(Editor's note: Thursday, we said goodbye to Nik who has been a part of Tinkering School since it started, and Friday morning, we said goodbye to Serena - this has been an emotional week. She was Camp Captain this week, having been everything else you can be at Tinkering School over the past five years, and she was the best Captain we have ever had, according to everyone. Everything ran on time, logistics were perfect, massive amounts of work happened, and everyone had fun. She and I have co-written the blog for so long that I barely remember doing it alone. It is fair to say that she has been a true collaborator at Tinkering School and been a large part of why it has gotten better over the years. In our end of session staff meeting today, during a process we call "plusses and deltas", the first delta was "don't let Serena leave". Well, we didn't really let her leave, she's off to college, and it's hard to argue with that. But, we all felt (me particularly) that we lost something magical and important when we had to say goodbye yesterday. You'll always have a place at our table Serena, come back any time our dear and delightful friend.)
Early Friday morning, perhaps late Thursday night, a sneaky drizzly rain crept in to our little valley and started soaking everything. If we had reliable internet, we could have predicted this perfectly, but our connection is so tenuous we have begun to assume we have no internet and so have lost the habit of checking the weather. Opening the shop in the morning is a muddy and soggy process.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lyman, who came from New York to spend the week with us, learning about how our camps run, sharing his stories and experiences working with children, and heading home tonight (Friday) to start an afterschool tinkering program in Brooklyn.
Rain, drizzle, "heavy" fog - whatever! It's race day, let's get to work!
There are two basic variations of the drive system: loop and line. The loop systems have a continuous belt running between the crank and the drive axle, and the line systems have a long rope wrapped around the drive axle and pulled onto a take-up drum by the crank. Emma's team has decided to go with a line drive, so she pre-stretches and straightens the line that they'll be winding onto their drive axle.
Mariya and Lauren contemplate their first iteration of the line drive. In an effort to increase the ratio between drive axle (seen here with gold paracord wound on to it) and the crank axle, they have added a chunk of wood with tape - it's a prototype, right?
Liora gets some help from Elijah to set the newly upgraded chassis on the track for some rolling tests.
And what better way to make sure it navigates the tricky parts of the track than to have Elijah be her engine?
Miles and Yoel (behind the cart) work out some of the critical next steps in setting up the crank on the belt drive.
With the highest clearance of any of the carts, Emma has plenty of room to work under the chassis.
After a very successful test run, Piki decides to tune the ratio on their line drive by reducing the diameter of their take-up hub with some judicious application of the angle grinder.
Tinkering School loves clamps, we really do.
Austin and Katelin are justifiably proud of their improved take-up hub.
Rory and Elijah tune up the active guide-wheel system...
...with some help from Jake.
The rain came in under the roof of the midway chopsaw station, so Lyman knolls the workspace to clear and assess the situation.
Audrey and Charlotte working on their crank system.
Camp Captain Serena clarifies the rules for the afternoon race.
Working hard? Always time to bust out some sweet dance moves when a great track comes on the worksite boom box.
Megan finds that the upgraded take-up hub is working much better.
Jay rocking the dress that Collaborator Annie gave him.
Gever walks up to the yurts with Serena to keep her company as she packs for an early exit on the session. How many hours have they spent talking and brainstorming over the years?
Stephie is always hamming it up for the camera. We tried getting her to stop, explained to her that our organizational learning process depends on good documentation, but we soon discovered that she seems to have been wired at birth for this behavior - so now we celebrate our photo-response diversity! Go Stephie, you be you!
You can't tell here, but Ana is fighting a bad cold that is going to knock her down by the end of the day. In the meantime, she's let us know that this cart is going to be ready to roll in the afternoon.
Miles works on his nicely designed and implemented idler pulley (a wheel that tensions a belt).
Lauren and Pascal have seen some successful cart tests roll by their workshop at Midway Station, which just makes them want to get theirs going.
This time it is Elijah's turn to get a ride from Liora.
The orange mallet (referred to by tinkerers as "Thor's Baby Rattle") comes out when shafts are reluctant to move in relation to wood.
Hard work makes good friends. Jo and Michael take a break from drive-belt braiding.
If he can't find Thor's Baby Rattle, Pascal is willing to use a good chunk of wood.
Clamps are the strong extra hands that Lauren needs to bore precise holes and create a new take-up hub (replacing the tape and board of the earlier prototype).
We use PVC bushings for axles this summer, but Emma is really enjoying the acoustic properties right now (Miles hears her and says "good embouchure").
Charlotte decides to skip the line at the drill press, deciding to just do it by eye when she needs holes in the new crank arms.
Jake helps out Jay with some rope work.
During a safety check with Gever, the Piki talk through possible solutions to the danger posed by an accidental break in their long line during a race.
Miles decides to add an emergency brake.
Gever guides Ana and her team through a possible way to turn their braided line into a closed drive belt.
Tape measures are starting to be used more precisely at this end of the week. Audrey marks out locations for holes to be bored at the drillpress.
A bold experiment; the ladder-handle crank.
Zach's team not only managed to get a multi-strand belt working (not the first, second, or third times) well.
The tinkerers gave the Panda Express the "best in show" ribbon.
Ready to roll!
The first of the four time trials begins. The overall score will be based on the average a team's completed runs (crossing the finish line). To start us off, Kateline puts up a blistering run on the Piki line-drive system, and then Nooi, Kablooi, Panda, Sqiki, and Wowi Zowi.
After a long day of work that included a grueling afternoon of hand-cranked racing that left arms feeling like jelly, we head up for our fire night and sharing of mutual appreciation.
Followed by smore's and a little bit of fireball practice with canola oil cooking spray (we've put some significant time into figuring out how to train senior tinkerers to do this safely).
Here are the official times from the four heats. Tokens buy a two-second deduction from a team's average time. See the calculated results here.
This kind of week, with a complicated technical build, holds a special place in my heart (Serena knew this when she proposed a cart race for her week as Camp Captain). We started eleven years ago in my backyard with with rollercoaster, so going fast on wooden rails built by tinkerers is going to resonate no matter what, but this has been an amazing group of tinkerers and it's been a fantastic week.