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?
Today, after tool training, with a few rolls of the die we determined we would build together a Creature with:
But before we could build those things, we needed a body to attach them to! The group decided, that because they also really wanted to build a house, the legs should be long enough for us to stand under!
Our group were natural collaborators and before we knew it there we had 4 huge legs!
There were definitely some hickups along the way. Did you know there is more than one way to connect 4 equal length pieces of wood? The legs definitely weren't all exactly the same :)
Isaiah figured out how to stabilize a long piece of wood while his partner was busy cutting!
Then it was time for lunch and a dance party!
We connected the legs together to stabilize them and got ready to add a spine and some ribs!
Meanwhile, some wings were forming in the back of the shop!
It took everyone of us to lift the spine and ribs and fasten them to the legs, first with clamps, then screws.
Now we could add all the appendages! Everyone worked with each other to help create and attach wings, horns, hairs and abs!
After we stopped building and reset the workshop, we recalled the Tinkering School Goals we had introduced that morning:
and reflected on how we had accomplished one or more of them that day by drawing.
I noticed everyone challenging themselves to continue working on things that were difficult or maybe just not that exciting in the moment. I also heard repeated announcements of "This is such a fun day!"
See more photos at our Flickr page!
Today we learned.....
To find out what we would be building today everyone had to roll a die first and write down the number, then pick a body part.
Our Random Critter Creator told us to make a critter with:
Everyone sketched up what they thought the critter should look like. Some were cute, some were round, some were angley. Then we had to figure out how to make it out of wood!
We learned that to figure out how long something is you can use :
We learned that sometimes a partner makes things a little easier and a little more fun.
We learned that sometimes if you want it just like that, it might take a lot of steps and focus.
We learned that to get the adults to work in your assembly line, you have to put a drill in their hand.
We learned why there are different sizes of screws.
And we learned how to work together to make these:
into a really huge Critter like this:
For more photos from this workshop visit the Flickr page!
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!
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.
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.
We start tinkering mornings off with getting to know the space...
and each other.
We try and build opportunities to practice working together and asking and giving help into our tool trainings, so that when we get down to work all of those things come a little easier.
This workshop's project was a pretty tricky challenge. So tricky that I heard a kid say, "This is impossible!" We were going to try and make a sphere out of squares and cubes!
After talking as a group through some of the ideas that first came to mind, everyone felt more confident that we could probably figure this out and we each drew up a design. Then we all shared our ideas with the group and grouped them into similar designs. We still had a long list of options, so the group decided that we should pick 2 designs based on simplicity, because we were running out of building time!
The grand plan was to build one hemisphere out of the Cube-Snowflake design and another hemisphere out of the Cube-Layer design and then if all went well we could combine them together into one Sphere!
Each group had to continuously assess their project to make sure their plan was working, if it wasn't they made adjustments!
Team Cube-Snowflake realized mid building, that they should connect their inner-mini-cube to the big one, so that it didn't move around. They also worked really well together in a tight space to get the mini-cube finished, while communicating with each other to share tools and materials, and not accidentally hurt each other!
Team Cube-Layer had to figure out what sizes the different cubes needed to be and then the best way to attach them together.
Towards the end of the day the Cube-Snowflake team realized that they needed to add the snowflake - the key part of making it look spherical, but we were running out of time!! We decided to clamp the flake arms on and just use long scraps, attaching them where they looked best, instead of cutting specific lengths of wood, which would take a long time.
The Cube-Layer team worked together to attach the two biggest layers together, and already had the pieces cut for two more layers, but we were out of time!!!
At the end of the day we were all sad that we had run out of time, because each group was feeling really good about how their designs were looking and they had ideas for what their next steps would be if they had 5 more minutes, 30 more minutes, or even 3 more hours!
We had figured out how to do the impossible!!!
As every Tinkering School workshop begins, we learn about making one piece of wood into two, and taking two pieces of wood and fixing them together! We even did strength testing to put our projects to the test!
If you've ever been to Tinkering School, you'll know that our workshop is a special space, built by collaborators and tinkerers alike. Its colorful, wonky, and totally unique. You may have also found out that it is a perpetual work-in-progress—always changing and improving! Today, we set out with a group of awesome tinkerers to make our storage area safer (railings! what a totally rad and safe idea!) and better (a storage elevator to help us lift things to the second floor storage!).
Our designing process got really deep and complex! We came up with all sorts of ideas and really thought them through as we shared our proposals. Ultimately, we used a bunch of our ideas together to make a rough plan.
Then we got to building! One project was to make something maybe never done before at Tinkering School: use lap joints to make 8ft lumber into 12ft lumber! So awesome to see. We also built the base of our elevator.
Are you wondering "what is a lap joint?" Well, one version of it is joining two pieces of wood that are cut like the photo below, helping the wood be longer but not adding any extra width or depth to the joint!
While we were working, another group was working away on the railing project. Instantly someone shared "triangles are the strongest shape - we should make lots of Xs!" From there, they got cutting and then laid out the railing on the floor to double check their work. Brilliant!
As a bonus today, we got to use the circular saw to make some plywood cuts! So awesome to use so many different types of tools today.
And while our elevator didn't come to completion, our railing did — which is totally rad and will help keep future tinkerers (and collaborators) safe!!! AWESOME!!
Today was the day that we decided to build a CRAZY CREATURE!!!
Recently, a mysterious shipment of large cardboard cargo barrels arrived at the Tinkering School. We've been wondering what on Earth do with them...and today we were hit with a stroke of inspiration upon learning that they were once, in fact, used to transport specimens to The California Academy of Sciences. So Cool! We decided to build a specimen of our own out of those big barrels: a CRAZY CREATURE!!!
We held a design meeting and imagined what it would be like to have different tinkerers working on the three major parts of the creature: Top, Bottom, and Support/Spine. After an initial brainstorm, each tinkerer spent a quiet 10 minutes crafting an initial design for this crazy barrel chimera creature.
We then split into three build teams, shared our ideas, and decided on a plan.
Finally, we GOT TINKERING!
Design: Hinged legs + feet as well as a braided tail!
Design: four folding lever arms, operated by strings that can be pulled from the middle of the creature!
Design: a central spine attached to a rolling, 4-wheeled base!
Unfortunately we didn't have time to attach all of our appendages and crazy contraptions to the barrel before the day was done.
We did, however, have an awesome time explaining our process and our tinkering to the parents who showed up at the end of the day. We may never know what this crazy creature would have looked like with all of its parts put together...but some projects are just better that way :)
Today, we built a California Bumblebee Disco Ball with Eyebrows and Spirals.
You know, like usual. Just another creative, wacky day at the Tinkering School!
In fact, as far as I know, we have never before built a Californian Bumblebee Disco Ball with Eyebrows and Spirals. Perhaps no one has! We could be the first.
The way this wild and amazing amalgam came about was as follows: it was a rainy Sunday. We wound up with a very small and very hard-working group for our all-girls workshop. We sat down at a table after tool training, and we filled a hat with slips of paper. On those slips of paper were words- all the words we could think of.
Then, throughout the day and starting with our first design session, we pulled words from the hat, adding them to our design prompt and our tinkering.
First, it was a Disco Ball Bumblebee.
Then, it was a Disco Ball Bumblebee with Spirals and Eyebrows.
And finally, as the day was drawing to a close, the eyebrows were cut carefully on the bandsaw (out of wood- no actual eyebrows were harmed in the process), and the glittering mirrors were affixed to the body of the bee, we found out that the bee was from California.
This game of pictionary-turned-buildtionary kept every tinkerer and collaborator engaged, thinking on our toes, and having to re-imagine and re-negotiate throughout the day. It also added a delicious mystery, anticipation, and surprise to a grey Sunday. Each tinkerer got to use a large number of tools and materials, and at the end, our parents and families came in to try to guess what it was we had built.
We love our welding workshops SO much. Kids get their hands on tools and materials that they might not ever use otherwise, and develop an understanding and appreciation for the built world around them.
We start the day with a quick check-in and introduction--this time sharing a story of a time each of us made a mistake. Because guess what: today we're basically going to spend the whole day making mistakes! This skill-based workshop is so different from our other programming. It allows us to really focus on goal number 3, "Learn from mistakes and failures." Then we talked about our main safety concerns for the day: heat, UV rays, and electricity. Then, we got started welding, duh!
After taking a stab at some of their first welds (or brushing up on skills for returning welders!), kiddos spent some time thinking about what they'd like to make. Another thing that makes welding workshops different is that each attendee works on an individual project that they get to take home at the end of the day. Yay!
Check out our flickr for more pictures from the day!
Today was a good day.
One girl even said that we should call this Fashion Workshop instead of Welding Workshop, because of the fabulous gear and grime smudges we were all wearing.
Welding workshops are a little different than our regular workshops, they are ALL about mistakes. That's basically what we do the whole day, is mess up over and over again.
These kids were excited and afraid and went for it! They asked for help when they needed it and worked on their own when they could.
Everybody really focused and got lots of time at the welders. At the end of the day we had some unique picture frames, platforms, shelves, and presents for little brothers!
Today we thought we'd see if we could do a better job than the ESA with putting a lander on a comet. We figured one day of tinkering would be enough to figure it out. We were even so confident in our skills that we decided we might as well create the comet while we were at it! After tool training we divided up into Lander and Comet teams and went to the drawing boards.
Comet team didn't want things to be too easy for Fillet, so we decided its surface should be rolling. We figured a ramp would be the easiest way to roll the comet. Now we had a ramp and a comet to make!
Meanwhile the Lander team has been hard at work:
When the two teams are ready Fillet and the comet are both sent into orbit!
The first landing attempt fails due to comet deceleration.
A few quick computations from mission control and the ramp adjustments are made! With a few more runs we meet (and dare I say?) exceed the ESA's accomplishment and land Fillet on the comet with a bounce or two and our harpoons functioning!
We accomplished great things here today with girls of all ages working together and figuring out complicated problems! We heard a lot of stories from their day and the parents received excited tours of our mission headquarters. Hopefully we'll receive some stories from Fillet as it orbits past us too.
Thanks for your hard work Tinkerers!
We recently had a day for young women to come try their hands at welding! Our Intro to Welding class is a great way to get a feel for using a welder and get comfortable making sparks and heating up metal!
We start off talking about what dangers we might encounter while welding and how to counteract them so that everyone stays safe. Then we all don the safety gear and get to it!
But wait! Before we can make sparks fly we have to figure out how to keep our pieces in position, how to hold on to the welding gun with giant gloves on, and where to put ourselves so we can weld as well as possible! Whoa! So much to think about at once!
The girls weld scraps together all morning, checking each bead to see if they need to move slower or change their hand motions. Pretty soon it's time for snacks and design time!
After the plans were laid, all manner of measuring and cutting began. This group all had very unique projects and they had to custom cut almost everything!
These tinkerers showed a lot of perseverance and patience while learning how to use the welders and they all left with impressive creations. It's always exciting to see each Tinkerer bring their designs to life and see in their faces how proud they are of their accomplishments.
This Sunday was our first Intro to Welding of the year.
This was an awesome session, with all of our young welders showing lots of thoughtfulness towards one another and their work.
Projects ran the gamut from sculptures (like Oscar's MineCraft tiki mask) to furniture (like Ishwari's stool).
We got to break out lots of the big, charismatic tools, like the grinders and the portable metal bandsaw.
What better way to spend a Sunday?
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!
Intro to welding is quickly becoming one of our most fun and popular workshops. Wielding 90-120 volts and hundreds of amps to bring steal to over 4,000 degrees to melt steal into liquid and let it freeze into a shape of our choosing is something that may never get old.
The day starts with safety training and skill building. We start with making straight lines of bead and move into binding corners.
Using a base set of pieces we ask the kids to get creative within constraints. However if their imagination takes them towards needing longer or shorter piece we have our trusty new portable band saw on hand to make the cuts.
The projects ranges from flower holders and wall mounted night stands to miniature chairs and abstract art.
Todays crew epitomized pertinence, awareness of others, and courtesy. "Do you need help clamping that?" and "He can go first, his welds are easier and faster than mine" were heard again and again all day.
There is a deep need to clean our hands after working with metal dust and grease.
Once the welds set, its time for grinding. The kids really get into smoothing out and polishing their welds, giving their pieces a shine to be proud of. Also, the angle grinder is really cool to use.
We have magnetic corners that really make nailing the corners a whole lot easier and more fun.
Be sure to check out even more photos from the day.
We built a 12' tall robot today. This mustachioed mechanical fiend was a tinkerer by trade. He had 4 mechanical arms, one with a wrench, one with a power drill, one with a hammer, and one carrying flowers. A 4ft head with a light up eye dominated the skyline as a rolling base modeled after a lumber yard truck allowed him to turn on a dime.
We started the idea with a simple set of exceptionally vague notions. Josh would work with kids to build a body. Sean Would work with kids to build arms. Nikki would lead a team building a head. Lindsay would be our floater and help any team who needed it. Leaving it that simple and wide open gives us just the right structure (we are definitely building a robot) to keep things moving. A structure that help prevent us from doomed tangents and distracting antics.
More importantly it gives us tons of freedom to chase the kids ideas. It allowed us to say yes to the wonderfully oversized head and its amazing antenna, mustache and glowing single eye.
It let us say yes to a four armed tinkering machine that delivers flowers. It let us say yes to an 8ft tall torso, making it one of the larger things we have ever built.
As the day began we practiced with our chop-saw, laying a framework for discussions and opening up potentials.
Drills and saws are to building things as drum and guitar are to making music. You could use more, but you really don't need to.
We began our day by breaking into the 3 teams (head, arms, body). The team working on the head went big and never looked back.
The team working on arms needed all their focus. These would be the most finicky part of the project.
As the body took shape we needed to move outside so we could work on it at different levels simultaneously.
With the arms attached, the head went on and we enjoyed that first beautiful moment when disparate ideas come together to make something bigger and better than any one person or team could have done alone.
With a decidedly complicated software uploaded (totaling 5-10 child pilots at any given time) we set the robot on some tasks. Hammer this. Deliver a flower to that guy. Use the wrench to grab that pole. The team work needed and executed on was something spectacular to behold.
Today our goal was a Land Train. Three teams working together to build as many train cars as possible. One team built a car big enough and wide enough to hold the 7 people. Another team built one with a wooden roof and enclosure. The third team, our youngest, knocked out the most at a whopping three train cars. It worked, it rolled, and it was really fun to make.
All of our workshops start with tool training and safety.
With the train car challenge ahead, we dove right into brainstorming and design.
And then the building began! Each team took wildly diverging approaches. Some with solid axels, others with individuated wheels, and some took the assembly line approach and made multiple, simple, high-quality carts.
Lucas takes on a tricky attachment scheme to hold our wheel box to the main body of the trolly car part of the train.
Our youngest team puts the finishing touches on their second train car.
The front engine and trolly-esk car really takes shape once the roof is put on.
Dominic puts in some lovely touches, adding coat hangers for passengers with traveling gear.
Augusta takes a go on the chop-saw cutting a piece to connect the trains.
Sean and Anna put the finishing details on the final connection to complete our train.
It was a short ride, filled with the sweet knowledge that we built this all by ourselves.