This past weekend, Tinkering School hosted a special session of English Language Learners from China. We had been coordinating this session for a couple of months, and the preparation involved lots of chatting between our Director Karen and the Program's Manager in China. They corresponded mostly about TS vocabulary words and concepts to help prepare the students for the loads of information they would received at the workshop about how to use the tools and how to treat one another and the space while at TS.
What do you get when you have a bunch of eager tinkerers, some bowling balls, a full day of tinkering ahead, and a crazy idea inspired by a classic childhood board game? Why, you make a gigantic-sized version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos!
With that gargantuan goal in mind, we set out to see what we could do to satisfy the culinary needs of a ravenous, hungry hippo…
Before getting started, though, we meet as a group to introduce ourselves, share what kind of soup we'd love if we could make soup out of anything (ice cream and pizza soup were definitely huge hits), and discuss the Tinkering School goals and agreements:
- Collaborate and make friends!
- Make mistakes and learn from them.
- Try harder than usual.
- Make something bigger than yourself.
It's always interesting to see how seemingly every part of the Tinkering School experience — every small moment, every interaction — can usually be encompassed in and reflected by these four goals. They might seem simple at first, but in that simplicity is a kind of subtle genius that only really becomes transparent when you see two kids who might not otherwise interact helping each other to build a ladder, or a young perfectionist embracing and learning from mistakes they made, or a five-year-old marveling at the end of a hard day of tinkering at how much more capable they are than they thought of actually, truly building something bigger than themselves. And today was certainly no exception, as we undertook our gigantic, hippo-sized task…
But first, it's off to tool training! Before we can build big things, we need to get acquainted with our main tools — and today, that meant meeting our good friends the chop saw, power drills, and clamps.
Here, collaborator Molly introduces a group of kids to the chop saw and how to use it: you find and measure your piece of wood, mark off a line to cut on, make sure the blade itself lines up with it, push it back against the chop saw wall, check to make sure everyone around you is ready (with the ever-reliable, patent-pending, thumbs-up-if-you're-ready "Ready Call!"), form a tiger paw with one hand to hold the wood down, and with your other on the saw handle, you make your cut! When you're done, you use your big piece of wood to push any small pieces of wood outside of the chop saw's "blood bubble" (an invisible zone around the blade you never want to reach your hand in). Then voilá: you have made a big piece of wood into two smaller pieces!
Elsewhere in tool training land, kids also got introduced to the drills:
… and the clamps (clamp bridges FTW!):
With a newfound sense of tool-trained empowerment and we-can-build-anything momentum at our backs — and a little bit of lunch in our belly, since tinkering can be hungry work — we settle into designing our hungry hippo and a way to feed it. We quickly decide we need two teams: one to work on the hippo itself (whom I'm just going to call Florence for the purposes of this blog, and because every hippo needs a name), and another to work on a structure with a ladder and a ramp that we can use to "feed"/roll down the bowling balls into Florence's mouth.
After a bit more designing, the groups soon split off to start building, and things slowly begin to take shape.
Making Florence, it turns out, involves making really BIG frames out of wood, as Travis, Leona, Carmella, Rayahn, Luc, and collaborator Lindsey soon find out.
Meanwhile, the Feeding Apparatus team — comprised of collaborator Molly, Truman, Gurneet, and George, as well as Daniel M., Daniel A., and collaborator Daniel B. (yes, this team is chock-full of Daniels) — get started building the structure and ramp they plan to roll the bowling ball from.
Of course, what good is a structure that you can't climb up on? Here, George and Daniel work together to assemble a ladder for just such a purpose.
Tada! The Feeding Apparatus is coming together.
Meanwhile, the Hippo team face an interesting design quandary: they need to decide what shape to make Florence's mouth so that it can best gobble up the bowling balls. After experimenting with a few different ideas, they soon land on a funnel-shape, to better capture any errant bowling balls rolling its way. With only a little building time remaining, they brilliantly team together to bring it into fruition.
They finish Florence's mouth just in time. Meanwhile, the Feeding Apparatus team realize they're likely not going to finish the ramp to roll bowling balls down in time — but that seems to be alright with everyone, since unfinished projects are just another part of the Tinkering School experience, and its really the process of working to build something bigger than yourself that's the most gratifying. (Also, ladders. Young kids really do seem to love making ladders.)
Before parents arrive, though, we have one last meeting as a group to talk about and draw how we each might have experienced one of the Tinkering School goals today. Here are a few reflective drawings from that discussion…
And now, with parents here to watch, we embark on finally feeding our hungry, hungry hippo...
It's a success! As it turns out, rolling bowling balls on the floor is super fun — and actually inspires a new idea perhaps for next time… hungry, hungry hippo bowling, anyone?
At Tinkering School today, we set out to make a wooden waffle and build a mechanism that flips it!
This prompt was inspired by my recent obsession with making all meals into waffles, and the problem that I have at home: my waffle pan is cast iron and one-sided. Every time I make a waffle, I can only cook one side at a time and have to flip and squish it halfway through. I always have a hard time prying the waffle away from the pan and to gently flip it. With all these curious minds in one place, maybe we could solve the problem?
Well, we definitely did!
But first! We had to learn about the tools and each other. We split into groups and got to practice using drills, using the chopsaw, and using clamps safely and effectively.
Here are some of those amazing moments:
After tool practice, we ate lunch and then designed the different components of the project. The waffle team and the waffle flipper teams figured out what the things should look like, what they should do, and how big they should be.
The design session yielded some pretty amazing, silly, and complicated ideas!
And then we worked in teams all afternoon!
It was a lot of fun, and some Tinkerers got to learn and use even more tools! The jigsaw and also the bandsaw was used to assist in constructing the waffle flipper, and meanwhile, the waffle team worked together to construct a really heavy wooden waffle stuck together with 150+ screws.
In the end, we constructed a double-cube twisty-turny anti-gravity mechanism meant to flip a waffle 360 degrees! We totally ran out of time, and the cubes weren't stable enough to make the full turn, BUT, finishing the project definitely wasn't one of our goals.
Also, one of the most impressive and inventive components of the project appeared in the photo below. The clamps became a material rather than a tool! The Tinkerers made clamp-holding turning tools with clamps at the end to grip the super heavy waffle.
Check out all the photos on Flickr!
One day, 16 Tinkerers, and one working vending machine? No problem.
At today's One Day Workshop, we began by using a 19" diameter plywood circle. The function of this amazing object? Well, today it was a quarter. That's right. Twenty-five cents. With that twenty-five cents, we will vend something. Easy, right? All we have to do is make something to accept the coin, build a mechanism that tells something to dispense and also build a thing that holds the something being dispensed.
Piece of cake!
And here's a preview of what happened:
Check out all the photos from the whole day on our Flickr Album.
On Saturday 8 girls came together to figure out how to make a Dunk Tank full of pillows! It was an ambitious project for one day: it had moving parts and would need to be safe enough for humans to be on and inside of it. Could it be done?!
First we practiced using our main tools safely while also getting to know each other and practiced our other main skill: collaboration!
During the Design phase of the project, tinkerers thought through possible mechanism functions and structure design using each others arms and pencils, sketching out shapes and dimensions, and talking through combining ideas up on the drawing board.
We decided to kick off building with the things we knew we would definitely need:
At mid-day we have almost a whole, stable Tank, a cushy Seat, and a Target lever arm!
We discuss the next steps as a group and figure out what we need to before we start tinkering with connecting the Target to the Seat.
Seat and swinging support beams were attached and the trigger too, so that we would have a beginning point for connecting the Trigger and the Seat.
The first attempt at mounting the Swinging Seat Support revealed that our cross beams needed to be spaced out more and that we had attached the hinges to the support on the wrong side!
The tinkerers quickly got to work making adjustments together!
Meanwhile - the Tank team is preparing the pillows and getting yoga mats for safety!
Soon, we had a hinged seat resting on a hinged support, which was connected to the trigger's lever arm with paracord all suspended over a pile of pillows and yoga mats! It looked very precarious: the seat was only touching the support on the very tip and those of us that were on the larger side were pretty sure if we sat on that thing it would just snap off.
And so we entered the all important Safety Testing Phase!
Stumpy, didn't break our tank or hit its head on anything, we didn't see or hear any snaps or creaks, so Pearl bravely volunteered to be our first, smallest human test.
It worked! We dunked EVERYONE! It didn't break! IT WORKED!
Today was a particularly special One Day Workshop. We almost never actually finish a project. We are usually tinkering with a project up until we run out of time so it works exactly how we want it too. If we check those first two off it usually breaks while we are playing with it. Wow.
Looking back, I think that this group of tinkerers were especially good at communicating and collaborating with each other, so that everyone knew what jobs needed to get done and so that we could agree on what those jobs were.
With a strong streak of collaboration all of our mistakes that we had to re-do a few times didn't set us back and we all had a really fun day!
For more photos of us tinkering check out the Flickr Album!
Welding is a skill that really takes practice and time, so it's always amazing to see tinkerers dive in headfirst with no prior training. We begin by going over our Tinkering School goals and welding group agreements before jumping right in to a technical demonstration with Amanda. After watching how it's done, the tinkerers take turns welding two pieces of metal together to get the hang of the motor skills of welding before going into the design phase. Tinkerers sifted through the available metal pieces and started drawing out their project ideas, while thinking about how to make them in 3D with the available pieces. They figure out their designs and get to work!
Only being able to weld two pieces at a time, tinkerers have to get creative with how they set up their pieces.
Ideas begin to take shape, but sometimes the tinkerers have to be flexible about changing their ideas slightly to fit with the parameters of the materials. Collaborators were not cutting any custom metal pieces on the band saw today, so it was up to the tinkerers to figure out how to use the materials given to realize their designs. Sometimes the material constraints led to even cooler creations!
A lot of the pieces that they could use were quite small, so tinkerers had to be very delicate with their welding.
The projects began to take form! As tinkerers finished the welding portion, they realized that the welder could leave the metal discolored and lumpy. To make their pieces look shiny and finished, the tinkerers had at them with files, brushes and good old fashioned elbow grease to polish them up before the arrival of families.
Finally, everyone gets a chance to share their projects with their family and the other tinkerers.
Welcome to welding! the gang all arrives and we start going over the basics of welding. We like to start welding workshops off by sharing mistakes we've made recently to get ourselves into the mindset that everyone makes them and that's okay. Welding is super tricky and we let everyone know they are going to make a TON of mistakes all day long.
Then we talk safety and get everyone their first feel of welding!
After learning about safety and techniques, everyone starts working on their projects!
Once everyone gets a handle on their designs, they are eager to start welding! everyone rotates through the welding stations.
After welding the metal pieces together there were some other fun tools that we used to finish up out items: files and grinders helped us polish our pieces and get rid of any extra weld. Paxton even used washers and nuts to put wheels on his car!
The projects turned out great! by the end of the day, all the tinkerers were able to explain their projects to their parents (and even write on the mistake board!) It was awesome learning new skills doing something that seemed impossible a mere 5 hours ago!
Welding workshops start off with a demo of what welding even is!
Ready?! Set. WELD!!
We discuss what safety measures we all need to take and why.
One of the most important rules is to assume that all metal is hot. Why? Because at some point today it was 3,800 degrees!
Once everyone is suited up it's time to weld!!! Everyone gets a few practice passes to figure out how to control the welder's motions.
We all become welding detectives and check the welds to figure out if we need to go slower, make bigger circles, get the tip closer, or lots of other tricky adjustments!
Then we weld more!
Then it's time to dig into our brains and the metal tubs and figure out what to create!
Are you going to plan something? Or just starting welding things together?
Some kids were practicing welding super tiny pieces together. Some difficulties reported were: keeping the pieces in place before welding, not being able to see where you want to weld, and melting your tiny piece of metal.
Over at the Experimentation Station, kids were making mistakes and getting really excited about it!
Lucy accidentally melted through her super thin book end and loved it so much she decided to make the whole thing look like "crusty swiss cheese".
The discovery of hole melting was explored by some other kids with thicker metal and they ended up with molten bubbles that looked like volcanos!
As always, we got creative with clamping and connecting our projects into the welding circuit.
Aaaaaaaaaand as always we spent some time figuring out why the welder stopped working. Sometimes they just need some love and a new welding tip. Sometimes we get to open them up and untangle their insides!
Check out all the mistakes we learned from and the sculptures, gifts and furniture we made today!
Where to start?! What an intimate and productive day with only 5 tinkerers tinkering it up!
We began the day with our group agreements and Tinkering School Goals..
And some informative tool trainings!
After snack break, we dove into revealing the project! ....
The Tinkerers were challenged with getting a ping pong ball from all the way up here...!
...to the ground and land perfect on a washer.
The crew got to designing a track that would accomplish the trajectory!
BUILDING HIT THE TOWN!!
While the folks above got to work on the center track, some others build support mechanisms for the ultimately angled, towering, ramp..
The project grew and grew! And they worked and worked! Time 4 a lunch break.
After creating a triangular hookish mechanism to allow the track hang onto the top of the window sill..
We threw some ropes around the project, and with the biggest possible safety precautions we hoisted the thing up!!
Finishing up our securements and legs for the track just as parents began to arrive.. the mechanism was deem fit for Ping Pong use!! The hard working tinkerers enjoyed moments of controlled chaos and glee as they rolled the hollow plastic spheres down the enormous ramp that they had labored oh so long upon!!
Today, after tool training, with a few rolls of the die we determined we would build together a Creature with:
But before we could build those things, we needed a body to attach them to! The group decided, that because they also really wanted to build a house, the legs should be long enough for us to stand under!
Our group were natural collaborators and before we knew it there we had 4 huge legs!
There were definitely some hickups along the way. Did you know there is more than one way to connect 4 equal length pieces of wood? The legs definitely weren't all exactly the same :)
Isaiah figured out how to stabilize a long piece of wood while his partner was busy cutting!
Then it was time for lunch and a dance party!
We connected the legs together to stabilize them and got ready to add a spine and some ribs!
Meanwhile, some wings were forming in the back of the shop!
It took everyone of us to lift the spine and ribs and fasten them to the legs, first with clamps, then screws.
Now we could add all the appendages! Everyone worked with each other to help create and attach wings, horns, hairs and abs!
After we stopped building and reset the workshop, we recalled the Tinkering School Goals we had introduced that morning:
and reflected on how we had accomplished one or more of them that day by drawing.
I noticed everyone challenging themselves to continue working on things that were difficult or maybe just not that exciting in the moment. I also heard repeated announcements of "This is such a fun day!"
See more photos at our Flickr page!
Today we learned.....
To find out what we would be building today everyone had to roll a die first and write down the number, then pick a body part.
Our Random Critter Creator told us to make a critter with:
Everyone sketched up what they thought the critter should look like. Some were cute, some were round, some were angley. Then we had to figure out how to make it out of wood!
We learned that to figure out how long something is you can use :
We learned that sometimes a partner makes things a little easier and a little more fun.
We learned that sometimes if you want it just like that, it might take a lot of steps and focus.
We learned that to get the adults to work in your assembly line, you have to put a drill in their hand.
We learned why there are different sizes of screws.
And we learned how to work together to make these:
into a really huge Critter like this:
For more photos from this workshop visit the Flickr page!
We like to start welding workshops off by sharing mistakes we've made recently to get ourselves into the mindset that everyone makes them and that's okay. Welding is super tricky and we let everyone know they are going to make a TON of mistakes all day long.
Then we talk safety and get everyone their first feel of welding!
Once everyone understands what welding means and how they are going to do it - we go to the drawing board! Here the tinkerers can see what types of metal stock we have and can draw out their designs showing how they want to use it and how much they'll need!
For some people figuring out what to make is the hardest thing they'll do all day.
When a design has formed and at least two pieces exist - we can go weld them together!
Another tricky part of welding is figuring out how to keep your pieces where you want them so that you can weld them together, plus they have to stay part of the electric circuit. We have magnets and clamps and creativity to help us out.
Today everyone wanted to make tiny little detailed objects - something REALLY hard to do!
In addition to figuring out the right pacing, distance, circle width and a bunch of other finicky details to weld we also accidentally welded our projects to the table super well and stuck our projects to the welding wire!
Post welding there are some other fun tools we get to use: the angle grinder to quickly polish and shape your pieces, a file to slowly polish and shape, and Niki got out the wrenches to lock his wheels on the truck he made!
By the end of the day everyone had created a project (or 3) they were excited to take home!
Our brief tool trainings this morning set these tinkerers up to try harder than usual and learn from their mistakes all day long - which makes for confident clampers, drillers and sawyers by the end of the day!
The challenge for the day was to create a set-up to trick our families into think we cut someone in half! Our ideas started out pretty practical and then slowly got weirder and weirder.
I can't explain the schematic to you because a magician never tells, but I think you can tell how ambitious and complex we got.
Then it was finally time to build:
By about this part of the day, we all started to realize that the project had started to turn into something else we didn't quite mean to make. We had several compartments for different body parts to be displayed and we were planning on stacking them on top of one another...... but then what?
When our time had run out - we took a moment to rest and reflect on the whole day: each kid got a piece of paper and drew or wrote about a moment when they had accomplished one of the Tinkering School goals: Collaborating with others, Making mistakes and learning from them, Trying harder than usual, and Building something bigger than ourselves. Everyone was excited that they had accomplished at least one of those and a lot of kids drew pictures for each goal!
Sophie shared that everyone was so nice and friendly that she ended up working with everyone and lots of fun!
Alisa shared that she kept forgetting to change her drill settings for the job she was doing and eventually remembered to switch the drill speed between drilling holes and driving screws!
Our Safety Check with kids observing while Collaborators strategically increased stress on the different levels of our stack resulted in tinkerers allowed on the leg level and the torso level, but the compartment made to display a head was too tall with not enough stability for any real heads to fill it.
So! Romeo made us a fake head and everyone took turns being the legs and torso of what turned out to be a giant tinkerer made of the smaller ones!
Unfortunately - we lost the photos of the kids and the project, so here are the Collaborators working together to demonstrate our finale result :).
I think the most magical part of this project was that by the end of the day the project had morphed from an illusion into the best metaphor for "Building something bigger than ourselves" we've built yet.
Another Tinkering season has begun!!!!!
Today was our first One Day Workshop of the '16/'17 school year!
We spent the first part of the morning getting to know each other by inventing Candy Bats and asking each other what kind of candy you'd be made of if you were a Candy Bat - then learning how to use the saw, drills and clamps!
Then time for snack and a challenge!
Todays the day Pterodactyl! You're getting hugged! Todays tinkerers are going to figure out how to meet you up there in the rafters and give you some love!
We worked hard all day.
We worked together all day.
We got to hug a Pterodactyl today.
After a good amount of saying it was going to happen, the first 2016 Rotor Workshop happened! Five kids walked away with drones that they built and flew and epically crashed.
(All of the drones survived)
DAY 1 - Our goal for the day one, was to have five fully assembled drones for testing, tuning, and flying on day two.
Step one when building a drone: Unbox Your Parts!
After a brief introduction, we started with a Christmas morning-like unboxing of parts, then we split up into two groups. The soldering group and the assembly group.
Soldering, which was only supposed to take about an hour, took up 3/4 of our day due to three of our irons breaking! In this step, all of the main power wires were connected to the power distribution boards so that the bottom plates of the frames could be attached to the rest of the drones.
Meanwhile, the assembly team screwed in their motors, attached their flight controllers, and their receivers. The motor mounting was extremely tricky due to the crazy alignment. Celebration was appropriate when all of the motors were mounted! :)
We took a break for lunch then swapped teams. And at 2:00, we had our first drone power on!
And after some more soldering, fitting, and mounting, we had five fully assembled almost ready-to-fly drones at pickup time!
On day two, we jumped right into tuning and testing. Once again we split up into two groups, tuning and testing.
The tuning team went with Max, and got started programming their flight controllers. Doing this step ahead of time would allow us to have more flight time...we thought.
About halfway through tuning the first drone, we realized that the radio controllers would not work due to the pitch and roll axis being reversed. We tried our hardest to get them working, but unfortunately they just wouldn't work.
While two collaborators frantically tried to get them working, everyone else continued tuning and testing their drones.
Every drone got thrown onto the ground to ensure that they were strong, and that all the soldering connections were solid. And finally, after all the drones were tested and tuned, we went flying!
We had an amazing weekend unboxing, assembling, soldering, zip-tying, glueing, flying, and crashing with everyone and can't wait until the next!!!
We were ever so lucky to end our 2015/2016 workshop season with a packed All- Girls Workshop.
We had an great opening circle where we got to know each other by asking "What's the heaviest or most awkward thing you've picked up?" A lot of us have tried to pick up our parents. Once everyone is feeling a little more comfortable in the space and with their new friends it's time to meet the tools!
Then it's time to talk about the project!
As we were settling in to announce the project and start designing I over heard one girl sharing with another "We ran a 5k!" I was pretty impressed, wrote it down and asked everyone what else they do. We quickly had a really great list of things that girls do:
And it was pretty obvious to all of us that girls, if you take all of the ones that exist in the world, do everything. Which is exactly what our project was going to be: a Beyoncé inspired "Who Run da World? Girls!!" For that we needed a World and something to make it Run.
The kids quickly solved the problem of how to rotate a World - hang from some rope and spin it. It was so simple, so quick and so easy. What would we do the rest of the day?! Go watch the Carnival parade!?
Girls are the best.
We decided that we could think of some more complex ideas and try them, just for fun. The hanging rope could be a back up support for testing trickier mechanisms.
By the end of the Design Session we had a World team, a Pyramid stand team, and a Spinning base team. The best part of the design selection is that we had varying levels of complexity and if they all were completed we could combine them all together!
Time to combine our tool skills and make stuff!
The World decided to make a inner frame and then use wire to create a round outer layer.
The Pyramid team had some complicated angles to figure out and also a stability puzzle to solve!
The Spinning Base group decided we wanted a circle and lots of wheels! Then some handles for all of the girls to spin the World together!
When we had run out of time at the end of the day The World was a really epic frame that looked like a huge jack.
The Pyramid team had finally figured out how to make their angles and supports work, but didn't have enough time to put it together.
The Spinning Base was spinning and had lots of strings for a lot of girls to help rotate it, but we hadn't tested how strong it was and that World looked heavy!
At closing circle everyone shared the challenges that their group faced and how they had collaborated. Today we had a lot of kids floating between projects and helping out each group, which was really cool to see.
We got the World safely clamped to the Spinning Base and as one of the girls pointed out - they walked the world around - so we sent them out into the larger world to run that one.
Watching David Attenborough's new series Africa inspired the collaborators to propose building an elephant as today's one day workshop project! The tinkerers were also stoked on this idea, so today we tried to build the eponymous Attenborough's San Francisco Gray Elephant (Loxodonta attenboria sub. sanfrancisca).
Before building could begin, we had some tool training in the use of drills and the chop saws, during which some old hands and some new ones alike learned and demonstrated the safe use of the tools. Here, an old friend provides an excellent example of the kind of focus that is necessary when using power tools - his entire world clearly consists of himself and the cut he is making.
After tool training, we got straight into design. The more we thought about it, the more challenging this particular project seemed. One goal we had was to make the trunk highly articulate, capable of twisting and moving just like a flesh and blood elephant's trunk. Recreating the shape of an elephant also promised to be a unique challenge.
Below, some members of the head and trunk team talk through their fourth or fifth round of ideas about how to build the head and trunk.
After a solid design period, full of ideas, discussion, and design iterations, we got started building! We decided to build the head by creating a truncated (get it? trunk-ated?) pyramid out of wood as a frame. We planned to attach wire to this internal frame and sculpt it into the shape of an elephant's head, while also using the frame as a solid attachment point for the neck and trunk. However, it turned out that building a small truncated pyramid from 1x2s is a more complex task than we initially thought, and this took longer than planned. That's great, though! We learned something about how hard it is to accurately estimate task completion times.
Below, two tinkerers conceptually test our trunk design:
We decided to make the trunk from small blocks of wood with ball and socket joints. This required end boring those tiny blocks on the drill press to create the sockets for the steel ball bearings. The team took to this precision task with great ability, and quickly produced all the parts we needed to make our trunk. We originally planned to join the trunk segments with rubber bands that would act like ligaments, holding the sections together across the joints while allowing free movement, but when we couldn't find any rubber bands, we got creative and used wire instead.
Overall, the day went by quickly, and we were out of build time sooner than we would have liked. The body team also faced some unique design challenges in trying to recreate the shape of an elephant, and after much discussion eventually settled on a design that used an internal frame of wood and rope that was going to support a paper skin.
The head team also ran out of time, but managed to get a first iteration developed. If we had had more time, we think we could have made a really lifelike elephant with a fully articulated trunk! As it was, though, this was an awesome day full of incredibly creative ideas and excellent collaborative development. We think we did David Attenborough proud!
We start every weekend with a good ol' tool training session so everyone can know how to use our tools. We covered building strong joints with screws and making one piece of wood into two by the way of compound miter saws.
Afterwards, we set our sights on the project: to build our own hyperloop (which is a super-fast train)!
We generated tons of ideas for how we could make this happen and things we need to make happen.
To make our tunnel, we set to work knocking out the bottom of barrels. This was a VERY LOUD PROCESS.
One team decided to work on the tunnel — one that was at an angle to let gravity propel the train car.
Another team set to building the train car itself - something small enough to be in the tunnel but light and strong enough to be tested.
Another team was working on a gravity/pulley launching system. There was difficulty adding a eyebolt to a wood beam used as an anchor. We put all the heavy things from the shop on top of the beam.
It still failed, even with a railroad track, cement block, and a bag of rocks! We tried to add more things to see how it would work for our final test.
Our last step was band-sawing some plywood into a road surface inside the tunnel. But we couldn't get it to stay in place in the tunnel before our day ended.
And for our test....
There were sparks flyin' at Tinkering School today...eight girls walked out of the building this afternoon with new skills under their belts. They're welders, now!
The welding workshops are pretty different than the wood-based One-Day Workshops... because, well, metal is much different than wood. Also! Unlike our more team-built wooden projects, welding is really hard to play as a team sport.
This means a few things:
- We have to translate our Tinkering School goals (building something bigger than yourself, learning from failure, collaborating and making friends, and trying harder than usual) into a curriculum where solo technical skills are being practiced. (Today, we admitted that really, welding workshops are all about failing once, failing twice - failing a lot of times - and learning from those mistakes!)
- Also, the kids are (usually) making individual projects. (Which makes the failure goal kinda hard. Hey kid, get really attached to this project -- and oh, by the way, you're probably going to fail at making it.)
- And! Even though these are solo jams, we gotta share the equipment. We have 3 welders to share. This means a lot of the day's learning is based on watching other people try really, really hard.
By the end of the day, everyone had transformed a pile of steel scraps into a unique project of their own design. Many of the welders used the drill press to drill holes into their work, and most of them used the grinder to smooth edges, cut off small pieces of steel, and correct mistakes. Oh, and everyone made loads of mistakes! We even had a chance at the end of the afternoon to share our favorite mistakes of the day. This unique opportunity to normalize failure as a crucial part of the learning process is one of the things we value most at Tinkering School.
Via the collective mistakes of the day, these new welders learned that:
- Freshly welded metal is hot to touch
- We should always remember to pull our hoods down before starting to weld and drape the welder over the table when we're done, so as to not accidentally pull the trigger!
- The drill press speed needs to be adjusted for different drill bits
- Sometimes you can grind your welding project into two pieces by accident
- Sometimes you might weld your steel pieces into the wrong place. It's okay to start over.
- Mistakes are normal and useful and great.
- They could make cool, functional, and whacky stuff out of steel (!!!)
You can check out even more awesome photos from the day by checking out our Flickr album.
I got to spend my Sunday with seven rad girls who were really excited about building some awesome stuff. This is usually the first sentence of any All Girls Workshop blog that I write, and today was, of course, no different! However -- the thing that made today especially unique, was that I didn't really have any idea what the thing we were building actually looked like.
Actually, let me back up. This sounds no different than usual. In these workshops, the Collaborators come up with a rough theme before the kids arrive, and then during the workshop the kids are the visionaries of the project. They tell us what it should look like and how to make it, and we jump in where we can help and also provide technical advice to make the thing safely come to life.
So, let me clarify. When Lindsay, Caroline, and I sat down and tried to think of the workshop theme, Lindsay and Caroline said "Let's make an angler fish!" And Amanda said, "I don't know what that looks like. How am I going to help lead this?" They both tried to describe what the thing looked like, and after their description, I had a general idea, but still couldn't quite associate a visual with all those words.
I asked the kids to make an angler fish today so that I could forever associate a visual with the description.
This is what happened:
Thanks, Friends. I am forever going to associate this visual with "angler fish"!