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Space! Wednesday : Some Tinkering

Amanda SimonsComment

It's a delicate balance that we are walking at Junior Day Camp. One of the challenges that the Collaborators face is the decision of whether to ask the Tinkerers to endure a series of challenges that may or may not lead them to the answer, or to feed them the answers and solutions to problems and let them gain experience from that kind of labor. 

With my Space Probe crew this week, I've been feeding them very little. We've tinkerered our way through some pretty basic but conceptually challenging problems, and it's turned out pretty awesome. 

This all began yesterday morning.

The Space Probe began as a three foot by four foot by five foot cube made of only twelve pieces of wood. Next, the team decided we needed a floor.

We didn't initially plan to need a floor! In fact, if we would have decided that earlier in the design, we certainly would have designed our cube differently. Every contractor and Collaborator knows that you can't lay a floor without having studs underneath. The plywood will simply bend under the weight of humans. 

For the sake of the group, I risked my life by trying to balance on a sheet of plywood stretched precariously across a distance of 48 inches. We went through this exercise for a very long time: me stepping on the wood, them watching it bend, us chatting about a solution, us trying a solution, and the solution failing. Over and over. 

Eventually, we landed on the addition of five studs under the flooring.

After we installed a floor and a ceiling on our Space Probe Cube, last night I discovered that the structure was wiggly. Every contractor and Collaborator knows that to prevent a wiggle your quadrilateral needs a triangle. But I'm not gonna just tell the Tinkerers that. 

We spent this morning brainstorming ways that we could correct the wiggle in the Space Probe structure. More screws needed, loose screws need tightening, more wood necessary, maybe the whole thing needs to come apart and be re-build? 

Instead of rebuilding the whole structure, we brainstormed and tested some ways that we could make two pieces of wood secure. Does it wiggle with one screw? Two? Four? Six? The wiggle got worse as we tested and tested. 

We finally figured out that by attaching just two screws as far apart as possible -- in opposite corners of that space -- the connection is more secure. So, how can we add that triangle shape to our Space Probe skeleton?

We found a solution.

Lastly, this afternoon we began prototyping some ideas for an addition to the Space Probe. Everyone is talking about robot arms that grasp things! I mean, I totally have an idea about how to do that, but instead of seeding it, we got out the paper and pencils and started to brainstorm.

The Tinkerers landed on an idea of arranging thin pieces of material in a sort-of lattice shape and attaching them together so that they hinge. The lattice shape would allow you to move the structure like scissors and extend and retract the mechanism.

Sure, it sounds great in theory! Let's actually try it out. 

With rulers and paracord, a team sat for nearly the entire afternoon creating these mechanisms. 

What we discovered is that it works -- sort of. 

There was a lot wrong with the design but not the concept. We had a debriefing meeting and listed all the things that worked and all the things we needed to maybe improve upon. We landed on the idea to try it with wood and screws and see what happens!

We're currently in the middle of this experiment. I have no idea how or if this is going to work out, but I'm so excited to see what happens!

More Transmissions tomorrow!

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