Tinkering School

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Day One - A New Beginning

2012 Session 3 - Juniorsgever1 Comment

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, which means that boredom is the aunt of creativity. Given a pause of indeterminate length, any two tinkerers will inevitably invent something to do to pass the time. Apropos of this, we present the inaugural game of "catch sock wad in helmet." P1950569P1950588 Gever explains the basic rules of Tinkering School, with a minor digression into which finger, if you wanted to cut one off, you would probably miss the least. The answer is, the pinky.

P1950576 Steve, one of the collaborators this session, in an experiment to create a pendulum-based camera dolly, has left his first prototype hanging from a beam. Naturally, it becomes an object of much speculation.

P1950580 Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam

P1950599 As is our tradition, the kids spend a few moments poking around in the supply boxes and getting familiar with what tools and materials they will be working with this week.

P1950603 Every tinkerer receives a knife, and a lesson from Anita in how to use it safely and expertly.

P1950610 Which is immediately followed by a long period of time devoted to whittling and peeling eucalyptus sticks.

P1950612 Jane is developing her fine motor-skills, tenacity, and perseverance - aka whittling.

P1950623 Around the yard, tinkerers learn the nuances of shaving wood - not to make a shape, but to make shavings. A curl is it's own reward.

IMG 1558 Portrait of a Tinkerer: Saya enjoys a grape, per rule number two of Tinkering School: if you see a piece of fruit, and you want it, you must eat it.

IMG 1560 Bryn makes himself comfortable on a spool of rope.

IMG 1575 James and Jonah - a force to be reckoned with. These two friends had the luck of the draw when the lottery selected them both for Session 3.

IMG 1587 Jane at the wheel of the Master's Class go-cart. We keep this project (from two years ago) around because it inspires and informs a lot of the design details when we are building vehicles.

IMG 1590 Need something? You can probably find it on the shelf next to the "Tongue Disposers."

P1950665 As we start into the afternoon project of deconstructing disposable electric toothbrushes, we discover that recent changes in the manufacturing process have yielded a nearly impenetrable design. Saya and Bryn discuss ways of getting these inscrutable devices open.

IMG 1617 Frustrated with her toothbrush but having given it a good go, Jane takes a little whittling break.

IMG 1632 Steve and Lauren chatting it up around the old whittling stick.

IMG 1636 Gever and Saya discuss techniques for shaping the end of a stick.

IMG 3273 At our collective wit's ends, we give Amelia the go-ahead to use a hammer on a particularly tough toothbrush.

P1950685 Jonah and James have gotten their toothbrushes open, but have been left with a handful of parts that are tricky to work with.

IMG 3274 What do these parts want to be?

P1950692 Steve's abandoned pendulum dolly becomes the platform for sculpture that, according to Adam, must include a pulley. It evolves into a peculiar kind of swing where each foot goes in a loop on a line that runs over the pulley - much running in the air then ensues.

IMG 3283 Portrait of a Goat: Sugar.

P1950713 Adam decides to add a seat to his swing, which we take as an opportunity to introduce him to the drill press.

P1950761 "I'm talking to a robot!" Bryn enjoys trying out his new invention; the world's first toothbrush cellphone. It cleans your ears while you talk!

IMG 1653 There must be something in the air, because two other swing-making projects get started. Zada, Amelia, and Jane have picked out a tree near the Ranch House that can support a rope. After some unsuccessful rope-hucking attempts, Zada gets some tips and makes a rope ball.

IMG 1656 The perfect toss. It goes up and neatly over the branch where it unspools back down almost to her grasp.

Sunday afternoon is a time when we try to gauge each tinkerer's social, technical, and creative abilities. These wide-ranging free-build periods provide incredible insights and unique opportunities to challenge, cajole, and collaborate. I would argue that this simple process reveals more about a young mind (and heart) than an SAT test. This process helps us make informed decisions about how the kids will work together on teams, and to predict where they will need the most conceptual scaffolding on the big project.

Post Script: Today marks the first time in the history of Tinkering School that we have had an injury serious enough to require a trip off the Ranch to get some professional care. Our young friend Josh opened up the side of his thumb while trying to extricate his project toothbrush from the impervious packaging. The injury was cleaned, assessed and bandaged. We decided that it warranted a medical opinion and his mother took him to nearby urgent care. He returned, proudly showing off his four stitches, and re-engaged with the pre-dinner activities.

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