Tinkering School

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Intro to Welding - May 3

Problem Solving, Prototyping, WeldingJosh Rothhaas

Today was an amazing day of welding and working with kids. The projects ranged from functional to useless. From playful to on the edge of high art. The kids were focused, persistent and kind. It was the best kind of day.

This an Enderman.

We keep our intro short. Kids aren't here to listen to adults talk. They are here to make stuff. A little speech on how cool welding is (seriously, 4,800 degrees is a neat amount of degrees), a reasonable amount of time describing all the ways you can get injured (sun burn on the skin or cornea of the eye, electrocution, burning skin by touching hot material, burning cloths from flying embers, ect), and some time on mitigating these dangers (face masks, long sleeve shirts, fire resistant aprons, procedural calls, ect) and we were off.

The first step is always exploring the tools.

Josh loves to get in close to see what is happening

From there we play with the materials. We like to call this sketching, but don't get the wrong impression. Sketching is not inherently a pen and paper exercise. For us is it the roughest prototype and an externalization of ideas to increase our understanding of what we are trying, and make communicating our ideas to others easier.

Sometimes a sketch is a drawing.
Often, it's just playing with the materials themselves.

From there, we just make. We make and we make and we make. Cutting, welding, grinding. Designing, trying ideas and reshaping our ideas to fit what's possible. It's world that mixes new possibilities with real and sometimes frustrating constraints. This group faced each and everyone of those constraints with flexibility and enthusiasm. 

One particularly excellent moment in the day was when one of the welders jammed. With incredible disappointment in their tone, one child asked "Does this mean we just go home now?". It was one of our most delightful learning moments to be able to say "No, we don't go home, we fix the broken machine." It was a chance for one of our collaborators to model the problem solving and persistence required in real project management and execution. What ever is stopping you from solving your problem is your new problem now. So we fixed it and kept welding.

What is hard to get across is the sheer quantity and quality of things that where made in just 5 short hours. Here is a brief gallery of work. There are also a lot more photos here

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