Tinkering School

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The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 3 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Sea Monsters '19, Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

What is tinkering? Why do we tinker? The kids had many varied and yet connected answers today when we asked them to write down their thoughts, and it led to a lively discussion of all the things that tinkering encompasses and all the reasons we do it. We compiled a list that summed up our camper thoughts on the topics!

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“We tinker because it is good for our brains and bodies and to learn about how to use staff in different ways. We also tinker because it is fun and sometimes helps the world. And also inventing new ideas to help the world get stronger. We tinker to have fun [and] learn new things. We also build thing[s] that help humans and people with disabilities and that is why we tinker.”

“We tinker because it is good for our brains and bodies and to learn about how to use staff in different ways. We also tinker because it is fun and sometimes helps the world. And also inventing new ideas to help the world get stronger. We tinker to have fun [and] learn new things. We also build thing[s] that help humans and people with disabilities and that is why we tinker.”

Our work on polygons and bracing yesterday blossomed into many, many hexagons and octagons today. These aren’t just any old slapped-together shapes though; these shapes are perfectly cut, carefully assembled and thoughtfully reinforced hexagons and octagons.

One technique we learn is to start a screw by turning it with our hand until it catches in the wood. This helps when we are drilling sideways and don’t have gravity to help us.

One technique we learn is to start a screw by turning it with our hand until it catches in the wood. This helps when we are drilling sideways and don’t have gravity to help us.

One photo can’t capture the many ways our tinkerers help each other during the day but holding wood and taking turns drilling are just two such examples.

One photo can’t capture the many ways our tinkerers help each other during the day but holding wood and taking turns drilling are just two such examples.

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Because we are cutting so many pieces that are the same length (polygon sides), we are employing a “stop block” that is a piece of wood clamped a specific distance from the chop saw blade. With a stop block in place, we can more efficiently cut duplicate lengths of wood without the need to measure every time.

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The submarine started as huge octagons laying on the ground and by the end of the day, the were helping to form a giant underwater vehicle. It’s amazing to watch these structures take shape and to know how much hard work goes into measuring, cutting and assembling all of this wood.

The submarine started as huge octagons laying on the ground and by the end of the day, the were helping to form a giant underwater vehicle. It’s amazing to watch these structures take shape and to know how much hard work goes into measuring, cutting and assembling all of this wood.

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By mid-week, our designs take on more complexity and detail and often require the use of new tools such as a jig saw or rope cutter. Collaborators do adhoc training with tinkerers so that they can feel even more empowered to use a variety of tools.

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A hot rope cutter not only cuts through rope but also melts the ends so they don’t unravel.

A hot rope cutter not only cuts through rope but also melts the ends so they don’t unravel.

One small group took it one step further and used the equation for calculating the cut angle of a polygon to figure out the angle of a 12-sided dodecagon. They then enlisted the help of a collaborator to plan and execute the cutting, glueing and clamping to create a very fine looking steering wheel for the submarine.

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David gave a demonstration of how pulleys work and explained how they can redirect force or lessen the amount of force needed to lift something. We have a pulley station built by our collaborators that tinkerers can try out during the day to learn hands-on how pulleys can be beneficial.

The group working on the sea monster today had a surprise visit from a Chinese dragon head that lives in our Mandarin teacher’s classroom. After getting a few ideas for how to decorate our sea monster’s head, the team worked to add hinges and pulleys to the mouth to allow the jaw to open and close.

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At the end of the day we spent some time giving “love lasers” of appreciation to each other. Lasers of appreciation were flying in all directions as tinkerers and collaborators talked about all the ways they came together to build and solve problems. One camper gave a shout out to the entire team that worked on the submarine, pointing out how they had gone from almost nothing yesterday to a fully built submarine frame today simply because they worked hard and cooperated!

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And to view many additional photos from the week, visit our Flickr page.

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