Tinkering School

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Day 2 - Carts Are Not Actually The Project

2014 Session E - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

Each evening has a little magic that often goes undocumented because the cameras are often being unloaded and the blog is being written. Yesterday evening ended with some beautiful jams and many side projects in the barn.


And today starts with a flurry of activity. Whittling fills the awkward time between breakfast and getting into the barn.

Portrait of a Tinkerer : Rahul


We take a moments pause, gather together, and announce the project.

This week we are making speed amplifiers based on a mechanical advantage. A little technical and maybe initially difficult to conceptualize, but these kids are taking it magical places. The idea is simple in practice but hard to explain. Instead of using a simple machine to trade distance for effort (think seesaw or pulley based elevator), we want to trade effort for distance. What if 3 members of the team exerted a ton of force on the short end of a teeter-totter? Imagine how high and fast the last team member would go! We want to use this mentality to push a cart faster than we could otherwise push or pull it alone.

Again, hard to explain, but the kids get it and it will become clearer as the day goes on.

Team Panda pursues a gear based advantage. They talk through the options.


Their first step becomes clear, start making the custom gears.


Team Piki makes their cart so fast it's done before we can get a photo.


By 10am the barn is humming with tool use and great ideas. Ray uses the drill press.


Parker uses the jig saw.


And before we know it, it's time for lunch.


We eat outside these days as we can't all fit in the dinning room anymore. Peyton and Sophie enjoy a change of scenery.

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Portrait of a junior collaborator: Max

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After lunch we go on an impromptu animal tour and learn about how to pick up chickens safely, what the goats can eat, and not to go in with the pigs (they are cute, but a little too friendly). We learn about spice the llama's tragic history, that goats can kick really hard (but usually don't), and that rabbits can bite really hard and almost always do.

Josh talks about chickens and then shows how to pick them up without chasing them.

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We visit the goats, sheep, and donkeys, snap a few photos, and brush the animals.


And immediately get back to work.


Gus and Ray use the jigsaw.



The custom gear set is starting to come together.


Rahul and Lee test out their cart.


David, Eli, and Griffin work on their cart.


Nova, Gus, and Peyton also work on their cart


Ray and Cassia also work on their cart.


But believe it or not, carts are not actually the project. The goal to to push or pull those carts with some ingenious mechanical interaction.

For example- Althea, Stephanie, and Sophie are going to use a giant lever arm. The team will push on the short end and the long end will push the cart. Trading force (they will have to push really hard) for speed (the long end of the lever will be moving several times faster then they are). A sort of person-powered centrifuge.


In just one day initial tests begin.


As dinner heats up in the oven, the crew heads down to the creek to play and let the progress of the day fade to the background.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer : Griffin


Portrait of Tinkerer : Eli


As the light fades a crew decides that moving a chunk of tree is essential to their good times.





Eventually we leave the creek. The scene is peaceful as everyone gathers and a little bit of good-summer-vibes works its magic on the crew.

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Afterwards, we head up for dinner, eat a ton of delicious food, play silly games and eventually head to bed. Today was a day of tackling the easy and first problems. Tomorrow will be full of figuring out how to get the disparate solutions to play well together; a vastly finickier proposition.

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