Tinkering School

come make amazing things with us

Obsta-ball (2019)

Obsta-ball - Days 4+5 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

“Remember when this was just an idea?” exclaimed one tinkerer at the end of Thursday. It is a sentiment shared by most of us at camp – watching the evolution of our projects from thought to physical form has been a completely unparalleled magical experience. The beauty is that it is not magic, but the work we do with our own minds, hands, and the assistance of a handful of tools.

IMG_6444.jpg

The labyrinth team completed designing and building the three maze tiers and was able to experiment with hanging pulley mechanisms for manually tilting each maze as intended. The first test resulted in sore hands where the paracord dug sharply in, due to the heavy weight of the maze. The need for handles arose, and these were expertly designed and installed. Unfortunately, this did not solve the weight issue, and many of our tinkerers were not physically capable of pulling and controlling the handles. To mitigate this issue, we incorporated more pulleys on each side. The more pulleys, the less it weighed, and the easier our handles were to pull.

IMG_7312.jpg

We also noticed the need for a catching mechanism, as each maze has a series of holes which the ball can fall through. Our issue was that the ball would fall into empty space, out of the game. After a brainstorming session, one tinkerer took on the project of installing a large ramp along the bottom of our structure, which will funnel the ball back into play.

Lastly, more iterating was done on the observation tower. Because it will hold at least two humans, it needs to be completely structurally sound. The team spent time envisioning ways to do this, building ideas, testing them, and addressing next issues. By the end Thursday, the two levels of the tower and their connecting ladder were successfully attached and safe.

IMG_9998.JPG
IMG_5676.JPG
IMG_0001 2.JPG

Human foosball continued to wow the rest of camp with the enormity and depth of their project. They put a lot of time into the top beams that will move and hold the weight of the human foos players. There are two tricks here – the beams need to be strong enough to hold weight and not bow or break, and they need to be able to slide back and forth across the width of the “field.”

Taking inspiration from rollercoaster design, they strategically placed small wheels for the beams to roll on. The challenge is making sure everything can support the weight of numerous tinkerers hanging down on seats from these beams, acting as pieces in the live human-sized foosball game. Reinforcing the beams was done with bolts.

The foosball team was working down to the last second of our Friday afternoon build session to make their game playable, and it was ultimately a wild success! While the week was successful regardless of finishing the project (each and every tinkerer worked incredibly hard collaborating and having fun), it was still very satisfying to sit in those foosball seats and play the game we dedicated ourselves to this week. And… it was a ton of fun to play. :-)

IMG_9942.JPG

The Minigolf crew worked steadily this whole week, from design to creation. Their awareness of the bigger picture of the project shone through by the end of the day Friday, as the path for the ball became clear and they were able to putt their way through to the end! In a project like this, it can be easy to get sucked into the details of each sub-project that arises in the design, and to end up with scattered and disconnected pieces of a whole. This was not the case here! From the cable car, to the rainbow ramp, to the Golden Gate Bridge, and lastly the Salesforce Tower – the project was seamless.

The team was able to spend a lot of Friday doing finishing touches; testing their complicated pulley system to get the cable car to move, adding signs and fun facts about each real-life location on the route, and installing patches of astroturf to emulate a real golf game! They even built small putters to use during the showcase, making sure the handles were covered in foam for comfort and safety.

P1120902.JPG

It goes without saying that Friday afternoon’s showcase was a wild success and a ton of fun! Families and friends roamed our workshop-turned-mega-arcade of sorts, testing and playing our giant labyrinth, foosball, and minigolf games. And of course, everyone stuck around after to get back to work for deconstruction. The ephemerality of each Tinkering School project never ceases to be amazing.

Check out photos and videos from today and the rest of this week on our Flickr!

IMG_5696.JPG



Obsta-ball - Day 3 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
New tool alert! The drill press is used for making bigger holes.

New tool alert! The drill press is used for making bigger holes.

The first thing we did in Wednesday’s Opening Circle was lie down and collectively take a 30-second nap – many of us walked in today particularly tired, having not gotten enough sleep last night. As the week progresses, we better learn what the schedule and expectations of Tinkering School ask of us, and how to take care of ourselves to meet our mental and physical needs within the hard work and play we are doing.

Luckily, a quick rest was enough for us to pop up ready for the morning design and build sessions. Brendon took a moment to remind us how to properly drill straight up and down in order to prevent drill-bit breakages. He also demonstrated the proper way to drill using the “toenail” method, a.k.a. drilling diagonally. It is a two step process, though easy to overlook the importance of the two steps. We learned to first create a divot, a small hole in the spot we want to drill diagonally, and then reposition our drill and continue drilling in the diagonal direction as a separate action – this intentionality can save many broken drill bits!

Wednesday is typically when projects turn from idea to reality in the blink of an eye. After a couple of solid building days, abstract pieces begin to fit together into a cohesive form. We also get to start playing with the engineering concepts that were theoretical until these precious moments of testing and iterating with the forms that we have built.

Working on the foosball frame

Working on the foosball frame

Proud of their hard work :)

Proud of their hard work :)

Human-sized foosball made strides forward in building their frame, adding integral support beams on the legs and walls, as well as beginning to attach beams across the top which will ultimately hold our human foosball players.

We reached an iteration point in designing the hanging devices which will hold said players – originally, the plan was to have tinkerers sit on hanging benches. It became clear that this was a safety hazard, and would not contribute positively to the functioning of the project to have tinkerers haphazardly sliding along the benches. The group decided to divert the already-made benches to be spectator benches, and re-design their hanging devices as individual chairs.

Photobomb :p

Photobomb :p

It can be challenging in these moments to let go of original design ideas. Sometimes when we need to rethink structures, it can feel like all of our hard work was “wasted.” At Tinkering School, we stress the value of the process of tinkering. This includes analyzing, critiquing, and adapting –through the process, details are bound to evolve to meet the shifting needs presented by the project itself. Our incredible tinkerers handled this change gracefully.

Labyrinth creation - where is the line between a difficult puzzle and an impossible puzzle?

Labyrinth creation - where is the line between a difficult puzzle and an impossible puzzle?

Expert collaboration, installing eye-bolts for the maze to hang

Expert collaboration, installing eye-bolts for the maze to hang

The labyrinth project chugged forward on all of the separate pieces we began yesterday. Our three mazes are completely designed, and (almost) two of the three have been put together.

This morning, we completed a very sturdy frame which will hold the hanging weight of the first two labyrinth tiers, and flipped it onto it’s feet. Until now we were working on it upside-down – at it’s full 8 ft. height, it is impossible to reach the top without a ladder, and we prioritized working safely on the ground.

Testing, testing…

Testing, testing…

A couple of innovative tinkerers have taken on the task of inventing a lever and fulcrum system for our floor-bound labyrinth tier. They have rigged up a system of PVC pipe with different pieces attached to knobs on either side that turn and push up varying spots on the bottom of the labyrinth box. This mechanism tilts it in different directions on top of our home-made ball joint.

Building our observation tower involved a few iteration points today – the original design proved to be too un-sturdy for a tinkerer’s weight, and was very shaky on it’s feet. Those working on the tower brainstormed methods to improve the structure, and added diagonal support beams across the legs. It worked!

P1120828.JPG
Finishing touches on the cable car track

Finishing touches on the cable car track

The mini-golf reached a huge milestone today. The cable car has wheels on the bottom, and locks in to a ramp track. Both pieces were finished today, and able to be put together! It looks really really cool. Next is attaching the crank and pulley system so that it can move up it’s ramp.

IMG_2680.JPG

Furthermore, the team added paracord suspension cables to our Golden Gate Bridge replica. With two major pieces of the project completed, we were able to move forward on building the 8 ft. tall Salesforce Tower. Work continued on a second ramp as well – this one is called the rainbow ramp in honor of San Francisco’s Castro District. The team is dedicated to representing many different aspects of what makes San Francisco such a special city.

The team is taking to heart the challenge that their minigolf ball must end at least 4ft. higher than where it started – throughout it’s course, it will traverse heights even grander than 4 ft.

As Collaborators, we are privileged to be working with such incredible tinkerers this week, who are dedicated to challenging themselves to grow and learn. When given certain restraints, they go above and beyond!

Chillaxing on the beach during lunch time

Chillaxing on the beach during lunch time

Take a look at all of the magical happenings at Tinkering School this week on our Flickr page.

Obsta-ball - Day 2 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
IMG_9877.JPG
P1170720.jpg

After our first full day of building, each obstacle ball challenge is even more complex than we anticipated during yesterday afternoon’s preliminary design session! With more time to experiment and re-iterate ideas, pieces are beginning to fall into place.

We began the day with an engineering challenge, offered by our Collaborators Aili and Derrick. In Opening Circle, we spent some time learning about and observing the functionality of a fulcrum and a lever. Demonstrating this with a makeshift see-saw, Aili and Derrick explained how to use force to move a lever on a fulcrum (a.k.a. “pivot or tipping point”). They asked tinkerers to ponder how to use a fulcrum and lever to most easily lift a Collaborator – where should force be applied, and where should the Collaborator be placed, in relation to the fulcrum?

P1170744.JPG

Next we moved into our morning design sessions, slowing down just enough to collectively decide what tasks need to be completed to build our grand projects, and who on the team will complete each task! After each group was able to check-in and re-orient, we moved into building.

Our human-sized foosball team made progress building the 24x8 ft. frame which will be the stage for the game. They definitely are accomplishing our tinkering goal of building something bigger than ourselves, particularly because each moment of attaching beams requires more than one tinkerer!

IMG_2657.JPG

To address the question of how real-life humans will become the actual foosball pieces, tinkerers envisioned long benches that hang down from beams going across the top of the frame, or field so to speak.

What remains is the challenge of outside players moving and controlling the foosball pieces. These innovative and creative tinkerers are playing with wheels and other rolling mechanisms to reduce the friction that will be caused by the weight of benches and multiple humans.

Some of the tinkerers also designed and began building a ladder to reach the top of the frame.

The labyrinth team meanwhile took a lot of creative liberty with designing their labyrinth, and is working on a 3-tiered maze game!

IMG_2650.JPG
IMG_2649.JPG

Two tiers are simultaneously hanging from a larger frame, to be controlled via pulleys, and one tier sits on the ground with side knobs to enact it’s tilting motion. The ball must be maneuvered through each tier one after another. Today, the team added an observation tower – because the top two tiers are above eye-level of both spectators and those controlling the pulleys, a tinkerer will sit on an observation deck for each level to direct the pulley-controllers! Designing the mazes has been a lot of fun.

Our mini-golf came is everything but mini. The group split into many subgroups, working on varying different obstacles within their “city” theme. The first hole is taking on different aspects of San Francisco, and the group hopes to design Paris and London themed holes next.

IMG_2661.JPG
IMG_4017.JPG

The cable car is taking shape, with tinkerers utilizing wooden dowels to emulate the particular design of our beloved San Francisco cable cars. Those working on the Golden Gate Bridge spent the day working on the two towers, and plan to use paracord to re-create the suspension cables on the actual bridge.

At Closing Circle, we revisited the question posed by Aili and Derrick this morning by experimenting with different placements for a Collaborator (the load) in relation to applied downward force. Collectively, we decided that the easiest way to lift weight using a lever would be placing the weight or load on the lever closest to the location of the fulcrum, and applying the force furthest from the fulcrum.

P1170777.JPG

We are all feeling invigorated by the scope of the projects this week, and anticipate a fun Friday showcase when we get to interact with the bigger-than-life-size obsta-ball games we are creating!

For more photos from today, check out our Flickr page!

Obsta-ball - Day 1 - Week 5 (SF Day Camp)

Obsta-ball (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Drill practice!

Drill practice!

Today was a wonderful start to a week full of thinking and tinkering! Our challenges this week are particularly design-heavy, as each project needs to be meticulously thought out in order to work properly. This will be a growth point for many of our tinkerers who love to dive right in to drilling anything they can get their hands on :)

Expert collaboration skills.

Expert collaboration skills.

Before jumping into projects, though… We began the day setting intentions and goals for our week, looking at the four core tinkering goals as well as envisioning group agreements to foster a supportive and safe space together. We learned handy phrases such as “How can I help?” and “No means no,” to facilitate effective collaboration and respectful engagement, as well as safety when handling power tools.

We spent the rest of the morning familiarizing ourselves with the primary tools and materials we will be using to create our epic projects – drills, screws, clamps, and the chop-saw.

Proud of their Z

Proud of their Z

Brendon prepping for the reveal…

Brendon prepping for the reveal…

After a busy morning, we headed to the Crissy Field beach for our daily play and lunch time. It was a beautiful sunny day, and tinkerers scattered themselves within our beach boundaries to play football, bounce balls, dig holes, build sandcastles, read, and have picnics!

At this point, the anticipation was mounting… everyone was itching to get back to the workshop to uncover this week’s theme and projects! Immediately upon return from the beach, we gathered into a circle for the reveal.

After a suspenseful drumroll and countdown, Brendon and Kai exposed the hidden whiteboard to view this week’s theme… Obsta-ball. It took a moment to connect the dots… obstacle ball? What does that mean? We delved into the specifics of each project to learn more. This week, we will have a team working on a mini-golf course, a team working on a human-sized foosball game, and a team working on an 8x8 size labyrinth game. More details became apparent as we split into our design sessions.

Workshopping tilting mechanisms for the Labyrinth.

Workshopping tilting mechanisms for the Labyrinth.

The labyrinth team is inspired by the classic labyrinth toy, which tilts to propel a marble through a complex maze of walls and holes. We have created a 3-tier stacked maze. The top two mazes will hang from an 8x8 frame and be controlled from the sides via levers attached to pulleys. The bottom-most maze sits on the floor and will be tilted with handles on the sides. The structure will sit on a fulcrum and have internal arms and weights to assist in the tilting feature which will guide our golf-ball (replacing the marble from the original game… at Tinkering School we always go big!).

Design session for mini-golf

Design session for mini-golf

Putting clamp skills to work in our afternoon build session!

Putting clamp skills to work in our afternoon build session!

Lots of fun was had envisioning the mini-golf game – particularly because the challenge here is for the ball to end up at least 4 ft higher than where it started! The group decided on a city-themed game, where each hole relates to a different city. Obviously, the first one will be San Francisco. The ball will go across the Golden Gate bridge and into a cable car operated with a pulley system. Following that, it ends at the top of the Salesforce Tower! We began experimenting with ramps, tunnels, gutters, and springs to achieve this.

Last but not least we have the foosball team. This team will be creating a human-sized version of the game, so it has to be at least 8 ft. wide and 24. ft wide. Instead of foosball pieces, we will have our very own Tinkerers as the players! This means rigging up a harness system within very strong frames. The group got a good start on building this afternoon.

The jigsaw is best for cutting plywood.

The jigsaw is best for cutting plywood.

The projects this week are truly bigger than ourselves, and will need many tinkerers not only to build but to operate! We are all invigorated by the prompts and challenges we are presented with this week, and can’t wait to put our new skills to work tomorrow.

Check out the rest of today’s photos on our Flickr page!

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