Tinkering School

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2015 Session A - Juniors

Session A: Summary

2015 Session A - JuniorsJosh RothhaasComment

This was the kind of project that had kids and collaborators a wondering if it was really possible. Until Friday morning we deeply considered switching projects. But kids and staff rallied, tests where done as the sun set Friday night, and on Saturday morning, as the parents arrived, everything came together. Below are video's of our success and links to the story of the challenges and set-backs along the way.

Be sure to check out all the photos on our flickr!

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Session A: Day 7

2015 Session A - JuniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

Today is our final morning together, and our last chance to finish the project. We have already met success— we've launched a cart from the track, we've had a productive, interesting, week, we've learned to problem solve, learned to build, learned to tinker. But eager to ride, two teams head to the barn— one to add a back stop to the track, and one to finish adding the caster to the cart that broke last night. 

The track team at work 

The track team at work 

By 9:30, we're ready for our first human powered test, and as we load up, the first parents are already pulling in. 

Jaya is ready to be our first human test pilot. 

Jaya is ready to be our first human test pilot. 

Everyone gathers to watch. 

By 9:38, we're ready for launch — the first run will be just 1/4 of the track, and if that's successful, we'll do a full run. 

And she's off... 

Success!

And then, we dare to try the full length run. 

And race for the cart to celebrate our success. We did it! We built a ramp and track that carried a person! 

Buoyed by our success, we decide to sandbag test the other cart. 

Our luck holds. Parents have gathered to watch. 

We're ready for our human test - 

And then a full run. 

Turn by turn, we put each tinkerer into a cart at the top of the ramp. Because both carts are fully functioning, we alternate carts, and, against all hope, make it through everyone. The kids are giddy. We hear everything from silence, to shrieks, to yells of "Calabunga" as the ride down the hybrid coaster they've built, and roll for a period of time on the ground. This is, for sure, and epic success. 

 

We're each beyond thrilled. 

But the end has come. Every camp session ends with a group disassembly. Tinkering School is not about building something to keep, it's about building for the experience of building. We didn't build our hybrid coaster to have a hybrid coaster, we build our hybrid coaster to have built one. Together, parents, tinkerers and collaborators, we take apart what we have put together. 

Session A: Day 6

2015 Session A - JuniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

Today begins with two visitors — Gever's stopped by for breakfast, and to get us thinking about a mystery — this ream of paper, when taped, has resonance. Try it sometime. He challenges us to think about why, and theories are proposed and discussed. 

Katie's back, and she's brought homemade braided headbands for us. 

The headbands are a great fashion accessory. 

Primo's eager to get back to the track. 

Nico, furiously sawing off the end of an angle brace. Sometimes the handsaw is a better tool for the job than the chop-saw. 

The track team is back on track — progress is made on the ramp as well as the rails. The two combined tracked teams have realized the power of working together. Peanut butter and chocolate, work well together just as promised. (This was the metaphor we presented to the kids when we combined the track teams and reframed the goal). 

The cart teams are hard at work. Marco prepares to attach a caster. 

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Leo, relaxed. 

Your Daily Josh. 

Camp creates tight friendships. 

Zach and Aggie. 

Zach and Aggie. 

Over at the track, Gwen makes progress above the ground, climbing up the ramp to insert screws. 

Lindsay and Teagan make strides at the base. 

At the lunch break, the kids surprise us by staging a skit. At Tinkering School, we try to seize opportunity, and this great stage is just to large of an opportunity to pass up. 

After lunch, we've had "Siesta time," a chance for the kids and collaborators to have a quiet midday break and regather our thoughts. 

A glance into the boy's yurt (tent cabin) 

A glance into the boy's yurt (tent cabin) 

Reading is a favorite at Tinkering School, during downtime....

Nico, during "Siesta" 

Nico, during "Siesta" 

But also even as project work goes on. 

Alexandra takes a moment to enjoy a book, even as the project goes on around her. 

Alexandra takes a moment to enjoy a book, even as the project goes on around her. 

Everyone's excited when Katie takes out the face paint. 

By late afternoon, we're ready for our test runs. 

On our first try, the empty cart crashes into the benches below. 

We take the opportunity to prepare, and try again. 

Once we get it working, we have the chance to try with sandbags as weights. 

By the time we lose light, we've weight tested both carts—one needs the steering system removed, but the other cart was working, and merely needs a caster replaced. We're bound and determined to get at least one working for tomorrow— this has been a difficult project, but now that we're close enough to see the end, we know we can make one final push. We agree to an early morning. 

It's Friday night, our last night at Tinkering School. Per tradition, we gather for a fire. Jacob helps get it set up. 

A lit fire is always a thing of beauty. 

We have a closing circle, another Tinkering School tradition. We take the opportunity to reflect on the week, and tell about nice experiences we've had with one another. 

And there are, of course, s'mores. 

Friday is tough. It's the last full day, and the campers know it. But they've taken a tough project, and transformed it into something that can succeed. They've created lasting friendships and learned lasting skills. Tomorrow, they know they can finish .

-Serena 

Session A: Day 5

2015 Session A - JuniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

Day 5 is when a project either starts to pull together into something beautiful, or veers towards epic failure. We want to see it pull together, so we get back to work. 

Jacob and Jaya get to work on their cart. 

Jacob and Jaya get to work on their cart. 

Lee grabs 2x4's — the track team is hoarding. 

Lee grabs 2x4's — the track team is hoarding. 

We've rapidly discovered how photogenic Primo is. 

We've rapidly discovered how photogenic Primo is. 

Time flies as we work, and soon enough, it's snack time. Tinkering School has a rule— "If you see a piece of fruit and you want it, then you have to eat it." — the kids rush from all corners to the snack cart, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of that fruit. 

And then it's back to work. Primo assembles the braces for a piece of track. 

Music is a Tinkering School pastime. We've got a couple of ukeleles, a guitar, and a piano this week. Lunch can rapidly evolve into music time.  

Alexandra and Aime, with Josh's ukelele.

Alexandra and Aime, with Josh's ukelele.

Seyer leads on the guitar. 

Seyer leads on the guitar. 

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Kevin, watchful. 

Portrait of a Junior Collaborator: Kevin, watchful. 

While the project is progressing, it's not quite where it needs to be. A pre-lunch game of capture the flag, and now this meeting to reframe, are part of the strategy to putting us on the road to success. 

We've decided to build one major track, combining the work of the two track teams. Like peanut butter and chocolate, the rails one of the track teams has designed will go on top of the ramp built by the other group. 

We examine— we grab one of the completed wheel units, and see how it acts on the track in real time. There's a lot of wobble back and forth. 

We discuss: one of the joys of tinkering is in problem solving. We all get involved, suggestions and ideas bandied about. 

Barrow proposes his plan - a guide rail down the center to hold to cart on the rails. The group agrees it can be done, and so it is decided. 

Reenergized, we head back to work. At Tinkering School, there are few things more fun than working with your friends. 

Teagan and Aime put together the track for the wheels. 

Teagan and Aime put together the track for the wheels. 

And that fun can create just a little bit of insanity. 

Alexandra, demonstrating her powerful hammer arm. 

Alexandra, demonstrating her powerful hammer arm. 

Even though we're busy, we find time to pause and smile. 

Aggie and Barrow, fast friends. 

Aggie and Barrow, fast friends. 

Adam's been working on the large ramp that the track will be added to. He's on his way back to grab tools. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Adam 

Jenny's been mentoring a cart team. Her enthusiasm and patience are much appreciated. 

The ramp is bustling with activity— tinkerers and collaborators everywhere. It's sturdy enough to climb on now, which is quite exciting. 

Jaya joined us yesterday, but already she's a part of the team and helping run test runs.

Tinkering is fun, but no one can do it without any breaks. 

Then it's back to work.

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jaya pre-drilling

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Jaya pre-drilling

Serena poses for a photo.

Serena, our wonderful blogger

Serena, our wonderful blogger

Josh tells the most interesting stories, complete with hand gestures and sound effects.

Your Daily Josh

Your Daily Josh

He has quite a captive audience.

Gever, our founder, comes for a visit!

Apparently, if someone holds your hands up for long enough, when you let them down it feels like they are falling through the floor.

Althea and Kevin

Althea and Kevin

School games are surprisingly interesting.

Sayer and Nico literally rolling on the floor laughing.

Lee: the interpretive dancing fire.

Barrow has something to say at closing circle.

We cozy up after our day full of hard work.

We're excited about the new direction the project is taking, and determined to get it done.

-Lauren & Serena 

Session A: Day 4

2015 Session A - JuniorsSerena G-H1 Comment

The morning starts off right where we left off, as we head back to work on the projects. 

Even the Junior Collaborators are excited. 

Rhody carries the wheel base her cart team assembled. 

Rhody carries the wheel base her cart team assembled. 

The ramp team is bound and determined to get there ramp up today. Construction works best with a pair, and even better with two pairs, as they've discovered. 

A finished cart poses as a table — perfect for setting clamps and drills down on. 

Lilah, thinking. 

Marco has passed Josh's knife safety test, and is back to discovering the joys of whittling. 

The cart, upright and ready to roll, all four wheels attached now. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Primo and his drill

We all agree that this photo comes close to capturing Sayer. He's rocking the orange highlights in his glasses and head sets, and his great hat, but it's more about the posture and expression. Notice the hole in the top of his hat - so Sayer.

We each prepare for a big moment in a project in different ways. 

Althea prays. 

Sawyer summons...

And the wall rises up. Our collaborators are superheroes, calling a band of tinkerers into action. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer's hand: Drilling in tight spaces can be tricky. 

At  Elkus (our previous camp location), the kids had the chance to take goat breaks. Here, the scooters substitute for the goats. Kids need the chance to take a break from the project and regroup, and this is one of the ways to channel some playful energy before refocusing. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Alexandra in tiger paint and safety goggles. 

Sayer, ready for action. 

The collaborator/tinkerer relationship is special. Rhody and Teagen work on a joint. 

Tinkerers gather round as we get ready for our first cart test. 

Portrait of a Collaborator: Lindsay in a calm moment of writing. 

Josh, our daily goat, in a moment of glee. Since we no longer have goats to post daily pictures of, we'll just post a Josh picture  instead. 

The day transitions from project work to beach day. The kids gather, getting ready to leave. 

We arrive at the beach to beautiful weather, and set up camp under a pop-up tent. 

Lee shows off his "mussels" 

The kids play games with the waves — ankles in, ankles out, a game of back and forth.

Beach day creates unity, a place away from the predetermined groups at camp. Allison joins the boys as they brave the waves. 

Beach day is relaxing, it gives us the chance to rejuvenate, take a break, regroup. 

Tomorrow, we start again.

Session A: Day 3

2015 Session A - JuniorsSerena G-HComment

The morning starts off slower than yesterday (the girls slept late, we made it all the way to 7am), but with enthusiasm at the chance to tackle the project we've all had on our minds.

Each team approaches the problem in different ways -we each grab the tools we need for the job.  

The First Track Team equips themselves  pens and sets to work.

And with rapid scribbling.... 

They arrive at something they can work with. 

The other track team, the "Funnel Bumpers," take a different approach, and start their first prototype. 

 

The first day of work on the project is always full of ups and downs, challenges and accomplishments, as the kids meet their first design challenges and start to imagine how the project will come together. I got the chance to talk to a few of the kids about their experiences.

Lila tells me about what the "Funnel Bumpers" were up to today.

We built our track prototype, and then we made some modifications — connecter slots from the top instead of from the bottom, for example, and then started on the actual thing. The easiest thing was definitely assembling it. One of the challenging parts was figuring out measurements that didn’t really matter, like the thickness of the boards we chose to use. When something didn’t go right, our team managed to turn it into a good thing; a piece that was to short turned into an opporunity for a connection.
— Lilah
Lilah and Marco put together a piece of track. 

Lilah and Marco put together a piece of track. 

The track team takes their prototypes to the cart team for testing . 

The track team takes their prototypes to the cart team for testing . 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Primo studies how the track and wheel slot together. 

Portrait of a Tinkerer: Primo studies how the track and wheel slot together. 

 The First Track Team also got a lot accomplished today. Aimee talks me through their design plan and her experiences.

We decided to make a triangle shape with a brace, for stability, and have rails to make sure the cart doesn’t go shooting off. The hardest part was aligning everything, and making sure it was exactly the same. I really liked drilling — I feel like I really mastered the drill today, and I figured out how to not strip the screw — push a bit less, don’t have it running so hard. I’m looking forward to finishing the track, and seeing what it actually looks like in reality. And ride it!
— Aime

 

Clementine told me about her cart team, as of yet unnamed:

Today we got quite a bit done on the prototype and made really great progress , figuring out how to use our wheels. We’re designing extra things - a real “luxury vehicle,” with a flat bench that will deal help us stay in balance at the cart goes up and down. I got the chance to work with Jenny, Renee, Jacob, Marco. I’m really looking forward to putting the bottom on, building up the walls, and attaching the wheels.
— Clementine
The cart team draws inspiration from the wheels strew around them. 

The cart team draws inspiration from the wheels strew around them. 

The team gets a handle on the wheels. 

The team gets a handle on the wheels. 

Allison discusses the approach her team took:

“We didn’t have too much of a brainstorming session, but we started off pretty good— we were able to build the cart bottom, some guardrails, a back — Teagan worked on wheels and a steering system — afternoon. We installed the guardrails today too.



The camaraderie in the barn is tangible. Teamwork is at a peak - the kids have to work within there own team, but also within the group at large, if this project is going to come together. Carts must fit in tracks, everything has to work in unity. 

Working together creates some wonderful moments. 

We take time for other things too. The project, while engaging, isn't everything. 

Josh teaches the kids how to cut rope with a hot knife, sealing the end so it doesn't fray. 

Josh teaches the kids how to cut rope with a hot knife, sealing the end so it doesn't fray. 

Katie, a visiting collaborator, paints faces.

Katie, a visiting collaborator, paints faces.

Portrait of our Camp Manager.

Portrait of our Camp Manager.

A game of "Pancakes vs. Waffles" 

A game of "Pancakes vs. Waffles" 

 

After dinner, we have time to relax, free build, and blog time. Kids have the freedom to hang out, play on the playground, and/or pick out their own projects, like Barrow's legos.

Primo tells me his favorite moment was building a little four wheeled scooter that doesn't have steering yet during free build. 

Today ends with excitement, and kids looking forward to watching the project evolve into a real roller coaster. Tomorrow brings more project work and a trip to the beach. 

Session A : Day 2

2015 Session A - JuniorsJosh RothhaasComment

Day 2 starts early as the morning sun comes pouring into our tents. Kids and staff are up by 6:30am (many are up as early as 5am). We sit around chatting, waiting for the day to start and breakfast to be ready. By 7:30 we are chowing down, getting our energy up and getting ready for the first full day of camp.

With food in our belly we head out to start tool training.

Barrow and Augie practice drill use.

Barrow and Augie practice drill use.

Josh gives a demo on the chop-saw.

Josh gives a demo on the chop-saw.

Augie follows procedure exactly.

Augie follows procedure exactly.

Lee and Jacob work on their clamping skills.

Lee and Jacob work on their clamping skills.

Allison, Aime and Renee get comfortable with all the clamping options available to them.

Allison, Aime and Renee get comfortable with all the clamping options available to them.

Gwen and Aime go all out with some art-level clamping

Gwen and Aime go all out with some art-level clamping

After tool training it's time to announce the big project. At Tinkering School the project is always a surprise until the very last second. Everyone gathers around as Josh draws a picture on a box.

What is it? what could it be? drum roll... A Chair! The kid all give a look of "wait? thats it?" Eventually Josh reveals that this is just the first mini project. We will be making chairs to sit around our fire pit later in the week. As we break into group's to make chairs Lilah chimes in with a mind blowing suggestion, "If we are going to work in groups, why don't we build benches that the whole group can sit on?" There is universal agreement about the quality of this idea, and we all head out to make our benches.

Adam and Barrow get measuring.

Adam and Barrow get measuring.

Rhody's crew starts making marks.

Rhody's crew starts making marks.

After a little break for lunch to fuel up and re-energize, the group heads back. Starter projects like these are fantastic ways to let the kids explore the tools and materials that they just learned about during safety training. All kinds of designs emerge.

Some go big and wide.

Some go big and wide.

while other go narrow.

while other go narrow.

Jacob and Lee work on connecting the two sections of their oversized bench.

Jacob and Lee work on connecting the two sections of their oversized bench.

With some quick prototyping, a lot of solid communication, and some solid team work, 4 totally distinct benched emerge.

Jacob, Lilah, Alison, Lindsay and Teagan carry their massive and very comfy bench

Jacob, Lilah, Alison, Lindsay and Teagan carry their massive and very comfy bench

Adam, Barrow, Augie, Zach, Che and Sayer take a test run of their very strong, stable and elegant bench.

Adam, Barrow, Augie, Zach, Che and Sayer take a test run of their very strong, stable and elegant bench.

Our fire pit begins to emerge.

Our fire pit begins to emerge.

With our benches behind us it was time to announce the real project this week!

A Hybrid Roller Coaster. It's a bit tricky to explain, but the basics are this. We are designing two carts that will start off rolling on a track, transition onto the asphalt ride around, then transition back onto a second set of tracks. Two teams are making carts and two teams are focused on the track. The excitement here is that all 4 teams need to stay in constant communication. Immediately the groups are abuzz, sending representatives, working out standards, and talking through logistics. By now, much of the day has slipped away and we stop for dinner with excitement, a few good ideas, some drawings and high hopes for tomorrow.

We toss some dinner in our belly, play some games and run around till sunset, and head to bed in our yurts.

Tomorrow is all hybrid coaster, all day. Who knows how far we will make it.

Session A : Day 1

2015 Session A - JuniorsJosh RothhaasComment

After Weeks of building yurts and prepping camp only one job remains. We have to build our bunks. As campers arrive they are filtered into the project of making sure they have a place to sleep tonight.

The yurts are cozy and it makes making the bunks a bit tricky.

The yurts are cozy and it makes making the bunks a bit tricky.

Nico works with Leo to start installing a safety bar on one of the bunks.

Nico works with Leo to start installing a safety bar on one of the bunks.

Barrow works with Jenny to unwrap our Ikea mattresses.

Barrow works with Jenny to unwrap our Ikea mattresses.

And in the end knock them out with plenty of light to spare.

And in the end knock them out with plenty of light to spare.

While the great bunk building of 2015 was underway, we simultaneously began building what may or may not become our fire pit.

The design session on the firepit gets underway

The design session on the firepit gets underway

With bunks done and a prototype fire pit in the field we gather around to get Tinkering School started. We discuss the rules of Tinkering School ranging from the conical "if you see a piece of fruit, and you want to eat it, you must eat it" to the more recent modification on the golden rule "treat others as they would like to be treated" which acts as both a guideline on behavior and an exercise in empathy.

After we learned about how Tinkering School works, we went on a tour of the new campus. We got to see the yurts, the shop, the showers, the bathroom, the garden and both of the playgrounds. We rounded out the day with a tasty dinner and a late bedtime.


Tinkering School is a trademark registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.