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Session H: Day 6 - Short Story of the Day

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

(Written by Gever)

Our cameras are so full that the offload is going to take 40 minutes, and the day has extended into the evening (even now, at 11:49pm, kids are just coming up from the fire), that we're not going to get you much of the story tonight. So, just for the record, and for the sake of the curious parents, rest assured that epic journeys were undertaken on gravity-powered carts today. From the barn to the bridge, in sunshine and twilight (and maybe even by headlamp in the dark of the night), we rode and squealed, repaired and cajoled, and even danced. And yes, there were cats and goats.

Until tomorrow, goodnight all, we had a wonderful day. Also, your children are amazing, please feel free to leave them for another week or so.

Session H: Day 5 - It's Hard to Push When You Are Holding a Kitty

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline Martin1 Comment

(Written by Gever, photos selected by Caroline, kibitzing and side-chatter by the Collaborators)

We had declared "first rolling test" as a goal for Tuesday night. Well, as you have seen, dear readers, on Tuesday we only kind-of had some sort-of carts - and that's as it should be. The first ideas contain fantastical elements built on magical properties of wood, properties which only exist in the imaginations of the tinkerers. By doing an early test, we can let the carts speak directly to the team using language whose vocabulary consists of bent bolts, cracked wood, and loose steering shafts. Sometimes we need to help translate, but often we just have to focus their attention and then step back and let the team think it through.

The carts spent Wednesday under tarps to protect them from the rain, so the first step is to get the carts up to the barn (our workshop for the rest of the week).

Then, Gever and the other collaborators (except Caroline, who is confined to her cot by a terrible cold) do deep design and implementation reviews with each team to help them decide what to change and where to start.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Alex

Some of the carts are just too long, and need to be cut down. You can't put a cart in the chopsaw, so there are multiple simultaneous hand-sawing operations under way. Thalia can attest to the difficulty of sawing through a plywood cart chassis.

And Dalia can relate... 30 inches is a lot of plywood to cut through.

We didn't account for the distraction factor of the new barn kitties...

As the morning progresses, many carts are disassembled to address issues with parts that were built early in the process. This leads to the invention of many new techniques. Necessity is the mother of...

In what will turn out to be a day-long conversation with Gever, Merritt works through the implementation details of her parallelogram-steering design.

Tinkering School is designed to cram 20 kids together and get them excited about building a solution to a really hard problem (this week it's "make a cart that carry two people from the top of the hill to the bottom without going into the poison oak or running into a tree") - this combination of hard work and long days has the intended side-effect of creating strong friendship bonds quickly. Case in point: Gretchen and Lilah.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Max

In a moment that foreshadows it's imminent demise, the drillpress starts acting odd. Vivek and Izzy will get through this operation, but that will be one of the last holes drilled by this $50 press purchased at Harbor Freight nine years ago. A lot of kids have made a lot of holes with this machine.

And of course the kitties... (#blep)

Rayan is ready to cut.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen (in her fifth year at Tinkering School)

Oh, did we mention that there are curious and friendly goats everywhere?

One fun thing about moving the camp is that now we dine and wash dishes out side!

Borrowing from the improv practice, the default answer is "yes, and..." So when Jack and Casper ask if they can burn something with the magnifying glass, we send them to the fire pit.

The chopsaw came up with all the tools and materials, but the dust vacuum did not...

And there are kitties... Milo takes a break with a kitty we have dubbed Smokey.

The skylights in the hundred year-old barn create cathedral-like pools of light for us to work in. Izzy and Bryce are waiting for the steering mechanism to come back from the drillpress (they should be working on their brakes, says Gever when he walks up a few moments later).

Milo comes back from the kitties and jumps in to help Sophia get some nuts onto a piece of threaded rod that has seen some rough treatment. Despite early success with two nuts, the third critical nut refuses to have anything to do with the threaded rod - which leads to a pause and re-grouping moment that results in a new, better, design.

Alex and Katherine do a fit test on their cart. It's big enough, but there's something worrisome about the rakish angle of their steering column.

G and Rayan - no idea what they are doing, but as our new Manager Karen says, "If they are having fun, no one is getting hurt, and no tools or materials are being destroyed, then it's working."

And there are goats!

There is a nut-stacking virus running through the tinkerers. As founder and Education Architect, I have absolutely no problem with a tinkerer spending fifteen minutes playing with hex-nuts; hands-on discovery-based experiential learning is where it's at.

Did we mention the kitties? The Collaborators are as helpless to resist as the tinkerers when the kitties wander by.

Max has worked out the friction issues (mis-alignment of the axle blocks deformed the PVC bearing pipe) and gets the back-end of their cart working.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lilah

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lucy

Our other frequent work-break destinations include the chickens...

...and the gardens.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sophia

Portrait of a Llama: Spice

And the kitties (with Thalia)!

Merritt and Max take the cart for a spin to see if putting reins on their steering post could work (it turns out there's too much friction and it hurts the hands to pull that hard on paracord).

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bryce

Braden and Milo try out the new steering system that Sophia has implemented based on a crude sketch from Gever. This is a simplified version of what is known as "Harley-style" steering, a design that has evolved at Tinkering School over the past ten years or so.

Now they have an interesting problem to solve in the back end.

When steering becomes a common problem in the cart implementations, Gever looks to see if there is any inspiration available in the front-end of the little farm truck. Yes, but the design relies on some very complicated metal pieces that will be very difficult to render in wood.

It turns out to be interesting to look at the way the U-joint in the steering shaft allows for a bend. Also, Bruno, the farm guy, wears the same kind of cowboy boots as Gever.

When it comes to attaching the steering column to their cart, there's a collective sense that "this is the last thing!". Thalia, Merritt, and Max.

Gretchen needed a hug, Lucy and Rhody were happy to oblige.

Before we go to dinner, we decide to test everything, and this time there are three carts ready to try.

With some blocks of wood as pylons, the carts take off to see what's working and what isn't. It seems like a long way to the bridge when it's tricky to get through the first gate.

But the carts are mostly working, and it's exciting to be rolling and going "kinda-fast"!

Of course, after a long ride down the hill (only half-way to the bridge today since we've got to set up radio-based traffic monitoring), you have to walk the cart back up to the barn.

Looks like Bryce and his team will have to go back to the drawing board on their steering system. Also, what's up with the un-protected impalement pipe? The cart is sent to the barn until the safety and steering issues can be addressed.

Jealous of all the fun, Gever puts on a helmet (excellent modeling!) and takes the wagon for a ride.

And there's cats!

Then, it's time for dinner. Chef Paul puts out salad, potatoes, roasted chicken, and quesadillas, with baked apples for dessert. Bonus, there's an after-dinner build session hosted by Gever, and then Daniel lures everyone back with hot-chocolate and showing of Princess Bride - what a nice way to end the day!

Session H: Day 4 - Lazing and Lizards

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

Wednesday! We always take a break mid-week to go to the beach and have a day to reset, strengthen our friendships, and have fun. Today we head to San Gregorio, one of our favorite beaches for its driftwood constructions and lagoon. We arrived to find the lagoon completely full (sometimes it's just a little ankle-deep stream that we have to get across). After fording the lagoon, we set up base camp at one of the driftwood structures.

The beach is a great place to get out a whole bunch of energy. Max and G brought bits of wire to practice their sword fighting.

Merritt wastes no time jumping into the waters of the Pacific.

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And the Pacific wastes no time crashing into Braden.

Vivek challenges the ocean to a duel.

This group has some real water lovers. Izzy encourages everyone to jump in.

G isn't too sure about this cold water thing...

And Max is even less into it.

"Oh come on!"

He'll wait for his friends to come out.

Milo and G have become one with the sand.

Over at the lagoon, Daniel is helping Rayan and Caspar make a driftwood raft. They pump out version 1 quickly to see what issues they might have.

The problem is that it's not stable enough when they're all together in one row. It can sort of hold Caspar, but it starts to come apart.

Meanwhile, a group has found some lizards. This one is Frend. Frend enjoys spending time curled up on human hands.

He also likes riding around on Bryce's shoulder.

A rare sighting: photos of Dalia must be sneaky.

Caspar and Rayan take apart version 1 of the raft.

Ari strikes a pose with his newfound kelp.

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The Infamous Snake Gang turns up, with a mascot in Max's hands.

And Rayan finds another lizard! This one is Buddy.

Collaborator Jack is still soaked through from going through the lagoon in his jeans (always bring something to be wet in AND something to be dry in, kiddos!), so he convinces Caroline to have them start a small fire. A group gathers for the little bit of warmth and discussion.

Portrait of a Lizarder: Pal hangs out with Lucy.

Caspar cheeses with Buddy.

As the afternoon continues on, Daniel makes us all some peanut butter and honey sandwiches to keep our tummies full and happy.

Thalia is determined to roast this apple. She says you know it's done when the skin is black and flakey.

Apple now roasted, Thalia delights in eating it with honey.

Another member of the Infamous Snake Gang emerges! Lilah is all about this snake life.

Raft version 2 takes off, with two layers of driftwood, the bottoms acting as pontoons.

And it floats! Caspar pushes Rayan around as the clouds part to reveal a beautiful blue sky and blue water.

Lizards are officially high fashion. Caroline is wearing Buddy, by Nature.

Pal makes for a very handsome mustache on Lucy.

IS IT LOVE?

Caspar has one last ride on the raft before we pack it in for the day.

Back at camp, we finish the night with showers, bowls of chili, and a campfire. In the new dining tent, Gretchen suggests playing Honey I Love You, which keeps them all laughing for hours. We all agree we're having too much fun to go to bed juuust yet, so stay up a little later to bond and laugh more, and fall asleep with our bellies sore from giggles.

Blog written by Caroline.

Session H: Day 3 - Push and Pull

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

Tuesdays at Tinkering School are always a little tougher than other days. There's still so much time left, but not many projects have enough form to feel like anything has been accomplished. So, Tuesdays end up being a little more of a slog sometimes. Thankfully, this group has great chemistry and there was a good balance of work and play throughout the day to keep them striving for the Tuesday night goal of having a "version 1" of their carts to test on a small section of the road.

We start the morning with breakfast, hot tea and cocoa, and some Harry Potter trivia. Lucy leads with the most intense questions.

Then it's time to get down to business. Jack works on the Piki cart, using a caster wheel for the front.

Panda's steering design, led by Merritt, is complex and requires a lot of attention to detail. She's measured everything at least twice before she goes to cut, or drill press as the case may be.

Bryce and Izzy have continued their cart experiments, pulling each other up the hill on the wagon and testing various braking methods. The helmets finally went on after a particularly sudden stop.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen being her lovely self.

Thalia has to cut a big piece of plywood for the Panda cart, so she gets out the circular saw.

Max is beasting through the 2x4s, two at a time.

Multitasking is nothing to a tinkerer such as Lilah.

After all these weeks, we discover who the Sky Bench was destined for. Ari is the perfect size.

Izzy and Bryce team up again to put some wheels on the Sqiki cart.

And Lilah realizes she's put the two wheels on uneven, but decides to leave them as is. "Whoopsi-daisy."

Collaborator Jack and Caspar talk through the pros and cons of a grappling hook braking system.

Ari and Milo are two peas in a pod. Their groups soon call them back to action.

Paint is brought out. G helps create a pallet. 

Milo, Braden, and Sophia line up the Kablooi cart for their steering column.

Izzy gets serious with a hand saw while Vivek stands by to be tapped in if necessary.

The two buddies are back at it again. Their friendship makes us smile.

The Sqiki cart is all wheeled up! Lilah flips it over, which is a perfect opportunity for Vivek to have a lie-down.

Team Nooi had a setback after a miscommunication about a threaded rod and if it should be cut or not, which caused some strife. With a bit of guidance, they form Nooi v.2: now with more teamwork. A functional group dynamic is one of many things we try to build at camp.

Gever guides Panda through an engineering issue.

As the afternoon turns into early evening, the teams start to worry. Many of them don't have their carts ready to roll for the after-dinner test, and so they work frantically to assemble the vision they have. The Panda cart is trying to line up their wheels: Max with the rear, and Merritt with the front steering. Collaborator Kevin helps Max, who is determined to have the rear wheels attached by dinner, though it is not to be.

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Merritt finally assembles the tricky steering mechanism, but it's almost dinner time. Her idea is nearly fully realized, and she is nearly fully bummed that she'll have to wait until the next build session to finish.

After dinner, we all bring our carts up to the Ranch House for the testing.

But, it turns out only one team has a cart ready to be tested. Lilah and Bryce hop on the Sqiki cart, with its brake-steering. The brakes don't pan out exactly as they had envisioned, but that's what this test is all about. Sqiki can now take the feedback from their cart and work with it.

Today was a big day for everyone. We hang out for a bit before tucking into bed for the night, dreaming of what to do with our carts next.

Blog by Caroline, who apologizes for the delay!

Session H: Day 2 - Start Rolling

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

We make our way down to breakfast on Monday morning, tired but ready for our first full day of tinkering. After a big breakfast, we circle up to hear about this week's project. We are all giddy with excitement.

Gever reveals: this week we will step away from Tinker City and become mobile, with downhill carts. We'll have full access to the road that goes through Elkus Ranch in the evenings, and we have many iterations of carts from previous weeks to Frankenstein into our own designs. We also have an assortment of wheels! Gever shows off the rubber wheels. Each group will have access to two of these, as well as two wooden wheels and two skateboard wheels. A challenge, indeed.

We have five teams this week, each making their own cart. The teams, for future reference:

PIKI: Gretchen, Jack, Rayan, G
NOOI: Lucy, Katherine, Alex, Caspar
KABLOOI: Sophia, Dalia, Milo, Braden
PANDA: Merritt, Thalia, Max, Ari
SQIKI: Vivek, Lilah, Izzy, Bryce

Kablooi decides to do some "research" about carts first. Dalia tries out one of the wagons.

Braden tests out a different rolling object, but soon finds that one of the caster wheels had been stolen by a tinkerer in the previous weeks.

Team Panda flips over a cart and starts looking at the steering mechanism. They discuss how they could incorporate that design into their own cart.

Portrait of a Collaborator: Caroline poses for Caspar while he learns how to use the camera.

Sophia gets right to work on the base of Kablooi's cart.

Vivek begins sketching out a base for the Sqiki cart with Bryce and Izzy. How big should the base be? Another part of the challenge is to make a cart that holds two tinkerers.

We're not quite sure what he's up to, but Milo is definitely having fun doing it.

Caspar, Katherine, and Lucy start measuring out for the base of the Nooi cart. There are some disputes about the direction they're going, but the team moves forward regardless.

Caroline has drawn out a big map of the course for the teams to take a look at. It's about a half-mile from the gate at the goat pen down to the gate at the bridge, with a few turns and a lot of pot holes. Gever shows where the first and second stages of the course are.

The line for the chop saw starts in earnest after a break. G waits patiently for his turn.

Vivek and Izzy work together on the base for Sqiki's cart.

Rayan and Jack cut up some lengths of pipe for axles. The train tracks from week one find new use as saw horses when the trains aren't running.

Portrait of a Collaborator: Jack ponders.

As the clouds part, Nooi tries out their new base measurements.

Vivek and Lilah are skilled Tinker Twister players.

We need lots of holes for our axles. Rayan starts up on the drill press.

Lucy puzzles out the steering mechanism on the cart while tinkerers buzz around her.

The afternoon goes on, and groups are still working out kinks in their first designs. Kablooi has a quick meeting, while Max looks over the difficulties that may arise with the wooden wheels with collaborators.

Braden gets in on the pipe-cutting action.

For a break, it's finally goat time!! 

A visit to meet the goats (and other farm animals) is just what we need to rest our brains.

And the goats are happy to see us, too. Possibly just for the treats?

Leslie even introduces us to the horses in the barn. 

Everyone is looking forward to spending more time closer to the animals later this week.

We encourage everyone to make whatever they want during free build time. Katherine makes some nut art.

Some tinkerers head down to the creek for some exploring before the sun goes down.

They explore the haunted house while another group goes on a sunset hike up the ridge. 

We finish out the night with some hot cocoa and Steven Universe, which has quickly become a camp favorite for when there's not enough time for a movie. 

With warm tummies, we amble up to our tents. Tomorrow our goal is to have rolling carts to test by evening so we can make a second iteration by the end of the week. Lots to do!

Session H: Day 1 - Organized Chaos

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline Martin1 Comment

Welcome to the last week of the 2016 Tinkering School overnight season! It's been a wild summer, and we're closing it out with an all-ages session. We have a whole range, from 8 to 14, new tinkerers to five-year vets. Like all Sundays, after the arrivals, we circle up to introduce ourselves. Gever leads us through binary statements ("I like cats better than dogs;" "I like broccoli;" "My name has more than two vowels in it") and announcing our spirit tools. 

And a quick run-through of our three basic rules, though we do them a bit out of order this week.

Then it's time to do tool training. Our main tools are clamps, drills, and the chop saw, and this is our opportunity to go over the basics for our new tinkerers, and some of the finer details with our returning campers. Collaborator Rhody goes over the "silent thumbs-up" ready call for chop saw use.

We just love seeing the sunset in our workshop. Gretchen calls to her group: "Ready?"

Rayan makes his first cut.

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Collaborator Caroline goes over the various uses of the drills while Thalia breaks the fourth wall.

Dalia takes her knowledge over to Gever to practice drills with Sophia and Lucy.

Lilah learns the strengths and limitations of clamps.

We gather up for dinner, and discuss whether it's more important for pancakes or waffles to exist in the universe. After a bit of free time, we get together for a very different challenge. The collaborators have come up with a strange game that requires communication, teamwork, and trust. 

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Groups of three must verbally navigate a blindfolded teammate to retrieve a specific crumpled up ball of paper. The tricky thing is, all the groups are trying to do the same thing at once. 

It turns out to be an exceptionally hilarious level of insanity.

Which crumpled ball? Not that one? The other one? Okay!!

The night ends with a celebration for Bradon, who is celebrating his 12th birthday today! He picks the first of the ice cream sandwiches that Rhody made for us.

A hush falls over us as we devour the delicious desserts.

Rayan's mind is flooded with the scrumptious tastes.

"Do I have something on my face?"

Caspar asks, "Weren't we going to build something tonight?" A collaborator responds, "Yeah, we built FRIENDSHIPS." Caspar is less than enthused by this statement, despite the veracity of it.

Alex plays the ukulele for us as we finish up our cookies.

With full tummies and quiet voices, we take a foggy nighttime ride up to the tents and settle in for our first night. Tomorrow we get to talk about our project for the week!

Blog by Caroline, with editing and company by Jack.

Session G: Day 6 - On Fire

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline Martin4 Comments

(Written by Jack, Ana, and Serena) 

Today is Friday, which means our projects at the end of the day are where they will be when parents come on Saturday. It's our last big push for the finish.

In the morning before work begins there is a certain level of tomfoolery and goofing off. we started with licking banana slugs we found in the wet morning grass. 

After our morning fun, its time to get back to our projects. Before we get to work, we have a planning meeting to figure out what everyone is working on. Caroline helps reorganizes the Piki and Kablooi team into different, smaller teams to tackle the problems we need to solve to get the bridge, treehouse, and zipline working. 

Once we split into teams there is frenzy of activity down in the work site. One group figures out how to attach the bridge to the treehouse while the other starts building a crows-nest above the base platform. 

Aya and the Nooi team are working on getting their suspension bridge up and working. Here, she problem solves with a finicky drill.

Lucas takes a turn at drilling. These holes will be used to put paracord through, providing support for team Nooi's suspension bridge.

CR-7 can't resist clambering upon the track. We've finally measured the track to 306'!

Team Nooi has been hard at work on their suspension bridge. They're putting the finishing touches on their piling (the tower that stands in the center of a suspension bridge from which the cables run down).

Lucas saws off a bit of 2x4 that is preventing his team's piling from sitting flush on the the base they've built for it.

Switching over to team Kablooi, we find Ryker and Jack cutting wood for the crows-nest they're building for the treehouse.

Zyla and Ava take a break from work and use their newfound whittling skills to create some sharp pointy sticks (a Tinkering School classic).

Take a look at our little village. With the sun shining bright overhead it's quite picturesque here. 

Team Nooi grabs help from other teams to transport their piling.

The crows-nest team has now finished the triangular supports for the bottom of the platform, and it is time to attach them to the tree. First we had to measure out where wanted our platform to be, we started to put the platform lower on the tree when Gever encouraged us to move higher and put the platform up past the brach in our way. we did to that, which made our tree platform higher than another platform in Tinker City.

During morning snack a group of staff and kids play a game of cards, cards are a common part of the social fabric within the group. 

Nooi team prepares to raise the pilling for cable stay bridge. Aya and Liora begin knot rope for lifting up the heavy pilling. 

Miles checks with the the team pulling the piling up with rope tied to the top. and slowly but surely the piling rises towards its full stature. 

Look at our city skyline - with the bridge piling up, the windmill spinning, and the crows-nest being stabilized, it's quite the sight to behold. 

While working out past the rising tide Nooi team has to be careful not to step in the water and get attack by laser sharks - if attacked, they get 5 minutes of dish duty, in service to the collaborators who have to rescue them. They developed a system of rapid deploy bridges for maneuvering across the water.  

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lilly

Miles supports the piling. The paracord suspension cords are a rainbow of color. 

Aya gazes down from the windmill platform. 

Caroline stretches upward. 

Portrait of a Collaborator: Jack

A team's been hard at work anchoring the zipline to the Sky Tower. Michael tests its strength. 

"I've been whittling on the railroad, I've been whittling on the railroad..."  Caden practices with his new knife. 

Michael does the first test run on the first human-ridden zipline ever created at Tinkering School. 

Ana and Serena carry over the ladder that Ana helped Ava build. The ladder connects the tree platform to the crows-nest.

It's Friday, and so after dinner, we hop on the back and sides of Gever's big truck, and ride up the hill for our campfire. 

Getting to ride on a truck this way tends to draw lots of grins. 

Something about gathering around a campfire draws us all closer. 

And then we light the fire, and watch it burn. As we let it settle, we talk and enjoy each other's company. 

After it burns down, it's time for another Tinkering School tradition - throwing sawdust into the fire. When done right, it creates a cool array of sparks. 

And then one final experiment. Milk bottles are made out of HDPE, which burns clean. We attach one to the end of a stick, light it over the fire, and watch it melt as it burns. 

Today, we were on fire. Tinkerers worked hard to get bridges up, throwing their energy at the project. They've displayed teamwork, tenacity, and talent. Our fire tonight is a celebration of our togetherness and accomplishment. Tomorrow, parents arrive. 

Session G: Day 5 - Chopsaws, Pickaxes, Knives, and Crawdads

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline MartinComment

(Written by Gever, Elizabeth, and Ana)

After a brief morning check-in, everyone picks up wood, tools, screws, and heads out to Tinker City to get to work. We've seen a distinct pattern this summer (and noticed it previous summers); Thursdays are a big work day. Projects are often still somewhat nascent on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, and by the end of Thursday you can really see the future clearly.

Erving (aka Matilda) and the Nooi are almost ready to put the deck plates on their bridge.

Kablooi gets to work with Gever this morning (who is filling in for Camp Captain Caroline [miss you Serena]). Their next step is a big one; it's time to put the deck on the platform.

Ben and Liora get started on the composite twelve-foot posts they need to suspend the Piki rope bridge.

At the other end of the post, we find the unstoppable Aya.

Lucas is Likewise Lworking hard. It feels like everyone knows what they need to do, why it needs to be done, and how to do it. It's a great start to a Thursday.

Now Erving has moved on to the digging part of the plan. They need to level out the ground where the Nooi bridge supports meet the earth.

Oh board, thou art so rectilinear and straight. What will I do with you today? Shall I make thee into a triangular support for a bridge, or shall I just appreciate and admire you on this oh so overcast morn? (Zyla)

We don't require ear protection for sorting lumber, but it can't hurt, right? Ben and Lucas are starting to notice that we are running low on wood at this end of the summer.

Muktuk (aka Simon) and Swiss Champ (aka Michael) are transporting lumber and supplies on the flatbed cart, but are now getting somewhat annoyed that the guide wheels have been cannibalized.

Kablooi has decided to use plywood for the deck of the tree house and that means that they have to cut a tree-hole in half of a giant hexagon, so Ana shares her extensive jigsaw skills with Ava.

Lily gets a hand from Miles as she puts the crossbar on the suspension towers that will hold up the bridge.

Ben, Liora, and Lucas get ready for the next big step in the bridge tower build.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lily

Still life with driver and hammer.

Ava and Ryker work out the cut lines for the deck half-hexagons.

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Lauren

In what will become a theme for the day, Gever shows Michael how to safely use the circular saw to make a long cut on a full sheet of plywood.

Portrait of a Zombie: Caden

Happy tinkerers at play.

Muktuk takes a turn at the circular saw.

Meanwhile, back at the chopsaw, Erving cuts some bridge parts.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: CR-7 (Nathan)

Erving, Elizabeth, and Zyla, a study in blue.

Portrait of a Consternated Collaborator: Yoel

Portrait of a Tinkering Manager: Karen

Then it's time for Piki to try the circular saw.

Bridge Party!

Caroline decides to try the platform (after all of Kablooi take turns climbing on it)...

...and then gets to work.

Martha expressed some concern about the reliance on clamps to hold the deck in place, so she gets to work with the driver.

Not wanting to be left out, Cooper gets in on the action.

So so hot.

The Piki suspension bridge is patiently waiting to be suspended, but before the suspenders can be put in place, they have to excavate footing for their pilings.

At the end of the work, we split up into freebuilders and creekgoers. There was a concerted effort to find and catch some crawdads.

Eventually, their bucket contained upwards of ten crawdads.

Ana introduces the freebuilders to some of the crawdads.

Zyla, Aya, and Lilly took advantage of freebuild to make a mighty nice table.

This group has been fascinated by the off-road wagons. Here's Nathan demonstrating his form - he's ready for the olympics.

Zyla takes the table back to the yurt to try it out.

After dinner, it's time for knife training.

Tomorrow we push to the finish line and get these projects working, polished up, and presentable - typical Friday.

Session G: Day 4 - Beach Day (full version)

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline Martin5 Comments

We can't believe it's already day 4; this week is flying by! We gather into our groups after breakfast and come up with a plan for the morning.

Kablooi's tree fort platform is coming along well, but they decide it could use some reinforcements. With a basket full of gussets, they begin to make more triangles.

Ryker makes some angle cuts for the "web" of the tree fort.

Piki's bridge bottom is nearly finished. Ben is really enjoying cutting holes into the boards.

Nooi's bridge platform is chugging along as well. Caden makes some angled cuts for the supports of the bridge, under Gever's ever-watchful eye.

Some of the gussets for the tree fort aren't fitting because the paracord compression belt is in the way. Junior Collaborator Yoel holds one while CoopDogg marks where it needs to be cut.

dogz - 29.jpg

The tree fort is finally starting to look like something, and Nooi's bridge is making steady progress in the background.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zyla puts together the Nooi bridge platform.

A rare sighting! Collaborator Daniel out from behind the camera.

With the water set to rise this afternoon, Piki starts getting their bridge connected to high ground.

Caden picks out the right screw for the job he's working on with Junior Collaborator Zach, while Swiss Warrior waits to drill the next hole.

Ava and Martha work on connecting the web on the tree fort.

In order for Piki's bridge to work, they need to anchor the bridge into the ground. Collaborator Miles makes holes in the deck of the windmill tower while Lilly screws the bridge temporarily in place.

Lilly also shows off her knot-tying mastery. The figure-eight knot is one of our favorites at Tinkering School, and she uses it here to tie the bridge on.

With the outer ring finished, it's time for preliminary safety testing of the tree fort.  They discover there is some lateral twisting to fix, but the vertical strength is solid when Collaborator Caroline climbs up on it. The triangles slip very slightly on the tree, so the team needs to discuss additional ground supports.

Piki hoists the bridge up to the carousel next. Their teamwork is a marvel to us all.

During our clean-up, we find another thing to add to our workshop museum.

As is Wednesday tradition, we make our way to the beach. It's a tricky climb down, but well worth it.

One of our favorite parts of this beach is all the friendly dogs. This particular dog captures our hearts.

Lucas has a special bond with him as well. Everybody loves this dog!

Well, almost everyone. 

It was a cold day, but it was still refreshing to hop in the water for some of us.

For others, finding the mysterious things the ocean brings to the beach is interesting enough. Erving and Aya have found some kelp!

The soft cliffs make it easy to make little caves with warm, rich sand.

And no trip to this beach would be complete without a trip to the tide pools. Unfortunately, our camera died before we got fully into that adventure.

When we get back and all go through the showers, we get cozy and have hot chocolate, courtesy of Mukluk and Erving tonight.

We finish our tiring day with a showing of The Princess Bride while we sip from our mugs. We settle in to dream about our projects.

Blog written by Caroline.

Session G: Day 3 - Creatures

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline Martin2 Comments

Another cloudy morning greets us on Tuesday, a day that we usually find is harder than other days. We've started our projects, but they haven't come together enough for us to see them, so it's tough to motivate the troops. We start with a pep talk and some sunscreen for when the skies clear up. Team Kablooi has much to decide for their tree fort.

Swiss Warrior takes no time getting to work. Team Nooi is working out their platform over to Kablooi's tree fort.

Meanwhile, team Piki continues their bridge. They have about 30 feet of bridge to make, and a solid plan to do it. Collaborator Miles shows Lucas the ropes.

The 30-foot-long bridge has 40 two-foot pieces to manufacture.

Each piece has to be cut to size and then have two holes drill-pressed into them before the ropes can be put through. There's something of an assembly line that takes form to measure where the holes will be while another team makes the holes. It's a process, but Piki gets is working like a well-oiled machine.

Lucas and Ben are measuring out where the holes go.

The drill press team is cranking them out. Aya punches the holes while Junior Collaborator Liora shows off a particularly beautiful swirly bit from their work.

And Aya switches over to the ropes. The bridge is getting really long!

Meanwhile, Kablooi has re-adjusted the triangles that will make up the base of their tree fort. They load up the cart to take them into the city.

They attach the triangle bases using the method they tested yesterday, twisting paracord until it's as tight as wire.

And after all that hard work, we take a break to show off weird human tricks,

Or to just sit and relax, as Caden and Collaborator Jack do.

Today is also filled with all sorts of interesting forms of life. We find an itty bitty lizard...

We have a yellowjacket nest that we're trying to control...

And Martha has found the joys of the little green beetles that hang around.

The sun finally comes out and we have smiles all around during our break. Ben takes the lead on a ride.

Team Nooi's platform is coming right along.

With lots of good progress finished, we treat ourselves to a visit up with the animals. The goats are one of our very favorite things, as Caden learns.

Hello goats!

Junior Collaborator Elizabeth and Lilly feed the goats our scraps from snack time.

Farm visits are a wonderful time to reset our work-weary heads and reconnect with our friends. Junior Collaborators Yoel and Zach share a tender moment in the goat pen.

CR-7 enjoys the sunshine with a tiny goat pal.

The goats seem to be as happy as we all are that Junior Collaborator Ana was able to join us.

It's Spice! Hello, old friend.

There is also a whole group of tiny cats. Martha has found one she likes...

And the little friend seems to like her, too!

We end the evening hanging around in the playground near the barns. Lilly watches from above.

We come back to an awesome taco night, and settle in for a night of reading and hot chocolate and The Sandlot. Tomorrow we have another day to think about our projects before we head off to the beach. 

Blog written by Caroline.

 

 

Session G: Day 2 - Rising Waters

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline Martin2 Comments

Monday! Our first full day together. We wake up bright (or rather, foggy) and early, ready for a full day of tinkering. Teamwork is already blossoming between campers, as seen here, helping each other get to breakfast in the most efficient way possible.

After a filling breakfast, the tinkerers are split into small groups for a quick-build challenge. This week's challenge: transmit and receive two six-letter words over 100 ft, without talking, writing letters, or using power tools. Gever and Caroline explain the rules.

gazebo - 9.jpg

The tinkerers are apprehensive at first, but after some clarifications, they seem more interested in this strange challenge.

Michael/Swiss Warrior and Caden practice signaling letters to their teammates across the parking lot. One of the tougher parts of this challenge is to transmit two letters at a time.

Ryker and his team have decided to write out numbers that correspond to the alphabet on lengths of wood. He finds the Sky Bench quite comfortable for the job.

Nathan/CR7 works with Junior Collaborator Yoel on the key to decode messages for their group.

And there are even fancy stands for hand-free decoding!

After an hour of organizing, planning, and practicing, it's time for the trials. The teams are split up to have part of the team near the benches and part across the parking lot. Each half of each team will have to send a word and receive another word. Each team has an easy word and a tricky word. The words range from PENCIL to GAZEBO, LLAMAS to PIZZAS (though some would argue that the plural of "pizza" is just "pizza." This blogger would decide on a case-by-case basis.)

Ava and Lucas send their team's first word. Their receiving end shouts back across the parking lot, "Juggle!" and a cheer goes up.

Aya's team's code involves jumping up and down. We think she just likes jumping.

Matilda/Erving and Cooper/CoopDogg on the other side like their jumping code, too.

Ryker and Ben send a word back to their team. It's a tense moment waiting for their receiving end to shout back the right word.

Caden and Swiss Warrior complete their word and await confirmation from their team.

It works! Lilly and Martha send back the second word. The receiving end pauses after they decode. "... Gaze bow?" Close enough!

In the end, there was only one message that got scrambled. The tinkerers are asked to anonymously rate how well their team communicated, and then we have a discussion about how to best communicate with each other.

Then, FINALLY, it's time to learn about the project! We take a moment to walk through all six weeks of projects prior to this tinkering session. We marvel at all the hard work put in by tinkerers of all ages, but especially the achievements of our past junior peers. Terminus Station and the first length of track to Midway is especially wowing.

When we get down to the merry-go-round though, we notice something odd. What is this? The ocean is rising? And it's filled with LASER SHARKS? Whoa. You can see it too, right? We take a moment to scope out the paracord water line.

The tide is low now, but we predict that the water level will continue to rise throughout the week, making it harder and harder to build and navigate our city. We decide we want to build and get to high ground, and create ways of getting between the main platforms we've built.

After a quick poll, we break into our teams for the week!

On team Piki: Lilly, Aya, Lucas, and Ben, lead by Collaborator Miles, working on the passage between the Merry-Go-Round and the Windmill Tower.
On team Nooi: Zyla, Caden, Swiss Warrior, Simon/Muktuk, and Matilda/Erving, lead by Collaborator Rhody, working on the passage between the Windmill Tower and the Treehouse.
On team Kablooi: Martha, CoopDogg, Ryker, CR7, and Ava, lead by Collaborator Caroline, working on building the aforementioned Treehouse, which will function as our new high ground.

We get together and come up with group agreements and start planning our projects for the week.

Portrait of Sibling Tinkerers: Mukluk and Erving are here to steal your blueberry muffins.

Team Kablooi doesn't want to harm the tree they'll be using, and thankfully a group of tinkerers from long ago figured out a brilliant method of using torque and compression to make treehouses for the original Piki and Nooi teams. Today, the team learns this technique.

Once paracord is wrapped around the blocks of wood, it can be tightened by twisting the cords until they become taut, and an object (such as a screwdriver) then holds the twist in place.

Team Nooi is working out a bridge, and they enlist the structural expertise of Gever to help them plan their attack.

Their plan is to use ropes through holes in boards to create a rope bridge. They start their exploration.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: CoopDogg, figuring out lengths for the treehouse triangles.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Aya isn't so sure about that sharp object, but clamps all the same.

Piki's first iteration works! Aya tests out the planks. Look, ma, no hands!

Junior Collaborator Lauren provides the necessary counterweight for the small bridge. We suspect this will be an ongoing challenge for their design.

After dinner, the campers go down to explore the stream. 

They even go travel to the spooky haunted house (which some would argue is simply an old shed, but this blogger would say houses come in all sizes, and that thing is def haunted).

A banana slug is found. Dares commence.

gazebo - 113.jpg

CR7 goes for it...

Blehhhh!!

Zyla is daring, and Lucas can't look away.

And he goes for it, too. Delicious.

Everyone comes back to the yurts tired and happy. Tomorrow, building starts in earnest, a full day to work out their projects. But, through the night, the waters rise...

Blog written by Caroline.

Session G: Day 1 - One-on-One

2016 Session G - JuniorsCaroline MartinComment

Week 7 of Overnight Camp has started, and with it, a whole group of new campers. We have 14 tinkerers this week, and 11 on staff, making our ratio the closest to one-on-one you can get. We realize this as campers start to arrive and get excited about the possibilities of the week.

With camp names chosen and exploration of the previous builds explored, we all meet up to introduce ourselves and use our imaginations on a strange object. Is it an alien detection system? An advanced make-up applicator? A robot with flappy wings??

We have a brief rules meeting to discuss the top three:

1. Don't hurt yourself or anyone else.
2. If you see a piece of fruit, and you want it, you must eat it.
3. All disputes will be solved with Roshambo.

After that, it's time for tool training and orientation. Our main tools, as always, are drills, clamps, and the chopsaw. Clamps are a great start.

Clamps end up being a two-person task once you get down to it. 

Their task is to build a clamp human, which they all assemble, and even add the final touch: safety goggles!

Once we know how to hold things together with clamps, we learn how to make it more permanent with screws. Drills are the ideal tool for it, and there's lots to learn about them.

Once we learn all about the different settings on the drills, we have a chance to practice with them.

The tinkerers also get a master class from Collaborator Miles about all the different types of wood we use here at Tinkering School.

After that, it's chopsaw time. Gever explains the best and safest ways to use it.

We also learn about the Ready Call, which is how we communicate safely around the chopsaw. If you are ready, the appropriate response is a silent thumbs up.

And then we get choppin!

Everyone gets a chance to cut before we go up to dinner.

Our homemade lasagna dinner fills us up, and after a bit of running around, we all retire to our yurts. Sunday night is going to be tame compared to the rest of our busy week. Tomorrow we'll do some more collaborating -- and then, the big project reveal we've all been anxiously awaiting! Stay tuned for more bloggy goodness tomorrow.

Blogging by Caroline and Daniel.

 

Session F: Day 6/7 - The Great Race and Fond Farewells

2015 Session F - SeniorsGever1 Comment

(Editor's note: Thursday, we said goodbye to Nik who has been a part of Tinkering School since it started, and Friday morning, we said goodbye to Serena - this has been an emotional week. She was Camp Captain this week, having been everything else you can be at Tinkering School over the past five years, and she was the best Captain we have ever had, according to everyone. Everything ran on time, logistics were perfect, massive amounts of work happened, and everyone had fun. She and I have co-written the blog for so long that I barely remember doing it alone. It is fair to say that she has been a true collaborator at Tinkering School and been a large part of why it has gotten better over the years. In our end of session staff meeting today, during a process we call "plusses and deltas", the first delta was "don't let Serena leave". Well, we didn't really let her leave, she's off to college, and it's hard to argue with that. But, we all felt (me particularly) that we lost something magical and important when we had to say goodbye yesterday. You'll always have a place at our table Serena, come back any time our dear and delightful friend.)

Early Friday morning, perhaps late Thursday night, a sneaky drizzly rain crept in to our little valley and started soaking everything. If we had reliable internet, we could have predicted this perfectly, but our connection is so tenuous we have begun to assume we have no internet and so have lost the habit of checking the weather. Opening the shop in the morning is a muddy and soggy process.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lyman, who came from New York to spend the week with us, learning about how our camps run, sharing his stories and experiences working with children, and heading home tonight (Friday) to start an afterschool tinkering program in Brooklyn.

Rain, drizzle, "heavy" fog - whatever! It's race day, let's get to work!

There are two basic variations of the drive system: loop and line. The loop systems have a continuous belt running between the crank and the drive axle, and the line systems have a long rope wrapped around the drive axle and pulled onto a take-up drum by the crank. Emma's team has decided to go with a line drive, so she pre-stretches and straightens the line that they'll be winding onto their drive axle.

Mariya and Lauren contemplate their first iteration of the line drive. In an effort to increase the ratio between drive axle (seen here with gold paracord wound on to it) and the crank axle, they have added a chunk of wood with tape - it's a prototype, right?

Liora gets some help from Elijah to set the newly upgraded chassis on the track for some rolling tests.

And what better way to make sure it navigates the tricky parts of the track than to have Elijah be her engine?

Miles and Yoel (behind the cart) work out some of the critical next steps in setting up the crank on the belt drive.

With the highest clearance of any of the carts, Emma has plenty of room to work under the chassis.

After a very successful test run, Piki decides to tune the ratio on their line drive by reducing the diameter of their take-up hub with some judicious application of the angle grinder.

Tinkering School loves clamps, we really do.

Austin and Katelin are justifiably proud of their improved take-up hub.

Rory and Elijah tune up the active guide-wheel system...

...with some help from Jake.

The rain came in under the roof of the midway chopsaw station, so Lyman knolls the workspace to clear and assess the situation.

Audrey and Charlotte working on their crank system.

Camp Captain Serena clarifies the rules for the afternoon race.

Working hard? Always time to bust out some sweet dance moves when a great track comes on the worksite boom box.

Megan finds that the upgraded take-up hub is working much better.

Jay rocking the dress that Collaborator Annie gave him.

Gever walks up to the yurts with Serena to keep her company as she packs for an early exit on the session. How many hours have they spent talking and brainstorming over the years?

Stephie is always hamming it up for the camera. We tried getting her to stop, explained to her that our organizational learning process depends on good documentation, but we soon discovered that she seems to have been wired at birth for this behavior - so now we celebrate our photo-response diversity! Go Stephie, you be you!

You can't tell here, but Ana is fighting a bad cold that is going to knock her down by the end of the day. In the meantime, she's let us know that this cart is going to be ready to roll in the afternoon.

Miles works on his nicely designed and implemented idler pulley (a wheel that tensions a belt).

Lauren and Pascal have seen some successful cart tests roll by their workshop at Midway Station, which just makes them want to get theirs going.

This time it is Elijah's turn to get a ride from Liora.

The orange mallet (referred to by tinkerers as "Thor's Baby Rattle") comes out when shafts are reluctant to move in relation to wood.

Hard work makes good friends. Jo and Michael take a break from drive-belt braiding.

If he can't find Thor's Baby Rattle, Pascal is willing to use a good chunk of wood.

Clamps are the strong extra hands that Lauren needs to bore precise holes and create a new take-up hub (replacing the tape and board of the earlier prototype).

We use PVC bushings for axles this summer, but Emma is really enjoying the acoustic properties right now (Miles hears her and says "good embouchure").

Charlotte decides to skip the line at the drill press, deciding to just do it by eye when she needs holes in the new crank arms.

Jake helps out Jay with some rope work.

During a safety check with Gever, the Piki talk through possible solutions to the danger posed by an accidental break in their long line during a race.

Miles decides to add an emergency brake.

Gever guides Ana and her team through a possible way to turn their braided line into a closed drive belt.

Tape measures are starting to be used more precisely at this end of the week. Audrey marks out locations for holes to be bored at the drillpress.

A bold experiment; the ladder-handle crank.

Zach's team not only managed to get a multi-strand belt working (not the first, second, or third times) well.

The tinkerers gave the Panda Express the "best in show" ribbon.

Ready to roll!

The first of the four time trials begins. The overall score will be based on the average a team's completed runs (crossing the finish line). To start us off, Kateline puts up a blistering run on the Piki line-drive system, and then Nooi, Kablooi, Panda, Sqiki, and Wowi Zowi.

wind - 93.jpg

After a long day of work that included a grueling afternoon of hand-cranked racing that left arms feeling like jelly, we head up for our fire night and sharing of mutual appreciation.

Followed by smore's and a little bit of fireball practice with canola oil cooking spray (we've put some significant time into figuring out how to train senior tinkerers to do this safely).

Here are the official times from the four heats. Tokens buy a two-second deduction from a team's average time. See the calculated results here.

wind - 1 (1).jpg

This kind of week, with a complicated technical build, holds a special place in my heart (Serena knew this when she proposed a cart race for her week as Camp Captain). We started eleven years ago in my backyard with with rollercoaster, so going fast on wooden rails built by tinkerers is going to resonate no matter what, but this has been an amazing group of tinkerers and it's been a fantastic week.

Session F: Day 6 - Quick Update

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Because Friday ends with Fire Night, we don't really leave ourselves much time for getting the blog up. It has become out custom to write the full update in the morning, but until then, rest assured that it was a great day, that we did all the things, and that we took care of each other in lovely and thoughtful ways as the hard push to get everything working happened.

Good night everyone, we can't wait to see you in the morning.

Session F: Day 5 - Try Harder than Usual

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Written by Gever, Serena, and help from Ana. Gever would like to point out that this is the last blog entry that Serena will author with him for some time to come (more on that tomorrow).

Hitchcock called it the Macguffin - the object which is coveted by characters in the movie (the Maltese Falcon, the Arc of Covenant), but as Alfred tells us in so many movies, the story is not about the thing, it's about how people relate to each other in their quest for the thing.

Tinkering School is really about love. We do these things as an excuse to work hard together. The project is not the object, the time together doing good things is the object. Miles and Nik spent some good time together last night (after the blog started), trying to get the sewing machine to behave.

Liora leans in on the lumber to cut a line (alliteration for Serena).

The Panda cart is starting to make sense as the parts assemble into something that looks like it's going to work really well. Audrey has been smiling all morning (which is kind of normal for Audrey).

These carts are the result of many iterations on many tiny details. It takes time and persistence.

This is either the fourth or fifth iteration of fitting guide wheels on the Kablooi kart. 

The Wowi Zowi cart felt "mostly done" to the team yesterday, but some careful analysis leads them to conclude that more triangles are necessary.

Nooi has been struggling to reconcile their bits and pieces into a coherent design and there have been some implementation mis-steps.

Serena finds Gever and asks him to "do the talk" - as collaborators it's our job to prevent catastrophic failures. Failure is an important part of the experience, but when the theme of the week is Thrills, Spills, and High Speed Action, bumps and scrapes are fine, but we want to make sure we're not going to end up at the hospital.

Nooi begins separating their parts and, with a little help from Gever on a few details, getting them back together with precision and clear intent.

Pre-assembly on the Wowi Zowi drive system is hinting at an exciting test tomorrow!

Foreshadowing (thanks Alfred!)...

Charlotte, with the cart up on the lift, wrench in hand.

Sol grabs the crank on the first rolling test of the Piki cart. This is also the first rolling test of the day, which is making all of the collaborators a little nervous about tomorrow.

And the second rolling test, on the Panda cart, with Audrey at the helm.

Gever was dubious when he heard what the Piki propulsion plan (thanks Serena!) entailed, but Austin, Sol, Megan, and Katelin embraced the vision, worked it hard, and made it work.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Charlotte

Jo came down the line to get a pep-talk from Serena who came out to watch the rolling test of the Piki cart.

That is the look of someone who worked hard on something complicated and now it is not just working, but it's working really well!

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sage

Portrait of a Photographer (Collaborator): Elijah, reflected in Charlotte's eyes. 

Panda cart, upside up, showing off the cool wheel ports.

Piki decides to make an optimization to see if they can get more speed out of the winding-drive system by adding a large diameter spool to their crankshaft.

Megan takes the new spool for a spin and determines that the ratio is wrong, the spool is too hard to turn and therefore needs to be a little smaller.

Lauren assembles a crankshaft for the Kablooi cart mechanism. 

There is some concern that the Wowi Zowi cart may have an excessively high center of gravity, but with the success of the Piki drive system, we're all starting to appreciate the enormity of the solution space.

Slots go here - to make room for wheels and the drive pulley.

The Kablooi cart rolls out on the track, and whoa, that's an exciting cant to the chassis.

Sqiki tries out an interesting new iteration on the guide-wheel support problem.

After a long day of hard work, tools are stowed, the shop is closed, and we hit the amusement park for some fun. 

Tonight marks the end of an era. We just said goodbye to our good friend, original tinkerer, and true collaborator in the evolution and implementation of Tinkering School. Nik started the same time Gever did, back in the very first session eleven years ago. He turned seven that week at camp, and has contributed more than can be measured to the experience at camp. Nik has collaborated at our day camp, weekend workshops, after-school programs, and of course, overnight camp. He's off to Brown University next, and while it's clear that this is not the last we'll see of him, it's the last summer that we'll spend together as campers. Dude, you rocked this place six ways from Sunday. Thanks for being you and teaching us so many things.

Session F: Day 4 - Work or Beach? Both!

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

Wednesday is beach day. We proved this by trying to have beach day on Tuesday last week when exigent circumstances forced us to change our schedule - the change caused a ripple in the stoke, we were discombobulated, there was a tremor in the force. It was tricky to get back into things, and tricky to keep things going with three straight long build days. But this is Wednesday, and it's the right day to go to the beach, but... we still have a lot of work to do.

Charlotte and Audrey are adding a horizontal stabilizer to the guide wheels on their cart. This is an untried solution, but the track revisions mean that there is guaranteed clearance for this approach. We're excited to see it in action because it could mean the end of bent bolts.

We have become experts at making stacks of washers, wheels, boards and bolts.

Lyman and Lauren are working out an alignment issue on the tracks that is highlighted by the excessive wideness of their guide wheels.

The Wowizowi design calls for a port for the drive belt to pass through the deck of their cart.

Then Jake checks the belt to see if the port is big enough when the belt is stretched.

Kablooi has put friction tape on their drive wheels, because they predict massive torque from their paracord pull-start system.

Yoel puts the Wowi Zowi cart up on the lift to work on it from below.

Panda has got a really technical build going on; drive pulley on the rear shaft, new guide separators on the lead wheels, and soon, some kind of crank above. Who's working on the crank?

Zach, with his out of tune shirt, and Liora of Sqiki, are playing catch-up on the other teams as they work to gel their plans into something workable. Sometimes the tinkerers have enough previous experience to just start into the project, but then they hit this moment (sometimes called the doldrums) when momentum peters out.

Jake, Rory, and Emma; productive and focused every time we catch up with them.

Piki is getting ready to move their crankshaft design from conceptual to actual. This is one part of the build that will take some figuring and a couple of iterations. Let's hope they are planning for that...

You know what goes well with mechanical engineering? Bananas.

Mar takes the test pilot seat on the Kablooi cart. Without front guide-wheels, this is a useful but dangerous test.

The rule of the windmill is: one person that built the windmill must be present when anyone is on it. Nik and Eli sprint to the scene of the crime.

Chalk marks identify the areas on each section of track that need to be addressed. This gap is getting the (homemade, bespoke, artisanal) Tinkering School wood filler.

This stuff dries hard and gets smoothed and finished with a wood rasp.

Then, lunch, and head to the beach (while Gever goes to Redwood City to (not) give a presentation).

Due to a massive delay while we had to manage 300+ gigabytes of photos from our previous weeks of camp, so please enjoy this photo montage (queue the travel music).

Session F: Day 3 - Rolling Onwards

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Written by Serena & Ana. 

This morning, it's time to really get started. Yesterday was about familiarizing ourselves with our options, developing our designs, and getting to know our problem on a theoretical level. Yes, we used the tools, and yes, we started some assembly, but today comes the tricky bit. 

Serena opens the morning by reminding the tinkerers that failure is an important part of Tinkering School, and that sketches and early designs will only get them so far. She challenges them to start, build something, and fail early and often, so that they can improve in time for race day. They take that advice to heart. Our early morning hardware store run leaves, with one team representative from each group, and the rest of the crew gets back to work. 

One of the first things we start to see assembled are wheel-boxes. This is a tricky set of material limitations to work within - each team has been allotted just six skateboard wheels and two train wheels. Tinkerers are starting to realize that not all of their plans accounted for the vastly different radii of the two wheels, and almost none had dealt with the different mounting systems each wheel would require. 

Another tricky problem which was discussed yesterday is how to support the guide wheels. On most of our past cart iterations, these bolts gave way under any significant shift in weight, bending inward and causing the cart to derail. Collaboratively, we've come up with our possible solutions to this problem, each with slightly different trade offs. We spend a good portion of the morning sketching these and wrapping our heads around the problem. 

A real-life version of one of the potential designs, built almost four weeks ago and now partially disassembled. 

Team Nooi works out their cart base. 

The team that headed to the hardware store has returned, so we have snack, and then it's time for a long-time tradition - giving each tinkerer a knife. Before we do that, we go over the rules for knife use. 

Katelin demonstrates one of our five rules for knife use - making sure everyone is out of her "blood bubble," the zone around her the length of her arm plus the length of her blade, where she could potentially cut someone if she slipped.  The other four rules include maintaining a sharp blade, having three points of contact, locking your knife, and cutting away from yourself.

Each tinkerer shows off their skills.

Sol works on assembling guide wheels for the Piki cart. He and his team have come up with a clever solution which uses eyebolts to keep the guide wheels from bending inwards.  

Ana and Michael work together to cut their threaded rod. 

While Jo, their third teammate, works on repairing the Nooi segment of track. 

Katelin and Megan work on adding back the two segments of track that had been replaced by the turntable. 

Austin and Sol work on assembling their cart base and installing the guide wheel braces. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zach, decked in a tire. 

Jo and Ana work together to work out how their axle should be installed. 

Jake converses with Rory from the Sky Bench as he whittles. 

Audrey and Charlotte make a plan for mounting their wheel boxes to their cart base. 

One side of Team Piki's wheelbase, complete. 

Collaborator Lyman lends a hand with track repair. 

Jack takes a go with "Esmerelda," the new saw Nik just couldn't resist buying on the hardware store run. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Audrey's mastered the drill. 

Austin makes a cut on the chop saw. Because of the materials limits, each team must carefully think through and plan their cuts. 

Another guide wheel bracing solution, as implemented by Kablooi. They're running a 1x4 across both internal guide wheels, and relying on the compression strength of wood to keep the bolts evenly spaced. 

Lauren cuts slots meant to tighten in the axle for the train wheels. 

And then drills holes in the axle to use for screws. Mar holds and helps. 

Team Panda has cut slots in their chassis to provide clearance for their train wheels. It's quite elegant, actually. 

Both the jigsaw and the circular saw have gotten heavy, but thoughtful use today. Collaborator Serena watches as Megan cuts plates for her team. 

The jigsaw is versatile.  It turns out to be the best tool we have for cutting out our axle conduit (metal tube is apparently only pipe when it has water flowing through it). 

Austin and Sol act out how their hand crank system will work for the camera. They plan to attach an axle there, then belt down to the drive axle across the bottom that they also haven't installed quite yet. We're at a cool stage of the project - tinkerers now have tangible image of how their carts will look, and a clear grasp on how much work it will take to get there. As a whole, that's about right for a Tuesday afternoon. 

Our superhero: Collaborator Jay shows off his moves. 

It's Taco Tuesday! We lay out a beautiful spread. After a long day of work, tinkerers are hungry. 

After dinner, we fall into some fun with pool noodles. 

Then head up to the playground for some fun with tire swings. 

There's something sort of magical about riding atop a tire. 

Ana enjoys a ride.

We rediscover the kittens. They bring just as much joy tonight as they did yesterday, and they're still just as soft. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Pascal's Tube. 

Today, we thought about all sorts of ways to make carts roll. But we did more than think - we enacted our designs, and we made strong, clear progress. We solved problems as they arose, changed plans, and tinkered. We're starting to see the first of our wheelbases emerge. Even if our carts don't themselves roll yet, we're rolling, and gaining momentum, and it's kind of awesome to watch. 

Session F: Day 2 - "Thrills, Spills, and High Speed Action!"

Serena G-HComment

Written by Serena & Lauren, with support from Yoel, Jack, and Zach. 

It's Monday morning, and that can only mean one thing - it's time for the project reveal. The anticipation rises, and a spontaneous drumroll begins. Serena announces the theme: "Thrills, Spills, and High-Speed Action," which Gever claims originates from the beginning of NASCAR. The tinkerers gasp and grin. 

And then she explains - this week, we'll be building high-speed, human-powered, rail carts, which we'll race on Friday in a series of time trials. Each team must make two runs from Terminus to Tinker City, and for each run, each cart must contain two tinkerers. 

This group is stacked with a lot of Tinkering School alumni, many in their third, fourth, or even fifth summers at Tinkering School. We deliberately chose an incredible technically complicated project from the group to tackle.  

To add to the challenge, teams must work within a set of materials constraints. Each team will receive one sheet of plywood, 40 linear feet of 2x3, 20 linear feet of 2x4', 6 skateboard wheels, 2 train wheels, and $40 to spend on at the hardware store when we go tomorrow morning. 

We divide into teams - for the first time in Tinkering School history, we'll have six teams this week.

On Piki: Sol, Megan, Austin and Katelin

On Nooi: Jo, Ana, and Michael

On Sqiki: Liora, Stephanie, and Zach

On Kablooi: Lauren, Mar, and Pascal 

On Panda: Charlotte, Audrey and Sage 

And then they're already off and planning, meeting with their teams, and sketching initial designs. 

Nooi plans their approach. 

Each team receives a box with a spreadsheet and a bundle of bolts. Each team is responsible for logging their own wood usage, and staying within their materials limits. 

The conference center starts to get stuffy, and teams head out side to investigate the remnants of previous cart design attempts from the past five weeks. 

They measure them, paying attention to wheel-spacing and width. A large part of Tinkering School is about learning through iteration and failure - these past carts have each failed, at some point, in some respect, and the tinkerers seek to extract those lessons before they delve into their own designs. 

In addition to their carts, each team is responsible for repairing and maintaining a significant section in our 300+ feet of track. The first 150 feet have been up for five weeks now, the rest has been standing for three weeks. Use has worked loose many of the connections, other segments have gaps or significant spacing variations between the rails. Gever explains the importance of track repair and improvement to the group. 

And introduces them to our standard unit of width - 20" across, from inside edge to inside edge. The piece he's holding - our "Track Caliper" will socket over track of the right width, so we can use it a a guide and as the official means of testing and track calibration. 

We take a stroll down the track, and Collaborator Serena points out other flaws that need to be addressed, as well as shows each team which segments they have been assigned. 

It's hard to resist playing with past week's projects, especially when they happen to be so conveniently present in your workspace. Pascal tries the train turntable.  

And Audrey gives Stephanie a ride on one of the cart bases from two weeks ago (Session D). 

Then it's time for Gever's special "Structural Engineering 101" series. He gathers the group at Terminus, and talks about weight distribution through a structure - how does weight get from the top of this board to the ground? In a cart, how does weight get into the wheels? 

Then he stands on it, and challenges the tinkerers to think about how much of his weight is going into each end when he stands four-fifths of the way down the board. 

Then for the real test of strength - how many tinkerers can we get on the board before it breaks? 

Four people bouncing up and down seems to do the trick. 

Forensic analysis reveals that the wood rotated, and a crack ran all the way down until it found weakness at a knot in the wood and split through. 

Then Gever explains the power of triangles - adding just one diagonal across this parallelogram dramatically increases the strength. Instead of just the force of the screws keeping the parallelogram from twisting, the wood in diagonal has to be compressed or stretched. Because wood resists compression and stretching, the resulting quadrilateral is an order of magnitude stronger. 

After lunch, groups focus their efforts on track repair. One of the most common methods for fixing  a chunk of track is cutting out the old piece and splicing in a new one. Jake and Emma work together to remove an old, warped segment. 

We've purchased a new chop saw for out at midway station. Collaborators Jay and Lyman have spent the morning building a level table for it. 

Another issue with the track is that it isn't a uniform width. Charlotte uses the "track caliper" to check whether the rails are correctly spaced.

Gever shows Rory how to use the circular saw, then offers to help by making or starting the cut for her. 

Rory responds in true Tinkering School style: "I'm gonna do it!" And do it she does. 

Austin drill-presses through a 2x3's - he's making wheel boxes for his team. 

Sol's trying to build a jig with which to bend conduit. 

Miles and Sage are working together to realign the track. 

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We're starting to see a semblance of cart skeletons. Austin clamps together the Piki cart. 

Michael pauses on his way to measuring and cutting a piece of wood. 

Lauren writes out a cut list for the Kablooi cart base. 

The circular saw is in heavy use today. Ana makes a cut. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Emma's skeptical of the camera. 

Elijah's hat has somehow made its way onto the tip of a windmill blade. 

Some of the track wood has screws that are just permanently embedded. They've acquired the nickname "devil screws," and are labeled here accordingly. 

Portrait of a Bucket of Screws. 

Teamwork can make anything happen. Together, Team Panda carries a slab of plywood. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jo 

Portrait of a Portrait Taker: this is the wide-angle lens we broke last week, now dissasembled. 

Liora works on removing the guide-wheels from one of the Session D carts. Each team gets 6 skateboard wheels, but they have to retrieve them themselves. 

Collaborator Jay helps Lauren and Pascal investigate a joint. 

Sometimes, the camera captures the most beautiful moments. Nik blows sawdust to clear the drill press bed. 

After dinner, it's up the playground to romp. Elijah tries acrobatics over the stack of hay bales. 

And then we visit with the animals, and pet the barn kitties. A good end to a hard day. 

Today, tinkerers thought. They're stepping up to the technical nature of the challenge, figuring out their group dynamics, finding a rhythm, and working hard to make plans. We're looking forward to seeing how this all comes together. 

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