Tinkering School

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

Cartopia (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

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.


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


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!


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!

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