Tinkering School

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Lava World - Day 2 - Week 4 (SF Day Camp)

Lava World (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

What did Tuesday have in store for this week’s inquisitive tinkering minds?


We began the day with a puzzle or brainteaser of sorts – Molly introduced to us the concept of a fulcrum. She demonstrated a simple see-saw mechanism by finding the central balance point of lever on a fulcrum, and then posed our challenge. Where could we place a fulcrum and level in order to lift a bus? Everyone had the day to mull it over, to do experiments with the lever and fulcrum she had set up in our engineering gallery, and come up with the answer which would be shared at closing circle.

Taking the lead on the catchment system design session

Taking the lead on the catchment system design session

With the wheels of our minds spinning already, we headed to our daily morning design and build sessions, eager to get to work on our projects.

Much headway was made in the enormity of the forts and bridges team – they have set out to build four forts of differing size and roof structure, and 16ft. bridges in between each. One bridge will be a drawbridge, and there will be a pulley system between them all to send a bucket of messages and special objects back and forth. The challenge that this group faces is ensuring the structural strength and integrity of their work. In order to protect us all from the impending lava explosion of the volcano, each fort and bridge needs to be at least 4ft. off the ground. Their designs need to hold human weight against the forces of gravity!




The volcano team spent the day building the overall frame of the volcano, while brainstorming and experimenting with different methods of physically launching the balloon lava. We thought through different methods including a rubber-band propeller, a platform or net that can launch via springs or bungee cords, and even attempting a prototype of a colonial whirligig toy. In each of these ideas, we are stumped by achieving and maintaining enough energy to successfully launch 100 balloons. More than anything, we are curious to continue tinkering with these ideas to achieve our goal.

Building the inner tunnel of the volcano, which will funnel 100 balloons on Friday!

Building the inner tunnel of the volcano, which will funnel 100 balloons on Friday!


Across the workshop, the catchment team spent the day tinkering with various engineering problems around attaching wheels and a steering system for their moving vehicle, and building a spring-based claw. We are lucky to be able to draw inspiration and to learn from some of the mechanical examples in the shop’s gallery.

After a long, hard day of tinkering, we gathered again as a group for closing circle, to discuss exciting developments in our projects, mistakes we had made and learned from, and methods of collaboration discovered today.

Lastly, we learned the answer to the question Molly posed this morning! The best spot to place a fulcrum to lift a bus would be as close to the bus as possible – with this method, you gain more mechanical advantage and leverage, so it is easier to lift the bus. Though we didn’t have a bus to test this with, we were able to test with our own bodies on the fulcrum and lever that Molly built this morning.


We are all ready for dinner and a good nights sleep, so we can arrive tomorrow prepared to take on the next challenges that Tinkering School offers!

View the rest of today’s photos on our Flickr page.

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