Tinkering School

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Session B Day 1 - Excited and Wondering What to Expect

Lauren Byunn-RiederComment

We crest the hill and suddenly see the top of the yurts peaking above the trees...is that where we will sleep?  Where will we build?  Are these horses we are passing part of the camp or part of the landscape?  Will the food be good?  These are all questions we are thinking about as we pull into lovely Elkus Ranch.  In moments we are out of the car, meeting the Collaborators...and, really, are those cookies?!?  

After eating a cookie (or two), we head over to try out a quick project. Tinkering Labs motors, batteries, and various shaped pieces can combine in so many fascinating ways!

We try out a few challenges: make something that makes noise, make something that moves without wheels, make something that draws curvy lines.

After a bit more experimentation and some card games, we settle down for opening circle, introduce ourselves and talk about the Very Important Three Rules of Camp: 1) Don't hurt yourself or anyone else; 2) If you see a piece of fruit, and you want to eat it, you must eat it; and, 3) Conflicts are solved by Ro-Sham-Bo.

Once the serious conversation is over, we head up the hill to check out our build site. It's a long walk, but blackberries grow along the path, and they're deliciously ripe.

Finally at the top! Before us is the shop: a wooden structure decorated with all sorts of tools, screws, and safety gear. We split up into groups for tool training, where we learn how to safely operate clamps, drills, and the chopsaw.

After a demo from our Collaborator, Kevin, we try it out ourselves.

Next, we rotate to drills. Again, following a demo and instructions, we try it out.

Portrait of a Tinkerer's Hands: Niyati drills a pilot hole for a screw. She expertly demonstrates that all tools are two-handed tools. 

Next comes chopsaw training. Although it might seem scary, we've been properly trained and know that as long as we follow the safety rules, it's a useful tool.

Tool training complete, we walk back down the hill, eat some amazing homemade lasagna and listing to Caroline who explains the challenge of the evening.

The challenge is thus: each of the five teams is on a sinking ship. One of them sees another ship, and swims over. In order to be rescued, they then have to communicate a word back to their crewmates, then get a response from the crew to the swimmer. The catch? They can't hear each other over the crashing waves, so communication can't be vocal.

We set out to brainstorm different solutions. Martha and Zachary test the sound-carrying properties of cardboard tubes.

Meanwhile, Lauren, Lee, Spencer, and Sean brainstorm their own communication method.

A few solutions include corresponding a number of sounds or jumps to letters in the alphabet, or spelling out letters with either bodies or sticks, as Lauren and Sean demonstrate.

Next comes the final challenge: trying to communicate over the vast ocean of the parking lot. Some messages are lost in translation, but many make it across mostly un-mangled. Akshay and Mads create an "A" with some tubes.

After reflecting on what made these methods work, or not, and what made a good team, we split to evening play time. Quickly, the Tube Warriors and the Stick Knights arise as mortal nemeses.

While the Tube Warriors train, the Stick Knights gather magic dust, the source of their abilities.

We close out the night with some headlamp shadow puppetry before brushing our teeth, putting on pjs, and settling down for some quiet time before lights-out. In the yurts, we reflect on our day. We've learned how to use tools, creatively problem-solve, and made some new friends. As we go to sleep, we can't wait for the big reveal of tomorrow.

Written by Lauren Byunn-Rieder

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