Tinkering School

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Narrative

Alligator Elevator

Aesthetic Challenge, Direct Provocation, Engineering Challenge, Mechanical, Narrative, Problem Solving, Prototyping, Science, RopeAmanda SimonsComment

In the Tinkering School warehouse, there is a giant pterodactyl skeleton that lives in the rafters. One of the teachers at the day school made it for a party, and now it has found its home with us. This huge sculpture is often a topic of conversation and also sometimes an overstimulating distraction when we're trying to do tool training or talk about safety!

At this last one day workshop of the season, we decided that the pterodactyl needed a friend in the rafters. An alligator. We would design it. We would build it. We would lift it to its friend in the ceiling!

But first, tool training and practice!

As a group, we learned how to use the chopsaw, drills, and clamps and got a chance to practice working together to cut and clamp and drill things. After training and practice and some lunch (!) we got to work on our designs for the alligator elevator.

We split into two groups, and worked the rest of the afternoon on our plans. One group designed and built the alligator, and the other group figured out how to lift heavy things using pulleys and mechanical advantage.

What was great and rare about this one day workshop was the under of iteration opportunities we created. A thing that we often struggle with, as educators, in these short one-day situations is that we run out of time. We simply don't have the time to produce multiple versions of the same experiment.

During this workshop, the lifting team was essentially working on designing and testing a block and tackle pulley system. We started by lifting a platform that we designed and built. Then we used the platform to lift a cinder block. Then two cinder blocks.

And then, at the end we lifted the gator!

What an awesome day! Thanks everyone!

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!

That Dino Needs a Hug <3

Engineering Challenge, Narrative, Problem SolvingSage RyanComment

Another Tinkering season has begun!!!!! 

Today was our first One Day Workshop of the '16/'17 school year!

Lindsay helps Gurneet get to know what will become his favorite tool of the day - the Chopsaw!

Lindsay helps Gurneet get to know what will become his favorite tool of the day - the Chopsaw!

We spent the first part of the morning getting to know each other by inventing Candy Bats and asking each other what kind of candy you'd be made of if you were a Candy Bat - then learning how to use the saw, drills and clamps!

Then time for snack and a challenge!

Dee points out an old friend that's been living in our rafters for awhile...

Dee points out an old friend that's been living in our rafters for awhile...

...A Pterodactyl that's been trying to get a hug from a tinkerer for months!

...A Pterodactyl that's been trying to get a hug from a tinkerer for months!

Todays the day Pterodactyl! You're getting hugged! Todays tinkerers are going to figure out how to meet you up there in the rafters and give you some love!

Niki explains his hovering magnet board.

Niki explains his hovering magnet board.

Lucia suggests we make a peppermint candy bat to fly up there! Or stairs :)

Lucia suggests we make a peppermint candy bat to fly up there! Or stairs :)

Our BrainStorm!

Our BrainStorm!

Niki does the final design drawing of our goal for the day - Giant steps!

Niki does the final design drawing of our goal for the day - Giant steps!

Lucia and Gurneet cut pieces for the team for most of the day!

Lucia and Gurneet cut pieces for the team for most of the day!

Kids keeping track of the cuts!

Kids keeping track of the cuts!

Niki and Dee add triangles for strength!

Niki and Dee add triangles for strength!

Team work!

Team work!

CoopDog shows Sebbie how to use the Chuck Drill!

CoopDog shows Sebbie how to use the Chuck Drill!

Mo' Triangles!

Mo' Triangles!

Gurneet notices a gap!

Gurneet notices a gap!

and fixes it!

and fixes it!

Sebbie strength tests step #1

Sebbie strength tests step #1

Steps #1 and #2 hanging out and getting a step installed.

Steps #1 and #2 hanging out and getting a step installed.

Niki and Sebbie installing a mini step on the Giant step!

Niki and Sebbie installing a mini step on the Giant step!

We worked hard all day.

We worked together all day.

We got to hug a Pterodactyl today.

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.

:)

Building an Elephant from the Ground Up - One Day Workshop

Aesthetic Challenge, Direct Provocation, Mechanical, NarrativeEvan BarnesComment

Watching David Attenborough's new series Africa inspired the collaborators to propose building an elephant as today's one day workshop project! The tinkerers were also stoked on this idea, so today we tried to build the eponymous Attenborough's San Francisco Gray Elephant (Loxodonta attenboria sub. sanfrancisca). 

Before building could begin, we had some tool training in the use of drills and the chop saws, during which some old hands and some new ones alike learned and demonstrated the safe use of the tools. Here, an old friend provides an excellent example of the kind of focus that is necessary when using power tools - his entire world clearly consists of himself and the cut he is making. 

After tool training, we got straight into design. The more we thought about it, the more challenging this particular project seemed. One goal we had was to make the trunk highly articulate, capable of twisting and moving just like a flesh and blood elephant's trunk. Recreating the shape of an elephant also promised to be a unique challenge.  

Below, some members of the head and trunk team talk through their fourth or fifth round of ideas about how to build the head and trunk.

After a solid design period, full of ideas, discussion, and design iterations, we got started building! We decided to build the head by creating a truncated (get it? trunk-ated?) pyramid out of wood as a frame. We planned to attach wire to this internal frame and sculpt it into the shape of an elephant's head, while also using the frame as a solid attachment point for the neck and trunk. However, it turned out that building a small truncated pyramid from 1x2s is a more complex task than we initially thought, and this took longer than planned. That's great, though! We learned something about how hard it is to accurately estimate task completion times. 

Below, two tinkerers conceptually test our trunk design:

We decided to make the trunk from small blocks of wood with ball and socket joints. This required end boring those tiny blocks on the drill press to create the sockets for the steel ball bearings. The team took to this precision task with great ability, and quickly produced all the parts we needed to make our trunk. We originally planned to join the trunk segments with rubber bands that would act like ligaments, holding the sections together across the joints while allowing free movement, but when we couldn't find any rubber bands, we got creative and used wire instead. 

Overall, the day went by quickly, and we were out of build time sooner than we would have liked. The body team also faced some unique design challenges in trying to recreate the shape of an elephant, and after much discussion eventually settled on a design that used an internal frame of wood and rope that was going to support a paper skin. 

The head team also ran out of time, but managed to get a first iteration developed. If we had had more time, we think we could have made a really lifelike elephant with a fully articulated trunk! As it was, though, this was an awesome day full of incredibly creative ideas and excellent collaborative development. We think we did David Attenborough proud! 

What's An Angler Fish? All Girls Workshop

All Girls, Direct Provocation, Narrative, Super Silly, Aesthetic ChallengeAmanda SimonsComment

I got to spend my Sunday with seven rad girls who were really excited about building some awesome stuff. This is usually the first sentence of any All Girls Workshop blog that I write, and today was, of course, no different! However -- the thing that made today especially unique, was that I didn't really have any idea what the thing we were building actually looked like.

Actually, let me back up. This sounds no different than usual. In these workshops, the Collaborators come up with a rough theme before the kids arrive, and then during the workshop the kids are the visionaries of the project. They tell us what it should look like and how to make it, and we jump in where we can help and also provide technical advice to make the thing safely come to life. 

So, let me clarify. When Lindsay, Caroline, and I sat down and tried to think of the workshop theme, Lindsay and Caroline said "Let's make an angler fish!" And Amanda said, "I don't know what that looks like. How am I going to help lead this?" They both tried to describe what the thing looked like, and after their description, I had a general idea, but still couldn't quite associate a visual with all those words. 

Perfect!

I asked the kids to make an angler fish today so that I could forever associate a visual with the description. 

This is what happened:

We brainstormed and made individual drawings of the fish critter. From there, we figured out what all the illustrations had in common.&nbsp;

We brainstormed and made individual drawings of the fish critter. From there, we figured out what all the illustrations had in common. 

And then, we picked a place to start. Because the materials we were working with were really good at making cubey things and not real great at making round things, we started with a cube for a fish body. After the cube, we could easily add on.&nbsp;

And then, we picked a place to start. Because the materials we were working with were really good at making cubey things and not real great at making round things, we started with a cube for a fish body. After the cube, we could easily add on. 

Building the cube meant we had to learn about other tools along the way. Clamp training was done as we went along. We also used some assembly squares to help keep right angles and hold the wood in place.&nbsp;

Building the cube meant we had to learn about other tools along the way. Clamp training was done as we went along. We also used some assembly squares to help keep right angles and hold the wood in place. 

It's worth noting that a 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot cube is actually quite big and awkward to move around.&nbsp;

It's worth noting that a 4 foot by 4 foot by 4 foot cube is actually quite big and awkward to move around. 

This fish has jaws, and that meant movement. We chose some hinges to help out -- or, rather, to help us make mistakes. The jaw was actually quite tricky to attach, and the jaw-making team had to redo the hinge placement three times before arriving at a functional solution.&nbsp;

This fish has jaws, and that meant movement. We chose some hinges to help out -- or, rather, to help us make mistakes. The jaw was actually quite tricky to attach, and the jaw-making team had to redo the hinge placement three times before arriving at a functional solution. 

In the end, the Tinkerers decided to get eaten by the fish.&nbsp;

In the end, the Tinkerers decided to get eaten by the fish. 

And, I present to you... Angler Fish! (Complete with disco light attachment).&nbsp;

And, I present to you... Angler Fish! (Complete with disco light attachment). 

Thanks, Friends. I am forever going to associate this visual with "angler fish"!

Check out more angles of our awesome Angler Fish by browsing Flickr!

Sea Level Rise Proof Pizza Party - One Day Workshop

Narrative, Open Ended Solution, Super Silly, Great BlogCaroline ScanlanComment

Imagine this: the Earth is the getting warmer. The sea levels are rising. San Francisco is slowly flooding with salty water. The Twin Peaks are turning into the Twin Islands. The Mission is currently sitting under six feet of San Francisco Bay. And yet...we still want to be able to hold a pizza party! 

Today, we imagined what we might build in order to throw a Sea Level Rise Proof Pizza Party!

But first, before practiced using the essential tools in the Tinkering School Shop! Drills! Chopsaws!

After unleashing our whacky theme for the day, each tinkerer had the chance to brainstorm their own individual solutions to this particular pizza-party-over-a-rising-sea challenge! Everyone shared their thoughts with the group before we narrowed down a concrete design and plan to start building

Check out all of these fun ideas! As a team, we collected so many!

Here's what the final blue print looked like - an eight foot tower with a pizza party platform on top:

We split up into two groups - the tower team and the platform team - and we built, built, built!

TOWER TEAM

Squares, and vertical beams, and ladder rungs, and diagonal supports for structural stability! 

PLATFORM TEAM

A plywood base and vertical railings for safety!

RESETTING THE SHOP

REFLECTING ON OUR DAY

AND PUTING IT ALL TOGETHER!

The R-egg-ulator

Problem Solving, Open Ended Solution, Prototyping, NarrativeLindsay Jones

On Sunday we were expecting a large volume of ping pong eggs to be laid by our Rainbow Ping Pong Chicken.  We figured the best thing to do with a surplus of 200 ping pong eggs was to cook them all into a giant omelette!

After tool training with the chop saw and drills we split into teams to build a coop for the Rainbow Ping Pong Chicken to feel comfortable enough to lay her eggs in, an egg regulator  - so that only one egg would roll down the ramp at a time, a ramp to get the eggs to the pan, and the giant frying pan!

The team figuring out how to actually regulate the eggs leaving the coop and rolling down the ramp had their work cut out for them.  This part of the system had to be very precise.  After meticulously measuring how big the eggs were, thinking and rethinking the design - they got to work on the contraption.

Meanwhile, not only is the giant frying pan taking shape, but that team also has a giant spatula in the works too!

The ramp team has built a nice series of channels for the eggs to roll down. Next they begin to shore them up and do test runs.  They also began another project - a teeter totter to get an egg over a gap.

While a handle is installed on the frying pan and the egg basket is installed inside the coop the egg regulator team is hard at work testing and iterating their design.

Finally! At the end of the day...

The Giant Frying Pan is rolled over the flames! The geniuses of team Giant Frying Pan put casters on the bottom of it so we could keep the pan moving, so the eggs wouldn't burn!

The ramps were in place and the R-egg-ulator was installed. Our first test would be our only test.

With Giant Spatula at the ready the chicken started layin'! Our R-egg-ulator worked about 50% of the time, with two eggs coming out at once if we didn't keep an eye on it.  We got all of the eggs into the frying pan and had a lot of fun cooking them up!

We had a lot of fun taking such a silly situation very seriously with these Tinkerers. They came up with some great solutions and some seriously fun ideas to make the omelette making really entertaining.  We did some serious tinkering as well, with the ramp team getting partially finished with their teeter-totter and the many iterations of the R-egg-ulator.  These girls accomplished a lot in one day!

Dreadnoughtus!

Narrative, Open Ended Design, Tinkering Challenge, Technical Skills, Problem SolvingSean Murray

What could be more awesome than a Saturday spent building? A Saturday spent building a dinosaur, that's what.

Inspired by the recent discoveries of Dreadnoughtus schrani, the biggest known land animal ever, we decided to build, well, a Dreadnoughtus skeleton.

As always and ever, we started with tool training.

Note Alexi's textbook "Bruce Lee Tiger Claw" left hand, hold the wood firmly in place as she cuts.

We broke into for teams to frame the front and rear legs. Communication among and between teams was important, lest the Dreadnoughtus have limbs that didn't match!

After the front legs and rear legs were built, we connected them with shoulders and hips, then lifted them up the floor and into their standing position. This--standing up a project that's been built sideways, on the ground, is often a big "a-ha!" moment.

With the shoulders and hips standing, we started building the spine in 8-foot sections. Our builders were focused and perseverant, and really bought into the whole-group goal, rather than individual glory. (Which makes sense, because the whole-group goal was to build a sweet dinosaur.)

We wound up with a 32-foot long dinosaur with an articulated neck. It was massive, and dominated the mayo factory (which says a lot--the mayo factory's big). Incredibly, though, our wood behemoth was only about half the size of the actual Dreadnoughtus--making this the first time in Tinkering School history that we've built something smaller-than-life!

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