Tinkering School

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BowlerCoaster Day 1: Building Systems

Break CampsSean Murray

Today was the first day of Spring Break Camp. This week, we are going attempt to build a bowling ball rollercoaster here in the Mission. 

Before we could even talk about building our "BowlerCoaster", we had to get acquainted with the tools at our disposal: chop saw, drills and clamps.

With drill...


...and chop saw, we can make many many things.

Building a rollercoaster is hard. Hundreds of pieces need to work together. The rails that make of the track must be uniformly spaced. Sections of track must be securely fastened to one another, and allow the ball to move smoothly from section to section. Executing turns, rises and dips would take precise execution of a cohesive system. And a cohesive system demands teamwork. Our builders were eager to help and listen to one another, right from the start.

Gus and Mac work on the first section of track, an 8' straightaway.

Our focus today was on developing our BowlerCoaster system. First, we established the spacing of the rails, and even cut special check fixtures to maintain that spacing.

The beginnings of our template library. With these stops and check fixtures, we can build hundreds of pieces that all work together.

Oscar does some important testing.

Lindsay walks Oscar, Gus and Mac through the subtleties of connecting track sections.

It was awesome how quickly and fluidly the builders developed systems, branched off into project teams, and helped one another out.

Diego and Ernest made a great team--their system for building track was our engine.

Freya shows off the first prototype of a 20-degree turn...

...and installs the turn with Oscar and William.

By day's end, we'd proven concepts for building straightaways, horizontal turns, and dips. We've figured out the fundamental elements of a BowlerCoaster system--tomorrow we head into production mode!

The first test is always an exciting, tense moment...

Would our systems for linking track, turning, and rising actually work?


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