Tinkering School

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Day One - To the End of the Line

2012 Session 2 - Seniorsgever2 Comments

Our foggy morning at the ranch turned beautiful just as the tinkerers started to arrive. With some extra help from the amazing Elizabeth Rubenstein, we managed to get everything to the ranch, get it sorted out, beds made, and even a lunch for the collaborators put together - just shy of an actual well-oiled machine. We are working on one big project this week (a bit unusual for Tinkering School which tends towards multiple project weeks), and we are announcing it on the first day - unheard of!

The project is to build sail-powered vehicles that travel on an abandoned railroad line - Railboats!

Railboat1IMG 0009 And, since we're at Elkus Ranch, before we do anything else, we all have to say "hi" to the goats.

IMG 0023 To get things started, Gever has proposed a challenge; "How far can you shoot a cork using common rubber bands?" Julianna has in mind a variation on a slingshot using two long bolts.

IMG 0025 Gillon explores a similar design, but uses guy wires to stabilize the vertical bolts.

IMG 0026 His design produces a lot of laughs, but not much distance on the cork.

IMG 0028 Sam has fabricated a braided super rubber band which may allow him to put more energy into the cork.

IMG 0029 Luigi is proud of his first-generation launch platform.

IMG 0035 Declan catches the eye of the photographer with his novel design to use the cork as a wheel and drive it with a twisted rubber band.

IMG 0037Sam's (yes, there are two Sam's this week) cardboard airplane is developing nicely.

IMG 0038 As the designs evolve, the testing moves outside. Gever has stipulated that cork must be launched from this corner of the deck, and that is where Gillan mounts his platform.

IMG 0039 Intent on their contraptions, Nickey, Mackenzie (collaborator), and Rhody prepare to fling some serious corkage.

IMG 0042 Gever has built a cardboard dart he's eager to try. As he would soon discover, it does not work as well as the naked cork and rubber band that Hanna is perfecting.

IMG 0046 The testing grounds at Barn One becomes littered with corks.

IMG 0054 Luigi's giant sling-shot continues to improve.

IMG 0060 Rhody's newest innovation is tape the cork to a heavier object that does not lose quite so much velocity to wind resistance.

IMG 0062 Nickey's shot goes down past the lower gate - woohoo!

IMG 0063 At times the testing facility becomes crowded with eager tinkerers vying for best position on the launch deck.

The icebreaker project seems to have run it's course and done it's job well enough. We clean up the barn, stow the tools, collect the corks and get ready to discuss the big project.

IMG 0071 Gever lays out the concept and then facilitates a discussion of what parts of the project present the greatest challenges. The tinkerers decide that having a chunk of railroad track is not going to provide enough information, so we decide to drive to the abandoned track and get a feel for the railroad first-hand. Right after dinner - we suddenly realize that we are starving. It's pan-roasted chicken and vegetables marinated in shitake-sesame vinaigrette, with roasted potatoes and salad with feta and fresh tomatoes.

Then we load up, and head to the end of the railroad line - where our project begins.

IMG 0080 Julianna and Serena supervise Gillan and Luigi and the taking of accurate measurements of the critical dimensions.

IMG 0082 Which we write down and photograph so that there is no chance of forgetting.

IMG 0085 Various hazards and details are studied carefully to make sure that no opportunity is missed and no critical constraint is missed.

IMG 0098 Rhody has been demonstrating some balance beam gynastics, and Sam is inspired to try it himself. The Russian judges are not going to like that dismount, Sam.

IMG 0100 Meanwhile, the judges seem to like Rhody's precision cartwheels.

IMG 0104 We wander the tracks looking for other things that might cause trouble. The conversation drifts back and forth from trivialities to keen observations about the possible issues they face in designing wind-powered vehicles for these old, and mis-used tracks.

IMG 0105 With a knack for finding new problems, Gillon points out a broken cable that was once welded to the outside of the track.

IMG 0116 Just off the track is a beautiful view of the old Davenport landing and pilings.

IMG 0122 And further along the trail, we find the edge of the continent and Mackenzie finds a spotted egg shell.

IMG 0129 Everyone finds they end of the world to be a pleasant place to hang out. The light fades, everyone lingers as long as we can, and then we head back to the cars.

IMG 0131 Mackenzie summarizes the day in a physical poem; a cork, a bit of rail, and shell. Yes, that was our day.

IMG 0134 And we found this.

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