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.
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.
We decided to kick off building with the things we knew we would definitely need:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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....
Today we faced three challenges. Around, Over, and Across. The goals were all simple in presentation, and delightful in execution. We needed to get one bowling ball around an 8 foot long wall, another over a 6 foot high wall, and send yet another bowling ball through the air across the distance of a yoga matt. The primary restriction was to not touch the ball while it was accomplishing the goal.
Around was deceptive as a challenge. So easy did it seem that very few kids joined the team working on the project. Oh how wrong we all were. Getting a bowling ball to roll, take a 90 degree turn around a wall and return was a miniature feat of engineering.
Over was a challenge with a playful solution involving two pulley elevators and an "emergency string". Oh, and an emergency stick for the times it didn't quite work.
Across was a spectacle. You can see a video here. No harder or easier than the others, but substantially less subtle. Starting at 8ft high a ball careened down a track, over a plywood ramp and past a 6 foot long yoga matt. We later added a ski-ball element that was startlingly satisfying to play with.
We devised ball holders and planed our own solutions.
Our veterans got to use new and more powerful tools. The jig saw is how we cut two pieces of plywood so precisely to create the ramp at the end of the launch.
These were the kind of problems that could not be solved alone. Today was full of team work. Likely and unlikely pairs, trios and teams popped up all over the place. The projects pulled us together.
We had a blast.