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2016 Session C - Seniors

Session C: Day 7 - Race to the Finish

2016 Session C - SeniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

The City Team is nothing if not determined. They decided to wake up and get out there by 6:30 am, in order to get their tower finished and the platform mounted before parents arrive.  By the time the rest of us are rolling out of bed for breakfast, they are in full swing.  

A view from the inside. Chloe climbs. 

From the deck, you can see just how significant a stretch of track we've built. 

Caroline and Anna work together to set up the posts for the railing on the observation deck. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sophia

It's 10:00am, and eager parents have begun to arrive to pick up their tinkerers. The City Team is so close to finishing the skyscraper, and will stop for no one. 

Kieran, Zeke, and Elijah prep the cart for launch. 

A crowd gathers, and Kieran prepares to pull the pin, which will release the bungee and launch the cart. It's the first go of the morning, so they test it without a passenger first. 

And it's off.... success!

And then we load up Zeke and send him off. 

Then we gather for a final group moment and photo.  The tower is open, and the City Team couldn't be prouder.  

A crew climbs up to take a look. 

It's cool to chat and catch up with parents at the end of the week. 

Lily runs along the side of the cart as Tyler and his sister take a ride on the train. 

It's a thrill to ride on something you've made - Noa takes a turn. 

Chloe, the winner of the "value proposition game" (see Thursday night's blog for details) decides to eat her second helping of ice cream straight from the container, which she brings down to the build site. She shares a bite with Gever. 

And all too soon, it's time to say goodbye. We cross our fingers, and hope for a "see you next year." 

To some campers, it's hugs...

For others, high fives. We have a lot to celebrate, and a lot to be proud of. 

Session C: Day 6- Possibuildities

2016 Session C - SeniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

It's Friday morning - our last full day of Tinkering School. The end is in sight - we can all sort of see what we need to get our respective projects finished. With that comes the realization of just how much work it's going to take to pull it off. 

Right now, anything is possible - we have an exceptional group this week, and each tinkerer is invested in the problem, and wants to pull it off. And one full work day is still a lot of time. The predominant attitude this morning is determination. 

We start the day with another of Gever's Structural Engineering 101 talks - today's topic is tension. Zach helps him demonstrate how strong triangles and tension in the right directions can translate into a stable structure. 

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Caroline lights a votive to the secular patron saint of tinkerers, Nikola Tesla - with some of our trickiest tinkering ahead of us, we're hoping he'll watch over us. 

And then it's back to work - the cart team works on mounting the rear guide wheels. 

The Launch team has decided that a "bungee-slingshot" is the way to go for launching the cart, based on their extensive prototyping yesterday.  Bungee cord should never be tied - instead, we make a loop and whip the ends with baling wire. Gever talks them through the whys, then walks them through the how.

The track team is running quite the operation. Track is raised, leveled, and a crew follows close behind, adding supports and braces. They're just chuggin' along out there - they have their routine down, but they've still got almost 80 feet of track to raise.

Meanwhile, Elijah and Noa discover they can power the cart with a drill - they've attached a skateboard wheel to the end, and are using the friction between the wheels to drive the cart forward.

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Zeke and Alex tackle some serious math, trying to work out the angles for the body of the cart they're planning to build. 

Jane's visiting from Beijing, where she's working to start a school. 

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Elijah and Kieran test the mounting system for the bungee slingshot. We just love getting to say "bungee slingshot" out loud. 

And then they attach it to the base of the shop to test the stretch. Alex discovers that it's fun to test your strength against some bungee cords. 

The goal of this game is for David (or whoever holds their hands palms up) to get the tops of Lil J.'s (or the other player's) hands before she can pull away. It spontaneously develops and then catches on. 

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Also, "Mercy" catches on. Zeke and Lily play.  Lily's determined. [editor's note: This game falls into a grey-area because Rule #1 is "Don't hurt yourself or anyone else" and the challenge here is to make the opponent call "mercy". It's clearly about pain tolerance, but both players are fully cognizant participants. We are hoping that it doesn't catch on.]

Clapping games have some amusing failure modes. 

Kieran and Elijah have become fast friends. 

Portrait of a Thinker: Gever, captured. 

Zack and Rodrigo have been a driving force behind raising the track - both have displayed an impressive doggedness to completing the task. They're also both from Mexico. Rodrigo labeled each piece of track he and his brother helped put up. 

Noa borrows Caroline's kite. When it's not flying, it makes a pretty good hat. 

It's beautiful in the sky, as well. 

Sasha shows off the cart design.

The kids discover relics of Tinkering School past - some plywood from a project from Session A. 

Jack works on smoothing out the track. 

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Down at the City, the team high-fives after completing another wall. 

The track's been growing steadily all morning. 

Claire lounges in the classic Greek style as she and Anna discuss their project. 

Track team has it down. Here's a glimpse at an in-progress segment - clamped, leveled, ready to for legs to be added. 

Track is slowly converging with the city.

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Anna works on mounting the wall to the braces which keep it on the platform. 

Claire has to leave us tonight, but before she goes, she wants one ride on the train car. It's perfect timing, because the launch team is ready to test there slingshot system. Elijah pulls her back, and Claire hangs on... 

Most of the group heads in for dinner - the launch system is working, and the track now stretches all the way to the city, but the city team is running behind, so they elect to stay and work late. 

Daniel brings out fuel for the away crew, to help them make it through their big push. 

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Which is much appreciated. Bananas are devoured...

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Juice is guzzled... 

And the work continues. 

By 8:30, it's clear that a redesign is in order. Despite the valiant attempts of the tinkerers, we won't quite have enough time to put the parts together in the order they initially planned. We put a piece of luan on the roof as a visual aid, and discuss the possibilities. 

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The rest of the group sets off in search of the perfect s'more sticks. Alex and Zeke both know they've got it. 

The City crew returns, and we gather all together to light the campfire. 

We take a moment together to just enjoy watching the fire, then we open circle - at Tinkering School, we believe in taking moments to talk about the good things, and say aloud things we notice and appreciate in others. Fire night provides an opportunity to reflect on how others have shaped our experiences for the better this week. 

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Gever and Serena share a moment of mutual appreciation. 

After circle, it's time for another Tinkering School tradition - playing with fire. We start with a bag of sawdust we've collected throughout the week. Thrown in just the right way, it makes the fire jump and sparkle. 

Just like this: 

For Seniors week, it's tradition to break out the cans of cooking spray to make fireballs. The first batch of cooking spray turned out to be non-flammable, to Gever's suprise. A resupply mission is sent to Safeway, while the group makes and enjoys s'mores.  

So when he gets back, we're all pumped and ready to try.  

Hayden takes a go, and creates his own (very fleeting) torchlight. 

Lily bends fire. 

It's fun to make fire fly. 

Zack goes for low and slow. 

Lily and Gever work in tandem to carry the fire farther. 

Two cans are better than one. Gigi creates an epic ball of fire, and with cheers and applause, our group splits, and the first set of tired tinkerers head back for bed. 

A beautiful close to an impressive day. We put up yards of track, put the walls for the second story up on the platform of the skyscraper, finished a launch ramp. We also enjoyed each others company, took a moment to reflect, and played with fire. 

Session C: Day 6 - One Moment Please

2016 Session C - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Dear Reader, it has been a spectacular day; build ended at 8:30pm, and we came back from our fire circle at midnight, and there are more than two thousand images to sift through (which will happen tomorrow).

Today we built like fiends.

And we played with fire (in a very safe and responsible way, with plenty of water and supervision).

We'd love to tell you more, but we're exhausted and need to get to sleep so we can join the dawn patrol work party at 6:30am tomorrow.

Session C: Day 4 - A Time to Play

2016 Session C - SeniorsSerena G-H4 Comments

Wednesday is Beach Day. The Tinkering School way is to go, regardless of the weather, no matter how tired we are, in spite of the project deadlines; we go - it's a much needed break.

You can't go to the beach and leave a messy camp, so we reset the yurts, dining hall, and kitchen before assembling lunch.

Getting all 26 of us ready takes awhile, so the ukulele makes an appearance, as does one of the oddest things a tinkerer has brought to Tinkering School; Anna has brought tiny plastic baby hands.

Portrait of a Tinkerer (at play): Addison does T-Rex

Corin enjoys a serenade from Caroline (with Lil J looking on).

Meanwhile, sandwiches start to pile up.

And all of a sudden, everything changes - the ocean!

And so many wonderful dogs!

Here at the eastern shore of the mighty Pacific, there is both space and time, to sit and let it all sink in.

Behold, I have pulled a mighty kelp from the bosom of the sea! Sasha is excited to find a treasure, and Lily is happy for her.

(as we write this blog, the camp is watching Princess Bride and enjoying popcorn)

Tyler learns that when you are learning to snap the whip, the whip sometimes snaps back (right in the back).

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Hayden is casz at the beach [editor's note: how do you spell the shortened version of "casual"? Please share your version in the comment section]

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Rodrigo at the beach, with an apple.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zack at the beach, already finished with his apple.

Spot the Tinkerer: Gigi has found a hide-away (hint: look for the red hat)

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gever loves being at the beach with everyone. Gever loves everyone at Tinkering School, so he pretty much loves being anywhere with them. Even Safeway at ten o'clock at night.

Gigi returns to the beach with a treasure; the feather of a large bird, in perfect condition. She declares her intention to turn it into a quill.

A ukulele at the beach, bare feet, sunshine and waves - could we get any more California than this?

Sometimes, we think that Lily came to us from a planet where she carries a sword and a heart-shaped shield.

Everything is fascinating; Chloe digs and finds a treasure, a tiny sand crab. [the editors discuss the use and misuse of the semicolon and whether or not the last clause is an appositive.] 

While Lil J and Lily turn Sasha into a mermaid, Sasha turns herself into a figurehead.

Suddenly, a search for Pokemon happens and everyone scurries around the beach for twenty minutes trying to get to just the right spot.

Anything can become a game between friends, even slow-speed whip dueling.

Noa may be a mutant. She appears to have the power to lift sand.

Eventually, everyone that wore a swimsuit to the beach, and everyone else who didn't, gets in the ocean.

Some approach the surf with a little bit of caution.

Some with complete abandon.

We all feel like this dog - just happy to be here and excited to meet everyone!

Let's throw our apple cores into the ocean!

Back at camp, we wait for our turns in the shower and dinner to be baked (it's mac&cheese tonight!).

Somehow, cookies are made as well.

And while they bake, we end up in a very intense and lovely conversation about how co-ed yurts would solve the problem of having "boys and girls" when clearly, gender is a spectrum, and there needs to be place here for everyone.

The dining hall is a place of laughter and sharing. Can you tell?

What better way to fill the 15 minutes while dishes are washed, the kitchen gets tidied, and we gather again, than to play a few rounds of Nan? Nan is played with a pool noodle and a plate. Each player gets one of each. The plate must be carried in an open hand, the noodle in the other. The goal is to knock the plate out of your opponents hand. Begin!

After dinner, we take a moment for the ritual of Plusses and Deltas; things or people we loved and appreciated, and things that might make the experience here better. The conversation, ideas, and mutual affection are palpable. Hayden waits for his turn to share.

Among the many things that you cannot see in the blog today, is the showing of Mighty Times: The Children's March, hosted by Daniel Bigler, one of our frequent volunteer/collaborators, followed by Princess Bride, hosted by Caroline.

Tomorrow, we build again! 

Session C: Day 3 - Working Hard, Getting Lost

2016 Session C - SeniorsSerena G-H6 Comments

The Tuesday of Tinkering School marks a shift from "anything is possible" to "we're never going to be done in time" - particularly with this age group. It is one thing to build some track, it's an entirely other thing to build 180 feet of flat and level track over hilly terrain. Or to raise a flat deck on a slope that has been swiss-cheesed by gophers. Or to make a train that will roll smoothly, and not derail, and handle a high-speed launch ramp. Or to make a launch ramp that actually works and doesn't injure the passengers.

It all started with Gever and his morning Structural Engineering 101 session.

Today's lesson: the power of levers.

The solution to resisting the power of the lever is the power of the triangle, and now our camp has a gang sign.

After our brief lesson, it's time to get to work.

The City team has to work out some tricky details in order to raise and level the deck. The first problem is that the deck is about as rigid as a cooked lasagna noodle right now.

With the rest of her team helping out other projects, Gigi represents for Team Panda and keeps pushing the launch system to completion.

The porthole always gives delightful views of tinkerers, as demonstrated here by Zeke.

Team Nooi took on the Train Project, and while one sub-group works on the rolling deck, Eloise, Hayden, and Corin build a new, improved body for the train.

Sasha is part of Team Kablooi, and she's been relentlessly productive all day, working on the tracks.

The fifth iteration of the wheels and guidance system is taken for a test roll. So far so good, but they will soon discover that it is now incompatible with the launch system...

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lee saws the protruding ends off of railroad ties to allow cross-beams to achieve a co-planer join with the rails.

How's that mouthful of Cheez-Its, Gever?

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Rodrigo has been on it, all day long!

Lily checks out the view from the cart-base: it's cooler lying on your belly. 

The Kablooi track building sub-team has been churning out track all day, and they have it down to a science - part of their process is pre-drilling each railroad tie on both ends, in preparation for mounting. Apparently, spontaneous mustache appearance is to be expected. Just look at that lovely detail...  

Tinkerers run primarily on fruit and goldfish. 

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Checking in with the team Piki out in the field reveals that the deck is coming along nicely. Steady progress. The group is determined. 

Bullet #8  - "Always be Knolling."

Alex and Gever discuss a tricky problem - because the guide wheels aren't compatible with the launch ramp, the cart chassis will require a redesign. Specifically, the guide wheels need to be moved in further, which means repositioning the bungee that keeps them in tension. 

Rodrigo, Lee, and Zack have a system going - they work together to consistently raise and stabilize track. 

A close-up on the action: Zack helps Rodrigo align his screw. 

When the launch system got stalled, Gigi headed straight for the next team which could use her hands. Here she is, adding stabilizing triangles to brace the legs which hold the track up. 

The track team decided on a major redesign for the track supports this morning - if it works, it will greatly reduce both the number of custom measure-and-cut-to-size pieces we need to get the track up, as well as our wood use. Which means the first segment we put up was really a prototype - Rodrigo and Lee combine their weight to test its strength. It holds!

The track withstood the first test - now, will it support the weight of a tinkerer from above? Rodrigo ventures out on the segment he just recently helped to build. We conclude that this track design will suit our purposes nicely, and agree to pursue it. Yay!

Lily works to sketch out our new track design. 

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A group gathers for a snack break and a chat. We're making good progress, and it feels good to check in and catch up with friends over apples and trail mix.  

The deck team has just finished flooring their deck. They celebrate!

David is fast becoming an expert at measuring tape fishing. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Claire catching her breath after building track all day.  

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Kieran

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Elijah

With new track growing rapidly from Midway Station towards Tinker City, Tyler decides it's time to remove the train stops and open up the new railway section. I wonder if we remembered to put in a new set of stops...

Maybe a hastily written sign will do the trick.

Meanwhile, out at Tinker City, there's a new kind of problem to solve: gopher holes!

We've made a lot of track over the past three weeks, but this innovation has enabled an entirely new kind of distributed productivity; there are independent sub-teams producing parts, making sub-assemblies, and installing units of track. Particularly helpful is the collective agreement on the names of parts.

Anna, Sasha, and Claire work through another set of possible solutions to the 16-foot bridges that are coming up. Zeke is new to the track team, so he's just soaking it all up.

We're going to lift this deck, using all the strong muscles of our lower backs - ready?

And that's nicely done. Now hold it there while we measure the distance to the ground in all four corners, and the four corners of the opening.

And now let's put it down, work on reducing the noodliness, and we'll call you back when it's ready. Thanks!

And lift again, we'll get it level and re-do the eight measurements. Ready?

And we hold it steady so that Sophia can take an accurate measurement.

The measurements in the inside are not only tricky, they are a little risky because the deck is held entirely by the hands of distracted (mostly) teenagers.

And we're done. We'll cut some posts after dinner, but for now we can relax.

Serious amounts of track have been produced today!

We all do it, but this is Dylan eyeballing the track to check level and flat.

After dinner, a group of intrepid tinkerers sets out to climb the ridge above the ranch and get a view of the sunset.

And this is the beginning of how they got lost: let's get off this main trail and see if we can just go straight up to the top of the ridge. Sure, what could possibly go wrong? "Hey Jack," says Serena, "I wouldn't be following you if I didn't think part of Tinkering School is being a little bit stupid now and then."

Before they got all bedraggled and cold.

The sunset was amazing, but now, all of a sudden, they lose the light and the "trail" is abandoned for a new "more direct" way down.

But, with the help of Elijah and Gever coming up from the conference center in the BGRNOTH, the way back to the trail is clarified and we all head back for cookies hot out of the oven and a Marx Brothers movie. All in all, a fitting end to an exalting adventure and a most excellent day.

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Tonight's blog brought to you by Gever, Serena, Daniel, and Corin.

Session C: Day 2 - An Understanding of the Project

2016 Session C - SeniorsCaroline Martin1 Comment

(we keep forgetting to log out Caroline before writing the blog, but this is Serena and Gever tonight)

It's our first full day - and so the morning begins with the big reveal. The group gathers together as Gever prepares to explain. 

 It's our first Seniors week, this group looks like there ready to hit the ground running, so we're going to tackle a lot of big challenges - all at once. We're aiming to simultaneously improve the train  - by extending the track, redesigning the train car, and building some sort of powered "launch" system - all while building our city itself, starting with a skyscraper. 

As a group, we discuss the minimum requirements for each piece. Our track system will include 16' spans. The City team will put people at least 20' in the air. The emphasis, as we start to design, should be placed first on safety, then on durability and fun. 

Excited to tackle all these problems at once, we split into teams - named Piki, Nooi, Kablooi and Panda per Tinkering School tradition. 

On Piki with Collaborator Caroline, we have Addison, Lil J., Chloe, Zack, and David. They'll tackle the City! To do so, they'll have to build something more than twice their own heights. 

On Nooi, with Junior Collaborator Elijah, we have Alex, Lily, Eloise, Hayden, Tyler, and Corin. They're off to redesign the train - improving it's capacity, durability, and ability to handle turns. 

On Kablooi, with Collaborator Serena, we have Anna, Lee, Dylan, Claire, and Sasha. Our new structural engineers will be responsible for extending the track to more than twice it's current length, building the bridges to make the archways work, and improving and maintaining the track length we already have. 

And On Panda, with Junior Collaborator Kieran, we have Sophia, Noa, Rodrigo, Gigi, and Zeke. They set off, ready to work on how to launch the train. They'll have to explore different options, then test and refine a safe, consistent way to launch. 

Piki carries some plywood out to the field to get a feel for the land where they'll be building. 

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The train team - Nooi - heads our to do some forensic analysis on the current cart, learning from the past iteration to improve on their design. 

Zeke has demonstrated a talent for juggling skateboard wheels. He practices as Team Panda discusses options for the launch. 

We gather for "Structural Engineering 101"  - Gever's intro to how to build (and not build) strong, durable structures capable of supporting tinkerers.  

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How strong is a 2x3 really? We test it, laying flat with the wider (3") side up. Gever places his weight....

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And the board cracks. 

Then it's back to our respective groups. Gever consults with the track team, lending his expertise. 

And last nights tool training starts to come in handy - Zeke takes a pass at the chop saw. 

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sophia pauses for the camera on her way back to her project. 

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The train team has decided they need to disassemble the train car in order to salvage parts for there next iteration. Lily works on removing the guide wheel. 

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Rodrigo and Noa work together to clamp together the ramp the launch team has decided on together. 

Tyler, Elijah, and Alex work through the re-engineering of the wheel mounts on the trolley car. This may be iteration six on this particular problem since the train started rolling three weeks ago.

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Lily makes a new friend on the hike up to visit the goats.

It seems that Lily makes friends easily on the ranch...

Sasha takes her cut-list with her everywhere.

Kieran comes to help the track team; he's got the clamp that matches the shirt, and Anna brought the colorful hair and relentless stick-to-it-iveness!

Sophia and Chloe stuck with the launch ramp and got it ready for testing tomorrow. There is, however, growing concern that the transition from ramp to rail may be too abrupt, so Zeke and Gever started working on a slope adaptor.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Hayden

Corin and Eloise are starting to work and move through camp as a team. 

Gever and Zeke end up having to make a jig that will let them cut a 12.5 degree angle down the long axis of a 2x4.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Anna (and the surprised Addison)

After dinner, an excursion is mounted to explore the ridge above the ranch.

The walk into a growing herd of curious cows, nervous about the nuances of the social protocols regarding cows, the explorers turn back.

Session C: Day 1 - Collective Agreements

2016 Session C - SeniorsCaroline Martin2 Comments

Welcome to Tinkering School!  It's our first "Seniors" week of the summer, and it's exciting to have the new group arrive. Day 1 is about discovery - we meet each other, we're introduced to our home for the next week.

At Tinkering School, and doubly so with our oldest group, we want to give ownership to the students. So Day 1 is not only learning about our space, but each tinkerer contributing to create our collective experiences. 

Gever welcomes Gigi, and helps her get signed in at the conference center. 

Pens scratch on paper. Permission slips are signed.  

Daniel, our visiting Collaborator, helps Sophia and Lil J. get a lay of the land. He doesn't always wear this face, really. A tour up to the goat pen follows, but they forgot the camera, so sadly there aren't pictures to match. 

Then it's time for our first circle. The kids have had a chance to explore there new surroundings, now we gather all together for the first time, and take a moment to get a feel for the group as a whole. We start with easy questions: "Who has a dog? Raise your hand!" Once we cover pets, it's on to the important stuff: "Who's used a serious power tool?" - turns out, it's almost everyone. 

It gives us a chance to learn a thing or two about one another. Lee learns something new about Dylan. 

Gever takes the opportunity to cover the two most important rules of Tinkering School:            #1 - Don't Hurt Yourself Or Anybody Else                                                                                      #2 - If you see a piece of fruit and you want it, then you  have to eat it. 

These govern all our interactions at camp, so we take a moment to discuss and reflect on them. 

We go around the circle, sharing our "Spirit Tool" - whatever tool we feel we most deeply connect with. Our answers range from velcro to jack-knife to hammer. 

Dylan's decided his name tag is more functional on his head. Maybe it's a new type of hat. 

Then comes the opportunity for campers to shape their experience - we have too important decisions to make - when dinner will be, and when breakfast will be. Seniors get a lot more autonomy in these choices than our younger groups, for whom it's mostly predetermined.  

We try an experiment in collective decision making. Step one - position ourselves on the line. When the option we want is called, step forward. Step by step, we reach a compromise - 7:00 pm for dinner, 8:00 am for breakfast. 

And then the highlight of the evening, and our first chance to get hands-on: Tool Training! Caroline teaches a group how to use the drills properly. Quite a few of the tinkerers in this crew have been to camp before, but even for them, tool training is an important time to brush up, refresh, and learn something in a new way or with a new detail or two. 

Over at clamp training, Junior Collaborator Jack challenges his group to build the tallest structure they can using clamps and scrap wood. Using the Sky Bench built in previous weeks for it's ladder and as a starting point, they get pretty high.  David and Gigi work to get the piece in place, while Alex directs and Claire looks on.

And Collaborator Serena explains how to use the chop saw, before letting her group have a go. 

As each group rotates through each tool, one thing becomes clear - the clam tower just keeps on growing. Zack places the final piece, making it to 14' 8" from the ground.  

Then we head back to the Conference Center for a special showing: Tom Sachs' "Ten Bullets" - a video explaining the guidelines and culture and code by which he runs his meticulously kept studio. We pause between bullets to discuss them and how we interpret them here. For the last couple of weeks, the staff has worked with this code in mind. This week, because we have seniors, we wanted to share it with the whole group. 

Some of the bullets are puzzling. 

Portrait of an Assistant Collaborator: Jack catches Serena taking photos. 

We head down for some free build time, then back up for dinner. After dinner, it's time for another Tinkering School tradition, and another set of rules - this time, the rules of pocket knife use. Each Tinkerer will receive their own knife, once they prove they recite the rules and w demonstrates it on a stick. 

Our night-time knife circle produces some interesting shots in the camera. 

And the evening closes with us hanging out, talking, and playing Spoons and Connect Four in the Conference Center. 

All and all, a good first day. We've all worked out an understanding, and we're eager to get started. 

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