Tinkering School

come make amazing things with us

Busy Bugs (2019)

Busy Bugs - Days 4 & 5 - Week 2 (SF Day Camp)

Busy Bugs (2019)Brendon BellComment

On Thursday and Friday, the level of buggy busyness here at the Palace of Fine Arts only increased!

Some Tinkerers learned how to use new tools like the drill press and jig saw to make some giant cutlery for the bug picnic.


There was also lots of fine tuning and calibration to be done on the EEB (cousin of the Bee) before it could take flight and snag itself some food.


The crawling / slithering team also made progress on installing doors and locks and on each of the sections of their giant bug.


And the Fleahopper team worked hard to install the jumping legs (think pogo stick) and giant claw scoop on the bugs’ back that will capture food as it bounces in the air.


It was awesome to see each of these teams working super hard together all week and making lots of interesting mistakes that they learned from throughout the process: The Fleahopper team went through several iterations in pursuit of the perfect jumping leg. The EEB team mastered the art of installing and threading pulleys without getting tangled (impressive considering how many ropes they had going). And the crawling team was able to successfully scoot their very heavy and very large bug body across the floor after discovering and trying out several ways of installing pvc pipe rollers.

To see all the buggy fun from the week, check out the project galleries below and make sure to visit our Flickr album for hundreds more action shots!




Busy Bugs - Day 3 - Week 2 (SF Day Camp)

Busy Bugs (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

Wednesday was another full day of thinking, experimenting, building, tinkering, and of course, playing.


We began the day with a brainstorm, interrogating the questions of “what is tinkering,” and “why do we tinker?” Although our first instinct is to jump right into project design and building when we start the day, it felt good to slow down first thing in the morning and reflect on our intentions, goals, and actions here at camp.


“Tinkering is when you build something, and it doesn’t work, you change it, improve it, so that it works, or it works better.”

“Tinkering is getting creative and working together to make something ‘big.’ Also, I think it means to stretch far into your imagination and work on something you’ve never made before.”

And! “We tinker to discover new things and to have fun!”


Morning Circle was followed by another intensive build session! Every group hit important iteration points, testing design plans from Monday that were able to come to fruition after a couple of days work.

Our flying bug team has rigged up a rope and pulley system, and went through various tests to ensure their bug could indeed soar across our entire workshop space. Though they successfully completed their pincer, they discovered some structural challenges.. Their uniquely shaped bug has proven to be difficult to attach to a flying apparatus, and the question of how to make the wings move has arisen. In true Tinkering School fashion, a new idea was born - a parachute! Today was a day full of experimentation and thoughtfulness from this team.


The crawling team is full steam ahead on creating an ant with three distinct segments of differing sizes. As each segment was completed today, the team moved forward with attaching their sliding mechanisms! Within the constraint of not being able to utilize wheels for their bug’s movement capabilities, the team re-invented the wheel so to speak, using PVC pipe to enable each segment to roll forward. Furthermore, the tinkerers circled back to this weeks initial prompt – designing a big bug that is moving around in search of FOOD! The group developed the ingenious idea of mimicking a sticky tongue by using magnets.


The fleahopper group worked through challenges in creating their legs and hopping capabilities, working through different iterations to learn how their bug will launch itself into the air. They also spent some time designing a limb for the bug to capture it’s food on Friday! Inspired by the claw device we have in the gallery, they began designing their own version of such a hand. Additionally, they spent time sheeting their exoskeleton, creating a light outer layer for their bug.


For more buggy photos from this week, check out our Flickr page! We are super looking forward to what developments unfold in our building sessions tomorrow.

Busy Bugs - Days 1 & 2- Week 2 (SF Day Camp)

Busy Bugs (2019), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

Tinkering School Day Camp Week 2 is off to a busy start!

On Monday, we spent an intensive morning learning the ins and outs of clamps, drills, and the chop saw, as well as getting to know each other and envisioning the community we hope to build together this week (no pun intended…).


Each day we also headed to the beach for some play and lunch time. Unbeknownst to our campers, it would soon become clear that the project theme this week would be quite relevant to our daily outdoor lunches!


Imagine… pulling out your food for a lovely beach picnic only to be swarmed by GIANT hungry bugs, looking to steal your food! And thus, the project reveal: this week our incredible tinkerers are designing and building three big Busy Bugs that utilize different movement techniques, in order to steal strategically located “food” objects located around our workshop.


Each design has specific challenges for our tinkering brains to navigate in the build sessions. One group has been innovative in creating a crawling/slithering bug that does not utilize wheels for it’s movement.

Hard at work building the bug’s head. How will it crawl across the floor though?

Hard at work building the bug’s head. How will it crawl across the floor though?

Another group is working on a “fleahopper” design to discover what hopping mechanisms can be created to launch their bug into the air!

That’s one huge fleahopper!

That’s one huge fleahopper!

Testing out some leg joints.

Testing out some leg joints.

Using a bungee cord like a tendon or ligament…but will it provide enough force to launch the fleahopper into the air?

Using a bungee cord like a tendon or ligament…but will it provide enough force to launch the fleahopper into the air?

Lastly, the flying bug group has expertly crafted a rope and pulley system to enable their bug (pincer, wings, and all!) to soar through the air.


On Tuesday we all learned a new word: iteration. Each group reached a point of testing certain mechanisms, discovering what worked well and didn’t, and building a new and improved version. With their strong enthusiasm, this weeks’ tinkering crew is ready to iterate around any challenge that comes their way!


Don’t bug out - be sure to stay tuned for more tinkering fun and lots of photos on our Flickr page! :-)

Tinkering School is a trademark registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.