Need more? There are 2,628 photos in the session three archive.
You start with an idea - a train, powered by sail, with a dining car, a sleeping car, and (even though you didn't know it until you saw it) a grape-shooting car! The idea is so powerful that you find yourself dreaming about it, drawing pictures of it, talking about it... and finally, building it. This is the story of Session 3 at Tinkering School, 2012. Our railcars survived the night by the side of the quarry haul road in Davenport (special thanks to the night security crew at the cement factory for keeping an eye on them!), and, with a little effort, we manage to get them on to the trailer in pairs for transport. Getting the cars down to the rails takes some effort and some walking through thistles.
Saya tries out her eucalyptus-filled pillow on the bunk bed.
"Nooi" - so good, you have to write it twice.
The clouds lay on the torpid ocean like a wet blanket, the wind nowhere to be seen; we press on.
Steve unveils his secret after-dinner project - skate-rail-board!
Our friends at the cement factory keep an eye on the progression of the project from the maintenance gantries at the top of the mixing towers.
The new spinnaker is starting to stir on the breeze, lifting hopes and refueling the excitement of the tinkerers.
The Engine team fabbed up some spiffy gussets for the sail since the sewing machine broke halfway through the sail re-shaping process.
Amelia's wireless rock seems to get better signal than our cellphones.
When the guide-wheels get ripped off by unseen obstructions, it can bend the seemingly indestructible gold screws. Lauren performs a little forensic analysis on the twisted metal.
We start to attract a crowd at our setup spot, so we move the setup operation a few hundred yards down the track - but the crowd follows us.
The view from our new work area is pretty darn spectacular.
Lunch is, of course, served al fresco today.
While it is very frustrating that the cars are still not rolling reliably (wheel alignment, discovery of new obstructions and protrusions on the track...), we all experience a kind of dreamy euphoria. Just being out on the rails, rolling, breaking down, fixing, upgrading, hoping, and rolling again is like riding a continuous roller coaster of emotion and adrenaline.
Portrait of a Collaborator: Kami exudes a continuous calm, no matter what calamity is unfolding.
Jane and Kami add side panels to the triple-decker bunk bed so that it will be safe to sleep on when the train is rolling. Passengers will no doubt sleep just that much more soundly knowing that they cannot accidentally roll out of bed and be crushed by the next railcar.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam tries out the new bunks and finds them completely satisfactory.
Gever enjoys the challenge of constantly inventing a new solution for each of the breakdowns. Here, he makes use of some plywood gussets that were brought for some other purpose that they didn't actually suit.
The train is ready to roll, again.
We were all pretty impressed with Steve's use of a plywood triangle to create an improvised miter-box.
The secret of his railboarding design lies in the clever use of wagon wheels to create a functional train wheel on the out-rigger - a solution so beguiling that Gever almost wants to do another project on the rails.
Portrait of a Collaborator: Hanna, part of the Engine team and fighting a flu, grabs a quick rest while repairs are being done on the Nooi car.
The dining car is serving a string cheese appetizer this afternoon. Because the seating is all on porch swings, they do not serve soup very often.
Seabirds make frequent fly-bys, Brigid and Bryn keep a keen watch.
This is exactly what it looked like in our dreams, except that we spent more time rolling down the track and less time cursing it for being so variable (special photographic effects curtesy of a sudden change in the humidity temporarily fogging Steve's lens).
Saya takes a walk down the rails while yet another repair is figured out.
Adam entertains the team with some mad riffs on the bongos - way out daddy-o.
The wind is just barely strong enough to fill the spinnaker, but too weak to move the train. We decide to try unhooking it from the train and seeing if it can move the Engine car.
We discover that it can - just barely. When we rig for single-handed sailing, we watch as Theo rolls briskly down the rails away from us. If only we had more wind...
As the afternoon wears on, an impromptu meeting of the readers club takes place. Brigid, Jane, and Lauren; members in good standing.
Portrait of a Collaborator: Maxine takes a spin on Steve's railboard.
With the train ready to roll again, the Kablooie team practices with their grape-shooters. You can never be too prepared for bandits on these old railroads.
Without enough wind for the sail on the railboard, Steve uses the mast as a stabilizer.
With little or no wind, Gever, Theo, Hanna, and Anita, acting as human engines, push the train all the way out of Davenport to Shark Fin beach - where the Tinkerers gleefully scamper down the steep trail to get in some frolicking while the vehicles are retrieved.
A mysterious cave leads to another hidden beach!
The field where we have stopped the train, is filled with artichokes that have been left to seed.
Little did we know, just having a rolling deck with no accessories turns out to be a really fun thing too - too bad we have to call it a day and load everything on to the trailer. But what a day!
Strategic deconstruction allows us to fit all four of the railcars on the trailer at once. How efficient we must seem to passers-by.
We bid farewell to our little friends at the cement factory, to our challenging railroad, and to our adventure in Davenport.
"Ho!", calls Gever, one last time. "Ho!", say the tinkerers in response. "All aboard?" "ALL ABOARD!" "Feet up?" "FEET UP!" "Ready to roll?" "READY TO ROLL!" "Rolling!" "ROCK AND ROLL!"
It was such a good day that Gever was inspired to make apple cobbler, and Adam's extended family secretly snuck in to the Ranch house to drop off home-made cookies - so we decide to have them both!
Anita wanted everyone to see how Gever writes the blog each evening after the tinkerers go to sleep, and Gever wanted to thank you all for your kind words about the daily blog. It is, in the most literal sense, a labor of love.
We are in final stages of preparation for the inaugural departure of our sailtrain. It's one of those days where there are no big milestones, just an endless list of little details to knock out. The high-fives are few and far between, but the progress is good and consistent. The plan is to ferry the boats down to the rail head today, mount the new wheel units and guide-wheels, and then store them overnight at the cement plant. Not to give anything away, but let's call that "plan A".
Lauren and Kami get started by putting in the middle bed panel on the Piki's triple-decker bunkbed. The Nooi car is finished, but it does not fit through the barn door - so they take one of the two swing-sets off...
... and then carry, and twist, and rotate it to get it out and down the ramp.
Bryn thinks the swings work pretty good on their own too.
Some paints are discovered in a drawer in the barn, and what better time to paint something than just moments before you are going to move it? Josh and Bryn collaborate on a red/orange motif.
On the list of things the Kablooi team needs to finish is the roof/sunshade. Zada is pretty quick with a screwdriver so she and Anita get to work.
With the bunkbeds laid in, the Piki decide to throw caution to the wind and add safety rails.
Outside, the Nooi get the last of their bits of furniture loaded on the trailer, and then the truck heads out to make the first drop.
Back at the Ranch, the Piki discover that their bunkbed has mysteriously become heavy (Gever thinks that it may be the liberal use of very thick eucalyptus
Eager tinkerers ensure that the empty trailer does not stay empty long, and the Kabloo and Piki cars are quickly loaded up.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Brigid pauses for a moment to consider the near future and the very real possibility that we may be rolling down the tracks today.
Portrait of a Collaborator: We will miss Theo when he heads off to Savannah College of Art and Design.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jane, scheming.
At the railhead, we off-load all the cars, tools, snacks, jackets, water bottles, materials, markers, and tinkerers.
It takes a village... to move the Piki triple-decker bunkbed.
There is no partially constructed project that cannot be turned into a play structure - as demonstrated by Lauren.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Josh takes a break to walk the rails.
Steve Davee, professional guide-wheel tuner.
Occasionally prone to distraction, Zada enjoys watching the scene as she bolts on the Kablooi sunshade.
Like some kind of fantastical Ikea construction, the seems to be an unending stream of parts and attachements coming out of the truck. Brigid brings the Nooi bookshelf.
And Adam brings the Piki bench.
Amelia locks down the brace on the Piki car.
As the cars rise up on their wheels, there is a palpable sense of excitement... that soon evaporates as the process of aligning the wheels becomes tedious and frustrating.
To test and tune the alignment, the carts must be rolled back and forth endlessly and the wheels observed by a trained professional like James.
The reward for good wheel alignment, is a smooth, nearly frictionless, ride down the tracks. The Nooi car is first to roll away.
And the Kablooi car is not far behind - until it hits a bad weld on the tracks and rips off a guide-wheel. We're going to have to consider moving the guide wheels to this inside of the track given how unpredictable the outside surface is.
But the alignment process, which is not perfect, takes longer than anyone expects and before we can get all three cars rolling, we have to pack them up, drop them off at the place where the cement plant night watchmen can keep an eye on them (since the boss at the cement plant put the kibosh on the plan to let us leave the railcars in their locked parking area), and head home for pizza dinner.
Knowing that there is always a long line to make pizzas, the truck decides to stop at the beach and let the tinkerers do some wrestling.
Saya approves of the menu tonight.
Well, it was another long, fruitful day at Tinkering School. We started at 9am, and dropped off the railcars for overnight storage at 6:30pm, then drove back to the Ranch and made pizzas - no wonder everyone is so quiet tonight. The question sometimes comes up about whether or not it is natural or healthy for kids to work eight or nine hours a day. I'm not sure, but I do know that by the end of a week of Tinkering School, they do become accustomed to it and get better at pacing themselves. I'm pretty sure that if we looked at the work habits of the Paleolithic period, we'd see a cycle of long days of intense work (hunting down a giant mammal, killing it, skinning it, not eating many carbohydrates, etc) followed by periods of rest and playing with fire.
I want to talk about the inestimable value of taking a break, a diversion, a digression - but first we have to have a FLASHBACK: Last night, before coming in for the evening, a new Olympic sport was developed - Synchronized Table Dismount. The scoring and technical judging criteria are not fully developed, but the American and French teams are already in hot competition.
After dinner, Gever hosted a brief "How to Draw a Straight Line" salon. This simple provocation lead to an evening of drawing and drawing games.
END FLASHBACK Emperor Hanuman (actually his advisors) invented the first games of chance when he introduced dice as a national pastime to distract his subjects from hunger during a ten-year drought. Eat one day, play the next. This simple idea works as well today as it did near the dawn of civilization, and Zada and Saya enjoy a few rounds of Speed while breakfast is set up.
Later, up in the barn, Jane and Lauren are working on getting the Nooi bunkbed finished up so they can actually sleep on it on the rails tomorrow (we hope!).
Saya is committed to building a comfortable chair, and recruits Anita to give her a lesson on the chop-saw.
Bryn pretty much hypnotizes himself with magnets for the first hour of the morning build. If he wasn't so continuously inventive and creative with his experiments, we would have directed him back to work on his car.
Saya's lounger is coming together nicely.
Gever introduces Josh to the Figure-of-Eight knot and the Trucker's Hitch so that he can tie the Nooi mast properly.
It's a busy barn as the teams work to get their cars ready for transport tomorrow (we hope!). We've announced the afternoon trip to the beach, so the morning build is all the time they've got.
Janna, the 15 year-old ranch hand who introduced the tinkerers to all of the animals earlier in the week, has discovered mange on one of the Icelandic sheep and has decided to sheer and bathe him to cure it. Naturally, the tinkerers are attracted to this operation like moths to a flame.
Ideas for using the wool pile up faster than the wool does.
Gever has suggested that some diagonal cross-bracing would really help solidify the triple-decker bunkbed, and Adam and Kami figure out how that would work.
Josh, inspired to decorate the Nooi car, draws a picture of his new pal Bryn as an old man.
Jane learns to drive the jigsaw and uses her new skills to cut out bed boards for each of the beds on the Piki triple-decker bunkbed.
Meanwhile, back out in the front of the barn, the wool gets washed (multiple times) and then spread out to dry.
Brigid is working on a "sort of mailbox thing" for the Nooi car.
The wool washing gets serious as Zada, Jane, and Lauren add soap and start to see huge quantities of soil suddenly clouding the water in the bucket.
Kami's brothers donated skateboard decks continue to be provocative elements in our environment.
With the mailbox firmly mounted, Brigid adds hinged doors to close the top and keep the contents safe while sailing.
The new spinnaker for the Engine Car seems huge compared to our previous sail designs - but we have to keep in mind that this one sail is going to pull four cars, eleven tinkerers, and two or three collaborators.
The Kablooi are saving themselves the trouble of climbing under their deck to screw things in by screwing plywood flanges on to everything that has to be attached.
View of the barn from the Kablooi end of things.
Amelia creates a new sign for the Nooi car, just in case the flag is not visible enough.
Josh and Bryn invent another game to play with a used skateboard deck.
Gever helps Jane figure out how to mount a swing on the Piki car.
Then, we had lunch, loaded up the cars, and headed to the beach for a much-needed change of scenery. The barn is nice, but after two-and-half long days of working in there, it gets to be a little much.
A self-described marine biologist in the making, Amelia finds all manner of interesting things in the tidal zone.
And grabs her friend Zada to share them with.
Including this juvenile rock crab.
Steve enjoy a view of the beach from a rocky outcropping.
Squadrons of pelicans made regular fly-by's of our little beach.
Up near the tide-line, Lauren found a nearly intact seal skull.
A stream that wound through the rocks provided a great opportunity for Jonah, James, and the rest of the tinkerers to do some serious hydro-engineering.
Is there a more consistently provocative and engaging environment on this planet? Gever thinks we could spend all week here.
Zada soon reverts to some animal state and spends the next couple of hours in constant frolic mode.
The sand prove irresistible to everyone, and Brigid demonstrates the right way to leap dramatically.
Lauren demonstrates her finely honed sand-ball making skills by producing a series of perfectly spherical orbs. Having taught her this sill two years ago, Gever is very appreciative.
Towards the end of the day, tigers come down to the watering hole.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Brigid at the Beach.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Amelia at the Beach.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jane Buries Zada at the Beach.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Saya Making a Sand Ball
Portrait of a Seagull: Steppin' Out
The girls have a casual pow-wow down the beach a ways.
James and Lauren discuss the potential cardboard sliding afforded by a nice groove in an outcropping.
Zada is so completely frolic-ed out that she needs help getting all the sand off.
Josh gets in one last heroic leap before we must leave the beach.
On the hike back to the cars, the group spreads out along the grassy trail like elephants migrating across the veldt.
After dinner, we retire to the fire pit and enjoy some quality time just staring into the coals and eating s'mores.
As we often do during our fires, some tinkerers take turns experimenting with light paintings. Gever and Theo have put together a curious new addition in the form of a trio E.L. panels arranged on a long board.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bryn.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zada
Secret meeting of the Tinkering Cult (according to Theo).
Jonah get his King Tut on.
Brigid makes a rock-show entrance.
Flashlight glyphs and marks.
Good night everyone.
It's been an amazing day all around, and one of those days that had to be earned to be fully enjoyed. They say that hard work is it's own reward - and this is true - but hard work also sets us up to enjoy not working in ways that we can only appreciate after the effort is made.
We live to build. This is the way of Tinkering School. We play to enervate our building, we eat to fuel our bodies and minds for more working. Truly. Over breakfast this morning, there was no talk of how tired we were from the long day yesterday, instead, we talked about what we would do as soon as we got back to the barn. Every job should start with a walk through the woods, past the chickens, the llama, and the goats. Good morning all you peculiar and charming beasts, let us see what the day brings today, shall we? Kami brought discarded skateboard decks from her brother's shop. Whee!
Brigid sets up the scroll saw and gets right to work.
The Piki are considering building a three-level sleeping car. The challenge is that there not enough milled lumber to build with - luckily Lauren is an alumni from two years ago and knows how to lash poles together.
So they head out to the yard to sort through the poles and sticks we harvested from the woods yesterday.
Zada and Amelia trim the branches to clean up the poles and get them ready for lashing.
The engine car is being built by Theo and Hanna - starting from the mast, evidently.
James and the Kablooi have a notion to make a bench out of one of the skateboard decks.
As the days progress, the tinkerers get more comfortable with the tools (always with supervision). Bryn at the controls.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bryn admires a fresh cut on the chop-saw.
Your daily goat.
Adam is mastering the techniques necessary to drive the long screws through the wet eucalyptus.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Josh at the Drill.
Brigid and the Nooi are pretty much done with their car for now, so they start volunteering on the other teams to help get everyone caught up.
Zada works with Anita to make a detailed check list of everything left to do on the Kablooi car to get the removable roof mounted.
Gever agrees to be the test pilot when Lauren wants a real test of the strength of her fresh lashing work.
It would appear that Gever is feeling a lot better today (have we seen the last of that hideous flu?) because he is moving between the teams consulting and offering new perspectives on all kinds of sticky problems.
Lauren has good company as she works methodically to finish the lashings so her team can bolt the bunk-bed frame into place.
Zada puts her new plan into action and starts measuring and marking all the parts she has to cut.
Done for now? Nope. Bryn and Josh collaborate to make a base for their new pedestal table on the Nooi car.
At the other end of the barn, Brigid smooths the rough edges off the new tabletop for the pedestal table.
Too bad the tinkerers don't get along better with their collaborators. It's terrible to see so much strife on the Nooi team.
The diagrams from the conversation about hanging things with rope continue to be a reference for projects today. Notes and embellishments accrue.
It's such a nice day, that everyone lingers around the Ranch House after lunch.
They play in the trees. (Lauren)
They run and yell. (Saya)
Amelia raises the newly minted Nooi flag, and basks in the glory.
James and Jonah have successfully lobbied Gever for permission to build grape shooters and mount them on the Kablooie caboose - you know, to protect the train from robbers.
Brigid thinks of "one more thing" that the Nooi car really needs - cup holders!
Jonah sets to cutting more pieces for the grape shooters (some variation on a cross-bow).
The Nooi flag inspires the Piki to make a flag as well and Adam sets about cutting one from a scrap of paraglider (just a little bigger than the Nooi flag, we notice).
Jonah is pretty excited about the big grape shooter that will be mounted on the real deck - to absorb the recoil.
Jonah and James consult with Gever on a tricky "order of operation" conundrum that has them somewhat paralyzed. He points out a couple of tricks of the trade that they can use with only simple modifications to their design, and they are off and running again.
Lauren's lashing work comes back inside and suddenly the Piki bunk-bed frame leaps off of their car deck.
Meanwhile, out in front of the barn, the Engine Car takes shape and we can finally see the size of the thing. This sail is going to be massive.
As the day winds down, Amelia, Jane, and Brigid, enjoy a moment in the Nooi lounge car.
With the deck screwed down, the Kablooi caboose suddenly comes together. It helps that while they were blocked on the order of operation problem, they just kept building the things that they thought they needed. Now it's just a matter of connecting them to the deck.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, the collaborators get a little bit loopy.
So it's a good thing the tinkerers stay focussed and on task. Lauren takes command of the sewing machine.
Tonight we're having tacos, and after a quick check to make sure we have everything ready, we all settle into the rhythms of dinner. I continue to be amazed at how the "picky" eaters seem to forget their particular preferences and dig in to whatever we make.
It was good to be back, operating at something close to full mental capacity today, and getting into the thick of the building operations. Sometimes the best teaching moments come after you've been struggling together with a couple of tinkerers, exhausting all of your easy answers and recipes. That's when you start to co-invent something new, something synthesized from all the things you collectively know or think. It's the things we figure out together that really help us learn as individuals - tinkerers and collaborators alike.
We managed to make it through breakfast and up to the barn before the kids convinced Gever to tell them what the big project is this week. Inspired by the team railboats from Session 2, Gever challenges the Session 3 tinkerers to build an actual train, with three cars and an engine. Two of the collaborators take on the engine car and that leaves the teams to create individual cars that will link together to form a train."An actual, real train?" asks one of the tinkerers. "Yes," says Gever, "an actual train, powered by sail, on train tracks. A Sailtrain." "Oh!"
But first, Saya has to check in with the goats. For those of you watching the game from home, the team lineups look like this for the sailtrain project: Piki: Lauren, Adam, Jane, with Collaborator Kami Nooi: Josh, Bryn, Amelia, Brigid, with Collaborator Steve Kablooi: James, Jonah, Saya, Zada, with Koblaborator Anita
The Nooi settle down on the lower deck for a serious brainstorming session.
Gever meets with the engine team to make sure they are thinking big enough. The engine will have to pull three cars - they'll need a tall mast and very big sail - good thing Michael Gough loaned us an ancient spinnaker.
Steve extracts himself from the Nooi brainstorm session to allow them to build some big ideas without an adult looking in.
Looks like they are developing some interesting ideas.
Zada and Saya of the Kablooi team are imagining a traveling living room with a big TV.
As a keen observer of the design process, I am always fascinated by the diagrams that the tinkerers create. The Kablooi are exploring some very big ideas.
The Nooi are hoping to hang matching porch swings on each end of their car. To support the swing, they need a strong frame.
Over at the chop-saw, the Josh makes his first cuts using the loudest tool at Tinkering School.
Amelia steps up and gets the saw-handling lesson from Steve.
Then she heads back to driving screws with teammate Bryn.
Once the Nooi are done hogging the chopsaw, Jane gets a saw lesson from Kami.
And Ameila and Bryn have become a highly productive porch-swing-making team.
"One hundred of anything is interesting," says Gever.
James makes one last check of the Kablooi plan.
On the other end of the barn, Jane screws down the Piki decking.
Portrait of a Photographer in the Lenses of a Tinkerer: Gever in Zada's sunglasses.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lauren
James transfers the Kablooi design to their sheet of plywood.
Theo and Hanna, aka "The Engine Team", have uncovered another failed wheel on one of the Session Two cars. This one appears to have ground down one whole side of the wheel and then stopped spinning when it heat-welded to the board, at which point it began to have groove chewed in it by the edge of the rail.
The Nooi have two benches, now how will they suspend them?
For that, they consult with Gever and get a quick, before lunch, hand-drawn lesson in hanging stuff by rope.
Portrait of a Chicken: After lunch, the tinkerers meet 15 year-old ranch specialist Janna for tour and introduction to the animals. Jane seems to like this one.
Portrait of a Chicken: Zada finds the most rock-and-roll chicken in the yard and makes friends with it.
And even though we've been feeding the goats for the past 24 hours, everyone takes special delight in feeding them crunchy celery.
Back at work, the Nooi mock up the frame that will suspend their swing.
The Engine Team finds another uniquely failed wheel and presents it to Gever for forensic analysis. He thinks that the bearings heated up, the wheel got really soft, and then the bearings just kind of mushed around.
As a special gift, the Engine Team has produced wheel units for all the teams.
Brigid (newly arrived due to schedule complications) arrives and jumps right in with the Nooi team to help put together the swing frames.
With milled lumber running out, the teams decide that what they need is some eucalyptus to work with - a perfect excuse to jump on the truck running-boards and get a ride down to the edge of the property.
There is something sublime about riding the running-boards. We all feel it, and the kids do too. It is a downright tragedy that there aren't more cars built with running-boards these days.
Then we're back at the Tinkering School eucalyptus patch to harvest a few "thin, strong, straight" saplings.
Zada takes a lumberjacking turn and brings down a thirty foot tall sapling - right between two big patches of poison oak.
Josh measures out the felled trees to mark where we will cut them into manageable chunks.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Giggle-fits erupt as Brigid and Amelia crank one of the giant eye-bolts into the swing frame.
Bryn takes a turn at the crank as he gets another of the eye-bolts set in place.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's back to the truck we go. Saya, Jane, and Lauren drag the felled trees out of the woods to load on the truck.
Brigid locks down the bolts that hold the swing frame to the deck.
And Bryn just keeps working on the eye bolts. That guy is unstoppable.
Saya and Kami help get the newly cut trees loaded on the truck.
It takes all hands to get the load up on to the roof - Josh and Jane tote and heft.
Adam waits to make sure that Gever has things under control before letting go of the pole.
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Brigid, Amelia, and Bryn have the first of the two porch swings mounted.
Bryn thinks that it works pretty well.
Down at the eucalyptus grove, they have the truck loaded up and ready to go.
The Nooi reveal another of their design elements - planter boxes!
Work in the barn comes to a halt at 6pm and the teams clean up the tools and head up to the Ranch House as Gever rings the dinner bell. Tonight is pasta night with red sauce, pesto, and choice of grated cheeses, with a mixed green side salad of lettuce, broccoli, tomato, and cucumber. After such a long day of work, even the pickiest eaters dig in.
Today started at 9am in the barn and we wrapped up nine hours later. Not content to rest on their full bellies, most of the teams returned to the barn after dinner for another hour of build-time. We always hope for these kind of productive days at Tinkering School because it is so fun to watch the tinkerers and collaborators lose track of time.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, which means that boredom is the aunt of creativity. Given a pause of indeterminate length, any two tinkerers will inevitably invent something to do to pass the time. Apropos of this, we present the inaugural game of "catch sock wad in helmet." Gever explains the basic rules of Tinkering School, with a minor digression into which finger, if you wanted to cut one off, you would probably miss the least. The answer is, the pinky.
Steve, one of the collaborators this session, in an experiment to create a pendulum-based camera dolly, has left his first prototype hanging from a beam. Naturally, it becomes an object of much speculation.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam
As is our tradition, the kids spend a few moments poking around in the supply boxes and getting familiar with what tools and materials they will be working with this week.
Every tinkerer receives a knife, and a lesson from Anita in how to use it safely and expertly.
Which is immediately followed by a long period of time devoted to whittling and peeling eucalyptus sticks.
Jane is developing her fine motor-skills, tenacity, and perseverance - aka whittling.
Around the yard, tinkerers learn the nuances of shaving wood - not to make a shape, but to make shavings. A curl is it's own reward.
Portrait of a Tinkerer: Saya enjoys a grape, per rule number two of Tinkering School: if you see a piece of fruit, and you want it, you must eat it.
Bryn makes himself comfortable on a spool of rope.
James and Jonah - a force to be reckoned with. These two friends had the luck of the draw when the lottery selected them both for Session 3.
Jane at the wheel of the Master's Class go-cart. We keep this project (from two years ago) around because it inspires and informs a lot of the design details when we are building vehicles.
Need something? You can probably find it on the shelf next to the "Tongue Disposers."
As we start into the afternoon project of deconstructing disposable electric toothbrushes, we discover that recent changes in the manufacturing process have yielded a nearly impenetrable design. Saya and Bryn discuss ways of getting these inscrutable devices open.
Frustrated with her toothbrush but having given it a good go, Jane takes a little whittling break.
Steve and Lauren chatting it up around the old whittling stick.
Gever and Saya discuss techniques for shaping the end of a stick.
At our collective wit's ends, we give Amelia the go-ahead to use a hammer on a particularly tough toothbrush.
Jonah and James have gotten their toothbrushes open, but have been left with a handful of parts that are tricky to work with.
What do these parts want to be?
Steve's abandoned pendulum dolly becomes the platform for sculpture that, according to Adam, must include a pulley. It evolves into a peculiar kind of swing where each foot goes in a loop on a line that runs over the pulley - much running in the air then ensues.
Portrait of a Goat: Sugar.
Adam decides to add a seat to his swing, which we take as an opportunity to introduce him to the drill press.
"I'm talking to a robot!" Bryn enjoys trying out his new invention; the world's first toothbrush cellphone. It cleans your ears while you talk!
There must be something in the air, because two other swing-making projects get started. Zada, Amelia, and Jane have picked out a tree near the Ranch House that can support a rope. After some unsuccessful rope-hucking attempts, Zada gets some tips and makes a rope ball.
The perfect toss. It goes up and neatly over the branch where it unspools back down almost to her grasp.
Sunday afternoon is a time when we try to gauge each tinkerer's social, technical, and creative abilities. These wide-ranging free-build periods provide incredible insights and unique opportunities to challenge, cajole, and collaborate. I would argue that this simple process reveals more about a young mind (and heart) than an SAT test. This process helps us make informed decisions about how the kids will work together on teams, and to predict where they will need the most conceptual scaffolding on the big project.
Post Script: Today marks the first time in the history of Tinkering School that we have had an injury serious enough to require a trip off the Ranch to get some professional care. Our young friend Josh opened up the side of his thumb while trying to extricate his project toothbrush from the impervious packaging. The injury was cleaned, assessed and bandaged. We decided that it warranted a medical opinion and his mother took him to nearby urgent care. He returned, proudly showing off his four stitches, and re-engaged with the pre-dinner activities.