Tinkering School

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Unusual Materials

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.

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!

The Ping Pong Trak!

Open Ended Solution, Problem Solving, Tinkering Challenge, Unusual MaterialsSage RyanComment

Where to start?! What an intimate and productive day with only 5 tinkerers tinkering it up! 

We began the day with our group agreements and Tinkering School Goals..

 

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And some informative tool trainings!

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After snack break, we dove into revealing the project! .... 

The Tinkerers were challenged with getting a ping pong ball from all the way up here...!

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...to the ground and land perfect on a washer. 

The crew got to designing a track that would accomplish the trajectory!

Measuring... 

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Planning..

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Until... 

BUILDING HIT THE TOWN!!

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While the folks above got to work on the center track, some others build support mechanisms for the ultimately angled, towering, ramp.. 

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The project grew and grew! And they worked and worked! Time 4 a lunch break.

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After creating a triangular hookish mechanism to allow the track hang onto the top of the window sill..

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We threw some ropes around the project, and with the biggest possible safety precautions we hoisted the thing up!!

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Finishing up our securements and legs for the track just as parents began to arrive.. the mechanism was deem fit for Ping Pong use!! The hard working tinkerers enjoyed moments of controlled chaos and glee as they rolled the hollow plastic spheres down the enormous ramp that they had labored oh so long upon!! 

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Random Critter Creator

Aesthetic Challenge, Open Ended Design, Problem Solving, Unusual MaterialsLindsay JonesComment

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!

Maanasa drew out the wings, so Isaiah could cut them out on the bandsaw!

Maanasa drew out the wings, so Isaiah could cut them out on the bandsaw!

Isaiah cuts the angled tips out.

Isaiah cuts the angled tips out.

This Critter is definitely starting to look house-like.

This Critter is definitely starting to look house-like.

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!

Horns of the softer variety

Horns of the softer variety

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.

"It's a metaphor because that's how high it felt like I was when I was attaching the abs."

"It's a metaphor because that's how high it felt like I was when I was attaching the abs."

Here is Maanasa's drawing of herself trying harder than usual attaching the wings, up high, with tricky washer/screw assemblies.

Here is Maanasa's drawing of herself trying harder than usual attaching the wings, up high, with tricky washer/screw assemblies.

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!

Random Critter Creator - All Girls Workshop

All Girls, Open Ended Design, Unusual MaterialsLindsay JonesComment
IS EVERYBODY READY?!

IS EVERYBODY READY?!

Today we learned.....

How to keep ourselves and our friends safe

How to keep ourselves and our friends safe

That if the wood isn't moving, then you clamped it correctly

That if the wood isn't moving, then you clamped it correctly

That two screws at a joint keeps the wood locked in place.

That two screws at a joint keeps the wood locked in place.

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:

Whoa!

Whoa!

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 :

a measuring tape!

a measuring tape!

or your Friend!

or your Friend!

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:

The 6 fingered, 6 toed, 3 tongued, 2 headed, 5 nosed Critter (6 tummies not pictured)

The 6 fingered, 6 toed, 3 tongued, 2 headed, 5 nosed Critter (6 tummies not pictured)

For more photos from this workshop visit the Flickr page!

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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Time to Build a Giant Spider!

Super Silly, Unusual Materials, Problem SolvingJay SimpsonComment

Because, I ask you, why not?!?

This was a great, whacky, weekend workshop. Tons of fun ideas, lots of time spent building, and we did so many things! We'll start from the beginning...

After getting to know each other and learning the Tinkering School goals and community agreements, we got to know the tools — namely, the chop saw (compound miter saw) and the power drills. Then we dove into project design and conceptual tinkering!

After some sketching, we realized that one of our ideas — to control the movement of the spider from inside its barrel body — needed to be tested. How many kids can really fit in a barrel?? One. (Really). After we made our plans we attacked the wood and got started!

Our teams started making legs, cutting a face for the slider out of plywood, and making a spider-silk spool to go on the spider body. 

Lastly, we worked together to make all of our legs attach to the barrel body. 

Unfortunately, we didn't finish our spider (so it looked like a squashed spider) but we had a great time working right up until the end of our presentation and sharing circle!

Our final thoughts from today: "ALL of it was fun!" Building a giant spider certainly fun, mistakes happened, and we all had a great time building! 

 

Crazy Creature!!! One-Day Workshop

Cardboard, Unusual Materials, Open Ended Design, Super SillyCaroline ScanlanComment

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!

TEAM BOTTOM

Design: Hinged legs + feet as well as a braided tail!

TEAM TOP

Design: four folding lever arms, operated by strings that can be pulled from the middle of the creature!

TEAM SPINE/SUPPORT

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, howeverhave 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 :)

BUILDTIONARY-One Day All-Girls Workshop

All Girls, Open Ended Design, Unusual MaterialsRachel EconomyComment

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.

 

Teamwork on the bandsaw brake!

Teamwork on the bandsaw brake!

 

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. 



Mini-Golf

Unusual Materials, Tinkering Challenge, Technical SkillsSean Murray

What could be more fun than playing mini-golf?

Building our own mini-golf course, then playing it!

We started by very carefully framing the sub-floors of the holes. They had to be very precise, so that the ball would roll smoothly.

We covered the framing with plywood, then covered the plywood with canvas.

Then we painted the canvas green. We also made obstacles for the holes--a rounded hill for Hole #2, and for Hole #1, of course, a windmill!

Building a mini-golf course, then playing mini-golf, that's what!

As always, there are more photos on our Flickr.

Intro to Welding - March 15

Welding, Unusual Materials, CardboardJosh Rothhaas

The 8 kids who came to Intro to Welding today where focused and ready to dive in. They used a little over 90 volts and 20 amps to bring steel to over 4,800 degrees fusing it into solid single pieces. Many of them even wandered into the world of mixed material crafting by adding wood and cardboard and plastic to the mix. Today we made chairs, tables, flying busses, coat-hangers, rectilinear art, abstract art and more. 

One Day Workshop : Bowling Ball Challenges

Unusual Materials, Tinkering Challenge, Engineering Challenge, PhysicsJosh Rothhaas

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.

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