Tinkering School

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Mark Day Sea Monsters '19

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 5 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Sea Monsters '19, Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

What a fun finish to the week… our tinkerers put their heart and soul into getting the submarine up on wheels and sea-worthy and into the final personality details of the bendy-body sea monster.

Click through the gallery below for additional photos from our final day this week. To see many, many more photos from our epic project reveal and the entire week, visit our Flickr page.

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

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Sea Monsters '19David St. MartinComment
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Even though the Tinkering School goals nowhere talk about finishing, it sure is a nice feeling to see a project through to its full potential. This morning it was hard to tell if we’d complete the projects or not. The structures were still in their beginning stages and so many people had differing ideas. We just couldn’t tell how it would go as we narrowed our priorities, while allowing each student to find their own interests on the project.

We had a bit of fun, though, as two of our collaborators introduced an improv game during morning circle. A box of props (pool noodles, ping pong balls, pvc pipe, etc.) was dropped onto the floor and tinkerers and collaborators were invited to pick up a prop and act out a part of the sea monster. There were many giggles and smiles as we shared our creative, silly sides.

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

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Today was a big day for trying new tools. The outside sheeting on the submarine had to be cut with a circular saw, the port hole windows were cut with a jigsaw and a lot of large holes for pivots needed the drill press. We even used the laser cutter for some parts of the periscope! We spent some time talking about the new tools, our experiences with them and their potential uses at the end of the day. Sometimes it is amazing to hear students relay what they’ve learned through experience. These kids are starting to really get not only why we tinker, but the tools we tinker with!

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Using an adjustable wrench to tighten the bolt that holds the sea monster tail in place.

Using an adjustable wrench to tighten the bolt that holds the sea monster tail in place.

A circular saw on a guide rail is a handy stand-in for a table saw.

A circular saw on a guide rail is a handy stand-in for a table saw.

We use a drill press to make accurate, straight holes with large drill bits.

We use a drill press to make accurate, straight holes with large drill bits.

By the afternoon it was clear our tinkerers had come together as a team, found common ground and collaborated in ways that were productive toward the yearned-for “finish.”

One of many intricate connections inside of the submarine.

One of many intricate connections inside of the submarine.

Making sure the submarine is level.

Making sure the submarine is level.

A laser-cut periscope box is completed with a small mirror.

A laser-cut periscope box is completed with a small mirror.

Our hitch is simple and sturdy and allows the sea monster’s body parts to turn but stay together.

Our hitch is simple and sturdy and allows the sea monster’s body parts to turn but stay together.

It has been awe-inspiring to see the submarine rise from the ground up and include benches and walls and a steering wheel.

It has been awe-inspiring to see the submarine rise from the ground up and include benches and walls and a steering wheel.

Taking the sea monster body and what I’ve taken to calling the “rainbow scale tail” for its first test drive.

Taking the sea monster body and what I’ve taken to calling the “rainbow scale tail” for its first test drive.

As one of our campers was leaving at pick-up time, he walked back over to the build area, looked up at the sea monster’s face and said “I like it. When I go away from it, I have to come back because I like it so much.”

You know, I’m feeling the same way.

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Click through the gallery below for more moments from today. For numerous additional moments, visit our Flickr page.

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.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 2 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day / San Rafael, Mark Day Sea Monsters '19Tatian Greenleaf1 Comment

We know that math is a huge part of building and tinkering. And we know that to build our submarine and sea monster, we will need to make both octagons and hexagons from wooden 2x3s. Today’s circle started with a silly skit with a serious message: how to carry wood. An eight foot 2x3 weighs almost eight pounds and has two hard ends. So we learn how to ask a friend to carry one end while we take the other and how to communicate while moving about our spaces.

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Those eight foot 2x3s often end up at our chop saw station with a line drawn for each cut.

Those eight foot 2x3s often end up at our chop saw station with a line drawn for each cut.

Then it was time for an engineering lesson from David. He meticulously led us through an understanding of how triangles are a fundamental part of polygons (and indeed, of geometry in general) and how we can rely on a triangle’s special relationships between side lengths and angle measurements. Specifically, we all needed to know what angles to cut at the ends of our 2x3s to create an octagon and a hexagon. The formula for a regular polygon is 360° ÷ (number of sides x 2). So a hexagon would require angle cuts of 30° because 360° ÷ 12 = 30°. And since our chop saw can pivot side to side, we’re armed with everything we need to make six — or eight — of our polygon sides.

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Cutting a 30° angle on the chop saw.

Cutting a 30° angle on the chop saw.

After a busy morning building and a long break at the park for lunch, Jayson introduced another engineering concept: structural reinforcement. He posed several questions to the tinkerers: how many screws is the ideal number for connecting two pieces of wood? One? Two? Three? Seven? Twenty? And how would we know…? When Jayson pushes together two pieces of wood connected by seven screws and we all hear the creaking and then breaking of the wood, it’s evident that screws alone aren’t enough (we like to say “screws aren’t magical”). We observed what happens when wood is connected using “sheer strength” (pushing down on screws) versus compression (pushing down on another piece of wood). And once again, triangles play a big part in reinforcing large structures. The demonstration had an immediate effect as one of our tinkerers thought through how best to reinforce the body of the sea monster during our afternoon build and suggested a compression method.

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We had two long build periods today and our tinkerers definitely tried harder than usual. The chop saw line looked like the wait for a ride at Disneyland and as soon as one measured and angle-cut piece was completed and checked off of our “cut list,” a new piece of wood was grabbed out of our wood bin and a measuring tape, speed square and pencil were employed to make the next one.

By pivoting a speed square at a corner, it’s possible to draw a precise angle on the wood.

By pivoting a speed square at a corner, it’s possible to draw a precise angle on the wood.

Drills are two-handed tools. We use clamps to provide stability while we drive screws.

Drills are two-handed tools. We use clamps to provide stability while we drive screws.

A really wonderful thing happens at Tinkering School because of the age range of our tinkerers (7 to 11 years old) and also the fact that we have some folks joining us who have been through the camp in previous weeks and years: mentoring. One of our tinkerers had just assembled an octagon and a few of our other tinkerers needed to know how to put together a hexagon. The steps are similar so it made sense to have peer-to-peer instruction. There’s a great tip in this video: if you need to drill at an angle, start by drilling straight into the wood and then use the starter hole as a guide for angling the drill bit.

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We now have the outline of the front of the submarine, a section of the sea monster’s body almost complete, and the frame of the monster’s head that will support a moveable jaw. One of our tinkerers was adding hinges to it just before our “reset” cleanup clap started.

It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow for sure! I can’t wait to see what our tinkerers make next.

This submarine is going to be big… much bigger than ourselves.

This submarine is going to be big… much bigger than ourselves.

Figuring out how the jaws will work.

Figuring out how the jaws will work.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. For many more from the week, visit our Flickr page.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 1 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

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

The first day at Tinkering School is a whirlwind. A friendly, fun whirlwind, but a whirlwind nonetheless. First we introduce ourselves, then talk about the goals of the camp, then we spend a lot of time coming up with a set of group agreements that will help us all have a good time, stay safe and accomplish the goals of camp.

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By the time we’ve done all this, everyone is anxious to get their hands on some tools, so we go directly to tool training, where we practice on the drills, chop saw and clamps. By lunchtime we all feel accomplished, excited… and hungry!

We learned the difference between a drill with an adjustable “chuck” and one with a hexagonal “collet.”

We learned the difference between a drill with an adjustable “chuck” and one with a hexagonal “collet.”

A partner holds the wood steady.

A partner holds the wood steady.

Every chop saw cut starts with a “ready call” to make sure everyone in the workshop is attentive and wearing eye and ear protection.

Every chop saw cut starts with a “ready call” to make sure everyone in the workshop is attentive and wearing eye and ear protection.

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We refer to clamps as our "third hand" because when we use a drill, we need two hands to operate it. A clamp can hold wood together for us.

We refer to clamps as our "third hand" because when we use a drill, we need two hands to operate it. A clamp can hold wood together for us.

The project theme isn’t unveiled until after lunch. We do this on purpose because we need all of the things we do in the AM session to even be able to contemplate what we could do with the theme! This week, our theme is:

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We’re building two things based on our theme: a Sea Monster and some sort of submarine capable of searching for our monster. Tinkerers spent the afternoon ideating on the provocation. For example, if they chose to join the sea monster group, they sketched and described their ideas for sea monster design. What would it look like? How would it move? How big would it be? Tatian helped them look for similarities in their ideas and a plan slowly came together.

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Tinkerers often suggest using their height or wingspan as familiar measurements. This is great because it allows us to say both “one Nik wingspan” and “48 inches” and understand that they mean the same thing. So our sea monster is now a “Nik wingspan wide.”

Tinkerers often suggest using their height or wingspan as familiar measurements. This is great because it allows us to say both “one Nik wingspan” and “48 inches” and understand that they mean the same thing. So our sea monster is now a “Nik wingspan wide.”

Both the sea monster and the submarine groups have basic plans they all agree on, and ended the day hard at work cutting wood to fit the plan.

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Tomorrow is going to be a big day of building, solving inevitable design problems and pushing on our goals to collaborate and make friends, try harder than usual, build something bigger than ourselves, and make mistakes and learn from them.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And visit our Flickr page for many more photos from throughout the week.

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