Tinkering School

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One Day Workshop : Bowling Ball Challenges

Josh Rothhaas

Today we faced three challenges. Around, Over, and Across. The goals were all simple in presentation, and delightful in execution. We needed to get one bowling ball around an 8 foot long wall, another over a 6 foot high wall, and send yet another bowling ball through the air across the distance of a yoga matt. The primary restriction was to not touch the ball while it was accomplishing the goal.

Around was deceptive as a challenge. So easy did it seemed that very few kids joined the team working on the project. Oh how wrong we all where. Getting a bowling ball to roll, take a 90 degree turn around a wall and return was a miniature feat of engineering.

Over was a challenge with a playful solution involving two pulley elevators and an "emergency string". Oh, and an emergency stick for the times it didn't quite work.

Across was a spectacle. You can see a video here. No harder or easier than the others, but substantially less subtle. Starting at 8ft high a ball careened down a track, over a plywood ramp and past a 6 foot long yoga matt. We later added a ski-ball element that was startlingly satisfying to play with.

We devised ball holders and planed our own solutions.

Our veterans got to use new and more powerful tools. The jig saw is how we cut two pieces of plywood so precisely to create the ramp at the end of the launch.

These where the kind of problems that could not be solved alone. Today was full of team work. Likely and unlikely pairs, trios and teams popped up all over the place. The projects pulled us together.

We had a blast.

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