Tinkering School

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San Francisco Day Camp

Lava World - Day 1 - Week 4 (SF Day Camp)

Lava World (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
In one drill practice session, each group created a letter of Kai’s name!

In one drill practice session, each group created a letter of Kai’s name!

Experimenting with clamps

Experimenting with clamps

Monday marks the beginning of another thrilling week of tinkering at SF day camp!

This morning was jam packed with brainstorming our group agreements to ensure physical and emotional safety within the workshop, diving into our four core tinkering goals, and learning the ins and outs of the tools we will utilize to build this week. We then took a long play/lunch break, which we spent at the beach building sandcastles, picnicking, reading, playing soccer, and sharing riddles.

Learning to use the chop saw

Learning to use the chop saw

Upon arriving back at the Palace, we went on a storytelling journey to discover the week’s project theme. It turns out the floor of the Palace is in fact temporarily cooled lava, and that there is a dormant volcano within the building that is estimated to erupt this coming Friday at exactly 2:25pm! It is up to some of our stellar tinkerers to build a series of forts and bridges for all of us to scramble onto in avoidance of the coming waves of lava. Additionally, we will construct a system to catch and process said lava. This week’s theme is... lava world.

One group began designing a 10 foot tall volcano, envisioning an octagonal base holding a vertical tunnel shaft within which will harness a large fan to launch 100 red balloons into the air on Friday.

One tinkerer took the lead on the forts and bridges design session

One tinkerer took the lead on the forts and bridges design session

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Many tinkerers were understandably excited by the prospect of building a series of forts and bridges – for a lot of us, this is a dream come true. We came up with a design to incorporate four different fort ideas, connected by a pattern of bridges in between. Everything has to be at least four feet off the lava floor.

The catchment system team delved into a lawnmower/car design, using wheels to move a platform around which will catch the balloon lava as it all lands. The method of processing (or popping) will be revealed as the project develops.

After spending a good chunk of time on design, we were able to make some first cuts and begin construction on our projects. We are all looking forward to starting tomorrow’s morning build session, to launch our explosive ideas!

For more photos from today, browse our Flickr album!

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Shake It Up - Day 5 - Week 3 (SF Day Camp)

Shake It Up (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Designing a tinkering school t-shirt!

Designing a tinkering school t-shirt!

What an exciting day!!! We arrived at camp stoked to finalize our projects in preparation for the showcase this afternoon. For every group, much of today was spent testing mechanisms to ensure the projects would work properly. Friday is always bittersweet – we get to see our epic creations in their totality, yet at the end of the day we have to take it all down and part ways for the summer. Alas, it is all part of the process, which is what we value most here at Tinkering School.

Testing pulleys for the milkshake machine

Testing pulleys for the milkshake machine

The marionette group spent the morning tying ropes and putting together final design/decoration touches – toes, ears, and a Tinkering School t-shirt! We attached the head and torso to the puppet’s controller, as well as pulleys and ropes to each of the limbs so they could be moved from the ground once up in the air.

Tinkerers working on the milkshake machine put together the various pieces they had been working on throughout the week. Their conveyor belt was perfected, a spring box was attached to the roof, and multiple chutes were set up from the sides. One camper was careful to continuously remind everyone that the ladder they were building was unsafe and should not be tampered with.

The shake shack team also worked on finishing touches, adding pulleys to the four corners of their frame, and a pivot on the bottom of their structure. These were the mechanisms that would enable the shack to shake.

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Closing Circle

Closing Circle

We were able to spend our last sunny day outdoors at the beach, and had lots of fun building sandcastles and playing catch. After lunch and a quick last build session, we held our last closing circle and discussed highlights of the week, including important moments of collaborating (taking turns using tools, holding wood for each other, elaborating on ideas, offering help), as well as interesting and safe mistakes made that we learned from.

Lastly… the GRAND FINALE! The showcase! Family and friends arrived to view our projects that we spent the past 5 days working on. It was so so incredible, heartening, exciting, and inspiring to view the work that this brilliant group of tinkerers accomplished this week.

We viewed the milkshake machine in action, with a carefully constructed barrel being pulled through numerous stages in milkshake creation. After all the ingredients were added, the milkshake was “stirred” using a drill motor!

The first test of the Shake Shack…

The first test of the Shake Shack…

Next we got to see the shake shack. With proper safety helmet and goggles on, two of our collaborators climbed into the shack, with tinkerers operating the pulleys from the outside. Unfortunately, having two adults in the shack was too much weight. After hearing a loud crack, we decided to have only one collaborator inside testing. Utilizing the pulleys, and ultimately standing at the walls of the shake shack and moving it ourselves, we successfully got the building to move! We had many rounds of tinkerers climbing in and testing it themselves, and some even got thrown off their feet :)

Lastly, we finally were able to lift the giant dancing marionette into the sky!

On our first iteration some ropes got tangled and we were not able to properly control the limbs, after lowering it again and readjusting the ropes we got it back in the air and dancing. It was quite an extraordinary sight.

This was an absolutely amazing week at Tinkering School, not just because of the grand scale of the projects but because of the collaboration and innovation shown by this group of tinkerers.

Check out the rest of today’s photos on our Flickr! Looking forward to the magic that will happen next week.

And to sign off, here’s a special message from one of our passionate Tinkerers this week.

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Shake It Up - Day 4 - Week 3 (SF Day Camp)

San Francisco Day Camp, Shake It Up (2019)Ruby Harrison-ClayComment
Attaching an an eye bolt from the inside

Attaching an an eye bolt from the inside

Today was an outstanding day at Tinkering School Day Camp - many important steps forward were taken in project progress, and more importantly we are truly honing our skills in collaborating to manifest such epic creations. None of these projects would be possible without the hands and minds of every single tinkerer at camp this week! It has been truly astonishing and inspiring to witness the development of each project, from idea to reality at the hands of a dedicated and hardworking group. We are all eager to make finishing touches tomorrow morning in preparation for the showcase tomorrow afternoon.

View of the Shake Shack from above

View of the Shake Shack from above

“Enter If You DARE!”

“Enter If You DARE!”

Coating the inner layer with foam

Coating the inner layer with foam

The shake shack group spent a portion of today implementing important safety features into their build – the inside of the structure is coated with foam, and there are clearly marked “STOP” and “WARNING” labels strategically placed around entrances and areas with higher risk. Because their expectation is that viewers will engage with the shack by entering it, and potentially be shaken off their feet from the force of the movement of the building, these precautions are important safety measures.

Milkshake machine testing and adjusting pulleys

Milkshake machine testing and adjusting pulleys

Tinkerers proud of their design!

Tinkerers proud of their design!

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Tinkerers working on the milkshake machine made good headway. Today we built and tested a series of pulley mechanisms attached to a bucket, to dump ingredients into the milkshake bucket moving along its conveyor belt path. Additionally, the group created a handheld chute with the same intention, and were able to attach that to a wall along the conveyor path.

Repositioning an arm segment

Repositioning an arm segment

The shaking marionette finally took form today – the team used rope to attach each limb to the completed torso, using a mix of figure-8 and sailors knots. This afternoon we were able to test launch the octagonal cross which will ultimately hold the entire marionette and control it’s moving limbs. The cross attached to a rope hung from a ceiling beam here at the Palace of Fine Arts, and a couple of tinkerers worked together to pull it up to full height. Some adjustments were needed in the way of balance, but the test today bodes well for tomorrow’s work of ultimately attaching and hanging the rest of the body.

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We’ve been spending our afternoons in a field near the water to escape the windy beach days we’ve been having, picnicing in the grass, running, and climbing. The days are leaving us exhausted but fulfilled and excited about our creations, innovations, and new skills!

As always, we invite you to view the rest of our photos on our Flickr page! More to come tomorrow…

Shake It Up - Day 3 - Week 3 (SF Day Camp)

Shake It Up (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment

Wednesday… hump day… today held many important developments and iteration points in our projects, and was a long day of hard work and play. In many weeks, Wednesday can be a “make it or break it” day, where we have the chance to test out designs and structures we spent the beginning of the week working on. It is a turning point in energy levels and momentum, as well as in design and build strategy. Our bright tinkerers took the day in stride and put their all into these awesome projects!

Experimenting with magnets in a moment of break time.

Experimenting with magnets in a moment of break time.

Brendon and Kai and the wood avalanche!

Brendon and Kai and the wood avalanche!

At the beginning of the day, we jumped straight into our design sessions. Right off the bat, a big haul of 2x3s and plywood arrived and we briefly paused the morning to witness a (facilitated) “wood avalanche” off the truck and into our workshop! Our projects this week are so large that we’ve been absolutely blowing through wood in an unforeseen way – luckily we were able to replenish our stock today.

If you recall from previous blog posts, this week’s theme is “Shake It Up.” Each group has a sub-theme designed to create a project that will incorporate some form of shaking movement. In our builds, the mechanical engineering aspects can only come into play later on. Everyone has spent the first few days intensely building overall structures, and by the end of today we were able to see the fruits of our labour, as some of our more complex engineering designs come to light.

View from the inside of a marionette leg, drilling large holes for eye bolts

View from the inside of a marionette leg, drilling large holes for eye bolts

Working on support beams to connect the two torso pieces

Working on support beams to connect the two torso pieces

Cutting plywood slabs for the head!

Cutting plywood slabs for the head!

By the end of Wednesday, the dancing, shaking marionette group is almost completed with each individual body part. We have two each of arms and legs, which can bend at the limbs with hinge-joints, a huge torso shaped by a combination rectangle and trapezoid to emulate the shape of a human body, and a box head! Those tinkerers working on the limbs began to envision and create methods of attaching the limbs to the torso with rope and eye bolts. Each piece of the marionette is incredibly heavy, so it will be a challenge to navigate ensuring the strength of the torso to support the rest. Lastly, we began work on the top crossbeams, to which the ropes supporting each limb of the marionette will be attached via pulleys to then be controlled from the ground.

Tinkerers proud of their milkshake barrel.

Tinkerers proud of their milkshake barrel.

Milkshake machine assembly line in progress!

Milkshake machine assembly line in progress!

The tinkering group working on the milkshake machine is making excellent headway. They spent the day attaching different sections which had previously been worked on separately, and the overall structure is truly beginning to take shape. The conveyor belt is complete, made of dowels and spinning PCV pipe. We are all very eager to see how they take the weight of the milkshake barrel, and to incorporate the spinning mechanisms to physically transport the milkshake through it’s assembly line to completion. Furthermore, the beginning of an awning is taking form, above the conveyor belt wall.

Our shake shack group is blowing our minds! The room they are building is on a grand scale, and both the outer and inner structures have been completed today. The inner piece is able to now fit inside the outer piece (keep in mind these are both upwards of 15ft in width, length, and height). We began to brainstorm and experiment with pulleys - the main mechanism that will facilitate the movement of the inner room to be a shaking space (almost comparable to an earthquake simulator).

Drawing right angles for the shake shack

Drawing right angles for the shake shack

So many support beams!

So many support beams!

Today we mixed things up during park/lunch time and went to the field nearby instead of the beach. Though it was a bit slippery, the grass made for much better soccer, frisbee, and football games than the sand!

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After a good night’s rest tonight, we will be ready for the end-of-the-week final stretch on Thursday and Friday, and to showcase our creations!

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

Shake It Up - Day 2 - Week 3 (SF Day Camp)

Shake It Up (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
Attaching support beams to a high point

Attaching support beams to a high point

This week at Tinkering School, we have an incredible group of sharp-minded, innovative, and inspired tinkerers who are truly shaking things up. Each of our three projects is GIANT – these tinkerers are taking to heart the idea that restrictions and boundaries lead to further growth and creation. Within the guidelines of specific constraints for each project, there seem to be boundless room for new ideas.

The jigsaw is useful for longer cuts

The jigsaw is useful for longer cuts

Tuesday was our first full day of building! Every group jumped straight into a design session, picking up where Monday afternoon left off. We always make sure to outline our tasks for the upcoming session, so there is a cohesive design plan in place which can be referenced throughout the build.

Our milkshake machine is coming along quite smoothly - the team spent the day finishing a wall for the assembly line, and were able to attach a frame for the conveyor belt. The conveyor built emulates a similar mechanism we are all familiar with at airport security – we are using wooden dowels and PVC pipe to make spinning wheels which the milkshake will move on. Furthermore, they have finished the milkshake barrel. Though at Tinkering School it is never our goal to finish a project, this team is expertly checking off tasks.

Building the Milkshake Machine wall

Building the Milkshake Machine wall

Today held many interesting developments for the Shake Shack group – namely, the challenge of flipping the 15x15 ft frame onto its legs. This exciting task involved strapping the structure to a rope from the ceiling so that it could be pulled up, while collaborators supported it from the ground on all sides. Many structural needs were uncovered in this process, as some support beams came apart and one of the legs cracked in the process. We discovered that wood is weaker where there are knots, and one of the legs had two knots very close to each other. When too much weight was placed there, it cracked. Tinkerers were quick to come in with their drills and screws to strengthen their work, unfazed by some breakage, suspense, and exhilaration.

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Diligently utilizing clamps and right angles!

Diligently utilizing clamps and right angles!

Lastly, our marionette is beginning to take form. Two arms were completed today, and the team has decided to use hinges for moving joints. Limbs are proving to take lots and lots of wood, with many meticulous cuts for 1ft and 4ft pieces. It turns that that designing a human body takes lots of awareness to proportions and symmetry! In creating an octagonal head shape for our frog-human marionette, we had to test numerous different angled cuts on our wood pieces before settling on the right one (and no, it was not actually a right angle… we don’t like to make things easy on ourselves here at Tinkering School :p). Tomorrow we hope to begin attaching pieces together.

The marionette’s “legs + arms” team collaborating

The marionette’s “legs + arms” team collaborating

The week’s projects are so huge that we almost ran out of wood after the morning! Luckily, we were able to go on a wood run during lunch to up our supply. Looking forward to seeing tomorrow’s developments.

You can view the rest of today’s photos on our Flickr page!

Shake It Up - Day 1 - Week 3 (SF Day Camp)

Shake It Up (2019), San Francisco Day CampRuby Harrison-ClayComment
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We have quite an exciting week ahead of us at Tinkering School SF Day Camp! This week, we are taking our tinkering goal of “building something bigger than ourselves” to the next level – each project is extra-large-scale due to our unique guiding prompts, and it will require an expert level of collaboration to successfully manifest these awesome ideas.

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Monday morning was spent getting to know each other, our space, and the tools we will be engaging with for the week. Our eager tinkerers jumped right into skillful usage of clamps and drills, collaborating to create a bridge solely out of wood and clamps, as well as alphabet letters out of wood and screws! Daily beach play and lunch time was accompanied by lots of wind and sand, and left us ready to start designing and building!

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Brendon led us in a body shakedown activity to segue into the project reveal: Shake It Up.

One group began work on a 20-ft frog-human-hybrid marionette, designed to move, shake, and dance with momentum led by humans, ropes, and pulleys. It will be contained within a large frame in order to hang from above. It’s a good thing the Palace of Fine Arts has such high ceilings!

Another group embarked on the construction of a “shake shack” – a building structure with moving floors and walls, shaking with enough force that one will hardly be able to stand in it! This one will be designed to hold multiple people at once.

Clamp training and practice

Clamp training and practice

Design session!

Design session!

Our third group is designing a giant milkshake factory – a barrel will move through an assembly-line to be filled with all of the yummy milkshake ingredients, without human assistance. This group is using cranks and rollers to make their ideas a reality.

Everyone is super stoked to see how these projects unfold, and we’re grateful for the immense space we have at the Palace of Fine Arts for these bigger-than-life-size projects. We spent our daily Closing Circle discussing ways we collaborated together, tried harder than usual, and made interesting mistakes that led to further learning!

As always, you can view more photos from today on our Flickr page.

Hamster Maze - Day 5 - Week 6 - SF Summer Day Camp

Hamster Maze (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

There's no way I could sum up this week any better than this heroic hamster...

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It's our final day of tinkering this week and it also marks the close of our epic summer day camp in San Francisco. What better way to celebrate than to build and test ride our hamster obstacle course!? The giant hamsters ended up not joining the party today, but that was fine as we wanted to test our prototypes first to make sure they were safe for our furry friends.

The hamster cart team made some final structural support additions and discovered just how bendy PVC pipe can be while making an awesome tunnel.

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After lunch it was finally time to test ride the cart! One of the privileges of being a collaborator is that we get to ride/test every potentially dangerous project first to ensure its safety. And this time, I was the lucky collaborator to get the job. The excitement in the room was palpable. Would the young tinkerers hard work hold up to the gravitational forces? Or would I go crashing like a tumbling hamster??? 

3...2...1!!!

WHOOOO!!!!!

WHOOOO!!!!!

I am happy to report that I am still here report to you all (with all body parts intact) that it was a GIANT success! The kids jumped and yelled and cheered as I flew down the track ramp, across the room and smashed into our stopping barrier (metal chairs – for added drama). Everyone couldn't wait to try it themselves and show their parents. Check out the video at the end to see the fun!

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Meanwhile, the hamster wheel team worked hard to complete their stand, install the wheel, and test out their impressive feat of engineering!

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The team did an amazing job reducing friction on the axle. It actually consisted of a metal threaded rod inside a piece of metal conduit pipe. This allowed the two metal pieces to slide against each other rather than metal on wood which can cause a lot of drag. As a result, they discovered that absence of friction can also be important to account for...the wheel could spin super fast if folks weren't careful to slow it down!

Check out the fun! The kids all got to ride in it – helmet required of course.

The obstacle cubes were also fully covered and connected by a spooky dark tunnel.  

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The kids made sure to add lots of trip wires, dangling obstacles to duck under, a swing, ground barriers to walk over with stilts and more! They had a blast testing out their agility maze. I hope the hamsters are prepared.

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The climbing team completed and attached ladders to their tower for yet another way to test the hamsters' and their own scrambling skills. They also had time to make some directional signs – one way only! Have you ever seen or been stuck in a hamster traffic jam? No? Be thankful you haven't if you haven't... they're worse than downtown San Francisco at rush hour...

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One of the joys of Tinkering School is having the chance to build things bigger than ourselves – especially things that we can use and interact with. Whether its a mountain to climb over, a wheel to roll inside, a cart to ride in, or an obstacle course to traverse, there's nothing quite like getting to play with a huge creation that you also dreamed up and built with your own hands as part of a team.

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A big thank you (and squeak) to all our hamster tinkerers this week for bringing your imaginations, and enthusiasm, and teamwork. All of our Tinkering staff look forward to hopefully seeing many of you next summer and in lots of our other camps. Till then, happy tinkering and hamsterbunga! 

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To see more photos from our hamster maze week, please visit our Flickr page!

Hamster Maze - Day 4 - Week 6 - SF Summer Day Camp

Hamster Maze (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

Our team this morning was so excited to begin tinkering that they could hardly contain themselves! The high levels of enthusiasm made it more challenging though to remember our group agreement to "always walk" in the woodshop...

Luckily, we were able to spend a little more time in our morning project meetings to allow our energy levels to return again to "safe" tinkering levels, and then finally it was time to build!

The cube team continued to build their walls, fine tune their swing, build a roof, and install the first obstacles. So much activity!

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The climbing challenge team installed the rock climbing wall as well as the rope pull wall. After a successful test from our staff collaborators, the tinkerers had their chance to climb up and over. Some of the youngsters were scared of the height at first, but after taking their time to slowly navigate the obstacle, their faces lit up with excitement "we did it!."

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A ladder? A bridge? A collaborator catcher? When tinkering, a few sticks of wood can become anything!

A ladder? A bridge? A collaborator catcher? When tinkering, a few sticks of wood can become anything!

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The crew also took advantage of the final painting day – we had to make sure everything dries before Friday when the parents arrive!

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The stilts team made some nice modifications too, adding some metal handles.

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They learned how to use the drill press to bore large holes for the hardware to fit into. 

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The hamster cart team tested out their platform, ramp, and cart. While I walked around on the platform and ramp, the kids all watched and listened for signs of cracking, creaking, breaks, bends or any other troubling sings of structural weakness. We discovered a few spots that could use more supports. Good thing we checked!

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We also tried out the cart to see how it rolled. It picked up some speed! It will be an exciting ride when its all ready to go.

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The hamster wheel team is also nearly done with the wheel portion!

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The floor boards are being installed and now its time to work on the support stand. Can't wait to see it rolling along!

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You definitely won't want to miss tomorrow's post! We're going to have an epic maze that any hamster would love to climb through! To see more photos from the day, please be sure to visit our Flickr page :)

Hamster Maze - Day 3 - Week 6 - SF Summer Day Camp

Hamster Maze (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

It's hamster time!! 

At least it is was here today at our San Francisco day camp! We had lots of fun busily tinkering and building our epic mazes and obstacle courses. 

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We have a new hamster friend who just joined the team! We are not yet decided on what their name is yet... we'll keep you posted.

The huge rope climbing wall was ready to be raised. Hopefully the hamsters will be ready – this is looking like it will be a super challenging maze / obstacle course!

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The rock hand holds for the climbing wall were carefully placed and bolted on to a piece of plywood. 

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What will these climbing walls be attached to you might be wondering? Another group completed an impressive 7 foot tall tower, utilizing many triangle supports to make sure it was super strong. It will securely anchor both climbing walls and serve as an excellent hamster lookout post.

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Our collaborators always test the structural integrity of pieces that will be holding weight. Two thumbs up - the platform was really sturdy!

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I think our tinkerers are beginning to exhibit hamster like behaviors...mischievous hoarding of wood sticks...talking in squeaks and chirps...curious...

The large hamster cart received some much needed safety upgrades. Walls and bumpers!

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Meanwhile, the track team worked super hard to build a launch platform and ramp.

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This team demonstrated some impressive collaboration, all deciding together how to share drilling, screwing, and holding duties. There's so much we can accomplish when we work together!

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One cart and track was definitely not enough. Our hamsters enjoy riding in style, so this team prototyped and built another really cool train system.

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Yet another hardworking group of tinkerers made huge progress on their hamster wheel.

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Cutting the axle with a hacksaw.

Cutting the axle with a hacksaw.

They learned how to use the drill press to cut out holes in the cross supports that will hold the axle.

They learned how to use the drill press to cut out holes in the cross supports that will hold the axle.

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One of the obstacle cube teams made tons of progress sheathing the sides with thin plywood.

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The bandsaw was another tool they learned how to use. It's great for cutting plywood. Similar to the chop saw, it also has a "blood bubble" that we keep all our fingers and out hands out of. 

Jack tested out his stilts too and they worked like a charm! Super stable and easy to control. 

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We have an incredibly enthusiastic and hard working group this week. The obstacles are taking shape, the projects are growing exponentially, and the hamsters hopefully are busy prepping, because they are going to get a workout navigating this maze!

Check back soon to follow this crews progress and to see more photos from the week, please do visit our Flickr page!

Hamster Maze - Day 2 - Week 6 - SF Summer Day Camp

Hamster Maze (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

The hamsters are going to be veeerry happy!

We had a full day of tinkering and building today and we saw lots of collaboration and hard work and these projects are already growing to be bigger than ourselves.

One team focused on making two giant boxes that will be connected by a rope swing and filled with obstacles. Hopefully the hamsters are super agile!

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Sometimes hand tools are the right fit for the job! The kids love hand saws almost as much as they love using the chop saw. There is something so satisfying about using just your strength and a piece of metal to mold the world around you.

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So many opportunities for teamwork! 

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Another team worked hard on building a cart and track for our lucky hamsters.

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Safety first! It was decided by the group that adding a bumper to the hamster cart would be a good idea. Xenia happily took on the task of adapting an old tire for the purpose.

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What would a giant hamster week be without hamsters! Another team gleefully began work on creating some cute, huge hamsters. There were some tricky angles angle pieces to cut and attach that definitely gave these young tinkerers a chance to try harder than usual.

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What would a hamster maze be without a climbing wall! This team is really excited to construct a 5 foot tall climbing wall that will lead to a platform and ramp. The hamsters are going to get some serious excercise navigating this maze!

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There's even going to be a section of the obstacle course that requires stilts! We discovered the usefulness of triangles (gussets) to make really strong connections between two pieces of wood.

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I never thought hamster envy could be a thing, but after seeing the creative projects this hard working group is putting together, I'm starting to think more and more how fun it would be to traverse this epic obstacle course!

Stay tuned for more tinkering and check out all the fun from the week on our Flickr page!

Hamster Maze - Day 1 - Week 6 - SF Summer Day Camp

Hamster Maze (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

Have you heard the news!? Hamster pet food across the country has been found to have traces of super ginormous growth hormone accidentally added to it...and the result...???

GIANT HAMSTERS! they're still cuddly and cute, but now they're giant - roughly small human sized. Luckily our newest group of tinkerers joined us this week and we're on a mission to build some new and enlarged hamster mazes for them so they can feel at home again soon.

Before we could get started building though, we needed to create some group agreements: How do we want to treat each other? How do we plan to stay safe while we build? We came up with a great list that we all felt good about and then it was on to tool training!

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Our young tinkerers learned how to efficiently clamp multiple pieces of wood together. Many multiples! They built some impressive clamp bridges with their new skills and then learned how to carefully take them all apart in reverse order.

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Knowing how to use a drill is an essential skill for a tinkerer to have in their toolbelt, so we made sure that everyone had an opportunity to practice their drilling technique. 

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Perfect two handed form! Placing one hand on the back of the drill isn't just a good way to provide more power, it helps direct the force down in a straight line which can prevent stripping the screws or breaking drill bits

Always a favorite, the kids learned to use the CHOP SAW!!! Its the most exciting and potentially dangerous tool we frequently use in the shop, so we have developed very specific safety protocols that each kid learns and every cut that is made through the week is supervised by one of our staff collaborators.

Manny (E-man) explaining the "thumbs up" check that the chop saw operator needs to get from everyone nearby before making a cut.

Manny (E-man) explaining the "thumbs up" check that the chop saw operator needs to get from everyone nearby before making a cut.

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After our lunch break the kids discovered what the weeks' tinkering theme would be and then dove into brainstorming and designing their projects. There's some super fun ideas being developed and I have no doubt the hamsters will be deeply appreciative of their efforts!

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There was even still time at the end of the day to begin building! – lots of measuring, cutting, and material gathering. It's going to be a very productive week I have a feeling.

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We ended the day with a closing circle where we listened to each other describe how we tried harder than usual, collaborated with friends, and made some great mistakes that we learned from. Looking around at the projects, it was also clear that we are already well on the way to building projects bigger than ourselves.

The kids are eagerly on board with our four tinkering school goals, and it will be exciting to watch them tinker this week. Who knows what amazing creations will come from their collaborations. The hamsters can hardly wait!

To see more of the tinkering fun today, be sure to visit our Flickr page!

Moving Animals - Day 5 - Week 5 - SF Summer Day Camp

Moving Animals (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

STAMPEDE! 

The animals have come to life and are flying, wheeling, walking, and bobbing around! The teams had time to put some final touches on their projects before parents arrived to witness all their amazing work.  

The giant baby unicorn took its first rolling steps and is growing up fast!

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It took a team of collaborators to raise this giant unicorn.

It took a team of collaborators to raise this giant unicorn.

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Hard at work drilling holes for an axle that supported the wheels and powered the moving legs.

Hard at work drilling holes for an axle that supported the wheels and powered the moving legs.

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You wouldn't be the first to wonder if this giant baby unicorn was actually a Trojan horse in training. It can hold up to three young tinkerers in its belly! 

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The jelly fish was also seen bobbing around in all its twinkly glory!

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The team added a couple layers of translucent plastic and fabric to make it appear just like a living, natural jelly fish. And lots of lights - it's an electric jelly after all! 

A great shot showing the complexity of this team's design. There were so many angled cuts to figure out!

A great shot showing the complexity of this team's design. There were so many angled cuts to figure out!

How cool would it be to swim through a group of giant jelly fish!? With a very thick wetsuit of course...

How cool would it be to swim through a group of giant jelly fish!? With a very thick wetsuit of course...

The bird car team celebrated a major success as well in completing a functional pedal system. It really worked! They were able to power their car with their feet, moving it back and forth about 10 feet. With a little more time there's no doubt they could have perfected their design and been speeding along over great distances.

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All the hard work to bend metal pipes paid off, and the plastic foot pedals rolled perfectly underfoot.

All the hard work to bend metal pipes paid off, and the plastic foot pedals rolled perfectly underfoot.

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Gotta get creative to finding the best working position!

Gotta get creative to finding the best working position!

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The angry bird catapult and slingshot team were super excited to finally test out their designs.

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The birds expressed varying degrees of anger upon being launched into the air. Some nose-dived and crashed, others were happy to fly for a little while before also coming to a rough landing. 

The team was thrilled with the outcome and were already coming up with more ideas to perfect their designs. If only more tinkering time! We hope all our young tinkerers take their new skills and confidence out into the real world to continue designing, creating, and building. 

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Our bird launch team also completed their epic ramp as well, connecting it to a 10 foot tall wall! It was a great example of meeting our tinkering goal of collaborating with each other. There's no way we could have hoisted it up without everyone's help.

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The most important connection point on the ramp were the bolts connecting it to the launch platform. The team made sure to lock them down tight!

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Then it was time to carry the giant bird through the building, up some stairs, through the library, to its perch on the launch pad...

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Will if fly!!??

It's been a blast tinkering with these groups this week as they worked hard to develop their imaginative ideas and bring them to life. They tried harder than usual, stretching to overcome some difficult engineering challenges. They built some huge structures that were definitely bigger than themselves. They made lots of wonderful "mistakes" that they learned from. They also took to heart one of our most important tinkering goals: to collaborate and make friends. Its amazing what kinds of things can be accomplished when we work together and this group showed us several impressive examples. Who knows what they might create next!

To see all the tinkering fun from the entire week, be sure to visit our Flickr page!

Moving Animals - Day 4 - Week 5 - SF Summer Day Camp

Moving Animals (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

The animals are coming to life and it's beginning to look like a zoo here at our San Francisco day camp! With the end of the week fast approaching, the project teams enthusiastically dove back into their work.

Our giant unicorn was given a face and a fur coat today! For fans of "How to Train Your Dragon," is it just me or could our unicorn be a cousin of Toothless the dragon? 

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The team working on the unicorns legs made large strides as well in designing and building our unicorns forward movement mechanism. It will involve six legs, four with wheels and two that provide the forward propulsion. Can't wait to see how it all works! 

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The jelly fish team meanwhile worked hard on assembling the jelly's tentacles. They will all be able to move up and down and wiggle with the help of some pulleys and rope.

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The team was even able to finish the frame for the jelly's head and raise it in the air! Soon it will appear to be floating and bobbing through the air as if its in water. Our tinkerers had a chance to learn about pulleys and how adding additional pulleys to create a block and tackle system allows us to lift heavy objects with ease.

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Our angry birds team tested several different variations of their bird launcher. 

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With a rope and pulley, tension is built up and then a pin holding down the basket is pulled to release the catapult arm and send our birdies flying through the air. 

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Another bird team worked hard on constructing some wheels and a pedal system similar to a paddle boat. 

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To flatten parts of a metal pipe, they used a giant vice. Only thing is they didn't have enough leverage at first...what to do? Make a longer lever! They figured out that using a pipe to extend that vice handle worked like a charm.

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Our ramp bird launch team made huge progress both on assembling and covering their bird as well as building a 20 foot launch ramp! Will it fly??? We'll soon find out!

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Stay tuned to see these awesome animals' first steps, wiggles, and attempts at flight! And to see more from our productive day, don't forget to visit our Flickr page!

Moving Animals - Days 1-3 - Week 5 - SF Day Camp

Moving Animals (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

Another week of Tinkering excitement! We have a new crew full of fresh ideas and a desire to build, build, build! As we learned on the first day, our design theme and challenge this week is to build MOVING ANIMALS!

This also happens to be our summer day camp's "Seniors Week" so we are excited to have several more teens or near teens on our team. We hope their additional years of experience will help us all as as we figure out how to create some tricky mechanisms that will allow our animals to come to life.

As with every Tinkering camp, we started off the first day creating some group safety agreements to decide how we want to use the tools and collaborate and treat each other respectfully. We then jumped straight into tool training!

THE CHOP SAW! A fan favorite for sure. One of our most used tools in the shop, the kids learn how to operate it safely and keep all appendages out of the "blood bubble" (an area roughly a foot away from either side of the blade). 

THE CHOP SAW! A fan favorite for sure. One of our most used tools in the shop, the kids learn how to operate it safely and keep all appendages out of the "blood bubble" (an area roughly a foot away from either side of the blade). 

Clamps are a tinkerers best friend - especially if a real life friend isn't available to hold a piece of wood down for them.

Clamps are a tinkerers best friend - especially if a real life friend isn't available to hold a piece of wood down for them.

Drills! By the end of the week, our young builders will be wielding their drills like pros.

Drills! By the end of the week, our young builders will be wielding their drills like pros.

After a lunch break, it was time to go to the drawing board. We broke up into three groups each with a specific mechanical challenge: design and build a moving animal that wiggles, flies, or walks. 

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Every tinkerer had a chance to draw and share their ideas and then as a group everyone decided how to bring them all together into a design plan with general dimensions. 

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The kids discovered chairs and props are a great way to figure out the most ergonomical dimensions for a project!

The kids discovered chairs and props are a great way to figure out the most ergonomical dimensions for a project!

With a rough blueprint in hand for each animal design, there was even still time during the first day to start building. Tinker on!

Day 2 was a tinker fest!

With tool training under our belts, we had all day to build, and our young crew made the most of their time. 

The flying animals team decided to split into a few different sub-groups. To add to the zoo, we'll have a large rolling bird with automated flapping wings, a bird that accelerates and flies off a ramp, and an angry birds launcher that attempts to rescue their pig friends trapped on towers. 

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Meanwhile the walking team was busy constructing an epic unicorn! Or a trotting unicorn? A galloping unicorn? Perhaps the unicorn could be in the flying group as well??? 

Assembling a frame for the large body.

Assembling a frame for the large body.

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Excellent two handed drilling form. Bravo!

Excellent two handed drilling form. Bravo!

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The unicorn will have a hatch door hatch for passengers to enter. Luckily we have hinges and hardware available to use in addition to lots of lumber.

Not to be outdone, the wiggle team decided to build a giant, wiggly, undulating jelly fish! Rumor is that it will be suspended in the air and the tentacles will bob up and down as if its moving through water.

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To create the domed top of the jelly fish, this crew had to figure out some complex geometry so that they could cut pieces for three hexagons. Can't wait to see how it turns out!

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Day 3 was super productive!

This crew tinkers hard! We saw some impressive new developments with each of the three projects.

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The jelly fish is looking more and more jellyish. The team added supports between each of the three hexagons to make a very sturdy dome structure. To reinforce the joints, (most of which were made with angle cuts), they also attached gussets (plywood triangles).

The walking unicorn team likewise added many aesthetic touches to the body, neck, and head. 

Can you spot the unicorn horn? I for sure wouldn't want to upset this magically majestic animal!

Can you spot the unicorn horn? I for sure wouldn't want to upset this magically majestic animal!

Attaching the unicorn's fur coat.

Attaching the unicorn's fur coat.

Prototyping the unicorns moving legs.

Prototyping the unicorns moving legs.

And the flying teams soared through their self-made task lists! (My apologies to the non-punners out there) ;-P

Catapults, framed bird bodies, take off ramps and more!

Catapults, framed bird bodies, take off ramps and more!

Why saw just by yourself when you have a friend to push back from the other side!

Why saw just by yourself when you have a friend to push back from the other side!

Measuring distances between foot pedals for the rolling bird car that will simultaneously flap some large wings.

Measuring distances between foot pedals for the rolling bird car that will simultaneously flap some large wings.

It's been a wild few days of tinkering, full of movement in the pursuit of creating yet more movement. What if these moving animals could build other moving animals...! Who knows, with this enthusiastic, group I wouldn't bet against the possibility, or anything else that they set their minds to for that matter. Tinkering sets the imagination free and it will be super exciting to see what these young tinkerers come up with next!

To check out more of the action from this week, be sure to visit our Flickr page! 

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Final Day - SF Day Camp

Meatballs (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

The storm we've all been waiting for has finally arrived! Soon everyone's hunger will be satiated as watermelons, doughnuts and pizza rain down on our workshop. With no time to lose, our crews jumped into putting the final touches on their projects.

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Our catapult team experienced an exciting structural failure when trying to move the catapult into the adjacent room. With the weight of the catapult and several builders on the moving platform, the side rail was no match for the force on the wheel's axle. Our tinkerers proudly met the Tinkering School goal of "making mistakes and learning from them" :)

The catapult required so much force to pull the lever that a pad was needed for the puller to fall back on. 

The catapult required so much force to pull the lever that a pad was needed for the puller to fall back on. 

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Meanwhile our mouth team worked hard on the track of the digestive tract tunnel. 

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After giving the giant mouth giant teeth, all that was needed were giant lips! This group easily met the Tinkering School goal of "build something bigger than ourselves." 

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And it was finally time to decorate our huge food cloud. It was a full team effort to dress it up in white cloth. There was also enough time to also complete the trap door mechanism. 

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And then...dun dun dun...!!!!! 

Parents and grandparents arrived to witness an epic food storm. After a brief safety discussion, it was time to see the giant cloud full of food raise off the floor and into the sky. The humidity levels went up (mostly due to Tinkering staff hoisting the heavy cloud on pulleys) and up went our giant cloud amidst lots of cheering! 

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As we soon discovered, the volume of food was so great that as soon as the cloud raised off the ground, the trap door gave way and spilled the food onto the ground. Our cloud appeared to want to be more of a cornucopia than a cumulonimbus. 

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After emptying itself, our cloud hung around for a bit. At over 8ft tall and 8ft wide, it was an impressive sight to behold.

After emptying itself, our cloud hung around for a bit. At over 8ft tall and 8ft wide, it was an impressive sight to behold.

Next up, it was time to feed our giant mouth by launching our recently harvested food via catapult!

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5...4...3... Everyone yelled the countdown!

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The giant mouth open and closed in anticipation of a delicious meal!

...2...1... GO! 

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Aiden pulled hard on the cord, then he pulled harder, and then he pulled as hard as could and still the catapult lever didn't budge... Then we had one of our oldest tinkerers pull the cord and still no luck! We discovered though that with a little nudge of the lever while someone else pulled the the cord, the catapult would let loose and do its job. FOOD AWAY! 

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Our first watermelon didn't quite make it into the mouth, but after moving the catapult closer, the giant mouth was finally satisfied - along with our dedicated and excited group of tinkerers! 

What a week! And it was all made possible by all of our tinkerers collaborating and working together, and trying harder than usual. These are two more of our Tinkering School goals and it was a pleasure to watch this crew take them on whole heartedly. I have no doubt these kids will be creating and building many more awesome and imaginative creations in the near future. Happy munching!

To check out all the action from the week, be sure to visit our Flickr page!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Day 4 - SF Day Camp

Meatballs (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

So much delicious learning and progress was cooked up today by our tinkering crew!

Our digestive tunnel team learned how to drill large holes and screw in eye bolts as part of a system to move food along the digestive tract. Keep on moving, keep on moving. More food! Yum!

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The mouth was given a tongue ramp that the food will slide down into the digestive tunnel.

The mouth was given a tongue ramp that the food will slide down into the digestive tunnel.

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Hard at work making a complicated mechanism that moves the jaws of the mouth simultaneously!

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Raawwrr! FOOOD!! Nom nom nom...

Raawwrr! FOOOD!! Nom nom nom...

To collect extra food scraps that miss the mouth, it was decided a portable giant plate and utensils would be necessary.

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Never enough food!!!! This has been the most hunger inducing tinkering week in memory.

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The catapult team also made lots of progress on their jumbo sized food launching machine. Lots of collaboration makes building more fun and productive!

The bandsaw has been used frequently this week - lots of side panels and floors to cut.

The bandsaw has been used frequently this week - lots of side panels and floors to cut.

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There was even time to make a crane that will pick up and transport food to the catapult that has fallen from the cloud.

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And the cloud team is about to attach the trap doors that will release a deluge of delicious delicacies!

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Introducing the "ear muff man!" Tinkering is clearly all business and no play ;-)

Introducing the "ear muff man!" Tinkering is clearly all business and no play ;-)

Make sure to check back and see this hard working crew's creations come to life! A storm of food is fast approaching. And don't forget, theres even more photos on our Flickr account from the day and rest of the week. We're looking forward to a giant feast tomorrow!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Day 3 - SF Day Camp

Meatballs (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

Wow! Our young foodies made huge progress today on their projects and most importantly had a blast along the way. 

The catapult team successfully tested their food launching prototypes...

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Very official flags marking the exact launch distances.

Very official flags marking the exact launch distances.

Pears and waffles away! 

Pears and waffles away! 

Ready...aim..let the mini glazed doughnut fly!

Ready...aim..let the mini glazed doughnut fly!

The cloud team finished the second face of the giant cloud that will soon be suspended in the air. Just needs a little more evaporation...

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Hard at work cutting the cloud's curves with the jig saw.

Hard at work cutting the cloud's curves with the jig saw.

And food! Lots of food...yum!

An egg? Nope! Hope you like sliced watermelon :-P

An egg? Nope! Hope you like sliced watermelon :-P

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Originally a licorice stick, this tasty treat morphed into the doughnut on the right.

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Our mouth and digestive team discovered that with just two pulleys and two operators the jaw was difficult to maneuver in a coordinated manner.

They tinkered and tinkered and experimented and eventually came up with an awesome design to make the jaws of our huge mouth move simultaneously!

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Everyone could hear the gleeful shouts of "IT WORKS!" It's one of our favorite tinkering phrases along with "What if...!?"

A giant mouth has to have giant teeth of course.

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The digestion tunnel is winding along nicely.

The digestion tunnel is winding along nicely.

With only two more days of building left, the anticipation is building for an exciting feast of flying food! Stay tuned and check out our Flickr page for more photos of the excitement from today and the rest of the week!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Day 2 - SF Day Camp

Meatballs (2018), San Francisco Day CampBrendon BellComment

The winds of yum are picking up! Flying food is on the horizon! How many super cheesy puns can I try to come up with... yes that was also pun intended :-P

Our food minded tinkerers made tons of progress today on their projects. With tool training behind us, they had the whole day to build and they made the most of it!

Our catapult team completed several mini prototypes to discover what the most effective food launching system might look like.  

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In the next days build sessions, the catapult team will settle on one or two designs and then jumbo size them to be able to launch our huge food great distances.

We have some hungry and world cup inspired soccer fans in this crew! Or should I say football?

We have some hungry and world cup inspired soccer fans in this crew! Or should I say football?

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Our food team? Well they got started baking right away. I'm not kidding when I say that their food creations were making me hungry...

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Such a clever way to string up a cluster of grapes!

Such a clever way to string up a cluster of grapes!

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The cloud crew got to check off several tasks as they finished the first side of their giant cloud.

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To cut out the cloud shapes, we learned how to use a new tool, the jig saw! With its small blade, no curve or drawing is too complicated to cut.

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And our mouth team built some braces for the jaw. Always want to make sure everything is in alignment!

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Hard at work on the throat/intestines tunnel that will be connected to the mouth.

Hard at work on the throat/intestines tunnel that will be connected to the mouth.

Realigning the jaw pieces. This mouth is going to have a giant set of teeth!

Realigning the jaw pieces. This mouth is going to have a giant set of teeth!

We witnessed so much exciting tinkering and collaboration today! Can't wait to see what new foods and building challenges are on tomorrow's menu. Check out our Flickr page for more photos from the day and the rest of the week!

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