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2015 Session G - Middles

Session G: Day 7 - It all works! Sort of!

2015 Session G - MiddlesJosh RothhaasComment

Today we woke up nervous. Would it all work? Would the Massively Major Mini Golf Course work? And the answer is, yes, sort of. Each individual part worked, or eventually worked but a few needed one or two tries. One of the great things about Tinkering School is that the projects aren't guaranteed to work. We start from a genuine place of mystery and challenge no one quite knows how to tackle. We took on a huge project and our ambition was challenged by the short timeline we where one, but our ambition was also rewarded by some of the most interesting and complicated mechanisms we have ever seen or made. A catapult that could shoot hoops, a gondola that can deliver a soccer ball. A working trolly delivery system. A jump that seemed random, but actually had the same result every time (very tricky), and so many more.

After playing one round, we call it a day and deconstruct everything. Tinkering School is about making, not having, and as part of that we ask the kids to join us in project deconstruction as a way to drive home the point. 

Sadly we can't find any photos from today. We are searching high and wide and when we find them we will post them. Yesterday's post has quite a few for now, but we will keep looking. 

Session G: Day 6 - Problems with the Space Unicorn

2015 Session G - MiddlesJosh RothhaasComment

After a day of rest, a good movie and plenty of sleep, everyone is ready for a big long push to get everything working as the week comes to an end. The troubles we face this day are particularly strange. the Kaduna-kadunk isn’t working constantly. The air-tram is struggling, while the trolly station doesn’t even exist yet. Not to mention the space-unicorn obstacles, or the unicorn head elevator. The catapult is working pretty well, but the siege tower is behind schedule and we are just hoping the castle is up and running in time. Oh, and we’ve barely started the volcano. Like no other project in Tinkering School history, just talking about the problem feels like an alternate universe. 

We have so much to do and we get to doing it. By days end there is tension int he air. Every team feels like they need one more full day, but instead we all have one more hour tomorrow morning. 

Session G: Day 5 - The Times We Run... (or, Beach Day)

2015 Session G - MiddlesSerena G-HComment

Lauren stretches. And the morning begins. 

The teams are hyped and ready to return to work. We only have a few hours this morning to work on the projects, then we'll be heading for the beach. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer's Hand: Johnny attaches a wheel to the trolley. 

We pause to watch a test run of the "Kdunk-Kdunk."

Hugo and a hammer. In a magical moment, with timing and luck on his side. The soccer ball soars. 

The rainbow ramp. From Underwater Unicornland, of course. 

We test the gondola. It's quite a procedure, involving many hands. 

And the trolley, which is now beautifully painted. We'll have lots of time to reflect on what we see over the next 18 hours, as we head to the beach and take a break. Josh has encouraged us to push it out of our conscience minds, and let our subconscious mull the challenges over.  

A mountain range. 

Nathan, Hugo, and David are pumped for beach day. 

Fifteen minutes until departure.... Ready, Set, Go! 

Getting off campus does wonders for a tinkerer's mindset. Away from the challenges of the project at hand, we get the chance to clear our heads. 

Portrait of a Collaborator: Nathan, waiting for the bus. 

It's wonderful to chance a new sort of adventure. 

We get to put on a fresh face. 

Your Daily Josh. 

Your Daily Josh. 

Take a stroll... 

Play in the waves. 

We challenge our imaginations and stretch our creativity. 

We race towards a different sort of finish. 

We enjoy the calm. 

We allow new sorts of conversation and connection. 

We bond as a group. 

Beach day fosters beautiful things. Creativity, a new sort of open-mindedness. And just the pure joy of playing in the ocean. 

But like all good things, it too comes to an end. 

And in our reluctance to leave, we almost miss the bus. 

We get clean ... 

And finish our day with a movie. 

We've had the chance to clear our heads and relax a little. Tinkering School requires an immense amount of work and focus, and taking a break is what makes it possible. Tired and happy, we head to bed. 

Session G: Day 4 - Let's Build Stuff

2015 Session G - MiddlesSerena G-HComment

Emily is excited to be a part of morning circle in her hammock chair. We discuss the project's progress and create a plan for the day. 

Once we finish morning circle, we split into our teams. Nooi has a meeting in which they talk about what has to happen in order to stay on track.

Stephanie is proud of Kablooi's replica of the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building). Kablooi is going for a "World Tour" theme on their hole this week. 

Nathan and Aidan test out a track for Kablooi's "Kdunk-Kdunk." 

Piki works out details and finicky things in their plans for an elevator.

Johnny and Kavin make a killer team— they've already built two A-frames, and now they're attaching them. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer's Hands: Isabella puts together the "frame" for part of the Kablooi's mini golf course.

The "Eiffel Tower" Johnny and Kavin have built doubles as a starting point for the gondola Kablooi plans to build. A water bottle serves as a test dummy for the zipline.

Isabella works on a tram. Getting the rails to align properly can be difficult. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Johnny, always up for anything. 

Brigid and Claire taking a well-deserved break.

Intense card games, or Lauren teaches Claire to play "Speed." Depends on who you happen to ask. 

Siesta time is a great time to work on parachord projects. Jenny works on weaving her backrest. 

Team Nooi, hard at work. From left to right, they're working on a mountain range, a siege tower, and a catapult. 

A view from below the soccer ball catching net on "Skullcrusher Mountain." Some nice trucker's hitches on display here. 

Andrew, our resident basketball expert, shows us how it's done. Score!

Ray's made a find he plans to use in his and Connor's catapult project. 

Emily (outside the photo), Lauren and Delaney rig up an elevator mechanism. 

The ball-run requires some weaving, skills we've acquired from our bench projects earlier this week. 

Connor, Ray, and a catapult.

And it works! The ball flies beautifully. 

Stephanie tests the aptly named Kablooi "Kdunk-Kdunk," a ball track which takes the ball from the top of the Burj Khalifa down to the ground. 

Piki works to disassemble a prototype for their ramp for their "Underwater Unicornland" themed hole.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Andrew, focusing on the ramp prototype.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Max, if you time it right, can be super photogenic. 

Nooi is finally ready to move their massive mountain set-up down to the area they've claimed for their hole. 

Today, we got to it. We hit the ground running, and made progress in leaps and bounds. Large sections of track are coming along, each team has come up with and has begun to execute several different unique ideas. We're developing an imposing "Skullcrusher Mountain," a magical "Underwater Unicornland," and a wonder-filled "World Tour." Kids are excited and engaged, and by the end of the day, we share Connor's tiredness, but also a collective enthusiasm. Tonight, our tangle of colorful ideas will fill our dreams and imagination.  

Session G: Day 3 - Massively Major Mini-Golf

2015 Session G - MiddlesSerena G-HComment

Capturing cool card moments in the morning has become common. And thus starts our day. 

Our morning meeting - Lauren and Claire have become experts at spotting the camera. 

Since most of the benches aren't quite finished yet, we've decided to spend until 11 am finishing and improving them, followed by the reveal of the project for the week. 

We establish a bench seat production line. 


Nathan and Rory put together a seat for an aerial platform. 

And it works!

Makai looks on while Aiden works on the backrest for his bench seat. 

Abby tries out her seat. Looks comfy!

Connor has built an interesting parachord weave recliner. 

Finally! As teams finish their benches, moving them becomes the next challenge... 

And as 11 am approaches, slowly but surely benches arrive in our new meeting location. 

The moment we've all been waiting for — Josh announces the project... 

This week — "Massively Major Mini Golf!" Excited tinkerers cheer when they hear the announcement. 

There are, of course, a few requirements, to ensure that our projects meet the Tinkering School standards for technical complexity. See below. 

Teams are announced — we'll have three teams this week, with the traditional Tinkering School names of Piki, Nooi, and Kablooi. 

Ideas fly around the room as teams gather to brainstorm.

After lunch, we skip siesta for another Tinkering School tradition — knives. 

Josh is serious about knife safety. He gathers us together and goes over the rules of knife use, which each tinkerer has to recite with confidence before receiving their very own Tinkering School knife. 

Hugo is thrilled at the prospect of getting a knife and listens eagerly. 

Sharpening pencils is a great way to practice the fine art of whittling.

After we have a chance to play with our new knives, we grab materials and get back to work on the project.

As we get to work on the bigger project, we also get to bust out some of our favorite tools. Sayer demos how to use the circular saw for Kavin, Johnny and David.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Kavin, insightful and curious. 

Steph and Nathan in the afternoon sunlight. 

Paper-mache is a messy art. Isabella doesn't seem to mind as she works on moulding mountains for Nooi's "Medieval Castles" theme. 

Today's been busy — benches, project announcement, brainstorming, knife training and our first chance to work on our Giant Mini Golf course. Four-square is a great way to spend the evening free-build time, and offers the chance to destress.  

We're already well on our way to meeting our goals for the week — collaborating with others, trying harder than usual, and learning from our mistakes and failures. We've built things that are bigger than ourselves — the benches, for one, but also our comfort with tools and our sense of community.

Session G: Day 2 - Seats, Swings, and Sunscreen

2015 Session G - MiddlesSerena G-H1 Comment

The morning starts with a wonderful breakfast, and evolves into card game and board game time in the dining hall. 

In preparation for a warm, sunny day, spontaneous sunscreen application has begun. 

And then it's time for the real beginning of Tinkering School - Tool Training! We each get to rotate through all three of the tool training stations....

Clamps! These oft-underestimated tools can be our best friends, giving us a hand when we are building large structures and helping to keep our joints tight. 

Chopsaw! The longtime Tinkering School favorite, and the way we'll cut most of our wood this week. Jenny explains. 

And Nathan takes a go. Everyone has the chance to try. 

Drills! The most-used tool in any given Tinkering School week. 

Tool Training gives us some of the basic skills, but more so the confidence to try out new and different tools throughout the week. As we progress with the project, there's lots of time to practice and get better. 

A view from the amphitheater - Josh announces the first project, benches. Speaking up on stage is awkward, and think how nice it would be to have a nice circle of benches outside where we could  have meetings. 

Questions fly as tinkerers begin to think about the challenge — what exactly makes a bench, anyway?

We split into groups to brainstorm. 

And come up with some crazy, cool, and cozy ideas. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Stephanie marks a board for a cut. 

By mid-morning, we see things that look like benches appearing. 

Portrait of a Drill: what's the pre-drill bit doing in the impact driver? 

After lunch, we have "siesta" time, a chance to take a nap, have calm time in the yurt, or hang out. Nathan and David play a game of cards.  

It's fun to make faces at the camera when you catch the photographer nearby. 

And then it's back outside to work — these look like they could make good seats. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Max, using the Japanese Pull Saw. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Andrew, incredibly focused. 

By late afternoon, structures are emerging. 

This group is building a series of reclining chairs with  seats made out of parachord. 

Lots have groups have gone for the "porch swing" idea, and A-frames have emerged as a result. 

Portrait of a Collaborator: Sayer, thinking. 

The enthusiasm for the benches carries into after dinner free-build time, and we work even as the sun sets. 

Hugo is enthusiastic. 

Your Daily Josh. (And a Katie too.) 

The sunset is beautiful, and we're determined to work until last light. 

A parachord seat coming together. Emily has her weaving technique down. 

By night fall, we're beginning to see some benches. Testing them is fun. 

At the end of our first day, we're tired, but we feel accomplished — benches are closer than ever to being finished, we've gotten our hands on the tools, and we've bonded and found a groove as a group. 

I'll leave you with this message, a piece of collective wisdom written down — drink water, wear sunscreen, and it'll lead to a great day a Tinkering School. 

Session G: Day 1 - Welcome to Camp

2015 Session G - MiddlesJosh RothhaasComment

Welcome to Tinkering School! The first afternoon is a time to get acquainted, with one-another and with our surroundings.

Kids trickle in, parents and gear in tow. 

Bunk-bed selection is a very complex process, fraught with trade-offs. Bottom? Top? Near the door? In the middle of the room? Hugo snags a bottom bunk, and Nathan helps him with the fitted sheet. 

Lauren and Claire hang out as they wait for the rest of the tinkerers to arrive. There's nothing special planned for the first hour, so newly arrived tinkerers have time to get to know each other in an informal fashion. 

Once everyone has arrived, it's time for a group circle. Per Tinkering School tradition, we introduce ourselves, and share our spirit tool, the tool we each feel speaks to us most.

We talk about some expectations for working together as a group and rules for using the space— Katie takes notes, so we can refer back to them throughout the week. 

Your Daily Josh. My endeavor to capture the variety of expressions and poses which Josh can be found in throughout a week of Tinkering School. 

A game of "Head Honcho." A cross between dancing and detective work. I'll let you imagine the rest. 

It's time for the grand tour! Josh shows the tinkerers the dining area, and talks about recycling. 

On to the wood — because this is the last Tinkering School Session this summer, we've got lots of scrap wood to work with, which is great. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Claire, less than 12 hours in, and she 's already caught on to the camera.

After dinner (lasagna and garlic bread), we head out for a night hike. 

We pause for a moment of silence, and conclude our day by taking a moment to examine ourselves and our surrounding, right on the edge between civilization and nature. 

Today, we've created the beginnings of a group awareness, centered around the Tinkering School culture, new, budding friendships, and our space. Tomorrow, we use that awareness, as we head into tool training and our intro project. 


Session F: Day 6 & 7 - Everything Starts to Work and We Show Off

2015 Session G - MiddlesJosh RothhaasComment

After a day of rest, a good movie and plenty of sleep, everyone is ready for a big long push to get everything working as the week comes to an end. Any my goodness did the rest pay off. Planets began popping up, pulley mechanisms, and x,y,z moment systems start rolling and testing. And by day’s end we feel we are ready to show off. Our broom flies, our claw machine picks people up, and our earth rotates around a sun. With a few minor touches we will be ready to show off tomorrow.

Friday is usually also fire night, but we found out that we are in a no-burn zone, and so fires are out of the question for the rest of summer. In place we light a few candles so we can still have our end-of-week fire and cary on with our tradition of saying nice things about each other and eating smores.

We wake up, show off, and start our deconstruction, reminding ourselves that it's not about having a flying broom, or a claw machine, or a solar system replica; it's about having made those things. We've done that, had our fun, and it's time to part ways with our work.