Tinkering School

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Interactive

The Great Ping Pong Ball Adventure: A Workshop with Teachers and Students of Head-Royce School

Aesthetic Challenge, All Teens, Component Replication, For Educators, Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Mechanical, Open Ended Solution, Problem Solving, Prototyping, Unusual Materials, Tinkering ChallengeAmanda SimonsComment

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.

A Zoo PlayGround: A Lesson in Linguistics and Overcoming Limitations

Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Open Ended Design, Problem Solving, Rope, LinguisticsAmanda SimonsComment

After a morning of tool training and practice, we introduced the project that we would all be working on together for the rest of the day. A Zoo Playground was our prompt -- but how we arrived at its implementation was not so simple. As a group, we began by brainstorming the types of VERBS we do at the playground. Everyone closed their eyes and imagined their last trip to a playground -- what was the weather, who were you with, how did you feel, and what were you doing?

Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

Interactive, Mechanical, Problem SolvingDaniel BiglerComment
Hungry Hippos -108.jpg

What do you get when you have a bunch of eager tinkerers, some bowling balls, a full day of tinkering ahead, and a crazy idea inspired by a classic childhood board game? Why, you make a gigantic-sized version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

With that gargantuan goal in mind, we set out to see what we could do to satisfy the culinary needs of a ravenous, hungry hippo…

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Before getting started, though, we meet as a group to introduce ourselves, share what kind of soup we'd love if we could make soup out of anything (ice cream and pizza soup were definitely huge hits), and discuss the Tinkering School goals and agreements:

  1. Collaborate and make friends!
  2. Make mistakes and learn from them.
  3. Try harder than usual.
  4. Make something bigger than yourself.

It's always interesting to see how seemingly every part of the Tinkering School experience — every small moment, every interaction — can usually be encompassed in and reflected by these four goals. They might seem simple at first, but in that simplicity is a kind of subtle genius that only really becomes transparent when you see two kids who might not otherwise interact helping each other to build a ladder, or a young perfectionist embracing and learning from mistakes they made, or a five-year-old marveling at the end of a hard day of tinkering at how much more capable they are than they thought of actually, truly building something bigger than themselves. And today was certainly no exception, as we undertook our gigantic, hippo-sized task…

But first, it's off to tool training! Before we can build big things, we need to get acquainted with our main tools — and today, that meant meeting our good friends the chop saw, power drills, and clamps.

Here, collaborator Molly introduces a group of kids to the chop saw and how to use it: you find and measure your piece of wood, mark off a line to cut on, make sure the blade itself lines up with it, push it back against the chop saw wall, check to make sure everyone around you is ready (with the ever-reliable, patent-pending, thumbs-up-if-you're-ready "Ready Call!"), form a tiger paw with one hand to hold the wood down, and with your other on the saw handle, you make your cut! When you're done, you use your big piece of wood to push any small pieces of wood outside of the chop saw's "blood bubble" (an invisible zone around the blade you never want to reach your hand in). Then voilá: you have made a big piece of wood into two smaller pieces!

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Elsewhere in tool training land, kids also got introduced to the drills:

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… and the clamps (clamp bridges FTW!):

With a newfound sense of tool-trained empowerment and we-can-build-anything momentum at our backs — and a little bit of lunch in our belly, since tinkering can be hungry work — we settle into designing our hungry hippo and a way to feed it. We quickly decide we need two teams: one to work on the hippo itself (whom I'm just going to call Florence for the purposes of this blog, and because every hippo needs a name), and another to work on a structure with a ladder and a ramp that we can use to "feed"/roll down the bowling balls into Florence's mouth.

Hungry Hippos -49.jpg
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After a bit more designing, the groups soon split off to start building, and things slowly begin to take shape.

Making Florence, it turns out, involves making really BIG frames out of wood, as Travis, Leona, Carmella, Rayahn, Luc, and collaborator Lindsey soon find out.

Meanwhile, the Feeding Apparatus team — comprised of collaborator Molly, Truman, Gurneet, and George, as well as Daniel M., Daniel A., and collaborator Daniel B. (yes, this team is chock-full of Daniels) — get started building the structure and ramp they plan to roll the bowling ball from.

Of course, what good is a structure that you can't climb up on? Here, George and Daniel work together to assemble a ladder for just such a purpose. 

Tada! The Feeding Apparatus is coming together.

Meanwhile, the Hippo team face an interesting design quandary: they need to decide what shape to make Florence's mouth so that it can best gobble up the bowling balls. After experimenting with a few different ideas, they soon land on a funnel-shape, to better capture any errant bowling balls rolling its way. With only a little building time remaining, they brilliantly team together to bring it into fruition.

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They finish Florence's mouth just in time. Meanwhile, the Feeding Apparatus team realize they're likely not going to finish the ramp to roll bowling balls down in time — but that seems to be alright with everyone, since unfinished projects are just another part of the Tinkering School experience, and its really the process of working to build something bigger than yourself that's the most gratifying. (Also, ladders. Young kids really do seem to love making ladders.)

Before parents arrive, though, we have one last meeting as a group to talk about and draw how we each might have experienced one of the Tinkering School goals today. Here are a few reflective drawings from that discussion…

And now, with parents here to watch, we embark on finally feeding our hungry, hungry hippo...

It's a success! As it turns out, rolling bowling balls on the floor is super fun — and actually inspires a new idea perhaps for next time… hungry, hungry hippo bowling, anyone?

How to Flip A Wooden Waffle

Direct Provocation, Interactive, Mechanical, Narrative, Problem SolvingAmanda SimonsComment

At Tinkering School today, we set out to make a wooden waffle and build a mechanism that flips it!

This prompt was inspired by my recent obsession with making all meals into waffles, and the problem that I have at home: my waffle pan is cast iron and one-sided. Every time I make a waffle, I can only cook one side at a time and have to flip and squish it halfway through. I always have a hard time prying the waffle away from the pan and to gently flip it. With all these curious minds in one place, maybe we could solve the problem?

Well, we definitely did! 

But first! We had to learn about the tools and each other. We split into groups and got to practice using drills, using the chopsaw, and using clamps safely and effectively.

Here are some of those amazing moments:

After tool practice, we ate lunch and then designed the different components of the project. The waffle team and the waffle flipper teams figured out what the things should look like, what they should do, and how big they should be. 

The design session yielded some pretty amazing, silly, and complicated ideas!

And then we worked in teams all afternoon!

It was a lot of fun, and some Tinkerers got to learn and use even more tools! The jigsaw and also the bandsaw was used to assist in constructing the waffle flipper, and meanwhile, the waffle team worked together to construct a really heavy wooden waffle stuck together with 150+ screws. 

In the end, we constructed a double-cube twisty-turny anti-gravity mechanism meant to flip a waffle 360 degrees! We totally ran out of time, and the cubes weren't stable enough to make the full turn, BUT, finishing the project definitely wasn't one of our goals. 

Also, one of the most impressive and inventive components of the project appeared in the photo below. The clamps became a material rather than a tool! The Tinkerers made clamp-holding turning tools with clamps at the end to grip the super heavy waffle.

Amazing!

Check out all the photos on Flickr!

Build a Vending Machine in One Day? Okay!

Engineering Challenge, Interactive, Mechanical, Problem Solving, PrototypingAmanda SimonsComment

One day, 16 Tinkerers, and one working vending machine? No problem.

At today's One Day Workshop, we began by using a 19" diameter plywood circle. The function of this amazing object? Well, today it was a quarter. That's right. Twenty-five cents. With that twenty-five cents, we will vend something. Easy, right? All we have to do is make something to accept the coin, build a mechanism that tells something to dispense and also build a thing that holds the something being dispensed.

Piece of cake!

And here's a preview of what happened:

In order to make all these amazing things happen, first we had to learn to use the tools. Piper and Mira show off their shape-shifting parallelogram. 

In order to make all these amazing things happen, first we had to learn to use the tools. Piper and Mira show off their shape-shifting parallelogram. 

Jay practices drilling with teammates to make some rectangles. 

Jay practices drilling with teammates to make some rectangles. 

One team worked on making a giant cube for all the vending machine components to fit inside. 

One team worked on making a giant cube for all the vending machine components to fit inside. 

We had some amazing teamwork today! Matthew and Turin worked together to build the base of a ramp. 

We had some amazing teamwork today! Matthew and Turin worked together to build the base of a ramp. 

More great teamwork from the ramp team: Lena helps Ronin line up a screw to drive in. 

More great teamwork from the ramp team: Lena helps Ronin line up a screw to drive in. 

Lyosha concentrates super hard at lining up a cut on the bandsaw with the help of Matthew and Lena. 

Lyosha concentrates super hard at lining up a cut on the bandsaw with the help of Matthew and Lena. 

All hands on deck as the ramp team clamps down some railing to prevent the giant coin from toppling over. 

All hands on deck as the ramp team clamps down some railing to prevent the giant coin from toppling over. 

One of the many coin rolling tests of the day! 

One of the many coin rolling tests of the day! 

We set up some really complicated bandsaw cuts today. The team worked together at the last minute to cut a coin slot from a single piece of plywood. 

We set up some really complicated bandsaw cuts today. The team worked together at the last minute to cut a coin slot from a single piece of plywood. 

More bandsaw concentration from Turin. 

More bandsaw concentration from Turin. 

During the design session, all the Tinkerers discussed the complications of the project and tried to come up with solutions to test out as a team. 

During the design session, all the Tinkerers discussed the complications of the project and tried to come up with solutions to test out as a team. 

At the end of the session, the whole team came together to try to make the machine vend pencils. (Oh yeah, we decided that for one giant quarter, you could get one pencil. 

At the end of the session, the whole team came together to try to make the machine vend pencils. (Oh yeah, we decided that for one giant quarter, you could get one pencil. 

Check out all the photos from the whole day on our Flickr Album

All Girls Workshop Slam Dunk

All Girls, Physics, Mechanical, Interactive, Fabric, Unusual MaterialsLindsay JonesComment

On Saturday 8 girls came together to figure out how to make a Dunk Tank full of pillows! It was an ambitious project for one day: it had moving parts and would need to be safe enough for humans to be on and inside of it. Could it be done?!

First we practiced using our main tools safely while also getting to know each other and practiced our other main skill: collaboration!

During the Design phase of the project, tinkerers thought through possible mechanism functions and structure design using each others arms and pencils, sketching out shapes and dimensions, and talking through combining ideas up on the drawing board.

Madeleine uses Olivia's hand and arm to show us how a lever could trigger something.

Madeleine uses Olivia's hand and arm to show us how a lever could trigger something.

We decided to kick off building with the things we knew we would definitely need:

A Tank

A Seat

A Target

Jordan clamps a corner together, so she can drill.

Jordan clamps a corner together, so she can drill.

The tank is formed!

The tank is formed!

Maddy cuts foam on the bandsaw so we don't get "butt splinters" as we slide into the tank.

Maddy cuts foam on the bandsaw so we don't get "butt splinters" as we slide into the tank.

Pearl marks where her team needs to drill holes to attach a hinge to the target.

Pearl marks where her team needs to drill holes to attach a hinge to the target.

At mid-day we have almost a whole, stable Tank, a cushy Seat, and a Target lever arm!

We discuss the next steps as a group and figure out what we need to before we start tinkering with connecting the Target to the Seat.

The Seat group decides to take a cue from our folding shop tables to create a support that swings flat.

The Seat group decides to take a cue from our folding shop tables to create a support that swings flat.

Tank team builds a ladder so we can climb up on to the seat! No detail is getting past them!

Tank team builds a ladder so we can climb up on to the seat! No detail is getting past them!

Seat and swinging support beams were attached and the trigger too, so that we would have a beginning point for connecting the Trigger and the Seat.

Madeleine holds the Seat of the way so that Jordan and Maddy can attach the seat!

Madeleine holds the Seat of the way so that Jordan and Maddy can attach the seat!

The first attempt at mounting the Swinging Seat Support revealed that our cross beams needed to be spaced out more and that we had attached the hinges to the support on the wrong side!

The tinkerers quickly got to work making adjustments together!

Meanwhile - the Tank team is preparing the pillows and getting yoga mats for safety!

Jordan gives the pillows a quality control test.

Jordan gives the pillows a quality control test.

Soon, we had a hinged seat resting on a hinged support, which was connected to the trigger's lever arm with paracord all suspended over a pile of pillows and yoga mats! It looked very precarious: the seat was only touching the support on the very tip and those of us that were on the larger side were pretty sure if we sat on that thing it would just snap off. 

And so we entered the all important Safety Testing Phase!

Crash test Stumpy is prepared for its dunking!

Crash test Stumpy is prepared for its dunking!

The tinkerers make a list of dangers we need to observe and secure for it to be safe for humans.

The tinkerers make a list of dangers we need to observe and secure for it to be safe for humans.

Stumpy, didn't break our tank or hit its head on anything, we didn't see or hear any snaps or creaks, so Pearl bravely volunteered to be our first, smallest human test.

Pearl waits in suspense!

Pearl waits in suspense!

It worked! We dunked EVERYONE! It didn't break! IT WORKED!

Today was a particularly special One Day Workshop. We almost never actually finish a project. We are usually tinkering with a project up until we run out of time so it works exactly how we want it too. If we check those first two off it usually breaks while we are playing with it. Wow.

Looking back, I think that this group of tinkerers were especially good at communicating and collaborating with each other, so that everyone knew what jobs needed to get done and so that we could agree on what those jobs were.

With a strong streak of collaboration all of our mistakes that we had to re-do a few times didn't set us back and we all had a really fun day!

For more photos of us tinkering check out the Flickr Album!

Abracadabra!

Direct Provocation, Interactive, Super SillySage RyanComment

Our brief tool trainings this morning set these tinkerers up to try harder than usual and learn from their mistakes all day long - which makes for confident clampers, drillers and sawyers by the end of the day!

The challenge for the day was to create a set-up to trick our families into think we cut someone in half! Our ideas started out pretty practical and then slowly got weirder and weirder.

I can't explain the schematic to you because a magician never tells, but I think you can tell how ambitious and complex we got.

Then it was finally time to build:

By about this part of the day, we all started to realize that the project had started to turn into something else we didn't quite mean to make. We had several compartments for different body parts to be displayed and we were planning on stacking them on top of one another...... but then what?

When our time had run out - we took a moment to rest and reflect on the whole day: each kid got a piece of paper and drew or wrote about a moment when they had accomplished one of the Tinkering School goals: Collaborating with others, Making mistakes and learning from them, Trying harder than usual, and Building something bigger than ourselves.  Everyone was excited that they had accomplished at least one of those and a lot of kids drew pictures for each goal!

Sophie shared that everyone was so nice and friendly that she ended up working with everyone and lots of fun!

Alisa shared that she kept forgetting to change her drill settings for the job she was doing and eventually remembered to switch the drill speed between drilling holes and driving screws!

Our Safety Check with kids observing while Collaborators strategically increased stress on the different levels of our stack resulted in tinkerers allowed on the leg level and the torso level, but the compartment made to display a head was too tall with not enough stability for any real heads to fill it.

So! Romeo made us a fake head and everyone took turns being the legs and torso of what turned out to be a giant tinkerer made of the smaller ones!

Unfortunately - we lost the photos of the kids and the project, so here are the Collaborators working together to demonstrate our finale result :). 

I think the most magical part of this project was that by the end of the day the project had morphed from an illusion into the best metaphor for "Building something bigger than ourselves" we've built yet.

For more photos from the day visit the Flickr album.

Our First Ever Rotor Ed Multi-rotor Workshop!

Electronics, Direct Provocation, Mechanical, Interactive, Technical SkillsJay SimpsonComment

After a good amount of saying it was going to happen, the first 2016 Rotor Workshop happened! Five kids walked away with drones that they built and flew and epically crashed.

(All of the drones survived)

DAY 1 - Our goal for the day one, was to have five fully assembled drones for testing, tuning, and flying on day two.

Step one when building a drone: Unbox Your Parts!

After a brief introduction, we started with a Christmas morning-like unboxing of parts, then we split up into two groups. The soldering group and the assembly group. 

Soldering, which was only supposed to take about an hour, took up 3/4 of our day due to three of our irons breaking! In this step, all of the main power wires were connected to the power distribution boards so that the bottom plates of the frames could be attached to the rest of the drones.

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Meanwhile, the assembly team screwed in their motors, attached their flight controllers, and their receivers. The motor mounting was extremely tricky due to the crazy alignment. Celebration was appropriate when all of the motors were mounted! :)

We took a break for lunch then swapped teams. And at 2:00, we had our first drone power on! 

Oh the relief!

Oh the relief!

And after some more soldering, fitting, and mounting, we had five fully assembled almost ready-to-fly drones at pickup time!

Day 2

On day two, we jumped right into tuning and testing. Once again we split up into two groups, tuning and testing.

The tuning team went with Max, and got started programming their flight controllers. Doing this step ahead of time would allow us to have more flight time...we thought. 

About halfway through tuning the first drone, we realized that the radio controllers would not work due to the pitch and roll axis being reversed. We tried our hardest to get them working, but unfortunately they just wouldn't work.

While two collaborators frantically tried to get them working, everyone else continued tuning and testing their drones.

Every drone got thrown onto the ground to ensure that they were strong, and that all the soldering connections were solid. And finally, after all the drones were tested and tuned, we went flying!

We had an amazing weekend unboxing, assembling, soldering, zip-tying, glueing, flying, and crashing with everyone and can't wait until the next!!!

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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.

:)

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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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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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!

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!

All for One and One Couch For All

All Girls, Interactive, Problem SolvingLindsay Jones

For our second All Girl Workshop we decided to make the Biggest Couch in the World! That way we could all relax together after a long day of hardwork!

Team Side-Arm figured out how we were going to get up on the couch and not fall off the ends.

They got really creative and made a climbing wall for one end and a ladder for the other!

Team Seat-Butt cranked out sections to sit on.

Did we say "sectional"? This couch is gonna be "sectionFULL"!!

Once we figured out how to make one section the tinkerers could split into teams and have several sections in progress at once.

After we framed the couch it was time to make seats!

At the end of the day the two teams attached their sections to make The Biggest Couch In The World! It was interesting to see how the two teams working from the same measurements, made different design choices and turned out ever so slightly different sections.

After a safety test everyone climbed up and enjoyed a well deserved lounge on our custom couch!

And They Gnashed Their Terrible Teeth!!

All Girls, Mechanical, InteractiveLindsay Jones

This last weekend was our first All Girl Tinkering School! We wanted to give young women and girls a unique environment in which to develop their tinkering process and tool use skills.  

As always we started with tool training where everyone practiced using the chopsaw and power drills safely and effectively.

After we get comfortable using the main tools it's time to refuel and figure out how we are going to make........Giant Chompers!!

We determined that chompers have two jaws, two lips, and toooooons of teeeeeeeeeeth!!  A tinkerer pointed out that the boxes the jaws would be made of looked like ladders, which helped us quickly count how many ladders per box and how many boxes per jaw.  One team went to the chopsaw room to start cutting our cross pieces.

While the rest of us prepared to receive them by preparing our materials and having a quick clamp tutorial.

Once our supply of pieces arrive Team Assembly gets to work!

We leave Frompie’s jaw fragments to rest while we eat lunch.  All the chomping that we do inspires us to make teeth! These tinkerers made so many different kinds of teeth in so many ways! Some assembled the jaws while others began their foray into dentistry.

As the day draws to an end we assemble the top jaw and install eye-bolts to attach Frompie’s jaw muscles to a pulley in it’s skull. Lips are applied. Frannie and Lorelei worked on making the hinging mechanism where Frompie’s two jaws meet each other. We put the jaws together as parents arrive and Frompie is so snaggle-toothed that they can barely chomp us a greeting!

Chomp Time from Tinkering School on Vimeo.

We loved watching this group of tinkerers naturally form teams to get jobs done. They figured out how to let each person have a meaningful turn using the chopsaw and we even caught them taking turns doing a particularly challenging task that no one really wanted to do!

Together they easily fit tons of building and tons of fun into just a few hours.

More pictures on the Flickr !

Pop-Up Planetarium

Aesthetic Challenge, Interactive, Tinkering ChallengeSean Murray

It took the American Museum of Natural History about half a year and $11,000,000 (in today's dollars, or $800,000 in 1935) to build Hayden Planetarium. 

For the first One Day Workshop of the year, we thought we'd build a Pop-Up Planetarium--that is, a dark room with simulated stars that is designed and built in just one day.

As always, we started with tool training. Incredibly, and for the first time in Tinkering School history, we did not use the chop saw once for the project (it was made entirely out of 96" studs, and we just grabbed scraps for the braces). But, it's always fun to learn.

Then we divvied up labor into panel-painting...

star-making...

and framing.

The crew did a great job moving themselves among tasks to meet the need of the bigger project.

When we were finally done, we cleaned up, and went together into the vacuum of space.

It was a pretty cool, convincing effect--very dark, with variations in the LEDs' strengths mimicking the various brightness of galaxies seen in deep space photos. The effect was greatly enhanced by the score coming from the shop boom box: "Space Oddity", themes from Star Trek and Star Wars, and Carl Sagan's word on "the pale blue dot".

As always, there are loads more photos on our flickr.

With huge love and thanks to Ann Druyan, Neil Tyson and Carl Sagan. Your work is a constant inspiration.

One Day Workshop - Anywhere Swings

Tinkering Challenge, Rope, Problem Solving, Interactive, Engineering ChallengeJosh Rothhaas

Today we took on what sounds like a simple challenge. Make a swing that can be put up and taken down anywhere. The putting up is easy if you've got one decently strong looped knot in your mental collection, some rope, a piece of wood and some time to think about it. A swing that can be gotten back down, without climbing the tree or cutting the rope down, is something else entirely.

We trained with tools and practiced the figure eight knot.

We laid out a design.

And we got to work.

Some kids made their swings to swing on low branches.

Others made them to swing on high branches.

The designs where full of clever solutions dealing with weight and friction.

And then we swung on our creations!

See more photos on our flickr.

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