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2016 Session H - All Ages

Session H: Day 6 - Short Story of the Day

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

(Written by Gever)

Our cameras are so full that the offload is going to take 40 minutes, and the day has extended into the evening (even now, at 11:49pm, kids are just coming up from the fire), that we're not going to get you much of the story tonight. So, just for the record, and for the sake of the curious parents, rest assured that epic journeys were undertaken on gravity-powered carts today. From the barn to the bridge, in sunshine and twilight (and maybe even by headlamp in the dark of the night), we rode and squealed, repaired and cajoled, and even danced. And yes, there were cats and goats.

Until tomorrow, goodnight all, we had a wonderful day. Also, your children are amazing, please feel free to leave them for another week or so.

Session H: Day 5 - It's Hard to Push When You Are Holding a Kitty

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline Martin1 Comment

(Written by Gever, photos selected by Caroline, kibitzing and side-chatter by the Collaborators)

We had declared "first rolling test" as a goal for Tuesday night. Well, as you have seen, dear readers, on Tuesday we only kind-of had some sort-of carts - and that's as it should be. The first ideas contain fantastical elements built on magical properties of wood, properties which only exist in the imaginations of the tinkerers. By doing an early test, we can let the carts speak directly to the team using language whose vocabulary consists of bent bolts, cracked wood, and loose steering shafts. Sometimes we need to help translate, but often we just have to focus their attention and then step back and let the team think it through.

The carts spent Wednesday under tarps to protect them from the rain, so the first step is to get the carts up to the barn (our workshop for the rest of the week).

Then, Gever and the other collaborators (except Caroline, who is confined to her cot by a terrible cold) do deep design and implementation reviews with each team to help them decide what to change and where to start.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Alex

Some of the carts are just too long, and need to be cut down. You can't put a cart in the chopsaw, so there are multiple simultaneous hand-sawing operations under way. Thalia can attest to the difficulty of sawing through a plywood cart chassis.

And Dalia can relate... 30 inches is a lot of plywood to cut through.

We didn't account for the distraction factor of the new barn kitties...

As the morning progresses, many carts are disassembled to address issues with parts that were built early in the process. This leads to the invention of many new techniques. Necessity is the mother of...

In what will turn out to be a day-long conversation with Gever, Merritt works through the implementation details of her parallelogram-steering design.

Tinkering School is designed to cram 20 kids together and get them excited about building a solution to a really hard problem (this week it's "make a cart that carry two people from the top of the hill to the bottom without going into the poison oak or running into a tree") - this combination of hard work and long days has the intended side-effect of creating strong friendship bonds quickly. Case in point: Gretchen and Lilah.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Max

In a moment that foreshadows it's imminent demise, the drillpress starts acting odd. Vivek and Izzy will get through this operation, but that will be one of the last holes drilled by this $50 press purchased at Harbor Freight nine years ago. A lot of kids have made a lot of holes with this machine.

And of course the kitties... (#blep)

Rayan is ready to cut.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen (in her fifth year at Tinkering School)

Oh, did we mention that there are curious and friendly goats everywhere?

One fun thing about moving the camp is that now we dine and wash dishes out side!

Borrowing from the improv practice, the default answer is "yes, and..." So when Jack and Casper ask if they can burn something with the magnifying glass, we send them to the fire pit.

The chopsaw came up with all the tools and materials, but the dust vacuum did not...

And there are kitties... Milo takes a break with a kitty we have dubbed Smokey.

The skylights in the hundred year-old barn create cathedral-like pools of light for us to work in. Izzy and Bryce are waiting for the steering mechanism to come back from the drillpress (they should be working on their brakes, says Gever when he walks up a few moments later).

Milo comes back from the kitties and jumps in to help Sophia get some nuts onto a piece of threaded rod that has seen some rough treatment. Despite early success with two nuts, the third critical nut refuses to have anything to do with the threaded rod - which leads to a pause and re-grouping moment that results in a new, better, design.

Alex and Katherine do a fit test on their cart. It's big enough, but there's something worrisome about the rakish angle of their steering column.

G and Rayan - no idea what they are doing, but as our new Manager Karen says, "If they are having fun, no one is getting hurt, and no tools or materials are being destroyed, then it's working."

And there are goats!

There is a nut-stacking virus running through the tinkerers. As founder and Education Architect, I have absolutely no problem with a tinkerer spending fifteen minutes playing with hex-nuts; hands-on discovery-based experiential learning is where it's at.

Did we mention the kitties? The Collaborators are as helpless to resist as the tinkerers when the kitties wander by.

Max has worked out the friction issues (mis-alignment of the axle blocks deformed the PVC bearing pipe) and gets the back-end of their cart working.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lilah

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lucy

Our other frequent work-break destinations include the chickens...

...and the gardens.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Sophia

Portrait of a Llama: Spice

And the kitties (with Thalia)!

Merritt and Max take the cart for a spin to see if putting reins on their steering post could work (it turns out there's too much friction and it hurts the hands to pull that hard on paracord).

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Bryce

Braden and Milo try out the new steering system that Sophia has implemented based on a crude sketch from Gever. This is a simplified version of what is known as "Harley-style" steering, a design that has evolved at Tinkering School over the past ten years or so.

Now they have an interesting problem to solve in the back end.

When steering becomes a common problem in the cart implementations, Gever looks to see if there is any inspiration available in the front-end of the little farm truck. Yes, but the design relies on some very complicated metal pieces that will be very difficult to render in wood.

It turns out to be interesting to look at the way the U-joint in the steering shaft allows for a bend. Also, Bruno, the farm guy, wears the same kind of cowboy boots as Gever.

When it comes to attaching the steering column to their cart, there's a collective sense that "this is the last thing!". Thalia, Merritt, and Max.

Gretchen needed a hug, Lucy and Rhody were happy to oblige.

Before we go to dinner, we decide to test everything, and this time there are three carts ready to try.

With some blocks of wood as pylons, the carts take off to see what's working and what isn't. It seems like a long way to the bridge when it's tricky to get through the first gate.

But the carts are mostly working, and it's exciting to be rolling and going "kinda-fast"!

Of course, after a long ride down the hill (only half-way to the bridge today since we've got to set up radio-based traffic monitoring), you have to walk the cart back up to the barn.

Looks like Bryce and his team will have to go back to the drawing board on their steering system. Also, what's up with the un-protected impalement pipe? The cart is sent to the barn until the safety and steering issues can be addressed.

Jealous of all the fun, Gever puts on a helmet (excellent modeling!) and takes the wagon for a ride.

And there's cats!

Then, it's time for dinner. Chef Paul puts out salad, potatoes, roasted chicken, and quesadillas, with baked apples for dessert. Bonus, there's an after-dinner build session hosted by Gever, and then Daniel lures everyone back with hot-chocolate and showing of Princess Bride - what a nice way to end the day!

Session H: Day 4 - Lazing and Lizards

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

Wednesday! We always take a break mid-week to go to the beach and have a day to reset, strengthen our friendships, and have fun. Today we head to San Gregorio, one of our favorite beaches for its driftwood constructions and lagoon. We arrived to find the lagoon completely full (sometimes it's just a little ankle-deep stream that we have to get across). After fording the lagoon, we set up base camp at one of the driftwood structures.

The beach is a great place to get out a whole bunch of energy. Max and G brought bits of wire to practice their sword fighting.

Merritt wastes no time jumping into the waters of the Pacific.

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And the Pacific wastes no time crashing into Braden.

Vivek challenges the ocean to a duel.

This group has some real water lovers. Izzy encourages everyone to jump in.

G isn't too sure about this cold water thing...

And Max is even less into it.

"Oh come on!"

He'll wait for his friends to come out.

Milo and G have become one with the sand.

Over at the lagoon, Daniel is helping Rayan and Caspar make a driftwood raft. They pump out version 1 quickly to see what issues they might have.

The problem is that it's not stable enough when they're all together in one row. It can sort of hold Caspar, but it starts to come apart.

Meanwhile, a group has found some lizards. This one is Frend. Frend enjoys spending time curled up on human hands.

He also likes riding around on Bryce's shoulder.

A rare sighting: photos of Dalia must be sneaky.

Caspar and Rayan take apart version 1 of the raft.

Ari strikes a pose with his newfound kelp.

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The Infamous Snake Gang turns up, with a mascot in Max's hands.

And Rayan finds another lizard! This one is Buddy.

Collaborator Jack is still soaked through from going through the lagoon in his jeans (always bring something to be wet in AND something to be dry in, kiddos!), so he convinces Caroline to have them start a small fire. A group gathers for the little bit of warmth and discussion.

Portrait of a Lizarder: Pal hangs out with Lucy.

Caspar cheeses with Buddy.

As the afternoon continues on, Daniel makes us all some peanut butter and honey sandwiches to keep our tummies full and happy.

Thalia is determined to roast this apple. She says you know it's done when the skin is black and flakey.

Apple now roasted, Thalia delights in eating it with honey.

Another member of the Infamous Snake Gang emerges! Lilah is all about this snake life.

Raft version 2 takes off, with two layers of driftwood, the bottoms acting as pontoons.

And it floats! Caspar pushes Rayan around as the clouds part to reveal a beautiful blue sky and blue water.

Lizards are officially high fashion. Caroline is wearing Buddy, by Nature.

Pal makes for a very handsome mustache on Lucy.


Caspar has one last ride on the raft before we pack it in for the day.

Back at camp, we finish the night with showers, bowls of chili, and a campfire. In the new dining tent, Gretchen suggests playing Honey I Love You, which keeps them all laughing for hours. We all agree we're having too much fun to go to bed juuust yet, so stay up a little later to bond and laugh more, and fall asleep with our bellies sore from giggles.

Blog written by Caroline.

Session H: Day 3 - Push and Pull

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

Tuesdays at Tinkering School are always a little tougher than other days. There's still so much time left, but not many projects have enough form to feel like anything has been accomplished. So, Tuesdays end up being a little more of a slog sometimes. Thankfully, this group has great chemistry and there was a good balance of work and play throughout the day to keep them striving for the Tuesday night goal of having a "version 1" of their carts to test on a small section of the road.

We start the morning with breakfast, hot tea and cocoa, and some Harry Potter trivia. Lucy leads with the most intense questions.

Then it's time to get down to business. Jack works on the Piki cart, using a caster wheel for the front.

Panda's steering design, led by Merritt, is complex and requires a lot of attention to detail. She's measured everything at least twice before she goes to cut, or drill press as the case may be.

Bryce and Izzy have continued their cart experiments, pulling each other up the hill on the wagon and testing various braking methods. The helmets finally went on after a particularly sudden stop.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Gretchen being her lovely self.

Thalia has to cut a big piece of plywood for the Panda cart, so she gets out the circular saw.

Max is beasting through the 2x4s, two at a time.

Multitasking is nothing to a tinkerer such as Lilah.

After all these weeks, we discover who the Sky Bench was destined for. Ari is the perfect size.

Izzy and Bryce team up again to put some wheels on the Sqiki cart.

And Lilah realizes she's put the two wheels on uneven, but decides to leave them as is. "Whoopsi-daisy."

Collaborator Jack and Caspar talk through the pros and cons of a grappling hook braking system.

Ari and Milo are two peas in a pod. Their groups soon call them back to action.

Paint is brought out. G helps create a pallet. 

Milo, Braden, and Sophia line up the Kablooi cart for their steering column.

Izzy gets serious with a hand saw while Vivek stands by to be tapped in if necessary.

The two buddies are back at it again. Their friendship makes us smile.

The Sqiki cart is all wheeled up! Lilah flips it over, which is a perfect opportunity for Vivek to have a lie-down.

Team Nooi had a setback after a miscommunication about a threaded rod and if it should be cut or not, which caused some strife. With a bit of guidance, they form Nooi v.2: now with more teamwork. A functional group dynamic is one of many things we try to build at camp.

Gever guides Panda through an engineering issue.

As the afternoon turns into early evening, the teams start to worry. Many of them don't have their carts ready to roll for the after-dinner test, and so they work frantically to assemble the vision they have. The Panda cart is trying to line up their wheels: Max with the rear, and Merritt with the front steering. Collaborator Kevin helps Max, who is determined to have the rear wheels attached by dinner, though it is not to be.

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Merritt finally assembles the tricky steering mechanism, but it's almost dinner time. Her idea is nearly fully realized, and she is nearly fully bummed that she'll have to wait until the next build session to finish.

After dinner, we all bring our carts up to the Ranch House for the testing.

But, it turns out only one team has a cart ready to be tested. Lilah and Bryce hop on the Sqiki cart, with its brake-steering. The brakes don't pan out exactly as they had envisioned, but that's what this test is all about. Sqiki can now take the feedback from their cart and work with it.

Today was a big day for everyone. We hang out for a bit before tucking into bed for the night, dreaming of what to do with our carts next.

Blog by Caroline, who apologizes for the delay!

Session H: Day 2 - Start Rolling

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline MartinComment

We make our way down to breakfast on Monday morning, tired but ready for our first full day of tinkering. After a big breakfast, we circle up to hear about this week's project. We are all giddy with excitement.

Gever reveals: this week we will step away from Tinker City and become mobile, with downhill carts. We'll have full access to the road that goes through Elkus Ranch in the evenings, and we have many iterations of carts from previous weeks to Frankenstein into our own designs. We also have an assortment of wheels! Gever shows off the rubber wheels. Each group will have access to two of these, as well as two wooden wheels and two skateboard wheels. A challenge, indeed.

We have five teams this week, each making their own cart. The teams, for future reference:

PIKI: Gretchen, Jack, Rayan, G
NOOI: Lucy, Katherine, Alex, Caspar
KABLOOI: Sophia, Dalia, Milo, Braden
PANDA: Merritt, Thalia, Max, Ari
SQIKI: Vivek, Lilah, Izzy, Bryce

Kablooi decides to do some "research" about carts first. Dalia tries out one of the wagons.

Braden tests out a different rolling object, but soon finds that one of the caster wheels had been stolen by a tinkerer in the previous weeks.

Team Panda flips over a cart and starts looking at the steering mechanism. They discuss how they could incorporate that design into their own cart.

Portrait of a Collaborator: Caroline poses for Caspar while he learns how to use the camera.

Sophia gets right to work on the base of Kablooi's cart.

Vivek begins sketching out a base for the Sqiki cart with Bryce and Izzy. How big should the base be? Another part of the challenge is to make a cart that holds two tinkerers.

We're not quite sure what he's up to, but Milo is definitely having fun doing it.

Caspar, Katherine, and Lucy start measuring out for the base of the Nooi cart. There are some disputes about the direction they're going, but the team moves forward regardless.

Caroline has drawn out a big map of the course for the teams to take a look at. It's about a half-mile from the gate at the goat pen down to the gate at the bridge, with a few turns and a lot of pot holes. Gever shows where the first and second stages of the course are.

The line for the chop saw starts in earnest after a break. G waits patiently for his turn.

Vivek and Izzy work together on the base for Sqiki's cart.

Rayan and Jack cut up some lengths of pipe for axles. The train tracks from week one find new use as saw horses when the trains aren't running.

Portrait of a Collaborator: Jack ponders.

As the clouds part, Nooi tries out their new base measurements.

Vivek and Lilah are skilled Tinker Twister players.

We need lots of holes for our axles. Rayan starts up on the drill press.

Lucy puzzles out the steering mechanism on the cart while tinkerers buzz around her.

The afternoon goes on, and groups are still working out kinks in their first designs. Kablooi has a quick meeting, while Max looks over the difficulties that may arise with the wooden wheels with collaborators.

Braden gets in on the pipe-cutting action.

For a break, it's finally goat time!! 

A visit to meet the goats (and other farm animals) is just what we need to rest our brains.

And the goats are happy to see us, too. Possibly just for the treats?

Leslie even introduces us to the horses in the barn. 

Everyone is looking forward to spending more time closer to the animals later this week.

We encourage everyone to make whatever they want during free build time. Katherine makes some nut art.

Some tinkerers head down to the creek for some exploring before the sun goes down.

They explore the haunted house while another group goes on a sunset hike up the ridge. 

We finish out the night with some hot cocoa and Steven Universe, which has quickly become a camp favorite for when there's not enough time for a movie. 

With warm tummies, we amble up to our tents. Tomorrow our goal is to have rolling carts to test by evening so we can make a second iteration by the end of the week. Lots to do!

Session H: Day 1 - Organized Chaos

2016 Session H - All AgesCaroline Martin1 Comment

Welcome to the last week of the 2016 Tinkering School overnight season! It's been a wild summer, and we're closing it out with an all-ages session. We have a whole range, from 8 to 14, new tinkerers to five-year vets. Like all Sundays, after the arrivals, we circle up to introduce ourselves. Gever leads us through binary statements ("I like cats better than dogs;" "I like broccoli;" "My name has more than two vowels in it") and announcing our spirit tools. 

And a quick run-through of our three basic rules, though we do them a bit out of order this week.

Then it's time to do tool training. Our main tools are clamps, drills, and the chop saw, and this is our opportunity to go over the basics for our new tinkerers, and some of the finer details with our returning campers. Collaborator Rhody goes over the "silent thumbs-up" ready call for chop saw use.

We just love seeing the sunset in our workshop. Gretchen calls to her group: "Ready?"

Rayan makes his first cut.

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Collaborator Caroline goes over the various uses of the drills while Thalia breaks the fourth wall.

Dalia takes her knowledge over to Gever to practice drills with Sophia and Lucy.

Lilah learns the strengths and limitations of clamps.

We gather up for dinner, and discuss whether it's more important for pancakes or waffles to exist in the universe. After a bit of free time, we get together for a very different challenge. The collaborators have come up with a strange game that requires communication, teamwork, and trust. 

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Groups of three must verbally navigate a blindfolded teammate to retrieve a specific crumpled up ball of paper. The tricky thing is, all the groups are trying to do the same thing at once. 

It turns out to be an exceptionally hilarious level of insanity.

Which crumpled ball? Not that one? The other one? Okay!!

The night ends with a celebration for Bradon, who is celebrating his 12th birthday today! He picks the first of the ice cream sandwiches that Rhody made for us.

A hush falls over us as we devour the delicious desserts.

Rayan's mind is flooded with the scrumptious tastes.

"Do I have something on my face?"

Caspar asks, "Weren't we going to build something tonight?" A collaborator responds, "Yeah, we built FRIENDSHIPS." Caspar is less than enthused by this statement, despite the veracity of it.

Alex plays the ukulele for us as we finish up our cookies.

With full tummies and quiet voices, we take a foggy nighttime ride up to the tents and settle in for our first night. Tomorrow we get to talk about our project for the week!

Blog by Caroline, with editing and company by Jack.

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