Tinkering School

come make amazing things with us

Prototyping

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!

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.

Bowlercoaster - All Teens + English Language Learners Special Session

All Teens, Component Replication, Engineering Challenge, For Educators, Problem Solving, Physics, Prototyping, Tinkering ChallengeAmanda SimonsComment

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.

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

Spherical Squares

Prototyping, Open Ended Design, Super Silly, Tinkering Challenge, Aesthetic ChallengeLindsay JonesComment

We start tinkering mornings off with getting to know the space...

the tools...

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!

Designs so far: Snowflake, Layer-Cube, Waffles. Caspar explains his design, which we call Support-Ice creamcone.

Designs so far: Snowflake, Layer-Cube, Waffles. Caspar explains his design, which we call Support-Ice creamcone.

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!

To work!

Rin and Belle work together to collect wood that is the size we need and is already cut from previous projects!

Rin and Belle work together to collect wood that is the size we need and is already cut from previous projects!

Casper, Alex and Evan figure out how to use the clamps and a square to make a nice square corner.

Casper, Alex and Evan figure out how to use the clamps and a square to make a nice square corner.

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.

Team Cube-Layer assembles their 2 biggest layers at the end of the day.

Team Cube-Layer assembles their 2 biggest layers at the end of the day.

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!!!

Team Cube-Snowflake discuss how spherical their design actually turned out.

Team Cube-Snowflake discuss how spherical their design actually turned out.

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!!!

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!

November Welding

Welding, Problem Solving, PrototypingLindsay Jones

This Intro to Welding class we got up close and personal with the welder right off the bat.

After everyone got the feel of the welding gun with Diana each person dug around in the scrap bin and started welding things together!

We had some really fun, round scrap pieces to inspire the class and give us some hurdles to work around. Round things only touch flat things in one little spot and are super tricky to clamp, so we got really creative at positioning and also learned how to spot weld.  These pieces were also really rusty. We discovered that the rust makes it really hard to make an arc and this group of tinkerers were amazingly patient; either scrubbing the rust off of their pieces or welding really slowly and attentively.

A lot of really interesting creations evolved out of some welders' practice pieces.  Other people had a clear vision of what they wanted to make when they arrived and they got straight into planning how to make their vision a reality. At the end of the day a group of grinning tinkerers shared their creations and a tricky situation they struggled with while learning to weld. What a satisfying day!

Intro to Welding - May 3

Problem Solving, Prototyping, WeldingJosh Rothhaas

Today was an amazing day of welding and working with kids. The projects ranged from functional to useless. From playful to on the edge of high art. The kids were focused, persistent and kind. It was the best kind of day.

This an Enderman.

We keep our intro short. Kids aren't here to listen to adults talk. They are here to make stuff. A little speech on how cool welding is (seriously, 4,800 degrees is a neat amount of degrees), a reasonable amount of time describing all the ways you can get injured (sun burn on the skin or cornea of the eye, electrocution, burning skin by touching hot material, burning cloths from flying embers, ect), and some time on mitigating these dangers (face masks, long sleeve shirts, fire resistant aprons, procedural calls, ect) and we were off.

The first step is always exploring the tools.

Josh loves to get in close to see what is happening

From there we play with the materials. We like to call this sketching, but don't get the wrong impression. Sketching is not inherently a pen and paper exercise. For us is it the roughest prototype and an externalization of ideas to increase our understanding of what we are trying, and make communicating our ideas to others easier.

Sometimes a sketch is a drawing.
Often, it's just playing with the materials themselves.

From there, we just make. We make and we make and we make. Cutting, welding, grinding. Designing, trying ideas and reshaping our ideas to fit what's possible. It's world that mixes new possibilities with real and sometimes frustrating constraints. This group faced each and everyone of those constraints with flexibility and enthusiasm. 

One particularly excellent moment in the day was when one of the welders jammed. With incredible disappointment in their tone, one child asked "Does this mean we just go home now?". It was one of our most delightful learning moments to be able to say "No, we don't go home, we fix the broken machine." It was a chance for one of our collaborators to model the problem solving and persistence required in real project management and execution. What ever is stopping you from solving your problem is your new problem now. So we fixed it and kept welding.

What is hard to get across is the sheer quantity and quality of things that where made in just 5 short hours. Here is a brief gallery of work. There are also a lot more photos here

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