Tinkering School

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Lava World - Day 3 - Week 4 (SF Day Camp)

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

Wednesday was another full day of tinkering, thinking, experimenting, and testing.


Today we began the day again with an engineering problem posed by Molly – we had a trapdoor set up on the floor, with no handle. Building upon yesterday’s fulcrum exploration with a practical application, the challenge was to place the handle in the spot which would make it easiest to lift open the door.

Those of us working on the giant volcano spent the morning brainstorming and prototyping a launching mechanism for the balloon lava. We settled on a human-powered bicycle crank mechanism that will spin a paddle to flip the balloons into the air. In order to understand the concept better, we created a cardboard version first. This prepared us to create the right pieces out of wood, to ensure the mechanism will work. Meanwhile, the rest of the team continued creating the external structure of the volcano, as well as the tunnel within that will funnel the balloons when they are launched.


The forts and bridges team got most of their project off the ground today! Literally. Smaller sub-groups working on two of the different forts and bridges completed the stilts that hold up their structures, and the structures were able to be flipped into their correct positioning. From there, it was testing the structural integrity of their designs, putting actual human weight on the platforms and adjusting weaker spots.


Tinkerers working on the catchment system put their minds to work on a steering system for their wheeled vehicle. The vehicle is almost finished being built, and a lot of structural progress was made today. Lastly, the claw arm for the front of the vehicle was completed. It is a complicated piece of machinery, operated with a string pulling on the springs holding two pieces together. Once the string is released, the claw snaps shut again. Tomorrow will involve attaching the claw to the vehicle.


The weather today was so wonderful that we were able to spend our lunch time at the beach. Some tinkerers brought a shovel, and combined with our buckets we were able to dig some extremely deep holes and build extravagant sandcastles!

At the end of the day, we revisited our door hinge challenge. Based on what we learned yesterday, we decided that the best spot for a door handle is furthest from the hinge. Many tinkerers compared our trapdoor to a regular bedroom door, noting that the handle is often on the rightmost side. Compared to doors with handles in the center of the door, these are much easier to open! We contemplated potential reasons for having a center door handle (decoration? confusion?) before parting ways for the day.


Tomorrow is our last full build day! Check out today’s photos on our Flickr.

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