Tinkering School

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Day 6 & 7 - Playing and Showing Off

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

One of the strange problems with being the biggest Tinkering School session in history is not having enough places to sit at the tables inside. At breakfast this was no problem; it's so staggered that many are done by the time others are just starting. Lunch was another easy one, we would just eat outside. However, dinner seemed to pose a major problem. It would get dark and we can't just eat in the dark. So early on in the week Josh bought string lights, only to realize the sun is up way past dinner time. We hung them up anyways and accidentally made a magical little spot on the ranch. IMG 2661

It was a great place to play cards, eat snacks and talk without bothering the campers and collaborators that wanted to go to bed early.

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Friday is off to a calm start. Most of the carts are nearly working or already fully functional. Tweeking, improvements and decorations is the plan for the day.

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We tighten bolts, inspect joins, and toss in a few decorations.

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Team Panda's ATZ ATV needs some last second consultation and plenty of love. We decide that some inside bars need to go, but due to how it was constructed we can't get at the screws without a full deconstruct. Cutting them out is our only option. Attempting to settle a long debate with a friend, Josh challenges Ava to a race. She gets to use the jig-saw and josh will use the pull saw. He is confident he will win. Everyone else is skeptical at best.

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The race is on!

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The race is lost... Though it was closer than anyone expected.

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As the day continues everyone starts to realize that little fixes are becoming big headaches with more serious solutions required.

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But as Gus demonstrates with his commitment to sharpie-ing the entire eye-bolt blue, some things are just for looking good.

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Audrey get focused on installing a new piece while Lucy and Ana inspect their knots.

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Engagement is one of Tinkering School's highest priorities. To experience that magic thing where time melts away and a task is fully absorbing, is something to be protected and honored. When it's productive it's called flow, otherwise it's called play. More often than not the delineation feels artificial. Bob demonstrates.

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James and Jonah tweak and adjust.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer in a Busy Barn: Kevin

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Lucy spends the next 20 minutes cutting and tying this old parachute to eventually create the team mascot costume.

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Before we even get to lunch some teams are ready for off road trials. We set up courses in tiers. Tier 1 is to make the turn from the house wide, then roll over the dirt near the garden for about 30 yards, then get back on the asphalt.

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Tier 2 is to stay on the asphalt, get as much speed as possible, turn off where cars usually park and ride the gravel and off road section for as long as possible.

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Afterwards we decide Tier 3 is to mix the two other tiers. Take the first turn wide, get off road near the garden, get back on the asphalt to regain speed, then get back off the road and roll for as long as possible.

Jen the Collaborator takes Piki Pie (PI?) for a test ride down from the barn in preparation of their first run on the Tier 1 course.

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None of us expected it, so there is no photographic evidence, but Piki Pie's cart does Tier 3 right off. After finishing Tier 1 the rest of team Piki shouts, "keep going" so we do.

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We continue to adjust and improve breaks. The ATZ ATV has not yet done a full run, and everyone on the team is getting anxious. Will it ever work?

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Kablooi takes their first official trail run and discovers their steering dangerously locks out to the right. This picture is moments before Jonah gets stuck turning right, slams the breaks and crashes lightly into the Elkus Ranch garden sign.

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Repairs, improvements, decorations, trail runs. This is the rhythm of a friday.

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Some of the kids brought their own fabric markers which make the Tinkering School T-shirts even more unique this year.

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One special side project takes us all by surprise this session. Many kids in the history of Tinkering School have tried to make a cart that steers by leaning left and right (instead of turning a wheel or axel). Without Gever around we can't confirm, but Josh is pretty sure this has never worked out for anyone. In a stroke of engineering insight that uses a combination of casters, wagons wheels and skateboard wheels, these boys finally do it. Their cart, small and nimble, turns when you lean. It turns more dramatically left then right. It has a tendency to favor gravity, so any attempt to use momentum to go up hill causes chaotic and erratic issues. But it works. Curiosity peaks as one wonders what they might have worked out with a few more days, or even just a few more hours, on this project.

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It's affectionately nicknamed "The Hoverboard"

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After dinner we get ready for fire night. Filling a 5 gallon bucket and a 40 gallon wheel barrow full of water and getting the house nearby, we prepare to burn our scrap wood for the week. We have tried many ways to get rid of our scrap wood, but sadly its a material you can't even give away. So instead of sending it off to landfill (or compost if we can get it all the way back to SF), we burn it. Unlike twigs or logs, these are nearly identical and stack wonderfully.

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We spend the next 30 minutes sitting in it's glow.

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Eventually the fire collapses, we contain it into the central pit and we begin a Tinkering School Tradition. Playing with fire. This week the feature is sawdust we have collected in our vacuums all week. Josh goes over the dangers ahead and give his usual lecture on Dangerous Done Well.

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If you toss sawdust at just the right spot from just the right distance is spreads out, losses its insulating properties aerosolizes and ignites. Be careful.

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Next up is cooking spray. One of our collaborators, Tricia, nails it and brings the fire high and strong.

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After all the excitement, the night slows down and we get the main show. S'mores and painting with light.

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With fire night behind us and the parents on their way, the final day is just about showing off and cleaning up. Tricia and Kevin have to leave early so we take group shot right before they go.

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When the parents show up we take one more photo right before the final runs.

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Then we show off!

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And if you were wondering, after changing the breaks and and nearly re-engineering their entire steering system, the ATZ ATV makes several successful runs!

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And with that, Josh repeats his favorite saying "We didn't come to Tinkering School to have a custom made all terrain vehicle with working shocks, we came to Tinkering School to have made an all terrain vehicle with working shocks." Like a buddhist sand mandala to the wind, we disassemble our carts and hold only to the experience.

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This week we took over 5000 photos and published 1400 of them. Check it out on our flickr.

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