Tinkering School

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Who Run Da World!? Girls!!

All Girls, Interactive, Narrative, Open Ended Design, Super SillyLindsay JonesComment

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!

 Chopsaw!

Chopsaw!

 Clamps!

Clamps!

 Drills!

Drills!

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.

 These tinkerers are brain storming how to make a globe.

These tinkerers are brain storming how to make a globe.

 Another team made a list of things that spin to get some inspiration from.

Another team made a list of things that spin to get some inspiration from.

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.

:)

Building an Elephant from the Ground Up - One Day Workshop

Aesthetic Challenge, Direct Provocation, Mechanical, NarrativeEvan BarnesComment

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! 

Hyperloopin One-Day-Workshop

Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Mechanical, Problem Solving, Physics, Rope, Tinkering ChallengeJay SimpsonComment

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....

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One Day Welding Workshop - All Girls

All Girls, Metal, Technical Skills, WeldingCaroline ScanlanComment

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:

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

What's An Angler Fish? All Girls Workshop

All Girls, Direct Provocation, Narrative, Super Silly, Aesthetic ChallengeAmanda SimonsComment

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. 

Perfect!

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:

 We brainstormed and made individual drawings of the fish critter. From there, we figured out what all the illustrations had in common. 

We brainstormed and made individual drawings of the fish critter. From there, we figured out what all the illustrations had in common. 

 And then, we picked a place to start. Because the materials we were working with were really good at making cubey things and not real great at making round things, we started with a cube for a fish body. After the cube, we could easily add on. 

And then, we picked a place to start. Because the materials we were working with were really good at making cubey things and not real great at making round things, we started with a cube for a fish body. After the cube, we could easily add on. 

 Building the cube meant we had to learn about other tools along the way. Clamp training was done as we went along. We also used some assembly squares to help keep right angles and hold the wood in place. 

Building the cube meant we had to learn about other tools along the way. Clamp training was done as we went along. We also used some assembly squares to help keep right angles and hold the wood in place. 

 It's worth noting that a 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot cube is actually quite big and awkward to move around. 

It's worth noting that a 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot cube is actually quite big and awkward to move around. 

 This fish has jaws, and that meant movement. We chose some hinges to help out -- or, rather, to help us make mistakes. The jaw was actually quite tricky to attach, and the jaw-making team had to redo the hinge placement three times before arriving at a functional solution. 

This fish has jaws, and that meant movement. We chose some hinges to help out -- or, rather, to help us make mistakes. The jaw was actually quite tricky to attach, and the jaw-making team had to redo the hinge placement three times before arriving at a functional solution. 

 In the end, the Tinkerers decided to get eaten by the fish. 

In the end, the Tinkerers decided to get eaten by the fish. 

 And, I present to you... Angler Fish! (Complete with disco light attachment). 

And, I present to you... Angler Fish! (Complete with disco light attachment). 

Thanks, Friends. I am forever going to associate this visual with "angler fish"!

Check out more angles of our awesome Angler Fish by browsing Flickr!

Quick, the giants are coming! Launch the pancakes!!!

Direct Provocation, Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Mechanical, Open Ended Solution, Super Silly, Unusual MaterialsJay SimpsonComment

THIS WAS THE MOMENT WE WERE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO! ... to test our pancake launcher against the mean, hungry giants!

So how did we get here? Well, it was a super productive day right from the very beginning. Like every Tinkering School workshop, we start out with tool trainings. Below, we all got to use the compound miter saw (aka chop saw). 

We also practiced drilling! Here's Zen crushing it.

After tool training we dove right into project design. We heard a crazy story about creatures who lived here long ago and their fight against giants! To survive, they had to fling pancakes at them! So how were we going to prepare for the giants? How would we fling our pancakes???

We came up with a ton of ideas:

And ultimately decided on a catapult, broke into teams, and got started!

We were super stoked to also learn how to use the circular saw! YEAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Henry: "We probably don't need this." 
Me: "Yep, you're right."
LOLs

Here's almost everyone lending a hand so we could thread our axel across the supports. So cool to see it all coming together!

Entire group: "We need something super heavy to weigh it down!"
Me: "How about this segment of railroad track?"
(Places track in)
Me: "How do we feel about this? Is this safe?"
EVERYONE: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"

We changed the weight to be a stack of wood screwed into the base.

We needed targets. Grace drew us a cheetah.

Zen drew a vampire.

So how did it turn out??? Watch below!

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Sea Level Rise Proof Pizza Party - One Day Workshop

Narrative, Open Ended Solution, Super Silly, Great BlogCaroline ScanlanComment

Imagine this: the Earth is the getting warmer. The sea levels are rising. San Francisco is slowly flooding with salty water. The Twin Peaks are turning into the Twin Islands. The Mission is currently sitting under six feet of San Francisco Bay. And yet...we still want to be able to hold a pizza party! 

Today, we imagined what we might build in order to throw a Sea Level Rise Proof Pizza Party!

But first, before practiced using the essential tools in the Tinkering School Shop! Drills! Chopsaws!

After unleashing our whacky theme for the day, each tinkerer had the chance to brainstorm their own individual solutions to this particular pizza-party-over-a-rising-sea challenge! Everyone shared their thoughts with the group before we narrowed down a concrete design and plan to start building

Check out all of these fun ideas! As a team, we collected so many!

Here's what the final blue print looked like - an eight foot tower with a pizza party platform on top:

We split up into two groups - the tower team and the platform team - and we built, built, built!

TOWER TEAM

Squares, and vertical beams, and ladder rungs, and diagonal supports for structural stability! 

PLATFORM TEAM

A plywood base and vertical railings for safety!

RESETTING THE SHOP

REFLECTING ON OUR DAY

AND PUTING IT ALL TOGETHER!

One Day Welding Workshop

Welding, Metal, Technical SkillsAmanda SimonsComment

The Welding Workshops are by far my favorite. They are much 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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. 

These constants are challenges, and they make the workshops interesting for both the Collaborators and the Tinkerers. Challenging, interesting -- but so fun and fulfilling. 

Because I like lists almost as much as I like Welding Workshops, here are some of my favorite moments:

  1. Watching someone who's never welded before lay down their first bead of metal.
  2. Telling the welder that they messed up, and then asking them to figure out why.
  3. Explaining that this is a process about practicing how to hold your body and not about making things.
  4. Helping kids use really strong magnets when everything around the magnets is steel.
  5. Brushing off a fresh weld and watching it change color.
  6. Seeing all the cool stuff (that I would never think to make!) get made in such a short period of time.  
  7. Witnessing how excited everyone always is at the end of the day. This is a really tough skill to do well, and again today, everyone rocked it!

Check out all the photos from the day by browsing our Flickr Album!

Spherical Squares

Prototyping, Open Ended Design, Super Silly, Tinkering Challenge, Aesthetic ChallengeLindsay JonesComment

We start tinkering mornings off with getting to know the space...

the tools...

and each other.  

We try and build opportunities to practice working together and asking and giving help into our tool trainings, so that when we get down to work all of those things come a little easier.

This workshop's project was a pretty tricky challenge. So tricky that I heard a kid say, "This is impossible!"  We were going to try and make a sphere out of squares and cubes!

After talking as a group through some of the ideas that first came to mind, everyone felt more confident that we could probably figure this out and we each drew up a design. Then we all shared our ideas with the group and grouped them into similar designs. We still had a long list of options, so the group decided that we should pick 2 designs based on simplicity, because we were running out of building time!

 Designs so far: Snowflake, Layer-Cube, Waffles. Caspar explains his design, which we call Support-Ice creamcone.

Designs so far: Snowflake, Layer-Cube, Waffles. Caspar explains his design, which we call Support-Ice creamcone.

The grand plan was to build one hemisphere out of the Cube-Snowflake design and another hemisphere out of the Cube-Layer design and then if all went well we could combine them together into one Sphere!

To work!

 Rin and Belle work together to collect wood that is the size we need and is already cut from previous projects!

Rin and Belle work together to collect wood that is the size we need and is already cut from previous projects!

 Casper, Alex and Evan figure out how to use the clamps and a square to make a nice square corner.

Casper, Alex and Evan figure out how to use the clamps and a square to make a nice square corner.

Each group had to continuously assess their project to make sure their plan was working, if it wasn't they made adjustments!

Team Cube-Snowflake realized mid building, that they should connect their inner-mini-cube to the big one, so that it didn't move around. They also worked really well together in a tight space to get the mini-cube finished, while communicating with each other to share tools and materials, and not accidentally hurt each other!

Team Cube-Layer had to figure out what sizes the different cubes needed to be and then the best way to attach them together.

Towards the end of the day the Cube-Snowflake team realized that they needed to add the snowflake - the key part of making it look spherical, but we were running out of time!! We decided to clamp the flake arms on and just use long scraps, attaching them where they looked best, instead of cutting specific lengths of wood, which would take a long time.

 Team Cube-Layer assembles their 2 biggest layers at the end of the day.

Team Cube-Layer assembles their 2 biggest layers at the end of the day.

The Cube-Layer team worked together to attach the two biggest layers together, and already had the pieces cut for two more layers, but we were out of time!!!

 Team Cube-Snowflake discuss how spherical their design actually turned out.

Team Cube-Snowflake discuss how spherical their design actually turned out.

At the end of the day we were all sad that we had run out of time, because each group was feeling really good about how their designs were looking and they had ideas for what their next steps would be if they had 5 more minutes, 30 more minutes, or even 3 more hours!

We had figured out how to do the impossible!!!

Time to Build a Giant Spider!

Super Silly, Unusual Materials, Problem SolvingJay SimpsonComment

Because, I ask you, why not?!?

This was a great, whacky, weekend workshop. Tons of fun ideas, lots of time spent building, and we did so many things! We'll start from the beginning...

After getting to know each other and learning the Tinkering School goals and community agreements, we got to know the tools — namely, the chop saw (compound miter saw) and the power drills. Then we dove into project design and conceptual tinkering!

After some sketching, we realized that one of our ideas — to control the movement of the spider from inside its barrel body — needed to be tested. How many kids can really fit in a barrel?? One. (Really). After we made our plans we attacked the wood and got started!

Our teams started making legs, cutting a face for the slider out of plywood, and making a spider-silk spool to go on the spider body. 

Lastly, we worked together to make all of our legs attach to the barrel body. 

Unfortunately, we didn't finish our spider (so it looked like a squashed spider) but we had a great time working right up until the end of our presentation and sharing circle!

Our final thoughts from today: "ALL of it was fun!" Building a giant spider certainly fun, mistakes happened, and we all had a great time building! 

 

School Improvements - One Day Workshop

Open Ended Design, Mechanical, Direct Provocation, Great Blog, Problem SolvingJay SimpsonComment

As every Tinkering School workshop begins, we learn about making one piece of wood into two, and taking two pieces of wood and fixing them together! We even did strength testing to put our projects to the test!

If you've ever been to Tinkering School, you'll know that our workshop is a special space, built by collaborators and tinkerers alike. Its colorful, wonky, and totally unique. You may have also found out that it is a perpetual work-in-progress—always changing and improving! Today, we set out with a group of awesome tinkerers to make our storage area safer (railings! what a totally rad and safe idea!) and better (a storage elevator to help us lift things to the second floor storage!). 

Our designing process got really deep and complex! We came up with all sorts of ideas and really thought them through as we shared our proposals. Ultimately, we used a bunch of our ideas together to make a rough plan.

Then we got to building! One project was to make something maybe never done before at Tinkering School: use lap joints to make 8ft lumber into 12ft lumber! So awesome to see. We also built the base of our elevator.

Are you wondering "what is a lap joint?" Well, one version of it is joining two pieces of wood that are cut like the photo below, helping the wood be longer but not adding any extra width or depth to the joint! 

 Take two of these (stacked to face each other), some wood glue, and a bunch of screws and guess what - you have a lap joint!

Take two of these (stacked to face each other), some wood glue, and a bunch of screws and guess what - you have a lap joint!

While we were working, another group was working away on the railing project. Instantly someone shared "triangles are the strongest shape - we should make lots of Xs!" From there, they got cutting and then laid out the railing on the floor to double check their work. Brilliant!  

As a bonus today, we got to use the circular saw to make some plywood cuts! So awesome to use so many different types of tools today.

And while our elevator didn't come to completion, our railing did — which is totally rad and will help keep future tinkerers (and collaborators) safe!!! AWESOME!!

Tie those shoes! - One Day Workshop - All Girls - 4.9.2016

All Girls, Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Open Ended SolutionPiper AlldredgeComment

I think it's important to point out that the brainstorm for this workshop started a bit like this.

Suffice it to say, we LOVE all girls workshops! They're such a great introduction to the space, materials, instructors and pedagogy here at 1960 Bryant St., and today was no exception. 

We decided to go with a challenge for today's workshop: tie a pair of shoes from 10' away. Holy woah. 

The day started like any other: some coffee talk around the nametag table, then we spent some time practicing with the tools we'd be using for the rest of the day.

 Lily mindfully practices using the chopsaw.

Lily mindfully practices using the chopsaw.

 All of us practicing drillz together.

All of us practicing drillz together.

Then we ate some snacks and talked about tying shoes from far away and then started playing with rope and chopsticks to see if we could tie shoes with less than 5 fingers. It was pretty silly and fun!

 Lindsay, Amanda, Olivia and Anna try to tie a length of paracord around a water bottle just using pencils as chopsticks.

Lindsay, Amanda, Olivia and Anna try to tie a length of paracord around a water bottle just using pencils as chopsticks.

 At some point we decided we should actually decide what the steps are to tie shoelaces.

At some point we decided we should actually decide what the steps are to tie shoelaces.

We decided that we needed to split into two teams: one to work on making 'hands,' and one to work on making a structure to support the hands and arms. Then we got to work!

 Olivia, Beatrice and Sophia figure out what the hands actually need to do: grab, pinch, and stick. 

Olivia, Beatrice and Sophia figure out what the hands actually need to do: grab, pinch, and stick. 

 Here's an early design drawing of the structure to hold the 'arms.'

Here's an early design drawing of the structure to hold the 'arms.'

After eating some lunch, we got back to work, and got down to the real down and dirty of tying knots with (basically) long sticks. In the end, what we really needed to do was PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. 

 Olivia and Sophia became veritable pros at tying knots using long sticks!

Olivia and Sophia became veritable pros at tying knots using long sticks!

 Meanwhile, Anna, Rhea, Lindsay and Lily finished up assembling the 'shoulders.'

Meanwhile, Anna, Rhea, Lindsay and Lily finished up assembling the 'shoulders.'

 Lily finishes up adding some supports to the frame of the shoulders.

Lily finishes up adding some supports to the frame of the shoulders.

After working really hard on all of the pieces, we upgraded from short to long chopsticks, and had loads of time to practice trying really hard to tie knots using our long chopsticks.

 Sophia, Amanda, Olivia and Beatrice try to pass the loop through to finish up tying my shoes. It was so great how so many girls jumped in to help lift up the weight of the chopsticks to help the lace-tiers out. 

Sophia, Amanda, Olivia and Beatrice try to pass the loop through to finish up tying my shoes. It was so great how so many girls jumped in to help lift up the weight of the chopsticks to help the lace-tiers out. 

You can see SO MANY MORE pictures from the day on our flickr--check it out!

All Girls Welding Workshop!

All Girls, Welding, Super Silly, MetalPiper AlldredgeComment

The first workshop I ever helped at here at the Tinkering School was a welding workshop, so they hold a special place in my heart. Sparks fly, kids are on the edge of their seats, ears perked, super interested in what exactly is happening when that special yellow-green light is glowing. All Girls Welding Workshops are extra special, because I think they get really close to so many of our goals: nix the jargon, learn a technical skill, and practice so many social emotional skills along the way. 

 Lulu (and Ava!) with her giraffe and tree sculpture. Lulu is a welding regular; she started this sculpture at her last workshop a few weeks ago, and brought the head back today to finish making the body.

Lulu (and Ava!) with her giraffe and tree sculpture. Lulu is a welding regular; she started this sculpture at her last workshop a few weeks ago, and brought the head back today to finish making the body.

We started the day with a quick safety overview: heat, UV rays, and electricity. Assume all metal you see is hot today! Give it a quick wave with your hand before touching it. Wear your safety glasses all day! Even at lunch, because UV rays are invisible. While there is a whole lot of electricity moving from one end of this circuit to the other, it's actually pretty hard to get yourself into the circuit. Everybody, make sure to stay dry during this welding workshop, and we should be good. Also, ask your kiddo about the amperage:cars, voltage:road talk. It's one of my favorites to give!

Then, we got started with the real meat of the day: trying welding (some for the first time!), designing a project and getting to work!

 Abby, Marisol, Audrey and Amanda get ready for their first times welding.

Abby, Marisol, Audrey and Amanda get ready for their first times welding.

 Sophie measures some pieces of 1/2" square tube to see if they will work for her table.

Sophie measures some pieces of 1/2" square tube to see if they will work for her table.

Today was so awesome for this reason: everyone got so much welding done! With 3 welding stations, 9 kiddos was a great number. One welding, 2 on deck. While on deck, kiddos needed to figure out how to setup their work in order to be ready go when their turn arrived. We explained at the beginning of the day that about 90% of welding is just getting your work and your body setup and ready to weld. This means using magnets, clamps, other pieces of metal to, whenever possible, weld in the direction of gravity (flat position) and thinking about where you will rest your non-dominant arm to stabilize your had that is holding the welding gun. These kiddos really took this to heart, and thought through their setup instead of grabbing for the trigger. While this takes a bit of time, it meant we could move through turns really efficiently, which meant kids got lots of time on the welder. Yay!

 Addy and Evan working on her pencil box.

Addy and Evan working on her pencil box.

 Audrey working on her box; it may or may not help her get her room organized.

Audrey working on her box; it may or may not help her get her room organized.

Then, at the end of the day, everyone did an amazing job helping us clean up. A few even helped us grind the tables clean to be ready for our next welding workshop! Today was the best. What can I say, we really really did it today!

Check out more pictures from today on our Flickr!

 

Crazy Creature!!! One-Day Workshop

Cardboard, Unusual Materials, Open Ended Design, Super SillyCaroline ScanlanComment

Today was the day that we decided to build a CRAZY CREATURE!!!

Recently, a mysterious shipment of large cardboard cargo barrels arrived at the Tinkering School. We've been wondering what on Earth do with them...and today we were hit with a stroke of inspiration upon learning that they were once, in fact, used to transport specimens to The California Academy of Sciences. So Cool! We decided to build a specimen of our own out of those big barrels: a CRAZY CREATURE!!!

We held a design meeting and imagined what it would be like to have different tinkerers working on the three major parts of the creature: Top, Bottom, and Support/Spine. After an initial brainstorm, each tinkerer spent a quiet 10 minutes crafting an initial design for this crazy barrel chimera creature. 

We then split into three build teams, shared our ideas, and decided on a plan. 

Finally, we GOT TINKERING!

TEAM BOTTOM

Design: Hinged legs + feet as well as a braided tail!

TEAM TOP

Design: four folding lever arms, operated by strings that can be pulled from the middle of the creature!

TEAM SPINE/SUPPORT

Design: a central spine attached to a rolling, 4-wheeled base!

Unfortunately we didn't have time to attach all of our appendages and crazy contraptions to the barrel before the day was done.

We did, howeverhave an awesome time explaining our process and our tinkering to the parents who showed up at the end of the day. We may never know what this crazy creature would have looked like with all of its parts put together...but some projects are just better that way :)

BUILDTIONARY-One Day All-Girls Workshop

All Girls, Open Ended Design, Unusual MaterialsRachel EconomyComment

Today, we built a California Bumblebee Disco Ball with Eyebrows and Spirals.

 

You know, like usual. Just another creative, wacky day at the Tinkering School!

 

In fact, as far as I know, we have never before built a Californian Bumblebee Disco Ball with Eyebrows and Spirals. Perhaps no one has! We could be the first.

 

The way this wild and amazing amalgam came about was as follows: it was a rainy Sunday. We wound up with a very small and very hard-working group for our all-girls workshop. We sat down at a table after tool training, and we filled a hat with slips of paper. On those slips of paper were words- all the words we could think of.

 

Then, throughout the day and starting with our first design session, we pulled words from the hat, adding them to our design prompt and our tinkering.

First, it was a Disco Ball Bumblebee.

 

 

Then, it was a Disco Ball Bumblebee with Spirals and Eyebrows.

 

 Teamwork on the bandsaw brake!

Teamwork on the bandsaw brake!

 

And finally, as the day was drawing to a close, the eyebrows were cut carefully on the bandsaw (out of wood- no actual eyebrows were harmed in the process), and the glittering mirrors were affixed to the body of the bee, we found out that the bee was from California.

 

 

This game of pictionary-turned-buildtionary kept every tinkerer and collaborator engaged, thinking on our toes, and having to re-imagine and re-negotiate throughout the day. It also added a delicious mystery, anticipation, and surprise to a grey Sunday. Each tinkerer got to use a large number of tools and materials, and at the end, our parents and families came in to try to guess what it was we had built. 



One Day Welding Workshop!

Welding, Open Ended Design, MetalPiper AlldredgeComment

We love our welding workshops SO much. Kids get their hands on tools and materials that they might not ever use otherwise, and develop an understanding and appreciation for the built world around them. 

 Amanda goes over some basics of how the welders work. We practice flux-cored arc welding at our welding workshops. This process works well for us because its versatile enough, and we don't have to worry about cylinders or gas shielding. 

Amanda goes over some basics of how the welders work. We practice flux-cored arc welding at our welding workshops. This process works well for us because its versatile enough, and we don't have to worry about cylinders or gas shielding. 

We start the day with a quick check-in and introduction--this time sharing a story of a time each of us made a mistake. Because guess what: today we're basically going to spend the whole day making mistakes! This skill-based workshop is so different from our other programming. It allows us to really focus on goal number 3, "Learn from mistakes and failures." Then we talked about our main safety concerns for the day: heat, UV rays, and electricity. Then, we got started welding, duh!

 David's first weld with Piper!

David's first weld with Piper!

After taking a stab at some of their first welds (or brushing up on skills for returning welders!), kiddos spent some time thinking about what they'd like to make. Another thing that makes welding workshops different is that each attendee works on an individual project that they get to take home at the end of the day. Yay! 

 Lulu carefully stabilizes her body with one elbow resting on the welding table so that she can make a longer weld.

Lulu carefully stabilizes her body with one elbow resting on the welding table so that she can make a longer weld.

 Lily's design for a chandelier involved drilling holes so that the 'gems' hanging from her chandelier could be attached with cord and dangle nicely. She learned how to change the speed on the drill press too!

Lily's design for a chandelier involved drilling holes so that the 'gems' hanging from her chandelier could be attached with cord and dangle nicely. She learned how to change the speed on the drill press too!

 Anastasia shows off the dragon she made! At first, she thought this project might be a little too big, but with a boost of confidence from some collaborators, and some outside the box thinking about the design, she really made it happen. We can't wait for her to come back to attach the wings!

Anastasia shows off the dragon she made! At first, she thought this project might be a little too big, but with a boost of confidence from some collaborators, and some outside the box thinking about the design, she really made it happen. We can't wait for her to come back to attach the wings!

Check out our flickr for more pictures from the day! 

All Girls Welding Workshop!!

Welding, All Girls, Problem Solving, Open Ended DesignLindsay JonesComment

 

Today was a good day.

One girl even said that we should call this Fashion Workshop instead of Welding Workshop, because of the fabulous gear and grime smudges we were all wearing.

Welding workshops are a little different than our regular workshops, they are ALL about mistakes. That's basically what we do the whole day, is mess up over and over again.

These kids were excited and afraid and went for it! They asked for help when they needed it and worked on their own when they could.

Everybody really focused and got lots of time at the welders. At the end of the day we had some unique picture frames, platforms, shelves, and presents for little brothers!

Woo Welding!



Swivel Bridge!

Problem Solving, Tinkering Challenge, Engineering Challenge, InteractiveRachel Economy1 Comment

Today, mere hours after a section of the no-longer-in-use half of the old Bay Bridge was carefully imploded as part of its deconstruction process, we at the Tinkering School, with bridges on the brain, decided to design a bridge that would never need to be imploded, because it would be set up to be moved when needed.

 

After getting familiar with the tools and community agreements, we set out to design a bridge that would always start from point A, but could be swivel or shifted somehow so that a bridge crosser could wind up at either point B or point C. A whole range of exciting ideas emerged, condensing into a design for a bridge with a stationary half and an attached mobile half that would be wheeled and would swivel. And then we set to work, and we worked hard right up until the moment parents and families arrived.

Today was amazing because we didn't finish. We chose a really ambitious design, pushed ourselves to try really hard, and didn't settle for something that we weren't excited about. And even though we didn't finish, we met all our Tinkering School goals, and kids also acted super kindly towards one another, and stayed patient and excited about a project they knew they might not get to fully complete. Since this kind of thing happens all the time in life, the skills to be flexible and still collaborate in the face of unexpected delays are definitely great to find, especially while having so much fun.

Forklift!

Engineering Challenge, Interactive, MechanicalRachel EconomyComment
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It was a sunny morning when we arrived at Tinkering School today, and the energy in the room was calm and curious. Folks had come from down the street, and from as far away as Colorado (!), to collaborate and build together. 

After a solid round of tool trainings and practice, we circled up to learn that our project today was: to build a forklift together!

This immediately led to one of the more complex and layered design sessions I've seen a group work through at the Tinkering School, and they did so with patience and interest, sharing the conversation amongst many people and making some, in my personal opinion, excellent puns ("can we build a giant fork for the fork lift to lift?") The design fleshed out slowly, breaking into three groups who then went into even more detail and began building the car body, the lift and pulley system, and a counterweight system (so our fork-lift wouldn't become a human-squish).

And then the work really started.

And it kept going. And kept going.


Right up until families arrived, tinkerers worked hard, problem-solved unexpected challenges (the bowling ball counterweights are rolling around and rogue-steering the car; the lift mechanism is trying to escape its tracks; this cleat is trying to wiggle away), and held focus and a good attitude towards a mentally fascinating and exhausting set of tinkering problems.

At the end of the day, we talked about specific moments or takeaways that we were going to remember from today. For me, the thing I was most struck by was the level of kind and extremely complex communication tinkerers used with one another today. I love feeling extraneous at the Tinkering School, knowing that I can step back and be a silent safety net, because it means the tinkerers are talking to each other and building together so effectively.

And even when our forklift stuck a little bit at the last minute, folks continued with their friendly attitudes and excitement to problem-solve. Next time maybe we can even lift up some actual forks. 

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Concepts Are Tools, Too.

All Teens, Technical Skills, InteractiveSean 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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