Tinkering School

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Day 2 - Problem Solvers

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

Rise and shine! Josh and Tricia are up and ready for the morning. Monday always seems to be our earliest wake-up, tinkerers, both young and old, full of anticipation and excitement. IMG 8486

After breakfast, we head for the barn for the grand reveal of this week's project. But before we hear the surprise, Josh reads off the teams.

Tinkering School has had, at any one point, up to four teams. With our biggest group of tinkerers yet, we divide into all four, complete with the traditional names; the Piki, Nooi, Kablooi and Panda.

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On Piki: Jen (the collaborator for the group), Gus, Anna, Karsen, Audrey, Lucy.

Nooi consists of James, Jonah "Junior" (the older and taller of the two Jonah's this week), Ari and Grazzia, with Madelyn as the collaborator.

Kablooi is made up of Jonah "Senior" (the younger Jonah), Kevin, Eloise, and Rory, and led by the junior collaborators, Serena and Kevin (yes, we also have two Kevins)

Panda is guided by Tricia as the collaborator, and contains Adam, Zachary, Anya, Ava, and Aimee.

Before gathering with our groups, Josh announces the project for the week - building All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), complete with suspension, that will be able to handle the bumpy terrain and downhill trails of the ranch with ease. Challenges to look forward too include designing suspension systems that allow the carts to handle the bumps, building steering, and working out brakes.

The groups gather to discuss their thoughts.

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Pens fly across paper as tinkerers race to draw the first ideas that come to mind. Ideas flow. The rush of brainstorming is upon us.

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Team Piki plays with the rubber bungee cords, prototyping the first ideas of how to work out a suspension system. Getting our hands on the actual materials helps us learn more about it and understand what we have to work with.

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And team Panda plans.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gus being Gus.

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Audrey and Gus continue to prototype.

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Lucy discovers a use for all of the hooks that came with the rubber bungees- strung together, they make an interesting chain. Monday is about working out solutions, trying out strange or even crazy ideas, and solving, developing and designing the first drafts of the project we'll spend the next week on.

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Josh and the Kablooi talk about suspension solutions. Most of the teams have decided to tackle the challenge of suspension first, figuring out a way to allow the wheels move independently of the body, allowing the cart to absorb the shock of bumpy terrain.

Some solutions have included the idea of a "hammock" cart that allows the body of the cart to be suspended and move independently, as well as the idea of suspending each wheel-box independently.

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Eloise draws out some potential solutions.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ari, grinning.

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Lucy explains the trapizoidal, three wheeled design for the Piki's ATV.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam, confident.

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Team Panda gathers to put a wheel-box together.

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The morning bustle in the barn. One of the amazing things about Monday morning is the transformation we see in the tinkerers. Only twelve hours ago, some of the tinkerers had never set hands on tools, but within an hour and a half of announcing the project, everyone's at work, ready to try to things, to find solutions, and to problem-solve.

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The joy of sawing through solid steel with a hacksaw.

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A beckoning sign hung outside the barn door, announcing to all what happens within.

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Team Kablooi begins to assemble wheel boxes, the first step in their attempt to create a suspension system.

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Anya and Ava (Team Panda) work together well.

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Their work has been paying off as we near lunchtime. It looks like team Panda almost has a complete wheel-box and suspension pieces made and ready to attach rubber too.

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Zachary uses the hacksaw.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eloise looks into the distance.

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When we return after lunch outside, the barn returns right back to where we left off - bustling tinkerers, hard at work.

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The front steering column of the Pikki's three wheeled vehicle.

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Aimee and Anya continue the work on wheel boxes.

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Madelyn and James work out the fit of the suspension-box over the wheel-box together.

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Audrey loves the drill press - it's quite a fun tool.

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Two more of the Piki's wheel boxes come together. This week, the Piki are going with what will be one of the most different designs. Their ATV will have three wheels, instead of the four we'll see on the other carts, and no suspension for each individual wheel - just a suspended seat above the cart frame, which should achieve some of the same effects.

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As the afternoon wears on, tinkerers begin to need breaks - starting a project takes a huge amount of creative energy and effort, and despite how fun it is, sometimes we need time away.

Parasail cords, we discover, make great friendship bracelets. Really, really strong friendship bracelets.

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And bike tires, even without the bike, can be quite fun.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eloise, determined and meticulous.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jonah concentrates.

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James and Madelyn add the rubber to the Nooi suspension boxes - this will be the true test of whether it will work or not.

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Zachary and Adam work on the Panda suspension box - it's looking close to testable as well.

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Chicken break!

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The Kablooi wheel-boxes. Team Kablooi's next challenge will be in working with their large wheel boxes to get them to work the way they intend them too.

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Your Daily Goat.

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The tire swings are an adventure.

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One of the most fascinating things about the Tinkering School process is the evolution of ideas and solutions. Even when teams start from the same concepts, and continue to share new thoughts as the projects develop, each solution, no mater how conceptually similar, turns out to be immensely different. Today, the different solutions to the problem of suspension, all at various levels of completion, offer an example of how different each solution might end up being.

The Kablooi solution involves large outer boxes with the wheel box set inside.

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The Panda's (now complete and working) wheel box allows the wheel room to come up.

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To achieve this, it uses slits in the side to allow bolt movement, and rubber bungee to hold it in place while allowing it to give.

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The Nooi have also completed a wheel box - in theirs, bolts allow the wheel to slide upward to a certain point, while rubber bungee holds it own. The layering of the inner and outer boxes is slightly different too.

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The Piki have normal wheel boxes, and their suspension solution will be attached to the cart, an interesting and creative way to do it. Their triangle design also deserves attention.

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Intrepid tinkerers take a chance to return to the creek, play and explore more.

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We create a rope swing, and play.

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Swinging through our own backyard jungle. Ava has mastered the art of flying.

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Gus kisses a banana slug, but fails to find a beautiful princess.

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The hut a little ways down the creek, theoretically haunted, is searched for ghosts. None appeared.

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The large water tank that is the ranch's water supply makes an excellent perch for tinkerers.

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Up at the barn, Junior Collaborator Serena and Jonah take the chance to use the propane torch to heat a knife to cut rope for Jonah's knife.

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We have dinner under strings of lights Josh brought and hung in the trees.

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And climbed those very same trees.

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After dinner, we spent time hanging out in the garden, playing tag, swinging on tire swings, or having free-build time in the barn, giving ourselves a chance to toy with a different type of energy than the frustrating-but-rewarding energy we needed to problem solve and get started earlier. Taking the evenings as free time to work or play on what we choose gives us a break from focusing to hard on the project. Sometimes it takes taking your mind off things to accomplish anything.

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