Tinkering School

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2016 Session F - Seniors

Session F: Day 6 - Quick Update

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Because Friday ends with Fire Night, we don't really leave ourselves much time for getting the blog up. It has become out custom to write the full update in the morning, but until then, rest assured that it was a great day, that we did all the things, and that we took care of each other in lovely and thoughtful ways as the hard push to get everything working happened.

Good night everyone, we can't wait to see you in the morning.

Session F: Day 5 - Try Harder than Usual

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Written by Gever, Serena, and help from Ana. Gever would like to point out that this is the last blog entry that Serena will author with him for some time to come (more on that tomorrow).

Hitchcock called it the Macguffin - the object which is coveted by characters in the movie (the Maltese Falcon, the Arc of Covenant), but as Alfred tells us in so many movies, the story is not about the thing, it's about how people relate to each other in their quest for the thing.

Tinkering School is really about love. We do these things as an excuse to work hard together. The project is not the object, the time together doing good things is the object. Miles and Nik spent some good time together last night (after the blog started), trying to get the sewing machine to behave.

Liora leans in on the lumber to cut a line (alliteration for Serena).

The Panda cart is starting to make sense as the parts assemble into something that looks like it's going to work really well. Audrey has been smiling all morning (which is kind of normal for Audrey).

These carts are the result of many iterations on many tiny details. It takes time and persistence.

This is either the fourth or fifth iteration of fitting guide wheels on the Kablooi kart. 

The Wowi Zowi cart felt "mostly done" to the team yesterday, but some careful analysis leads them to conclude that more triangles are necessary.

Nooi has been struggling to reconcile their bits and pieces into a coherent design and there have been some implementation mis-steps.

Serena finds Gever and asks him to "do the talk" - as collaborators it's our job to prevent catastrophic failures. Failure is an important part of the experience, but when the theme of the week is Thrills, Spills, and High Speed Action, bumps and scrapes are fine, but we want to make sure we're not going to end up at the hospital.

Nooi begins separating their parts and, with a little help from Gever on a few details, getting them back together with precision and clear intent.

Pre-assembly on the Wowi Zowi drive system is hinting at an exciting test tomorrow!

Foreshadowing (thanks Alfred!)...

Charlotte, with the cart up on the lift, wrench in hand.

Sol grabs the crank on the first rolling test of the Piki cart. This is also the first rolling test of the day, which is making all of the collaborators a little nervous about tomorrow.

And the second rolling test, on the Panda cart, with Audrey at the helm.

Gever was dubious when he heard what the Piki propulsion plan (thanks Serena!) entailed, but Austin, Sol, Megan, and Katelin embraced the vision, worked it hard, and made it work.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Charlotte

Jo came down the line to get a pep-talk from Serena who came out to watch the rolling test of the Piki cart.

That is the look of someone who worked hard on something complicated and now it is not just working, but it's working really well!

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sage

Portrait of a Photographer (Collaborator): Elijah, reflected in Charlotte's eyes. 

Panda cart, upside up, showing off the cool wheel ports.

Piki decides to make an optimization to see if they can get more speed out of the winding-drive system by adding a large diameter spool to their crankshaft.

Megan takes the new spool for a spin and determines that the ratio is wrong, the spool is too hard to turn and therefore needs to be a little smaller.

Lauren assembles a crankshaft for the Kablooi cart mechanism. 

There is some concern that the Wowi Zowi cart may have an excessively high center of gravity, but with the success of the Piki drive system, we're all starting to appreciate the enormity of the solution space.

Slots go here - to make room for wheels and the drive pulley.

The Kablooi cart rolls out on the track, and whoa, that's an exciting cant to the chassis.

Sqiki tries out an interesting new iteration on the guide-wheel support problem.

After a long day of hard work, tools are stowed, the shop is closed, and we hit the amusement park for some fun. 

Tonight marks the end of an era. We just said goodbye to our good friend, original tinkerer, and true collaborator in the evolution and implementation of Tinkering School. Nik started the same time Gever did, back in the very first session eleven years ago. He turned seven that week at camp, and has contributed more than can be measured to the experience at camp. Nik has collaborated at our day camp, weekend workshops, after-school programs, and of course, overnight camp. He's off to Brown University next, and while it's clear that this is not the last we'll see of him, it's the last summer that we'll spend together as campers. Dude, you rocked this place six ways from Sunday. Thanks for being you and teaching us so many things.

Session F: Day 4 - Work or Beach? Both!

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

Wednesday is beach day. We proved this by trying to have beach day on Tuesday last week when exigent circumstances forced us to change our schedule - the change caused a ripple in the stoke, we were discombobulated, there was a tremor in the force. It was tricky to get back into things, and tricky to keep things going with three straight long build days. But this is Wednesday, and it's the right day to go to the beach, but... we still have a lot of work to do.

Charlotte and Audrey are adding a horizontal stabilizer to the guide wheels on their cart. This is an untried solution, but the track revisions mean that there is guaranteed clearance for this approach. We're excited to see it in action because it could mean the end of bent bolts.

We have become experts at making stacks of washers, wheels, boards and bolts.

Lyman and Lauren are working out an alignment issue on the tracks that is highlighted by the excessive wideness of their guide wheels.

The Wowizowi design calls for a port for the drive belt to pass through the deck of their cart.

Then Jake checks the belt to see if the port is big enough when the belt is stretched.

Kablooi has put friction tape on their drive wheels, because they predict massive torque from their paracord pull-start system.

Yoel puts the Wowi Zowi cart up on the lift to work on it from below.

Panda has got a really technical build going on; drive pulley on the rear shaft, new guide separators on the lead wheels, and soon, some kind of crank above. Who's working on the crank?

Zach, with his out of tune shirt, and Liora of Sqiki, are playing catch-up on the other teams as they work to gel their plans into something workable. Sometimes the tinkerers have enough previous experience to just start into the project, but then they hit this moment (sometimes called the doldrums) when momentum peters out.

Jake, Rory, and Emma; productive and focused every time we catch up with them.

Piki is getting ready to move their crankshaft design from conceptual to actual. This is one part of the build that will take some figuring and a couple of iterations. Let's hope they are planning for that...

You know what goes well with mechanical engineering? Bananas.

Mar takes the test pilot seat on the Kablooi cart. Without front guide-wheels, this is a useful but dangerous test.

The rule of the windmill is: one person that built the windmill must be present when anyone is on it. Nik and Eli sprint to the scene of the crime.

Chalk marks identify the areas on each section of track that need to be addressed. This gap is getting the (homemade, bespoke, artisanal) Tinkering School wood filler.

This stuff dries hard and gets smoothed and finished with a wood rasp.

Then, lunch, and head to the beach (while Gever goes to Redwood City to (not) give a presentation).

Due to a massive delay while we had to manage 300+ gigabytes of photos from our previous weeks of camp, so please enjoy this photo montage (queue the travel music).

Session F: Day 3 - Rolling Onwards

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Written by Serena & Ana. 

This morning, it's time to really get started. Yesterday was about familiarizing ourselves with our options, developing our designs, and getting to know our problem on a theoretical level. Yes, we used the tools, and yes, we started some assembly, but today comes the tricky bit. 

Serena opens the morning by reminding the tinkerers that failure is an important part of Tinkering School, and that sketches and early designs will only get them so far. She challenges them to start, build something, and fail early and often, so that they can improve in time for race day. They take that advice to heart. Our early morning hardware store run leaves, with one team representative from each group, and the rest of the crew gets back to work. 

One of the first things we start to see assembled are wheel-boxes. This is a tricky set of material limitations to work within - each team has been allotted just six skateboard wheels and two train wheels. Tinkerers are starting to realize that not all of their plans accounted for the vastly different radii of the two wheels, and almost none had dealt with the different mounting systems each wheel would require. 

Another tricky problem which was discussed yesterday is how to support the guide wheels. On most of our past cart iterations, these bolts gave way under any significant shift in weight, bending inward and causing the cart to derail. Collaboratively, we've come up with our possible solutions to this problem, each with slightly different trade offs. We spend a good portion of the morning sketching these and wrapping our heads around the problem. 

A real-life version of one of the potential designs, built almost four weeks ago and now partially disassembled. 

Team Nooi works out their cart base. 

The team that headed to the hardware store has returned, so we have snack, and then it's time for a long-time tradition - giving each tinkerer a knife. Before we do that, we go over the rules for knife use. 

Katelin demonstrates one of our five rules for knife use - making sure everyone is out of her "blood bubble," the zone around her the length of her arm plus the length of her blade, where she could potentially cut someone if she slipped.  The other four rules include maintaining a sharp blade, having three points of contact, locking your knife, and cutting away from yourself.

Each tinkerer shows off their skills.

Sol works on assembling guide wheels for the Piki cart. He and his team have come up with a clever solution which uses eyebolts to keep the guide wheels from bending inwards.  

Ana and Michael work together to cut their threaded rod. 

While Jo, their third teammate, works on repairing the Nooi segment of track. 

Katelin and Megan work on adding back the two segments of track that had been replaced by the turntable. 

Austin and Sol work on assembling their cart base and installing the guide wheel braces. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Zach, decked in a tire. 

Jo and Ana work together to work out how their axle should be installed. 

Jake converses with Rory from the Sky Bench as he whittles. 

Audrey and Charlotte make a plan for mounting their wheel boxes to their cart base. 

One side of Team Piki's wheelbase, complete. 

Collaborator Lyman lends a hand with track repair. 

Jack takes a go with "Esmerelda," the new saw Nik just couldn't resist buying on the hardware store run. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Audrey's mastered the drill. 

Austin makes a cut on the chop saw. Because of the materials limits, each team must carefully think through and plan their cuts. 

Another guide wheel bracing solution, as implemented by Kablooi. They're running a 1x4 across both internal guide wheels, and relying on the compression strength of wood to keep the bolts evenly spaced. 

Lauren cuts slots meant to tighten in the axle for the train wheels. 

And then drills holes in the axle to use for screws. Mar holds and helps. 

Team Panda has cut slots in their chassis to provide clearance for their train wheels. It's quite elegant, actually. 

Both the jigsaw and the circular saw have gotten heavy, but thoughtful use today. Collaborator Serena watches as Megan cuts plates for her team. 

The jigsaw is versatile.  It turns out to be the best tool we have for cutting out our axle conduit (metal tube is apparently only pipe when it has water flowing through it). 

Austin and Sol act out how their hand crank system will work for the camera. They plan to attach an axle there, then belt down to the drive axle across the bottom that they also haven't installed quite yet. We're at a cool stage of the project - tinkerers now have tangible image of how their carts will look, and a clear grasp on how much work it will take to get there. As a whole, that's about right for a Tuesday afternoon. 

Our superhero: Collaborator Jay shows off his moves. 

It's Taco Tuesday! We lay out a beautiful spread. After a long day of work, tinkerers are hungry. 

After dinner, we fall into some fun with pool noodles. 

Then head up to the playground for some fun with tire swings. 

There's something sort of magical about riding atop a tire. 

Ana enjoys a ride.

We rediscover the kittens. They bring just as much joy tonight as they did yesterday, and they're still just as soft. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Pascal's Tube. 

Today, we thought about all sorts of ways to make carts roll. But we did more than think - we enacted our designs, and we made strong, clear progress. We solved problems as they arose, changed plans, and tinkered. We're starting to see the first of our wheelbases emerge. Even if our carts don't themselves roll yet, we're rolling, and gaining momentum, and it's kind of awesome to watch. 

Session F: Day 1 - Learning and Lava

2016 Session F - SeniorsSerena G-HComment

Written by Serena & Gever, with Jack for support. 

It's a new week at Tinkering School - Session F, our sixth week this summer. It's a "Biggles" week, our affectionate name for our seniors, with the same double consonant ring to it that "Littles" and "Middles"  has. 

Campers arrive, explore their new surroundings, settle in their yurts, meet each other. Then we gather together for an opening circle. We use circle to get a sense for each other - names, where we're from, and our "Spirit Tool," the tool we each feel we most closely identify with. 

Then it's off to tool training. Rory concentrates as she works on clamping this board to the table. 

We've been trying five tool rotations, instead of our usual three. We're experimenting with adding a "drill practice" station, as well as a "tour," which seeks to orient the tinkerers in their new surroundings and tell the story of Tinker City so far. This summer, we've left up the work of each previous week, and allowed the projects to build on each other. We have 300 + feet of railway track, a tower and windmill, a carousel and amusement park style spinning swings.

Equally important as the being able to find the bathrooms and the project area is the path down to the creek, where Daniel takes this group of tinkerers. 

Over at clamps, Joe and Austin work together to add legs to there structure. The challenge is to build out from the table ledge as far as possible. 

Over at chop saw training, Collaborator Jay supervises as Pascal practice on the chop saw.  

Then the groups rotate to a new station. Collaborator Serena goes over the basics with her new group. 

There's something enthralling about the chop saw. 

Collaborator Annie guides a group through drill practice. 

Then it's back to the Conference Center, where we watch "Ten Bullets"  - a video put together by Tom Sachs' studio about how to work effectively. We're trying to adopt parts of it at Tinkering School this summer, and we think it's a worthwhile thing to share with the group and discuss. 

Then we try another experiment - up until this week, we've been serving food buffet style for the past five weeks, but at our staff meeting Saturday we realized it made it hard to all sit and eat at the same time. Instead, we tried family style, serving at the table and sitting to eat together. It seemed to work out, so we'll keep trying it. 

After dinner, it's time for our Sunday evening mini-project. Today, there's a 20' wide river of lava flowing through the parking lot, and the tinkerers must get themselves and all of their group-mates across while staying 6" above the ground, out of reach of the lava-monster. They break into groups to discuss. 

Pascal, Liora, and Stephanie work out a plan and get to it. They're hoping to build a pair of stilts on which to walk across the lava. 

Jake, Yoel, Sage and Miles are devising a sort of "ski-like" system. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Miles 

Sol tries out the stilts his team has built. 

Michael, Ana, Mar, and Joe are working out how to place a bridge over the trench when they only have access from one side. 

As time starts to narrow and we reach the half-way point, we see teams switching strategies. This group has decided to ditch the stilts (which are hard to walk on reliably) for a bridge. 

They deploy it across the lava for a trial run.

And test it. 

Mar works to attach braces to the bottom of her team's bridge. 

Pascal braves the lava-monster, carefully negotiating his team's bridge. 

With a limit on the screws each team can use, they look for new methods of attaching wood. Demoed here: masking tape. 

Lashing with paracord is also a good option. 

Time is called, and we start our test runs. First up, Group #1  - Sol helps stabilize Megan as she sets off across the lava river. They successfully get two tinkerers across, before the third trips and falls from the stilts, into the clutches of the lava-monster. Between each run, they've been javelin-throwing the stilts back across the river. 

Group #2 has built a bridge - now comes the tricky bit of getting it across the river. They push and maneuver, but end up with a side which gets stuck, pivots a bit, and doesn't quite make it across. Still, they get tinkerers out on the bridge and within jumping distance to the other side, but not without ending up below the mandated 6" above the ground. 

Here's a better shot of the weird bend the bridge develops. 

Group #3 has developed a "lava-shoe". With some help from the poles they're using to balance, they begin the trek across. Two tinkerers make it, only for us to lose the third one as he burns in a pit of lava. 

Miles crosses the finish line. 

It's  a good group - as we head back in for hot chocolate, cards, and bananagrams, the excitement and anticipation for the week is tangible. Tomorrow, the big project reveal. 

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