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Session H: Day 5 - It's Hard to Push When You Are Holding a Kitty

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline Martin1 Comment

(Written by Gever, photos selected by Caroline, kibitzing and side-chatter by the Collaborators)

We had declared "first rolling test" as a goal for Tuesday night. Well, as you have seen, dear readers, on Tuesday we only kind-of had some sort-of carts - and that's as it should be. The first ideas contain fantastical elements built on magical properties of wood, properties which only exist in the imaginations of the tinkerers. By doing an early test, we can let the carts speak directly to the team using language whose vocabulary consists of bent bolts, cracked wood, and loose steering shafts. Sometimes we need to help translate, but often we just have to focus their attention and then step back and let the team think it through.

The carts spent Wednesday under tarps to protect them from the rain, so the first step is to get the carts up to the barn (our workshop for the rest of the week).

Then, Gever and the other collaborators (except Caroline, who is confined to her cot by a terrible cold) do deep design and implementation reviews with each team to help them decide what to change and where to start.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Alex

Some of the carts are just too long, and need to be cut down. You can't put a cart in the chopsaw, so there are multiple simultaneous hand-sawing operations under way. Thalia can attest to the difficulty of sawing through a plywood cart chassis.

And Dalia can relate... 30 inches is a lot of plywood to cut through.

We didn't account for the distraction factor of the new barn kitties...

As the morning progresses, many carts are disassembled to address issues with parts that were built early in the process. This leads to the invention of many new techniques. Necessity is the mother of...

In what will turn out to be a day-long conversation with Gever, Merritt works through the implementation details of her parallelogram-steering design.

Tinkering School is designed to cram 20 kids together and get them excited about building a solution to a really hard problem (this week it's "make a cart that carry two people from the top of the hill to the bottom without going into the poison oak or running into a tree") - this combination of hard work and long days has the intended side-effect of creating strong friendship bonds quickly. Case in point: Gretchen and Lilah.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Max

In a moment that foreshadows it's imminent demise, the drillpress starts acting odd. Vivek and Izzy will get through this operation, but that will be one of the last holes drilled by this $50 press purchased at Harbor Freight nine years ago. A lot of kids have made a lot of holes with this machine.

And of course the kitties... (#blep)

Rayan is ready to cut.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen (in her fifth year at Tinkering School)

Oh, did we mention that there are curious and friendly goats everywhere?

One fun thing about moving the camp is that now we dine and wash dishes out side!

Borrowing from the improv practice, the default answer is "yes, and..." So when Jack and Casper ask if they can burn something with the magnifying glass, we send them to the fire pit.

The chopsaw came up with all the tools and materials, but the dust vacuum did not...

And there are kitties... Milo takes a break with a kitty we have dubbed Smokey.

The skylights in the hundred year-old barn create cathedral-like pools of light for us to work in. Izzy and Bryce are waiting for the steering mechanism to come back from the drillpress (they should be working on their brakes, says Gever when he walks up a few moments later).

Milo comes back from the kitties and jumps in to help Sophia get some nuts onto a piece of threaded rod that has seen some rough treatment. Despite early success with two nuts, the third critical nut refuses to have anything to do with the threaded rod - which leads to a pause and re-grouping moment that results in a new, better, design.

Alex and Katherine do a fit test on their cart. It's big enough, but there's something worrisome about the rakish angle of their steering column.

G and Rayan - no idea what they are doing, but as our new Manager Karen says, "If they are having fun, no one is getting hurt, and no tools or materials are being destroyed, then it's working."

And there are goats!

There is a nut-stacking virus running through the tinkerers. As founder and Education Architect, I have absolutely no problem with a tinkerer spending fifteen minutes playing with hex-nuts; hands-on discovery-based experiential learning is where it's at.

Did we mention the kitties? The Collaborators are as helpless to resist as the tinkerers when the kitties wander by.

Max has worked out the friction issues (mis-alignment of the axle blocks deformed the PVC bearing pipe) and gets the back-end of their cart working.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lilah

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lucy

Our other frequent work-break destinations include the chickens...

...and the gardens.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sophia

Portrait of a Llama: Spice

And the kitties (with Thalia)!

Merritt and Max take the cart for a spin to see if putting reins on their steering post could work (it turns out there's too much friction and it hurts the hands to pull that hard on paracord).

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bryce

Braden and Milo try out the new steering system that Sophia has implemented based on a crude sketch from Gever. This is a simplified version of what is known as "Harley-style" steering, a design that has evolved at Tinkering School over the past ten years or so.

Now they have an interesting problem to solve in the back end.

When steering becomes a common problem in the cart implementations, Gever looks to see if there is any inspiration available in the front-end of the little farm truck. Yes, but the design relies on some very complicated metal pieces that will be very difficult to render in wood.

It turns out to be interesting to look at the way the U-joint in the steering shaft allows for a bend. Also, Bruno, the farm guy, wears the same kind of cowboy boots as Gever.

When it comes to attaching the steering column to their cart, there's a collective sense that "this is the last thing!". Thalia, Merritt, and Max.

Gretchen needed a hug, Lucy and Rhody were happy to oblige.

Before we go to dinner, we decide to test everything, and this time there are three carts ready to try.

With some blocks of wood as pylons, the carts take off to see what's working and what isn't. It seems like a long way to the bridge when it's tricky to get through the first gate.

But the carts are mostly working, and it's exciting to be rolling and going "kinda-fast"!

Of course, after a long ride down the hill (only half-way to the bridge today since we've got to set up radio-based traffic monitoring), you have to walk the cart back up to the barn.

Looks like Bryce and his team will have to go back to the drawing board on their steering system. Also, what's up with the un-protected impalement pipe? The cart is sent to the barn until the safety and steering issues can be addressed.

Jealous of all the fun, Gever puts on a helmet (excellent modeling!) and takes the wagon for a ride.

And there's cats!

Then, it's time for dinner. Chef Paul puts out salad, potatoes, roasted chicken, and quesadillas, with baked apples for dessert. Bonus, there's an after-dinner build session hosted by Gever, and then Daniel lures everyone back with hot-chocolate and showing of Princess Bride - what a nice way to end the day!

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