Tinkering School

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Concepts Are Tools, Too.

One Day WorkshopsSean MurrayComment

Today at Tinkering School, we got to do something really special: a one-day workshop just for teenagers. 

Instead of our usual tool training, which focuses on the actual use of the chopsaw and drills, we had a "conceptual tool training", where we went over three mental tools useful to any builder working on any project in any medium:

1. PART-MAKING--How to set up a process that can quickly, easily make exact (enough) copies of a given part (like segments that made up the two 16-sided polygons that were our "wheels")

Zeke picks out gussets, next to the stack of wheel segments.

Zeke picks out gussets, next to the stack of wheel segments.

2. CHECK-FIXTURES--How to make tools to ensure that all of the parts get assembled ina  given relationship

Check fixtures make sure that wheel segments are joined at 22.5deg.

Check fixtures make sure that wheel segments are joined at 22.5deg.

3. SUB-ASSEMBLIES--How to combine standard parts into larger, more complex parts, and eventual a whole. 

We assemble wheel segments and gussets into "two-zies", then "two-zies" into "four-zies", then "four-zies" into "eight-zies"....

We assemble wheel segments and gussets into "two-zies", then "two-zies" into "four-zies", then "four-zies" into "eight-zies"....

We picked a project that would be complex and subtle enough to challenge more veteran builders: a human-sized hamster wheel.

We started by making the two most basic parts: wheel segments and the gussets to connect them.

Mac and Sean roll the "sixteen-zy". It flexes a bunch, and will obviously require spokes!

Mac and Sean roll the "sixteen-zy". It flexes a bunch, and will obviously require spokes!

We also needed check fixtures, to make sure that the wheel segments were put together in such a way that 16 of them would form a circle-ish-enough polygon.

Zeke does quality control, sawing off bits that compromise the "circle-ish-ness" of the polygon.

Zeke does quality control, sawing off bits that compromise the "circle-ish-ness" of the polygon.

After we'd made two circles, we strengthened them with hubs and spokes...

...then connected the two circles with parts we called "treads".

Installing the treads--we used yet another check fixture to make sure the treads were installed dead perpendicular to the wheel.

Installing the treads--we used yet another check fixture to make sure the treads were installed dead perpendicular to the wheel.

We were very thoughtful about how we distributed our small (seven!) team, and did a great job avoiding bottlenecks and keeping value flowing into the project.

Awesome teamwork--clampers and fetchers outside the wheel, installers inside the wheel.

Awesome teamwork--clampers and fetchers outside the wheel, installers inside the wheel.

In all, the hamster wheel really only had 7 distinct parts! 

Julian on an "un-aided voyage"--we're only spotting him, he's providing all the power and speed control. A brave young man.

Julian on an "un-aided voyage"--we're only spotting him, he's providing all the power and speed control. A brave young man.

Big thanks to David C. for spreading the word about this workshop!

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