Tinkering School

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There's No App for That- Thinking in 3D (WEEK 10- Lazy Friday)

Rachel EconomyComment

Amanda and Piper anticipate being very, very tired this Friday. They've been working and tinkering hard all summer, and here in our last week of camp, it's possible they might be feeling quite drained. Langurous. Lazy, if you will. So lazy, in fact, that they think that by Friday they might not be able to get out of bed of their own volition.

So we're building them an ejector-bed. And a "get-dressed" machine. And a breakfast machine, complete (of course) with coffee.

This week's theme, "Piper and Amanda's Lazy Friday," does something that not all Tinkering School themes do: it pulls us immediately into the realm of the unfamiliar. We don't have these machines in our lives (YET!), so there's no script, not even a deeply ingrained, familiar image to work towards.

And that unfamiliarity is wonderful. It stretches brain muscles. It pushes us just slightly outside our comfort zone, to that creative country of risk, outrageous creativity, failure, hilarious collaboration, and iteration.

But when faced with the unfamiliar, it's also pretty human to look for the tools that are most familiar, and try to apply them to the new and unknown situation. It's also, at least for me, often pretty intimidating to try to fill in the swirling darkness between "start" and "desired finish" with ideas when I don't know my materials or group that well. There's a "staring into the abyss" moment that makes me, honestly, want to go back to bed (but that would mean getting up, and getting dressed, and eating breakfast, and I'm feeling too lazy for all that...)

And so it was that we found ourselves in group design meetings, having a lot of conversations that included phrases like "you just push a button and then the robot does it," or "we just program the robot computer to do it," or "motors will make it go! Motorsssss!"

But of course, we won't be programming a robot or a computer- we're figuring out how to accomplish these tasks with things we build out of screws and hinges and wood. We get to consider not just "start" button and "finish" action, but all the tinkery connected steps in between. Getting back into three (or four) dimensions of creativity around cause-and-effect -- truly tinkering with how to physically and collaboratively make a particular thing happen or meet a particular need (like coffee) -- takes some practice and play. Which is a huge part of why we're here. Because this stuff scales. That sense of capacity, comfort staying in the unknown and figuring out how to accomplish a vision with others, to stick with it when it's hard, to fail and not immediately turn to someone else's robot to solve everything, doesn't just apply to breakfast machines. I leave here every day with a little bit more confidence that I can tinker and collaborate in order to make (or help) particular things happen not just with large pieces of wood, but in my life and the world. I hope the kid tinkerers leave with some of that too. 

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