In the shop, we have a Ziplock bag of these bizarre ping pong balls with a face on them. (We have no idea whose face this is, so I apologize in advance if you stumble across this post and find your face on a ping pong ball!) For this workshop, we designed a multi-tiered interactive challenge for the attendees.
This past weekend, Tinkering School hosted a special session of English Language Learners from China. We had been coordinating this session for a couple of months, and the preparation involved lots of chatting between our Director Karen and the Program's Manager in China. They corresponded mostly about TS vocabulary words and concepts to help prepare the students for the loads of information they would received at the workshop about how to use the tools and how to treat one another and the space while at TS.
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")
2. CHECK-FIXTURES--How to make tools to ensure that all of the parts get assembled ina given relationship
3. SUB-ASSEMBLIES--How to combine standard parts into larger, more complex parts, and eventual a whole.
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.
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.
After we'd made two circles, we strengthened them with hubs and spokes...
...then connected the two circles with parts we called "treads".
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.
In all, the hamster wheel really only had 7 distinct parts!
Big thanks to David C. for spreading the word about this workshop!