Tinkering School

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2015 Session E - Seniors

Session E: Day 7 - The Show is On

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

I cant clearly express what an amazing session this has been. Tinkering School presented its most abstract problem, in it’s most abstract way. The week started with the prompt “Make a puppet that is at least 6ft in one dimension, and make it sufficiently complex as to need the entire team to operate.” 

What came out was some of the most creative and most complex engineering Tinkering School has ever seen. One team made a dragon head that could move in all three axises and open and close it’s mouth. Another team made an entire stage to serve the purpose of allowing puppeteers to be under it and having gopher-puppets pop up in time to be eaten by a 5 ft tall crane that had working neck and knee joints (off of which happened after a 9ft tall trojan horse snuck the heron into gopher city). Another team made a 10ft tall heron that could flap it’s wings in a two hinged fashion, had a jointed neck, and could attack a giant gopher hill which had simulated dirt. And yet another team create functioning 9ft tall rock-em sock-em robots that could do live battles, and whose heads actually popped off when hit.

All along the way kids worked hard, solved problem, focused, worked on teams and where inclusive. Friendships formed, and friend-groups existed, but every group was radically inclusive, and the week left us, the kids, and the staff just glowing with pride.

Thanks Seniors.

Oh and the Pie to the Face? That’s the grand prize for being the team that cleaned up the most MOOP (Mater Out Of Place), which is all the bits of plastic, paper, and metal we as a camp generate that represent a danger to ourselves, other humans and nature. Piki won, and their victory was glorious and vanilla flavored.


Session E: Day 6 - Constraints Will Set You Free

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

Day 6 is the kind of day when we realize that not all of our dreams can come true. Not everything in our head can be made into reality by the deadline. It’s also the day when things get cooler than what’s in our head, because what’s in front of us is real, and it’s working. Today the puppets go from shadows of their future selves, to being very nearly done. By days end some even declare their project done. A few others will have to sneak in an hour or more of work tomorrow before the parents get here. The night ends with fire and tradition. We say nice things about each other, roast some marshmallows and fade off to sleep. 

Session E: Day 5 - Beach Day!

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

The day bag with one short working sessions where many tiny but important problems got solved. After a few days of hard work, it was to rest and head to the beach. Beach day isn’t the kind of rest that is about napping, or laying around. It’s a playful rest that lets our minds wander from the project at hand to the challenges of playing in the ocean or hiking a very beautiful hill. It’s this rest, play and diversion that lets us come at the problem fresh and new tomorrow. This group was particularly good at playful rest. We played ocean games and beach soccer. We went on big hikes to places camp has never been before. We got hosed down, then took some real showers. We went to be exhausted, but ready for tomorrow. 

Session E: Day 4 - Things Get Hard and The Week Seems Short

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

To better keep track of time we think in terms of “working sessions.” We woke up this morning with just five working sessions left. Two today, two Friday, and one tomorrow because of beach day in the afternoon. The teams have all taken this to heart and are knocking out problem after problem. The dragon mount has entered the x axis (next up is the z axis). The heron can flap its wings. The trojan horse almost looks like a horse. The robots can punch each others heads off.

This morning started with a reminder that the last 10% of a project takes roughly the same amount of time as the first 90%. So we better get to the last 10% as soon as possible.

New developments popped up all day. Only interrupted by a short lunch and a long siesta during which we learned about knife safety, and got our Tinkering School knives.

This group is particularly focused. The afternoon sees a collection of huge advancements, and two teams work into the night to stay on track to having something awesome by weeks end. A few of us use the evening for some post-sunset foursquare or an early to bed kind of evening. 

Session E: Day 3 - Puppets

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

Yesterday’s benches find themselves in varying states of functionality this fine and beautiful morning. Some work, some are cushy and restful, others find themselves enjoying dreaming about how their benches might work someday.

While we sit, the project announcement looms. What will it be this week? Yet again the staff has decided to explore a big and open ended prompt. One that not only leaves the kids to create solutions, but a chance to create their own problems that they think are exciting to solve. So in that spirit we tell the kids the prompt:

Make a puppet that is at least 6 ft tall or long.

*Insert Rachel giving Josh a scrunchy face look*

The air is thick with silence as the kids register something between disapproval and confusion. Puppets? Yes. Puppets. Big ones. Really cool ones. We break into our groups, Piki, Nooi, Kablooi and Panda, and break off with staff to brainstorm what the heck to do with this prompt.

The kids do not disappoint us.

20 minutes later ideas are being tossed around like crazy. Each team is glowing with pride over their ideas. There will be a Heron that heats a gopher. A Heron that rides in a trojan horse and eats gophers (the local Heron/Gopher war is popular this summer), rock-em sock-em robots, and a super-well-articulated dragon head.

We immediately start building. Some projects start with stages, others get right to the technical problems they may face, but every one dives in. Eventually dinner comes and the sun sets, but Team Nooi won’t stop. They work until Josh comes and kicks them off the projects for safety concerns about insufficient light. There is discussion about setting up flood lights for tomorrow. 

Session E: Day 2 - Benches Go Big

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

Day 2 started with one simple problem. We have a fire pit, but nothing to sit on around the fire. Build some benches so we can meet in a circle around the fire bit. However, there was also the pressure that every week’s benches had been more complicated or more elegant than the last. As the summer goes on, the bar keeps getting higher. Can we beat a free standing swinging bench and canopy chairs of last week? We will certainly try.

The day ran away with us, and our photographer was so engaged, today is a low photo day. It’s suffice to say that we succeeded in making the summer’s most complicated (though maybe not most elegant) benches. From a wrap around seat, and a table for tea all under a canopy, to 3 totally different variants on swinging bench, each in totally different state of functionality and safety. We will have more photos of each of the benches and their teams tomorrow.

Between bench building, we sneak in some riveting conversations about big numbers and some card games. The day wraps with some serious 4-square well past sunset. 

Session E: Day 1 - Games, Training, Riddles

2015 Session E - SeniorsJosh RothhaasComment

Alumni and New Tinkerers gather at our new campus for the fist day of camp. There is a nervous energy as old friendships pick up where they left off and new ones start forming immediately. Also a palpable “ok mom and dad, you can go now” energy that is distinctly teenager-y in its vibe really reminds the staff how just how much older this session is than previous weeks. 

We start the camp with a simple, sincere and long chat about rules, expectations and how camp works. From there we play some goofy games to get us all playing, open to new ideas, and learning names. 

Afterwards do tool training, learning how to stay safe with the chops saw, good form with the drills, and empowering techniques with the clamps. We wrap up training, get some food in our stomachs and head back outside to see something special.

Day 1 ends with a rare treat for the coast; a beautiful and vibrant sunset. Often the coast is covered in fog and evenings close as most days open; in a gray haze. Once the sun sets, some head to the yurts to hang out and relax, others head to the MU to snack, play games, solve riddles and watch one of Josh’s favorite magic tricks. 

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