Tinkering School

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Day 3 - Things Get Finicky

2014 Session E - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

Updated! You can check out the photos that are uploading to the flickr page right now.

The morning starts with not-quite-a-pep-talk from josh, warning that today is going to be a tricky day. They easy problems are nearly gone, today will be finicky.

Josh: "Raise your hand if you've already had to take something apart and start over because you realized how it had to be different?"

Nearly everyone raises their hand.

Josh: "Good. That's essential to a real and interesting problem. I am glad you've all experienced already because there is more to come"

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There are gears to fix, pulleys to align and connections to re-make from scratch. We get right to it.

Eli moves team Kablooi's cart outside for testing. The kids are facing issues from every angle. When their carts are working their contraption isn't, and while testing their contraption, they keep discovering that they need to fix their cart.

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Team Piki thinks their outside wheels are not needed so they try taking them off.

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Just outside the door of the barn three separate teams work busily with late morning focus.

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Team Nooi's long lever isn't nearly strong enough. Small cracking and popping can be heard every test round. They decide to reinforce the whole thing. Lee and Rahul drill pilot holes.

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Stephanie makes some adjustment to Team Nooi's chair shaped cart.

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Cassia, Ray and Griffin start working on their custom upside down casters on top of which they are going to rest a giant spindle which will act as a make-shift giant gear.

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Gus and Parker work on team Panda's custom gear set. The teams pursuing a mechanical advantage via gears are beginning to feel both how exciting the idea is, and how difficult.


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Things like alignment are essential.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Aiden

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Kablooi mounts their spindle and prepare to use a giant piece of eucalyptus as the pivot.

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Then they test it!


Piki aims to keep their cart going straight via tracks.

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After lunch things get really interesting for a few hours.

Althea tests Nooi's new reinforcements.

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Peyton and Parker of Team Panda try a longer bigger axel for their large gear.

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Aiden, Harry and Oren test pull to test Team Piki's idea of tracks.

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Max and Aiden admire Panda's handy work. Parker points out the finer details.

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The later the afternoon gets, the farther from completion we all feel. Pow-wows start to become more common.

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Testing is a great way to spend the time.



Team panda hasn't figured out how to lock their launching system to the ground, but having their heavy Team mates stand on the posts should work for now.


Minor repairs from testing are a constant source or stopping and starting.

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Harry shortens the ankle biters on team Piki's cart.


One strategy for dealing with frustration is to let the problem simmer in the background while doing something else. Braiding parachord is a great way to let the brain keep doing work.

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More pow-wows. More frustration.

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Tinkering School has a distinct lack couches to lounge around on. Griffin, David, Ray and Parker improvise.

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Technical Close-up of a Project: Team Kablooi

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Tonight is movie night. As always the movie is a surprise. This week is our first week doing movie night in the barn. We gather 10 bed-mats, a projector and some speakers. We cook some popcorn, snag some bowls of cereal. We string up a giant 12 by 16 ft canvas tarp and go over the rules of movie watching.

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Hook, a classic, captures us all.

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The day ends by packing up and headed to bed. Today was frustrating but important. Tomorrow is our solution to the usual mid-week headaches. Beach day is a day to get away from the problem, be free, get exhausted physically instead of mentally, sleep a great night sleep and ready us for thursday.

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