphabet, out of wood!)

Drill practice (make a letter of the alphabet, out of wood!)

At Tinkering School it is impossible to dread Mondays… it’s always a day chock full of learning new skills and making new friends, anticipating the fun tinkering work to come as we envision and manifest our very own creations!

Learning to collaborate and build a bridge out of wood & clamps

Learning to collaborate and build a bridge out of wood & clamps

Excitement built all morning as we learned how to safely use the tools and materials we will be working with this week. Although we all wanted to dive into the project reveal and get started building immediately, it was important to move through the morning slowly and carefully. We spent time deciding on our group agreements for the week, as well as learning and practicing the safe methods for engaging with all of our tools.

After a full morning, we headed to the nearby Crissy Field Beach for some play and lunch time. A group of us headed to the shore to build sandcastles, dig holes, and create sand walls against the incessant waves. It was a quintessential San Francisco afternoon, our view of the Golden Gate Bridge clouded with thick fog, but the sun’s warmth came through the haze and made for a refreshing afternoon.

Initial design brainstorm session

Initial design brainstorm session

Working on a triangle-shaped car

Working on a triangle-shaped car

Our return from the beach marked the highlight of Monday, as our theme and projects for this week were revealed to be… Cartopia: a luxurious land where cars and their drivers are pampered and re-fueled with positive vibes before driving down and thrilling course! You may be wondering, what does this mean in the context of Tinkering School projects?

We have one group of tinkerers working on building three small cars - each will be a different shape and size, with unique steering mechanisms. These will be the vehicles drive through the rest of the Cartopia course.

The definition of teamwork: three tinkerers using a level to make sure the leg is straight!

The definition of teamwork: three tinkerers using a level to make sure the leg is straight!

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Another group will spend the week building a combo car-wash, fuel station, and auto-body shop. Their project needs to be able to move each car through the different stations, somewhat like a conveyor belt or assembly line. Not only will the car be buffed and cleaned, the drivers will also get positive affirmations as they roll through - possibly from a high-five machine and more! They have begun by building a very large frame, which will provide structure for the rest of what’s to come.

The last aspect of Cartopia is a car elevator which leads to an 8ft. tall ramp – each car will move through the car-wash and into the elevator, which will then lift the car through a complex series of pulleys and ropes to the top of a ramp. This is the last stop. Each car will steer itself down the ramp, across the workshop, and out of the side door onto the sidewalk outside!

It’s going to be a fun week, discovering what creative ideas our tinkerers bring to these prompts and witnessing the collaboration necessary for each distinct project to work together and ultimately connect into one continuous loop.

Combining our individual ideas into a collaborative design

Combining our individual ideas into a collaborative design

To check out the rest of today’s photos, be sure to go to our Flickr album!

Obsta-ball - Days 4+5 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

“Remember when this was just an idea?” exclaimed one tinkerer at the end of Thursday. It is a sentiment shared by most of us at camp – watching the evolution of our projects from thought to physical form has been a completely unparalleled magical experience. The beauty is that it is not magic, but the work we do with our own minds, hands, and the assistance of a handful of tools.

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The labyrinth team completed designing and building the three maze tiers and was able to experiment with hanging pulley mechanisms for manually tilting each maze as intended. The first test resulted in sore hands where the paracord dug sharply in, due to the heavy weight of the maze. The need for handles arose, and these were expertly designed and installed. Unfortunately, this did not solve the weight issue, and many of our tinkerers were not physically capable of pulling and controlling the handles. To mitigate this issue, we incorporated more pulleys on each side. The more pulleys, the less it weighed, and the easier our handles were to pull.

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We also noticed the need for a catching mechanism, as each maze has a series of holes which the ball can fall through. Our issue was that the ball would fall into empty space, out of the game. After a brainstorming session, one tinkerer took on the project of installing a large ramp along the bottom of our structure, which will funnel the ball back into play.

Lastly, more iterating was done on the observation tower. Because it will hold at least two humans, it needs to be completely structurally sound. The team spent time envisioning ways to do this, building ideas, testing them, and addressing next issues. By the end Thursday, the two levels of the tower and their connecting ladder were successfully attached and safe.

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Human foosball continued to wow the rest of camp with the enormity and depth of their project. They put a lot of time into the top beams that will move and hold the weight of the human foos players. There are two tricks here – the beams need to be strong enough to hold weight and not bow or break, and they need to be able to slide back and forth across the width of the “field.”

Taking inspiration from rollercoaster design, they strategically placed small wheels for the beams to roll on. The challenge is making sure everything can support the weight of numerous tinkerers hanging down on seats from these beams, acting as pieces in the live human-sized foosball game. Reinforcing the beams was done with bolts.

The foosball team was working down to the last second of our Friday afternoon build session to make their game playable, and it was ultimately a wild success! While the week was successful regardless of finishing the project (each and every tinkerer worked incredibly hard collaborating and having fun), it was still very satisfying to sit in those foosball seats and play the game we dedicated ourselves to this week. And… it was a ton of fun to play. :-)

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The Minigolf crew worked steadily this whole week, from design to creation. Their awareness of the bigger picture of the project shone through by the end of the day Friday, as the path for the ball became clear and they were able to putt their way through to the end! In a project like this, it can be easy to get sucked into the details of each sub-project that arises in the design, and to end up with scattered and disconnected pieces of a whole. This was not the case here! From the cable car, to the rainbow ramp, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and lastly the Salesforce Tower – the project was seamless.

The team was able to spend a lot of Friday doing finishing touches; testing their complicated pulley system to get the cable car to move, adding signs and fun facts about each real-life location on the route, and installing patches of astroturf to emulate a real golf game! They even built small putters to use during the showcase, making sure the handles were covered in foam for comfort and safety.

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It goes without saying that Friday afternoon’s showcase was a wild success and a ton of fun! Families and friends roamed our workshop-turned-mega-arcade of sorts, testing and playing our giant labyrinth, foosball, and minigolf games. And of course, everyone stuck around after to get back to work for deconstruction. The ephemerality of each Tinkering School project never ceases to be amazing.

Check out photos and videos from today and the rest of this week on our Flickr!

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Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 5 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

What happens when kids land on the moon? It's a lot of fun, that's for sure! Not only did the “Noodles of Doom (dun, dun, dun!)” make an appearance but there were multiple golf clubs for both kid and adult heights, not one but two functional ball launchers and even a U.S. flag replica at the final hole.

Before the big project reveal at 2 o’clock, we worked non-stop all morning to complete as much as we could of the two large builds: the lunar lander and the moonscape golf course. We reminded the tinkerers that our goals for the week do not include “finishing the builds” but we also acknowledged that many of us really, really want to complete them. We were busy attaching noodles, adding obstacles for the mini golf course, stapling felt to plywood, attaching and reinforcing the ladder, and weight-testing everything so we could determine how many kids or adults could be in the lunar lander at a time. We even added mylar — an actual material used to cover the original lunar lander.

It was exciting to see everything come to life as family members peeked into the lunar lander and took putter swings on the moon to see if they could achieve par ( the course had a high difficulty level).

After half an hour of appreciating the amazing builds from the week together, it was time to deconstruct them and put everything away (reduce, reuse, recycle applies to Tinkering School, too). We’re grateful to all of the tinkerers and family members who were able to help out this afternoon.

Well, that’s it for another summer of Tinkering School at Mark Day School. We hope everyone comes back next summer for another round!

Rear view of the lunar lander.

Rear view of the lunar lander.

Inside the lunar lander.

Inside the lunar lander.

The chair inside the lander.

The chair inside the lander.

The entry door and stairs below the lander.

The entry door and stairs below the lander.

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The dual ball launcher system.

The dual ball launcher system.

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The full course including ramp, smaller moon bumps, large bump, Noodles of Doom, hole and flag. (Apologies for the warped panorama.)

The full course including ramp, smaller moon bumps, large bump, Noodles of Doom, hole and flag. (Apologies for the warped panorama.)

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from our big reveal. And check out our Flickr page to see many more photos from the week.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 4 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

As we near the end of our week together, our creations have gone from being mere wooden structures connected with screws to being embodiments of the vision we started with at the beginning of the week.

As the moonscape mini golf course took shape today, we began to hear talk of the famed “Noodles of Doom.” There was much pondering about what those might be. Stay tuned because they are almost complete!

As for the lunar lander, not only is it upright and oh so tall but it is populated with busy tinkerers drilling pilot holes and driving screws (long for 2x3s, short for plywood) to finish the frame and start to add panels to the sides.

One of our beloved retired Mark Day School teachers, Mr. Orwig, stopped by for a moment and as soon as he saw the lunar lander he asked, “When does it land on the moon?” We’re clearly on the right track since our design is that perceptible!

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This trap door was a design challenge that our tinkerers readily took on. It doubles as a ladder for entry.

This trap door was a design challenge that our tinkerers readily took on. It doubles as a ladder for entry.

Who knew a miniature golf course took so much wood and so much work to complete? When we build things ourselves, we no longer take for granted all the effort — intellectual and physical — that went into making them.

Who knew a miniature golf course took so much wood and so much work to complete? When we build things ourselves, we no longer take for granted all the effort — intellectual and physical — that went into making them.

In addition to our large builds (namely the lunar lander and the moonscape mini golf course), we’ve had quite a bit of interest in several smaller projects: a golf ball launcher, a seat for the lander, and a hill for the fairway.

Testing the launcher

Testing the launcher

Building the chair (so many triangles!)

Building the chair (so many triangles!)

Reinforcing the hill

Reinforcing the hill

Might these be the "Noodles of Doom"???

Might these be the "Noodles of Doom"???

Adding another triangle to secure the frame to the mini golf platform.

Adding another triangle to secure the frame to the mini golf platform.

Closing circle bookends each day for us (opening circle is a time when we teach new skills, demonstrate engineering principles, or offer reminders about group agreements). This afternoon, I asked our tinkerers to provide examples of ways that they had worked with another person or made a friend today. There were so many hands that we almost ran out of time but we were able to hear from everyone. How wonderful that so many connections are being made and new friendships are growing. I also asked for examples of things we are proud of ourselves for. We heard from students who had tried a new tool (jig saw was a popular one), or figured out a design for a new lander chair or repositioned a screw after realizing that driving it through a knot in the wood was too tough.

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A "partner push" can help when a drill is used in a tight space or when a tinkerer needs just a bit more strength to drive a screw.

A "partner push" can help when a drill is used in a tight space or when a tinkerer needs just a bit more strength to drive a screw.

Taking the idea of a partner push to its logical extreme, this group of tinkerers was all in on helping out.

Taking the idea of a partner push to its logical extreme, this group of tinkerers was all in on helping out.

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The drill press is used to make a hole for a plunger for the ball launcher.

The drill press is used to make a hole for a plunger for the ball launcher.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And stop by our Flickr Page to see additional photos from throughout the week.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 3 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day / San Rafael, Mark Day Moon Golf (2019)Tatian GreenleafComment

Today was another day of build, build, build with a good dose of design, design, design thrown in. We’re still figuring out the best way to launch a golf ball onto the moon. Is a lever a useful mechanism? What about a rubber band slingshot? Or a pinball-style method? We learn through testing and we did quite a bit of that today. Can the lunar lander platform hold enough weight? Does it wobble? How can we strengthen the things we build?

How high should a moonscape mini golf hill be? Should we have a separate platform beside the hill so that players have varied experiences and can employ strategy?

A hinge allows the lever to swing quickly and strike the golf ball inside the tube.

A hinge allows the lever to swing quickly and strike the golf ball inside the tube.

What height and angle does the tube need to be at to propel the ball far enough?

What height and angle does the tube need to be at to propel the ball far enough?

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Adding a triangular brace to the lunar lander from underneath.

Adding a triangular brace to the lunar lander from underneath.

Attaching the lunar lander feet to add stability but also aesthetic value.

Attaching the lunar lander feet to add stability but also aesthetic value.

After the ramp and the bumpy platform were finished and side rails were added, a team began work on constructing the hill. This was quite difficult as it required several angled pieces as well as angled supports.

After the ramp and the bumpy platform were finished and side rails were added, a team began work on constructing the hill. This was quite difficult as it required several angled pieces as well as angled supports.

Many of our connections for the lunar lander and the golf course consisted of angled parts. So the screws we put in were either added to slanted pieces of wood or needed to be pocket screws. One technique some of our tinkerers practiced today was drilling a starter hole perpendicular to the wood and then angling the drill and drilling a straight pilot hole using the starter hole as a guide:

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In the morning during our opening circle, David taught a lesson on how to correctly measure wood. Being the creative teacher that he is, he made giant props for the demo — a tape measure and a speed square. And he used our blue benches to stand in as 2x3 wooden blocks. Then, he demonstrated with our actual tools and wood to connect those ideas tangibly.

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After lunch, Jayson demonstrated good techniques for reinforcing structures. Particularly, he covered the difference between sheer strength (i.e. depending on screws to hold weight) — we tell kids that “screws are not magical” — and compression strength (i.e. depending on vertical pieces of wood to hold weight).

If one screw allows two pieces of wood to twist and two screws hold two pieces of wood together without twisting, how many screws are ideal? 3? 4? 7? 50? Jayson explained that adding more screws can weaken the wood because it separates the wood fibers.

If one screw allows two pieces of wood to twist and two screws hold two pieces of wood together without twisting, how many screws are ideal? 3? 4? 7? 50? Jayson explained that adding more screws can weaken the wood because it separates the wood fibers.

Jayson was able to support his full weight on several pieces of wood braced in a triangle.

Jayson was able to support his full weight on several pieces of wood braced in a triangle.

At closing circle, we asked for examples of how tinkerers had tried harder than usual today (one of our goals for the week). One way we’re doing so is to learn to use new tools.

A jig saw can be used to make straight or curved lines in plywood.

A jig saw can be used to make straight or curved lines in plywood.

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The day isn’t complete without crossing off a few more items from our design and build checklists.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from our day. And visit our Flickr page for many more photos from throughout the week.

Obsta-ball - Day 3 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
New tool alert! The drill press is used for making bigger holes.

New tool alert! The drill press is used for making bigger holes.

The first thing we did in Wednesday’s Opening Circle was lie down and collectively take a 30-second nap – many of us walked in today particularly tired, having not gotten enough sleep last night. As the week progresses, we better learn what the schedule and expectations of Tinkering School ask of us, and how to take care of ourselves to meet our mental and physical needs within the hard work and play we are doing.

Luckily, a quick rest was enough for us to pop up ready for the morning design and build sessions. Brendon took a moment to remind us how to properly drill straight up and down in order to prevent drill-bit breakages. He also demonstrated the proper way to drill using the “toenail” method, a.k.a. drilling diagonally. It is a two step process, though easy to overlook the importance of the two steps. We learned to first create a divot, a small hole in the spot we want to drill diagonally, and then reposition our drill and continue drilling in the diagonal direction as a separate action – this intentionality can save many broken drill bits!

Wednesday is typically when projects turn from idea to reality in the blink of an eye. After a couple of solid building days, abstract pieces begin to fit together into a cohesive form. We also get to start playing with the engineering concepts that were theoretical until these precious moments of testing and iterating with the forms that we have built.

Working on the foosball frame

Working on the foosball frame

Proud of their hard work :)

Proud of their hard work :)

Human-sized foosball made strides forward in building their frame, adding integral support beams on the legs and walls, as well as beginning to attach beams across the top which will ultimately hold our human foosball players.

We reached an iteration point in designing the hanging devices which will hold said players – originally, the plan was to have tinkerers sit on hanging benches. It became clear that this was a safety hazard, and would not contribute positively to the functioning of the project to have tinkerers haphazardly sliding along the benches. The group decided to divert the already-made benches to be spectator benches, and re-design their hanging devices as individual chairs.

Photobomb :p

Photobomb :p

It can be challenging in these moments to let go of original design ideas. Sometimes when we need to rethink structures, it can feel like all of our hard work was “wasted.” At Tinkering School, we stress the value of the process of tinkering. This includes analyzing, critiquing, and adapting –through the process, details are bound to evolve to meet the shifting needs presented by the project itself. Our incredible tinkerers handled this change gracefully.

Labyrinth creation - where is the line between a difficult puzzle and an impossible puzzle?

Labyrinth creation - where is the line between a difficult puzzle and an impossible puzzle?

Expert collaboration, installing eye-bolts for the maze to hang

Expert collaboration, installing eye-bolts for the maze to hang

The labyrinth project chugged forward on all of the separate pieces we began yesterday. Our three mazes are completely designed, and (almost) two of the three have been put together.

This morning, we completed a very sturdy frame which will hold the hanging weight of the first two labyrinth tiers, and flipped it onto it’s feet. Until now we were working on it upside-down – at it’s full 8 ft. height, it is impossible to reach the top without a ladder, and we prioritized working safely on the ground.

Testing, testing…

Testing, testing…

A couple of innovative tinkerers have taken on the task of inventing a lever and fulcrum system for our floor-bound labyrinth tier. They have rigged up a system of PVC pipe with different pieces attached to knobs on either side that turn and push up varying spots on the bottom of the labyrinth box. This mechanism tilts it in different directions on top of our home-made ball joint.

Building our observation tower involved a few iteration points today – the original design proved to be too un-sturdy for a tinkerer’s weight, and was very shaky on it’s feet. Those working on the tower brainstormed methods to improve the structure, and added diagonal support beams across the legs. It worked!

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Finishing touches on the cable car track

Finishing touches on the cable car track

The mini-golf reached a huge milestone today. The cable car has wheels on the bottom, and locks in to a ramp track. Both pieces were finished today, and able to be put together! It looks really really cool. Next is attaching the crank and pulley system so that it can move up it’s ramp.

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Furthermore, the team added paracord suspension cables to our Golden Gate Bridge replica. With two major pieces of the project completed, we were able to move forward on building the 8 ft. tall Salesforce Tower. Work continued on a second ramp as well – this one is called the rainbow ramp in honor of San Francisco’s Castro District. The team is dedicated to representing many different aspects of what makes San Francisco such a special city.

The team is taking to heart the challenge that their minigolf ball must end at least 4ft. higher than where it started – throughout it’s course, it will traverse heights even grander than 4 ft.

As Collaborators, we are privileged to be working with such incredible tinkerers this week, who are dedicated to challenging themselves to grow and learn. When given certain restraints, they go above and beyond!

Chillaxing on the beach during lunch time

Chillaxing on the beach during lunch time

Take a look at all of the magical happenings at Tinkering School this week on our Flickr page.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 2 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

Tuesday arrived with a burst of tinkering energy as campers arrived rested and full of ideas and eager to get building! Taking some of that energy and converting it into reflective thought, we asked two questions we frequently ask tinkerers to think about: what is tinkering and why do we tinker? The answers ranged from “for fun” to “because it’s good for our brains.” We summarized them below on a chart that now hangs in the circle area. Taken as a whole they really show that our young tinkerers get why they’re here.

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After our morning reflection and a presentation on how to safely carry wood, we got into our build groups and got down to work. The Lunar Lander group had to finish up the octagonal floor, make legs and continue prototype work on the golf ball launcher.

The lunar lander was built upside-down to start with and then a team of tinkerers rotated it 180° and checked its stability. They decided it needed additional braces (triangles) and got to work cutting more.

The lunar lander was built upside-down to start with and then a team of tinkerers rotated it 180° and checked its stability. They decided it needed additional braces (triangles) and got to work cutting more.

It’s not easy to clamp a tube and drill a hole but this team was intent on making the golf ball launcher.

It’s not easy to clamp a tube and drill a hole but this team was intent on making the golf ball launcher.

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Assembling the top of the lunar lander section.

Assembling the top of the lunar lander section.

The Mini Golf course group was set on finishing up their first hole, complete with a ramp and obstacles. For now, those obstacles take the form of “moon bumps” but our design sketches from Monday hint at much more to come!

The ramp in the foreground and the start of a hill in the background.

The ramp in the foreground and the start of a hill in the background.

Moon bumps!

Moon bumps!

This was another big day for measuring and cutting wood. The chopsaw was busy for almost the entire time! Part of the reason it was busy was because measuring carefully, marking wood and cutting accurately are skills we’re still working on, so there were many instances of wood needing to be re-cut. At the end of the day several tinkerers shared how they learned to be more careful with their measurements after that experience. We love it when tinkerers share their mistakes and what they learned from them because it not only helps them cement their learning, but it helps others learn as well!

Tomorrow is another big day of building!

Communication is a big part of what we do at Tinkering School. Asking “How can I help?” or lending an idea to a project can improve our day.

Communication is a big part of what we do at Tinkering School. Asking “How can I help?” or lending an idea to a project can improve our day.

After we affixed the plywood golf platform to the frame, we realized that some of the screw heads stuck up too high and might block the ball. It was time for a lesson about (and then practice using) a countersink bit.

After we affixed the plywood golf platform to the frame, we realized that some of the screw heads stuck up too high and might block the ball. It was time for a lesson about (and then practice using) a countersink bit.

There’s so much happening in this photo but what it represents best is teamwork. Pairs of tinkerers are holding wood in place, offering screws or bits as needed to a partner, and taking turns using drills.

There’s so much happening in this photo but what it represents best is teamwork. Pairs of tinkerers are holding wood in place, offering screws or bits as needed to a partner, and taking turns using drills.

We encourage tinkerers to label their wood after they measure it. This wooden 2x3 has “20 1/2 inches” and “28°” written on it along with an angle cut indicator.

We encourage tinkerers to label their wood after they measure it. This wooden 2x3 has “20 1/2 inches” and “28°” written on it along with an angle cut indicator.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And check out our Flickr page for hundreds more from throughout the week.

Obsta-ball - Day 2 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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After our first full day of building, each obstacle ball challenge is even more complex than we anticipated during yesterday afternoon’s preliminary design session! With more time to experiment and re-iterate ideas, pieces are beginning to fall into place.

We began the day with an engineering challenge, offered by our Collaborators Aili and Derrick. In Opening Circle, we spent some time learning about and observing the functionality of a fulcrum and a lever. Demonstrating this with a makeshift see-saw, Aili and Derrick explained how to use force to move a lever on a fulcrum (a.k.a. “pivot or tipping point”). They asked tinkerers to ponder how to use a fulcrum and lever to most easily lift a Collaborator – where should force be applied, and where should the Collaborator be placed, in relation to the fulcrum?

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Next we moved into our morning design sessions, slowing down just enough to collectively decide what tasks need to be completed to build our grand projects, and who on the team will complete each task! After each group was able to check-in and re-orient, we moved into building.

Our human-sized foosball team made progress building the 24x8 ft. frame which will be the stage for the game. They definitely are accomplishing our tinkering goal of building something bigger than ourselves, particularly because each moment of attaching beams requires more than one tinkerer!

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To address the question of how real-life humans will become the actual foosball pieces, tinkerers envisioned long benches that hang down from beams going across the top of the frame, or field so to speak.

What remains is the challenge of outside players moving and controlling the foosball pieces. These innovative and creative tinkerers are playing with wheels and other rolling mechanisms to reduce the friction that will be caused by the weight of benches and multiple humans.

Some of the tinkerers also designed and began building a ladder to reach the top of the frame.

The labyrinth team meanwhile took a lot of creative liberty with designing their labyrinth, and is working on a 3-tiered maze game!

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Two tiers are simultaneously hanging from a larger frame, to be controlled via pulleys, and one tier sits on the ground with side knobs to enact it’s tilting motion. The ball must be maneuvered through each tier one after another. Today, the team added an observation tower – because the top two tiers are above eye-level of both spectators and those controlling the pulleys, a tinkerer will sit on an observation deck for each level to direct the pulley-controllers! Designing the mazes has been a lot of fun.

Our mini-golf came is everything but mini. The group split into many subgroups, working on varying different obstacles within their “city” theme. The first hole is taking on different aspects of San Francisco, and the group hopes to design Paris and London themed holes next.

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The cable car is taking shape, with tinkerers utilizing wooden dowels to emulate the particular design of our beloved San Francisco cable cars. Those working on the Golden Gate Bridge spent the day working on the two towers, and plan to use paracord to re-create the suspension cables on the actual bridge.

At Closing Circle, we revisited the question posed by Aili and Derrick this morning by experimenting with different placements for a Collaborator (the load) in relation to applied downward force. Collectively, we decided that the easiest way to lift weight using a lever would be placing the weight or load on the lever closest to the location of the fulcrum, and applying the force furthest from the fulcrum.

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We are all feeling invigorated by the scope of the projects this week, and anticipate a fun Friday showcase when we get to interact with the bigger-than-life-size obsta-ball games we are creating!

For more photos from today, check out our Flickr page!

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 1 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Moon Golf (2019)Tatian GreenleafComment

The first day at Tinkering School is a busy one as our tinkerers get used to the rhythms of the day. During our opening circle, we brainstorm group agreements that will help us respect each other, work together well and use tools properly. We also introduce our goals for the week: collaborate and make friends, try harder than usual, build something bigger than ourselves, and make mistakes and learn from them.

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The morning gets in full swing with tool training. We learn about and practice using our three main tools: clamps, chop saw, and cordless drills.

Many hands make light work.

Many hands make light work.

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Using assembly squares to ensure wood stays at a right angle.

Using assembly squares to ensure wood stays at a right angle.

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After a fun break at the park for lunch, it’s time for the excitement of the project reveal. Our tinkerers decided a drumroll was in order! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the theme for this week is:

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It sounds far-fetched until you learn that Alan Shepherd hit a golf ball on the moon with a club. So even though the moon’s gravity might make for a rather challenging mini golf course, we’re using our imagination and coming up with creative designs for how to represent the moon’s terrain. But it wouldn’t be a mission to the moon without a Lunar Lander. So another group is building a space craft that will land on the moon and launch a golf ball onto our golf course. This gave us a chance to talk about mechanical levers. We started with sketches and moved on to prototyping launch devices. And because we decided the lunar lander will be octagonal, we had to learn how to calculate, measure and cut 22.5° angles on the chop saw. All in a day’s work!

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A prototype of a ball launcher…

A prototype of a ball launcher…

…and a test of a lever system with a ball tube.

…and a test of a lever system with a ball tube.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And visit our Flickr page to see many more photos from throughout the week.

Obsta-ball - Day 1 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Drill practice!

Drill practice!

Today was a wonderful start to a week full of thinking and tinkering! Our challenges this week are particularly design-heavy, as each project needs to be meticulously thought out in order to work properly. This will be a growth point for many of our tinkerers who love to dive right in to drilling anything they can get their hands on :)

Expert collaboration skills.

Expert collaboration skills.

Before jumping into projects, though… We began the day setting intentions and goals for our week, looking at the four core tinkering goals as well as envisioning group agreements to foster a supportive and safe space together. We learned handy phrases such as “How can I help?” and “No means no,” to facilitate effective collaboration and respectful engagement, as well as safety when handling power tools.

We spent the rest of the morning familiarizing ourselves with the primary tools and materials we will be using to create our epic projects – drills, screws, clamps, and the chop-saw.

Proud of their Z

Proud of their Z

Brendon prepping for the reveal…

Brendon prepping for the reveal…

After a busy morning, we headed to the Crissy Field beach for our daily play and lunch time. It was a beautiful sunny day, and tinkerers scattered themselves within our beach boundaries to play football, bounce balls, dig holes, build sandcastles, read, and have picnics!

At this point, the anticipation was mounting… everyone was itching to get back to the workshop to uncover this week’s theme and projects! Immediately upon return from the beach, we gathered into a circle for the reveal.

After a suspenseful drumroll and countdown, Brendon and Kai exposed the hidden whiteboard to view this week’s theme… Obsta-ball. It took a moment to connect the dots… obstacle ball? What does that mean? We delved into the specifics of each project to learn more. This week, we will have a team working on a mini-golf course, a team working on a human-sized foosball game, and a team working on an 8x8 size labyrinth game. More details became apparent as we split into our design sessions.

Workshopping tilting mechanisms for the Labyrinth.

Workshopping tilting mechanisms for the Labyrinth.

The labyrinth team is inspired by the classic labyrinth toy, which tilts to propel a marble through a complex maze of walls and holes. We have created a 3-tier stacked maze. The top two mazes will hang from an 8x8 frame and be controlled from the sides via levers attached to pulleys. The bottom-most maze sits on the floor and will be tilted with handles on the sides. The structure will sit on a fulcrum and have internal arms and weights to assist in the tilting feature which will guide our golf-ball (replacing the marble from the original game… at Tinkering School we always go big!).

Design session for mini-golf

Design session for mini-golf

Putting clamp skills to work in our afternoon build session!

Putting clamp skills to work in our afternoon build session!

Lots of fun was had envisioning the mini-golf game – particularly because the challenge here is for the ball to end up at least 4 ft higher than where it started! The group decided on a city-themed game, where each hole relates to a different city. Obviously, the first one will be San Francisco. The ball will go across the Golden Gate bridge and into a cable car operated with a pulley system. Following that, it ends at the top of the Salesforce Tower! We began experimenting with ramps, tunnels, gutters, and springs to achieve this.

Last but not least we have the foosball team. This team will be creating a human-sized version of the game, so it has to be at least 8 ft. wide and 24. ft wide. Instead of foosball pieces, we will have our very own Tinkerers as the players! This means rigging up a harness system within very strong frames. The group got a good start on building this afternoon.

The jigsaw is best for cutting plywood.

The jigsaw is best for cutting plywood.

The projects this week are truly bigger than ourselves, and will need many tinkerers not only to build but to operate! We are all invigorated by the prompts and challenges we are presented with this week, and can’t wait to put our new skills to work tomorrow.

Check out the rest of today’s photos on our Flickr page!

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 5 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Sea Monsters '19, Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

What a fun finish to the week… our tinkerers put their heart and soul into getting the submarine up on wheels and sea-worthy and into the final personality details of the bendy-body sea monster.

Click through the gallery below for additional photos from our final day this week. To see many, many more photos from our epic project reveal and the entire week, visit our Flickr page.