Tinkering School

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Day 5 - Tinkering

2014 Session B - SeniorsJoshua RothhaasComment

A wise man by the name of Gever Tulley once said: "Tinkering is what happens between having a finished project and a project that works." Last night, we figured we'd have both trains working by noon. But it was a slow morning, with a late breakfast, games of "Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe," and early morning visits to the goats.

But once we arrive, we set to work - Althea, Nova and Josh discuss the problems the Nooi need to work through.

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Both teams have a few carts they can strap together at this point, but neither has tested their full train.

Piki gets a chance to test their engine car and one of the following carts together.

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A crowd gathers to watch the test runs - there's nothing quite like seeing a downhill train you've built ride past you.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Grace foresees future rides.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Michael considers.

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Sometime during the morning, Gever's wisdom at the beginning of the session is cast aside. At his suggestion, we'd originally planned for the trains to travel from the top barn down a short stretch of gravel to where the chicken coops are, so that, should it fail, we'd land in hay.

Now, we disregard that to attempt the asphalt stretch from the house all the way to the end of the Elkus property. This route is surrounded by poison oak, quite the incentive to stay on.

Mike and Reid test the cart's ability to steer around the tighter corner on the new corner.

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The Piki engine team has taken pride in doodling on their cart in sharpie. Anything that comes to mind is fair game - random phrases, descriptions, bad drawings... decoration makes everything more fun and pretty.

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Your Daily Goat, the star of the blaaahhhhg.

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Naomi takes a moment to examine a wheel box on the Nooi cart.

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Eric and Bay carry the cart out for their first test run of the day.

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Mac and Reid adding rubber to their brakes, to prevent the wheel from rubbing against wood and to increase the friction and stopping power. In the last few days, the teams have come together; learned to work with each other; tinkered with their relationships until they have groups that really work.

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As the morning wears on, despite it becoming increasingly clear that we won't, in fact, be done by noon, work continues at an astounding pace all around. Test, change, fix, modify. We tinker with our projects, trying to get all the parts to work.

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Nooi takes their cart to the top of the testing run to prep for a go. Each of their long, low riding carts has been meticulously planned, and their complex steering is driven by a lever up front, which actually lifts the front end of the cart a little as it turns.

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All aboard! Imagine the sound of train whistles and a conductor's call. The Nooi clamber aboard, with Bay at the front controlling the direction of travel.

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What's wrong? The cart starts to roll, but now quite at the speed the Nooi expect - Bay remarks on it as "really slow."

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Even so, the ride down is fun!

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We gather to problem solve. It is quickly discovered that the rubber had come off a wheel. And the team, frustrated but determined, returns the cart to the barn to fix it. And so, the tinkering begins.

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Meanwhile, the Piki finish up the brakes on their second cart.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Reid being adorable.

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Portrait of Collaborator: Daniel arms up for a camera shoot-out. He's in it to win.

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The bent wheel of the Nooi's cart.

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The team sets up to replace it. Josh takes a look.

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Piki adds on and tests Sol's trailer for the first time. They've built a true train, with three carts. (The fourth cart that they plan to attach is still being worked on)

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Each of the trains has significant design differences and chooses. Particularly when we take a look at steering, we can see this difference clearly. Take a look.

A close up of the Piki's steering system, built to simulate rack and pinion.

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The Nooi's system, in contrast. Josh and Naomi try a first draft of a support structure to keep the wheels from bending up and damaging the hinges, a problem both teams are facing. Despite being based on the same four hinge basics, each system is incredibly unique.

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Your weekly pig.

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Despite their setbacks, the Nooi are the first to test their entire train - they hook all three carts together, ready to enjoy the taste of success.

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Then it's back to the barn to tinker more - another one of the Nooi wheels broke. Replacing it wouldn't solve the underlying problem, so we go in to figure out what might. Once again, the Nooi show incredible determination as they push past their disappointment. It's the tinkering- the sometimes tedious, always difficult, making-things-work phase- that's true challenge of completing a project, the difference between "cool, we have a project" and "awesome, that project works." In a way, it's the hardest part of the week.

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The Piki get out to test their full train - all three carts and the trailer. It's all smiles.

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And now, for an animal interlude.

Cuddling goats.

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The Elkus Ranch Llama, Spice.

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An adorable wood animal.

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The wisp of a beard on an old barn house goat.

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That nose.

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And the babies.

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And now, we return. Goat breaks and the chance to visit the animals is what gets us through the challenging, long days at Tinkering School, giving us a chance to take a mental break.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Althea has been cat-ified. It is a contagious disease running rampant in our barn, spread by palate and paintbrush wielding vectors - Rachel, Althea and Miranda. Soon, almost everyone has whiskers.

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Serena's caught the disease too. "Meow!"

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Mac pulls the cart along behind the linkage he helped make. Playing with the things you've built is fun.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bay has built a time-machine.

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And the Piki are off again- the updated cart has new seating up front. Sol surfs behind, standing upright on the the trailer/caboose.

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The excitement temporarily gives Reid and Mac the ability to levitate. This is different than, but often mistaken for, jumping for joy.

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And they're off! Journeying down the track, this is finally it. Not another test run, but the journey all the way down to the bottom. Piki takes the first run.

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And celebrate at the bottom when they make it down, successfully.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eric ponders.

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The Nooi load up for a test.

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And when that's successful, they take it up to the start point (the house) to get ready for launch.

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And they're off!

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Both runs were videotaped:

Sol, on the is equipped with a video camera, and takes footage of the Piki's journey down. In the intensity of a run, filled with speed, excitement and even tinges of fear, kids reach for the words that can, at those moments, express that. (i.e. excited scarred teenagers swear like sailors).

[vimeo 101053508 w=500 h=281]

DSC 0031 from Tinkering School on Vimeo.

Kieran video tapes for the Nooi, including an exciting final stretch moment in which the last cart (which he and the video camera, along with Miranda and Eric were in) tipped over. They managed to right it while continuing downwards, and likewise had a successful run.

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DSC 0032 from Tinkering School on Vimeo.

We gather around to watch the videos, laughing an remembering.

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We toast to tinkering. A day of getting from having a train, to having a working downhill train. Today, all of us have been successful.

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