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2014 Session C - Middles

Session C: Day 5 - Rain Delays, Knife Training & Gopher Team

2014 Session C - MiddlesJosh Rothhaas1 Comment

This morning saw a persistent mist that left us unable to work on our project. Instead, we fell back on some tinkering school favorites. Knife training, knot tying, and playing with pulleys.

In the morning we learned about knife safety. Kids each had to memorize and recite the 5 rules of knife safety.

  1. Have a sharp knife (they are actually safer than dull knives).
  2. Have a knife that can lock open.
  3. Always be seated while using the knife.
  4. Check your blood bubble (the immediate area around you where if you slip or make a mistake, your knife could go) and make sure no one is in it.
  5. Cut away from yourself.

Additionally they had to whittle a stick down to a point, then sharpen several pencils without breaking the lead.

After that we learned about the figure-eight knot. Which is the single most useful knot known to Josh and the TS staff.

With rain delays and the ambitious nature of our project, we contemplated calling it and switching gears. But in the afternoon we assembled a cross-group team called the Gopher Team (because we have gophers and this team was just going to go-for it). Gopher team did the repetitive and detail oriented work of placing the support for the floor/roof of the outer box. While the Gopher team worked, the other teams worked on their design. The idea is one way up and many ways down. Each team is responsible for their own way down. There is only one full day left, and more than enough work to do.

Session C : Middles – Epilog

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

IMG 3245 With a set of totally inappropriate materials including 2x3, bolts, and bungee chords, this crew of 11-13 year olds and a crew of entirely non-technical collaborators took on the abstract problem of creating vehicles with working suspension systems. At the beginning of the week Josh went off to draw a bunch of suggestion and ideas on how it might be done, and by the time he came back each team had come up with idea's that where better and more coherent than any he had come up with. This trend continued all week as the kids invented, worked and created. They bonded over a combination of tough problems, card games, and intense games of tags. We played on the beach, we played with fire, we played with abstract problems.

Eventually we rolled on road and off road.

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Read more of the week below. Check out the photos of the week on our flickr.

Day 1 - Explorations

Day 2 - Problem Solvers

Day 3 - Camaraderie

Day 4 - Beach Madness

Day 5 - Trials and Errors

Day 6 - Playful Determination

Day 6 & 7 - Playing and Showing Off

Day 6 & 7 - Playing and Showing Off

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

One of the strange problems with being the biggest Tinkering School session in history is not having enough places to sit at the tables inside. At breakfast this was no problem; it's so staggered that many are done by the time others are just starting. Lunch was another easy one, we would just eat outside. However, dinner seemed to pose a major problem. It would get dark and we can't just eat in the dark. So early on in the week Josh bought string lights, only to realize the sun is up way past dinner time. We hung them up anyways and accidentally made a magical little spot on the ranch. IMG 2661

It was a great place to play cards, eat snacks and talk without bothering the campers and collaborators that wanted to go to bed early.

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Friday is off to a calm start. Most of the carts are nearly working or already fully functional. Tweeking, improvements and decorations is the plan for the day.

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We tighten bolts, inspect joins, and toss in a few decorations.

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Team Panda's ATZ ATV needs some last second consultation and plenty of love. We decide that some inside bars need to go, but due to how it was constructed we can't get at the screws without a full deconstruct. Cutting them out is our only option. Attempting to settle a long debate with a friend, Josh challenges Ava to a race. She gets to use the jig-saw and josh will use the pull saw. He is confident he will win. Everyone else is skeptical at best.

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The race is on!

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The race is lost... Though it was closer than anyone expected.

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As the day continues everyone starts to realize that little fixes are becoming big headaches with more serious solutions required.

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But as Gus demonstrates with his commitment to sharpie-ing the entire eye-bolt blue, some things are just for looking good.

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Audrey get focused on installing a new piece while Lucy and Ana inspect their knots.

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Engagement is one of Tinkering School's highest priorities. To experience that magic thing where time melts away and a task is fully absorbing, is something to be protected and honored. When it's productive it's called flow, otherwise it's called play. More often than not the delineation feels artificial. Bob demonstrates.

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James and Jonah tweak and adjust.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer in a Busy Barn: Kevin

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Lucy spends the next 20 minutes cutting and tying this old parachute to eventually create the team mascot costume.

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Before we even get to lunch some teams are ready for off road trials. We set up courses in tiers. Tier 1 is to make the turn from the house wide, then roll over the dirt near the garden for about 30 yards, then get back on the asphalt.

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Tier 2 is to stay on the asphalt, get as much speed as possible, turn off where cars usually park and ride the gravel and off road section for as long as possible.

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Afterwards we decide Tier 3 is to mix the two other tiers. Take the first turn wide, get off road near the garden, get back on the asphalt to regain speed, then get back off the road and roll for as long as possible.

Jen the Collaborator takes Piki Pie (PI?) for a test ride down from the barn in preparation of their first run on the Tier 1 course.

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None of us expected it, so there is no photographic evidence, but Piki Pie's cart does Tier 3 right off. After finishing Tier 1 the rest of team Piki shouts, "keep going" so we do.

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We continue to adjust and improve breaks. The ATZ ATV has not yet done a full run, and everyone on the team is getting anxious. Will it ever work?

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Kablooi takes their first official trail run and discovers their steering dangerously locks out to the right. This picture is moments before Jonah gets stuck turning right, slams the breaks and crashes lightly into the Elkus Ranch garden sign.

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Repairs, improvements, decorations, trail runs. This is the rhythm of a friday.

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Some of the kids brought their own fabric markers which make the Tinkering School T-shirts even more unique this year.

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One special side project takes us all by surprise this session. Many kids in the history of Tinkering School have tried to make a cart that steers by leaning left and right (instead of turning a wheel or axel). Without Gever around we can't confirm, but Josh is pretty sure this has never worked out for anyone. In a stroke of engineering insight that uses a combination of casters, wagons wheels and skateboard wheels, these boys finally do it. Their cart, small and nimble, turns when you lean. It turns more dramatically left then right. It has a tendency to favor gravity, so any attempt to use momentum to go up hill causes chaotic and erratic issues. But it works. Curiosity peaks as one wonders what they might have worked out with a few more days, or even just a few more hours, on this project.

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It's affectionately nicknamed "The Hoverboard"

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After dinner we get ready for fire night. Filling a 5 gallon bucket and a 40 gallon wheel barrow full of water and getting the house nearby, we prepare to burn our scrap wood for the week. We have tried many ways to get rid of our scrap wood, but sadly its a material you can't even give away. So instead of sending it off to landfill (or compost if we can get it all the way back to SF), we burn it. Unlike twigs or logs, these are nearly identical and stack wonderfully.

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We spend the next 30 minutes sitting in it's glow.

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Eventually the fire collapses, we contain it into the central pit and we begin a Tinkering School Tradition. Playing with fire. This week the feature is sawdust we have collected in our vacuums all week. Josh goes over the dangers ahead and give his usual lecture on Dangerous Done Well.

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If you toss sawdust at just the right spot from just the right distance is spreads out, losses its insulating properties aerosolizes and ignites. Be careful.

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Next up is cooking spray. One of our collaborators, Tricia, nails it and brings the fire high and strong.

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After all the excitement, the night slows down and we get the main show. S'mores and painting with light.

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With fire night behind us and the parents on their way, the final day is just about showing off and cleaning up. Tricia and Kevin have to leave early so we take group shot right before they go.

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When the parents show up we take one more photo right before the final runs.

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Then we show off!

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And if you were wondering, after changing the breaks and and nearly re-engineering their entire steering system, the ATZ ATV makes several successful runs!

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And with that, Josh repeats his favorite saying "We didn't come to Tinkering School to have a custom made all terrain vehicle with working shocks, we came to Tinkering School to have made an all terrain vehicle with working shocks." Like a buddhist sand mandala to the wind, we disassemble our carts and hold only to the experience.

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This week we took over 5000 photos and published 1400 of them. Check it out on our flickr.

Day 5 - Trials and Errors

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

We start right where we left off, eager hands itching to get back to work. The day off has given us time to think through our next steps, and reenergize, so work starts almost immediately. Jonah Jr. uses the pull saw to take a corner off one of the wheel-boxes, hoping to prevent the edges from catching bumps and rocks.

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At the end of the day Tuesday, Nooi's cart's backend piece broke off. James works on adding new attachment pieces.

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Karsen heats a hot knife to cut bungee. The Piki's morning project is to modify their hammock to hold them better.

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Eloise maps out plans for the Kablooi's bench seat.

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Aimee and Ava get in for some tricky fixes - car repair style.

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Kevin works to build the connection pieces needed to add brakes to the Kablooi cart, one of the few crucial points that had been tested.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Aimee works on bending wires.

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Eloise cuts out the seat for the Kablooi cart, getting a chance to use the circular saw.

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Aimee and Anya cut up wood for their cart - pausing briefly to pose for a photograph.

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One of the great benefits of re-using wood from a previous project is the great designs, decorations and stories that come with it. The Kablooi's plywood seat is one such piece.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Grazzia grins for the camera.

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The Kablooi cart gains graffiti.

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The decoration committee at work.

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Anya and Tricia work together on Panda's front steering piece.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zachary, adding rubber to the brakes.

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A Kevin project coming together. Both Kevins have been working at the attachment system for the the brakes.

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Junior Collaborator Serena's morning project - a camera strap for Josh's camera, created out of parachord woven in friendship bracelet style.

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Your weekly sheep.

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A newly improved net.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Rory, happy.

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The Kablooi are ready for a test run just before lunch. The group gathers round to watch them try their cart for the first time.

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Could it be a surfboard?

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And it's off!

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Portrait of two Tinkerers: Karson and Gus, fast friends.

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Armed with spray paint cans and laser cut letterings of Tinkering School, we spend a few hours after lunch creating t-shirts. Lots of attempts, mistakes, and learning ensued. But the results were awesome- colorful, creative shirts of which no two are alike.

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"Can you help me spray paint a dinosaur?" Karsen asks Nova - "'Cause if there isn't a dinosaur, I won't wear it."

And so they set to work, Nova helping Karsen by drawing and cutting out dinosaur stencils.

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Ava includes washers in her design, an idea Tricia came up with.

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And then we head back up for the barn - teams implement more solutions, tinker with their projects. Somewhere along the line, the giant spool of bungee becomes a giant "cat's cradle" game, with humans for fingers.

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The result? A bungee net that holds people.

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Team Panda has been incredibly focused today. Challenges have risen left and right for them, but they've been able to plow through, to continue to tinker and try things out until they stumble on a solution.

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Tool wall dinosaurs, the most terrifying variety.

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A solution to hold team Panda's wheel-boxes in place - paracord and eyebolts.

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Karsen discovers that the Piki cart makes a comfortable bed.

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Repairs in place, Kevin takes the Kablooi cart for another spin. Much of the interest in playing on a project that looks "done" is in testing, improving, and fixing anything that goes wrong - rarely to things work as smoothly and beautifully as we expect.

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Each cart is given a name - the Piki name their slice shaped cart "Piki Pie"

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The Nooi' cart is given the name "Moonbounce," for it's suspension and ability to cope with bumpy terrain.

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The Panda's cart is called the "Deathtrap," for the series of challenges the team has had in getting it out working today.

The Kablooi's ATV is the "Sensitive Monster Truck," names for the many "it looks like a monster truck" comments the team has gotten, and the perceived personality the cart has.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ari finds an unconventional perch.

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This afternoon, most work and repairs has been occurring outside - cycles of test, fix, test fix occur almost continuously. Tinkering is what happens between having an ATV that's done and an ATV that works awesomely - this iterative process is a great way to achieve that.

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And the Piki are off. IMG 2519

A Nooi test run.

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But even "done" projects feel like a success, especially ones that are running down the hill - every team has completed at least one test run. This success prompts group shots.

Team Piki and "Piki Pie"

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The Nooi and "Moonbounce"

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Team Panda and the "Deathtrap"

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And last but not least, Team Kablooi and "The sensitive Monster Truck"

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We horse around after dinner.

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Sit along the railings to hang out and talk.

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Portrait of a Director: Josh, skeptical.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Jen, considering.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Audrey, elated.

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The inside of the laser cut stencils used on our shirts.

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Today, we got a chance to try and fail, swerve off road, to make mistakes so we could stop and figure out how to fix them. We tried things - creative T-shirt designs, various solutions. Sometimes, they worked. sometimes, they didn't. But we learned from our errors, we tried to improve. And even though our carts are still far from perfect, it's in taking the little steps, slowly closer to awesome. And that, by all accounts, we achieved.

Day 4 - Beach Madness

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

A day at the beach. A chance to stop, refresh. Clear our minds, focus on new problems. Today, no-one will step foot in the barn. Wednesday Beach Day has long been a tradition at Tinkering School. Right as we hit the middle of the week, the climax of our projects, we stop.

This week, stopping is a particular challenge - Nooi left their cart snapped in two, fixes in mind. Kablooi was inches away from their first test run. Panda is itching to get back to the barn to work out solutions for their challenge, and Piki is ready to modify and improve. But for just a day, we ask the kids to not focus on the problems facing them tomorrow. And with that in mind, we pile into cars and head off, ready to play in the waves.

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Beach day offers a break from the thought through, goal oriented building, the aim of building ATVs. Instead, we letting our minds float freely, try out different ideas. A chance to create in a different way.

The girls adopt one of the driftwood forts on the beach, and make it their own.

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The boys add a whole new wing and door to another structure.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ari.

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Creating something, and observing it closely is a skill that often escapes us.

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Oftentimes, by the end of Tuesday, frustration with the challenges faced in the project runs high. And so part of our goal is a mental break.

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Beach day is about discovery. The group discovering, changing, connecting, exploring. Trying new things, pushing boundaries. Yesterday gave us a chance to truly pull together, today those bonds are tested.

We discovered, for example, a lone sea-lion. All, curious, rushed to see.

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Tinkering School forms strong bonds - perhaps because the experience is so unique. What better to represent this than 900 pound test friendship bracelets, made lovingly out of old parasail lines?

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Sometimes, beach day is just about focus, taking a zen moment.

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Sometimes, beach day is about stretching our minds in new directions. Pushing limits, tinkering with the understanding of what we can do.

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Sometimes, beach day is about fun, about taking new chances, about running, freely, engaging with friends, and perhaps hurling a sand ball.

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Beach day gives us new insights, a new perspective, a new lookout, approach to looking at things. And it gives us the energy we need to approach our problems with fresh eyes when we return to the barn tomorrow.

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Achieving something, success in our endeavors. Sometimes, in the midst of a challenging project, what we most need is the confidence that we can, indeed, suceed.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Kevin discovers the properties of charcoal.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Karsen, our resident Paleontologist.

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And we unlock new types of creativity, new types of artistry. A different type of freedom, but freedom nonetheless.

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Working in tandem, learning from each other. But there are no assigned teams, no divisions, just the will to challenge one another into trying new things. (Ana teaches Nova to do hand-stands)

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We learn patience and determination through the choice of our own projects. Beach day gives us a way to try out new skills we've learned, and learn more along the way.

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Together, we can achieve anything - there is no replacement for friendship.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jonah Jr. plays his knife as a harmonica. (Knives + sand don't work out well)

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The challenge of synchronization, of being in sync with the group, of working individually to meet a common goal.

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Taking a chance to wander, talk, take a break.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Anya, thinking.

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Beach day gives us time for self reflection. As a collaborator commented: "It's amazing, watching these kids grow." Even in just a few days of Tinkering School, we've each changed. Perhaps in little ways, perhaps in big ones. Life would be totally different if we made slightly different choices.

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We race forwards.

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We urge each other onwards, support and encourage one-another.

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We come home thinking anything is possible, that we can fly. And with that attitude, we really, absolutely can.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Nova

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We find joy in the littlest of things, a sense of accomplishment in reaching even the smallest goals.

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We get a chance to rest, to ponders, to breathe, to be fully immersed in the moment.

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A chance to trust in one another in a new setting, outside of the barn, a chance to build confidence in one another. This trust between teammates allow them to work together more easily, to hear out each-others ideas, trust in the others suggestions.

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A chance to sleep.

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A chance to climb.

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And instead of free build, beach day ends the way it started - the whole group together, watching a movie (Wall-E, preceded by Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First").

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Ana and Jonah Sr., who named the blog tonight, asked me to call it Beach Madness. And perhaps, thats the best way of putting it. The beach is a place to be crazy, to try new and crazy things, to challenge ourselves. And somehow, we all come back renewed.

Thanks to Nova, again, for selecting the pictures and editing.

For more photos, check out our flickr feed!

Day 3 - Camaraderie

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

After a quick breakfast, the group heads for the barn, ready to get back to work, to tackle the frustrations and problems we faced yesterday afternoon with fresh eyes and minds, and to make progress. Josh, bearer of the compost bowl. IMG 0136

But before work can get started, the compost must be dispersed - the perfect excuse for an early morning visit to the chickens.

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And then it's back to work. Panda works on attaching more rubber elastics for their wheel boxes.

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And Kablooi is back to work too. Despite a minor setback yesterday afternoon - the boards with the inner grooves that allow the axle to slide vertically up and down were installed on the wrong side of the box - the team is able to adjust, address the challenge, and continue forward.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Daniel brandishes a drill.

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The Piki's trapezoidal cart is coming along. The team works out some reinforcements and looks to add attachment points for their suspended seat.

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A peek at Piki plans.

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Ava supports the Panda suspension box, trying it outside for the first time.

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Meanwhile, Piki sets to work on brakes - wood covered by pieces of an old bike tire, which will pivot to stop the cart. On any project that involves vehicles, braking is necessary to make sure we maintain control at all times. It's also a great challenge - making and adapting braking systems that work with the wheel box design you've got.

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Working in pairs is great - you've always got the extra set of hands anticipating your needs, you have company, and when you get stuck, you have an extra mind problem solving along with you. Tuesday, now that we've had a chance to get to know one another and each-others styles of working, teams really get closer.

Rory and Kevin add the re-jigsawed boards with the internal grooves back into the correct place.

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Bits of Tinkering School creativity.

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The creature (Olaf) belongs to Eloise.

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The Nooi wheel-box factory.

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Eighteen hard-working tinkerers makes for a busy barn.

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When the weather's nice, working outdoors can be fun. Anya and Aimee work together to assemble Panda's cart-body.

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Your Daily Goat.

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Jonah takes a minute to put together the back wheels for a side project.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: James and the Rubber Bungees.

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Teams plow forward on their projects - tons of energy, busy hands, and momentum.

The Kablooi:

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The Nooi:

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The Piki:

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And Panda:

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Rory gets in for the tough angle.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eloise, pensive.

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Rory studies.

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The Kablooi need notches in the bottom side pieces in order to get the wheels low enough for the bottom of the cart to have enough clearance above the ground. Armed with a drill and a jigsaw, Junior Collaborator Serena is up for the job.

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Portrait of a Tomatillo Plant.

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Leslie, the ranch coordinator, takes the group on a tour of the ranch, introducing us to the animals and showing us the gardens.

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Eloise befriends a goat.

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Lucy, meet Lucy.

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As we clean up the barn before lunch, we get a look at the state of the projects.

Kablooi's frame is beginning to come together.

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The Nooi have a double (back to back) seat made and mounted.

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"Mango juice? Can I have it in a bowl?" Jonah asks. "My cup's outside."

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The third rule of Tinkering School - all unresolvable disputes are settled by ro-sham-bo. When Serena tells James and Jonah this, they must immediately put it to the test, creating absurd statements with which to challenge the other and then playing.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Nova

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Kevin, eating chocolate.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Tricia, sly.

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Karsen, knife at the ready.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ari, content.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Rory, eyes glinting with curiosity.

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Panda's been running into a few minor issues with their wheel boxes. They work on them. Jonah plays with the tire-less bike.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kevin grins.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Grazzia, accomplished.

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Kablooi starts attaching the bungees that will hold the wheels down.

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Nova, the photographer.

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Jonah Sr. - Click. Click.

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Kevin works on the Kablooi suspension boxes.

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The Piki's suspended "hammock" is in progress.

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Audrey tests out the new hammock.

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It steers!

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The Kablooi suspension is working, too! Kevin tests it out.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zachary - a captured moment.

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The Piki take their trapezoidal ATV for a test run.

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Then reaches and improve. Jen considers adding a crossbeam.

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Test two!

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And three! Success!

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Piki, thrilled, takes a moment to rest. Their cart isn't perfect yet, but they're off to a great start.

Audrey finds a chicken.

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The Kablooi cart - nearly there.

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The Nooi's cart is ready for a test drive. James clambers aboard.

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Madelyn takes a ride!

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While excitement runs high in the barn area - two teams have now tested their carts, (though Nooi's cart body snapped in two and has to be fixed) a group headed down to the creek to explore. They return in the midst of this excitement bearing a baby bird.

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Found at the creek, the tinkerers named the baby "July." Kevin saw the bird fall out of a tree and saved it from drowning in the creek.

This brought much excitement and discussion on what to do. After learning that birds would take back offspring even after they were picked up by humans, we decided to return the bird to it's home. A group headed for the creek to do just that.

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Even though the group couldn't find the birds nest, they left it in a nearby tree. Within a minute, the mother returned, chirping to it's baby. The group left the happily reunited pair for a few minutes to give them space, and returned to find both gone - headed back to the nest. The happiest possible ending.

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Today has been filled with a wonderful sense of caring. The group has truly pulled together and begun to watch out for one another. When minor cuts and scrapes occur in the barn, alert tinkerers race to help grab band-aids and gauze. We've become protective of one another. Tuesday has been a magical day.

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Post Script: Evening activities included brownies, barn time, and these beautiful crepes, made by Nova and Jonah.

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Thanks to Nova, for selecting tonight's flicker feed of pictures and for her help with the blog.

Day 2 - Problem Solvers

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

Rise and shine! Josh and Tricia are up and ready for the morning. Monday always seems to be our earliest wake-up, tinkerers, both young and old, full of anticipation and excitement. IMG 8486

After breakfast, we head for the barn for the grand reveal of this week's project. But before we hear the surprise, Josh reads off the teams.

Tinkering School has had, at any one point, up to four teams. With our biggest group of tinkerers yet, we divide into all four, complete with the traditional names; the Piki, Nooi, Kablooi and Panda.

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On Piki: Jen (the collaborator for the group), Gus, Anna, Karsen, Audrey, Lucy.

Nooi consists of James, Jonah "Junior" (the older and taller of the two Jonah's this week), Ari and Grazzia, with Madelyn as the collaborator.

Kablooi is made up of Jonah "Senior" (the younger Jonah), Kevin, Eloise, and Rory, and led by the junior collaborators, Serena and Kevin (yes, we also have two Kevins)

Panda is guided by Tricia as the collaborator, and contains Adam, Zachary, Anya, Ava, and Aimee.

Before gathering with our groups, Josh announces the project for the week - building All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), complete with suspension, that will be able to handle the bumpy terrain and downhill trails of the ranch with ease. Challenges to look forward too include designing suspension systems that allow the carts to handle the bumps, building steering, and working out brakes.

The groups gather to discuss their thoughts.

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Pens fly across paper as tinkerers race to draw the first ideas that come to mind. Ideas flow. The rush of brainstorming is upon us.

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Team Piki plays with the rubber bungee cords, prototyping the first ideas of how to work out a suspension system. Getting our hands on the actual materials helps us learn more about it and understand what we have to work with.

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And team Panda plans.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gus being Gus.

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Audrey and Gus continue to prototype.

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Lucy discovers a use for all of the hooks that came with the rubber bungees- strung together, they make an interesting chain. Monday is about working out solutions, trying out strange or even crazy ideas, and solving, developing and designing the first drafts of the project we'll spend the next week on.

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Josh and the Kablooi talk about suspension solutions. Most of the teams have decided to tackle the challenge of suspension first, figuring out a way to allow the wheels move independently of the body, allowing the cart to absorb the shock of bumpy terrain.

Some solutions have included the idea of a "hammock" cart that allows the body of the cart to be suspended and move independently, as well as the idea of suspending each wheel-box independently.

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Eloise draws out some potential solutions.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Ari, grinning.

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Lucy explains the trapizoidal, three wheeled design for the Piki's ATV.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam, confident.

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Team Panda gathers to put a wheel-box together.

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The morning bustle in the barn. One of the amazing things about Monday morning is the transformation we see in the tinkerers. Only twelve hours ago, some of the tinkerers had never set hands on tools, but within an hour and a half of announcing the project, everyone's at work, ready to try to things, to find solutions, and to problem-solve.

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The joy of sawing through solid steel with a hacksaw.

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A beckoning sign hung outside the barn door, announcing to all what happens within.

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Team Kablooi begins to assemble wheel boxes, the first step in their attempt to create a suspension system.

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Anya and Ava (Team Panda) work together well.

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Their work has been paying off as we near lunchtime. It looks like team Panda almost has a complete wheel-box and suspension pieces made and ready to attach rubber too.

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Zachary uses the hacksaw.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eloise looks into the distance.

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When we return after lunch outside, the barn returns right back to where we left off - bustling tinkerers, hard at work.

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The front steering column of the Pikki's three wheeled vehicle.

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Aimee and Anya continue the work on wheel boxes.

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Madelyn and James work out the fit of the suspension-box over the wheel-box together.

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Audrey loves the drill press - it's quite a fun tool.

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Two more of the Piki's wheel boxes come together. This week, the Piki are going with what will be one of the most different designs. Their ATV will have three wheels, instead of the four we'll see on the other carts, and no suspension for each individual wheel - just a suspended seat above the cart frame, which should achieve some of the same effects.

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As the afternoon wears on, tinkerers begin to need breaks - starting a project takes a huge amount of creative energy and effort, and despite how fun it is, sometimes we need time away.

Parasail cords, we discover, make great friendship bracelets. Really, really strong friendship bracelets.

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And bike tires, even without the bike, can be quite fun.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Eloise, determined and meticulous.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jonah concentrates.

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James and Madelyn add the rubber to the Nooi suspension boxes - this will be the true test of whether it will work or not.

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Zachary and Adam work on the Panda suspension box - it's looking close to testable as well.

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Chicken break!

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The Kablooi wheel-boxes. Team Kablooi's next challenge will be in working with their large wheel boxes to get them to work the way they intend them too.

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Your Daily Goat.

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The tire swings are an adventure.

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One of the most fascinating things about the Tinkering School process is the evolution of ideas and solutions. Even when teams start from the same concepts, and continue to share new thoughts as the projects develop, each solution, no mater how conceptually similar, turns out to be immensely different. Today, the different solutions to the problem of suspension, all at various levels of completion, offer an example of how different each solution might end up being.

The Kablooi solution involves large outer boxes with the wheel box set inside.

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The Panda's (now complete and working) wheel box allows the wheel room to come up.

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To achieve this, it uses slits in the side to allow bolt movement, and rubber bungee to hold it in place while allowing it to give.

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The Nooi have also completed a wheel box - in theirs, bolts allow the wheel to slide upward to a certain point, while rubber bungee holds it own. The layering of the inner and outer boxes is slightly different too.

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The Piki have normal wheel boxes, and their suspension solution will be attached to the cart, an interesting and creative way to do it. Their triangle design also deserves attention.

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Intrepid tinkerers take a chance to return to the creek, play and explore more.

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We create a rope swing, and play.

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Swinging through our own backyard jungle. Ava has mastered the art of flying.

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Gus kisses a banana slug, but fails to find a beautiful princess.

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The hut a little ways down the creek, theoretically haunted, is searched for ghosts. None appeared.

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The large water tank that is the ranch's water supply makes an excellent perch for tinkerers.

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Up at the barn, Junior Collaborator Serena and Jonah take the chance to use the propane torch to heat a knife to cut rope for Jonah's knife.

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We have dinner under strings of lights Josh brought and hung in the trees.

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And climbed those very same trees.

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After dinner, we spent time hanging out in the garden, playing tag, swinging on tire swings, or having free-build time in the barn, giving ourselves a chance to toy with a different type of energy than the frustrating-but-rewarding energy we needed to problem solve and get started earlier. Taking the evenings as free time to work or play on what we choose gives us a break from focusing to hard on the project. Sometimes it takes taking your mind off things to accomplish anything.

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Day 1 - Explorations

2014 Session C - MiddlesJoshua RothhaasComment

Welcome to Tinkering School! Sunday is a day of getting to know one another, learning about our new surroundings, exploring, and trying new things. As kids arrive, both returning and first-time tinkerers get a chance to acquaint or re-acquaint themselves with their surroundings. As the parents leave, we gather around to introduce ourselves, sharing our "spirit tools" and a fun fact about ourselves with the group. This is the first chance we have to meet our fellow tinkerers and collaborators.


As per Tinkering School tradition, each tinkerer is bestowed with a knife at the beginning of the week. It's a symbol of entrusted responsibility, but also an important tool, and allows for the everyone to share in the joy of whittling breaks.

Josh reviews with the group the five rules of knife safety.


Thrilled with their new knives, the tinkerers take the first chance they get to try them out. Pointy sticks are all the rage - an excellent choice for a first whittling project.


Rory examines her handiwork.


Portrait of a Tinkerer: Aimee enjoys.

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The whittling mood passes, and excited to get started, we return to the barn for tool training. The energy of this group is impressive.

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Your Daily Goat.

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James proudly displays the results of his whittling work.

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Armed with safety gear — goggles and headphones — the group listens intently as Nova explains how to use the chop saw.

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Each tinkerer takes a turn. The chop saw is always a favorite, and gets much use during the week.

Audrey goes!

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And Jonah makes sure the blade is lined up.

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Though not used quite as often as the chop saw and the hand drills, the drill press has had many a purpose in plenty of projects. It is, for example, excellent at putting holes through our knives, as we later discover. Nova covers the basics.


And then, for the weekly wood-breaking. Nova discusses drill use, the important difference between a torque drill and an impact driver, and the best way to attach to boards to keeps as much strength as possible in the joint (not through the end grain).


Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gus looks on.

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In the lull before the storm of dinner, the tinkerers take the opportunity to discover more of what the ranch has to offer. Through the gates of Elkus flows a mystical and magical creek, which offers adventurous tinkerers a place to explore, play, climb, and splash.

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Look, a pull-up bar!


The hungry explorers return for dinner - outside, tonight.

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Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe. So much more than ordinary, boring, Tic-Tac-Toe. It offers a whole new world of possibilities. Daniel, our resident expert, explains the game.

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The afternoon flew by without a chance to take on any particular project, and so those who wanted to return to work in the barn after dinner were free to tackle any challenge that caught their fancy - anything from go-carts to friendship bracelet makers to games of Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, the barn was filled with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm as the kids tackled new challenges and explored new ideas.

James, ready to take on free build.

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A Tic-Tac-Toe match-off.

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And another.

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Today was full of energy and excitement. We got to explore, play, learn. We whittled, had a chance to try out power tools, discovered the joys of playing in the creek, and spent creative energy enjoying an evening in the barn. This week of Tinkering School has begun!

Thanks to Daniel for the editing suggestions.

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