Tinkering School

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Mark Day/San Rafael

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 5 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

What happens when kids land on the moon? It's a lot of fun, that's for sure! Not only did the “Noodles of Doom (dun, dun, dun!)” make an appearance but there were multiple golf clubs for both kid and adult heights, not one but two functional ball launchers and even a U.S. flag replica at the final hole.

Before the big project reveal at 2 o’clock, we worked non-stop all morning to complete as much as we could of the two large builds: the lunar lander and the moonscape golf course. We reminded the tinkerers that our goals for the week do not include “finishing the builds” but we also acknowledged that many of us really, really want to complete them. We were busy attaching noodles, adding obstacles for the mini golf course, stapling felt to plywood, attaching and reinforcing the ladder, and weight-testing everything so we could determine how many kids or adults could be in the lunar lander at a time. We even added mylar — an actual material used to cover the original lunar lander.

It was exciting to see everything come to life as family members peeked into the lunar lander and took putter swings on the moon to see if they could achieve par ( the course had a high difficulty level).

After half an hour of appreciating the amazing builds from the week together, it was time to deconstruct them and put everything away (reduce, reuse, recycle applies to Tinkering School, too). We’re grateful to all of the tinkerers and family members who were able to help out this afternoon.

Well, that’s it for another summer of Tinkering School at Mark Day School. We hope everyone comes back next summer for another round!

Rear view of the lunar lander.

Rear view of the lunar lander.

Inside the lunar lander.

Inside the lunar lander.

The chair inside the lander.

The chair inside the lander.

The entry door and stairs below the lander.

The entry door and stairs below the lander.

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The dual ball launcher system.

The dual ball launcher system.

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The full course including ramp, smaller moon bumps, large bump, Noodles of Doom, hole and flag. (Apologies for the warped panorama.)

The full course including ramp, smaller moon bumps, large bump, Noodles of Doom, hole and flag. (Apologies for the warped panorama.)

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from our big reveal. And check out our Flickr page to see many more photos from the week.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 4 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

As we near the end of our week together, our creations have gone from being mere wooden structures connected with screws to being embodiments of the vision we started with at the beginning of the week.

As the moonscape mini golf course took shape today, we began to hear talk of the famed “Noodles of Doom.” There was much pondering about what those might be. Stay tuned because they are almost complete!

As for the lunar lander, not only is it upright and oh so tall but it is populated with busy tinkerers drilling pilot holes and driving screws (long for 2x3s, short for plywood) to finish the frame and start to add panels to the sides.

One of our beloved retired Mark Day School teachers, Mr. Orwig, stopped by for a moment and as soon as he saw the lunar lander he asked, “When does it land on the moon?” We’re clearly on the right track since our design is that perceptible!

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This trap door was a design challenge that our tinkerers readily took on. It doubles as a ladder for entry.

This trap door was a design challenge that our tinkerers readily took on. It doubles as a ladder for entry.

Who knew a miniature golf course took so much wood and so much work to complete? When we build things ourselves, we no longer take for granted all the effort — intellectual and physical — that went into making them.

Who knew a miniature golf course took so much wood and so much work to complete? When we build things ourselves, we no longer take for granted all the effort — intellectual and physical — that went into making them.

In addition to our large builds (namely the lunar lander and the moonscape mini golf course), we’ve had quite a bit of interest in several smaller projects: a golf ball launcher, a seat for the lander, and a hill for the fairway.

Testing the launcher

Testing the launcher

Building the chair (so many triangles!)

Building the chair (so many triangles!)

Reinforcing the hill

Reinforcing the hill

Might these be the "Noodles of Doom"???

Might these be the "Noodles of Doom"???

Adding another triangle to secure the frame to the mini golf platform.

Adding another triangle to secure the frame to the mini golf platform.

Closing circle bookends each day for us (opening circle is a time when we teach new skills, demonstrate engineering principles, or offer reminders about group agreements). This afternoon, I asked our tinkerers to provide examples of ways that they had worked with another person or made a friend today. There were so many hands that we almost ran out of time but we were able to hear from everyone. How wonderful that so many connections are being made and new friendships are growing. I also asked for examples of things we are proud of ourselves for. We heard from students who had tried a new tool (jig saw was a popular one), or figured out a design for a new lander chair or repositioned a screw after realizing that driving it through a knot in the wood was too tough.

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A "partner push" can help when a drill is used in a tight space or when a tinkerer needs just a bit more strength to drive a screw.

A "partner push" can help when a drill is used in a tight space or when a tinkerer needs just a bit more strength to drive a screw.

Taking the idea of a partner push to its logical extreme, this group of tinkerers was all in on helping out.

Taking the idea of a partner push to its logical extreme, this group of tinkerers was all in on helping out.

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The drill press is used to make a hole for a plunger for the ball launcher.

The drill press is used to make a hole for a plunger for the ball launcher.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And stop by our Flickr Page to see additional photos from throughout the week.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 2 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Moon Golf (2019), Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

Tuesday arrived with a burst of tinkering energy as campers arrived rested and full of ideas and eager to get building! Taking some of that energy and converting it into reflective thought, we asked two questions we frequently ask tinkerers to think about: what is tinkering and why do we tinker? The answers ranged from “for fun” to “because it’s good for our brains.” We summarized them below on a chart that now hangs in the circle area. Taken as a whole they really show that our young tinkerers get why they’re here.

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After our morning reflection and a presentation on how to safely carry wood, we got into our build groups and got down to work. The Lunar Lander group had to finish up the octagonal floor, make legs and continue prototype work on the golf ball launcher.

The lunar lander was built upside-down to start with and then a team of tinkerers rotated it 180° and checked its stability. They decided it needed additional braces (triangles) and got to work cutting more.

The lunar lander was built upside-down to start with and then a team of tinkerers rotated it 180° and checked its stability. They decided it needed additional braces (triangles) and got to work cutting more.

It’s not easy to clamp a tube and drill a hole but this team was intent on making the golf ball launcher.

It’s not easy to clamp a tube and drill a hole but this team was intent on making the golf ball launcher.

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Assembling the top of the lunar lander section.

Assembling the top of the lunar lander section.

The Mini Golf course group was set on finishing up their first hole, complete with a ramp and obstacles. For now, those obstacles take the form of “moon bumps” but our design sketches from Monday hint at much more to come!

The ramp in the foreground and the start of a hill in the background.

The ramp in the foreground and the start of a hill in the background.

Moon bumps!

Moon bumps!

This was another big day for measuring and cutting wood. The chopsaw was busy for almost the entire time! Part of the reason it was busy was because measuring carefully, marking wood and cutting accurately are skills we’re still working on, so there were many instances of wood needing to be re-cut. At the end of the day several tinkerers shared how they learned to be more careful with their measurements after that experience. We love it when tinkerers share their mistakes and what they learned from them because it not only helps them cement their learning, but it helps others learn as well!

Tomorrow is another big day of building!

Communication is a big part of what we do at Tinkering School. Asking “How can I help?” or lending an idea to a project can improve our day.

Communication is a big part of what we do at Tinkering School. Asking “How can I help?” or lending an idea to a project can improve our day.

After we affixed the plywood golf platform to the frame, we realized that some of the screw heads stuck up too high and might block the ball. It was time for a lesson about (and then practice using) a countersink bit.

After we affixed the plywood golf platform to the frame, we realized that some of the screw heads stuck up too high and might block the ball. It was time for a lesson about (and then practice using) a countersink bit.

There’s so much happening in this photo but what it represents best is teamwork. Pairs of tinkerers are holding wood in place, offering screws or bits as needed to a partner, and taking turns using drills.

There’s so much happening in this photo but what it represents best is teamwork. Pairs of tinkerers are holding wood in place, offering screws or bits as needed to a partner, and taking turns using drills.

We encourage tinkerers to label their wood after they measure it. This wooden 2x3 has “20 1/2 inches” and “28°” written on it along with an angle cut indicator.

We encourage tinkerers to label their wood after they measure it. This wooden 2x3 has “20 1/2 inches” and “28°” written on it along with an angle cut indicator.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And check out our Flickr page for hundreds more from throughout the week.

Moon Landing Mini Golf - Day 1 - Week 5 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Moon Golf (2019)Tatian GreenleafComment

The first day at Tinkering School is a busy one as our tinkerers get used to the rhythms of the day. During our opening circle, we brainstorm group agreements that will help us respect each other, work together well and use tools properly. We also introduce our goals for the week: collaborate and make friends, try harder than usual, build something bigger than ourselves, and make mistakes and learn from them.

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The morning gets in full swing with tool training. We learn about and practice using our three main tools: clamps, chop saw, and cordless drills.

Many hands make light work.

Many hands make light work.

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Using assembly squares to ensure wood stays at a right angle.

Using assembly squares to ensure wood stays at a right angle.

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After a fun break at the park for lunch, it’s time for the excitement of the project reveal. Our tinkerers decided a drumroll was in order! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the theme for this week is:

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It sounds far-fetched until you learn that Alan Shepherd hit a golf ball on the moon with a club. So even though the moon’s gravity might make for a rather challenging mini golf course, we’re using our imagination and coming up with creative designs for how to represent the moon’s terrain. But it wouldn’t be a mission to the moon without a Lunar Lander. So another group is building a space craft that will land on the moon and launch a golf ball onto our golf course. This gave us a chance to talk about mechanical levers. We started with sketches and moved on to prototyping launch devices. And because we decided the lunar lander will be octagonal, we had to learn how to calculate, measure and cut 22.5° angles on the chop saw. All in a day’s work!

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A prototype of a ball launcher…

A prototype of a ball launcher…

…and a test of a lever system with a ball tube.

…and a test of a lever system with a ball tube.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And visit our Flickr page to see many more photos from throughout the week.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 5 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Sea Monsters '19, Mark Day/San RafaelTatian GreenleafComment

What a fun finish to the week… our tinkerers put their heart and soul into getting the submarine up on wheels and sea-worthy and into the final personality details of the bendy-body sea monster.

Click through the gallery below for additional photos from our final day this week. To see many, many more photos from our epic project reveal and the entire week, visit our Flickr page.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 4 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Sea Monsters '19David St. MartinComment
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Even though the Tinkering School goals nowhere talk about finishing, it sure is a nice feeling to see a project through to its full potential. This morning it was hard to tell if we’d complete the projects or not. The structures were still in their beginning stages and so many people had differing ideas. We just couldn’t tell how it would go as we narrowed our priorities, while allowing each student to find their own interests on the project.

We had a bit of fun, though, as two of our collaborators introduced an improv game during morning circle. A box of props (pool noodles, ping pong balls, pvc pipe, etc.) was dropped onto the floor and tinkerers and collaborators were invited to pick up a prop and act out a part of the sea monster. There were many giggles and smiles as we shared our creative, silly sides.

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

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Today was a big day for trying new tools. The outside sheeting on the submarine had to be cut with a circular saw, the port hole windows were cut with a jigsaw and a lot of large holes for pivots needed the drill press. We even used the laser cutter for some parts of the periscope! We spent some time talking about the new tools, our experiences with them and their potential uses at the end of the day. Sometimes it is amazing to hear students relay what they’ve learned through experience. These kids are starting to really get not only why we tinker, but the tools we tinker with!

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Using an adjustable wrench to tighten the bolt that holds the sea monster tail in place.

Using an adjustable wrench to tighten the bolt that holds the sea monster tail in place.

A circular saw on a guide rail is a handy stand-in for a table saw.

A circular saw on a guide rail is a handy stand-in for a table saw.

We use a drill press to make accurate, straight holes with large drill bits.

We use a drill press to make accurate, straight holes with large drill bits.

By the afternoon it was clear our tinkerers had come together as a team, found common ground and collaborated in ways that were productive toward the yearned-for “finish.”

One of many intricate connections inside of the submarine.

One of many intricate connections inside of the submarine.

Making sure the submarine is level.

Making sure the submarine is level.

A laser-cut periscope box is completed with a small mirror.

A laser-cut periscope box is completed with a small mirror.

Our hitch is simple and sturdy and allows the sea monster’s body parts to turn but stay together.

Our hitch is simple and sturdy and allows the sea monster’s body parts to turn but stay together.

It has been awe-inspiring to see the submarine rise from the ground up and include benches and walls and a steering wheel.

It has been awe-inspiring to see the submarine rise from the ground up and include benches and walls and a steering wheel.

Taking the sea monster body and what I’ve taken to calling the “rainbow scale tail” for its first test drive.

Taking the sea monster body and what I’ve taken to calling the “rainbow scale tail” for its first test drive.

As one of our campers was leaving at pick-up time, he walked back over to the build area, looked up at the sea monster’s face and said “I like it. When I go away from it, I have to come back because I like it so much.”

You know, I’m feeling the same way.

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Click through the gallery below for more moments from today. For numerous additional moments, visit our Flickr page.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 3 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day Sea Monsters '19, Mark Day/San RafaelDavid St. MartinComment

What is tinkering? Why do we tinker? The kids had many varied and yet connected answers today when we asked them to write down their thoughts, and it led to a lively discussion of all the things that tinkering encompasses and all the reasons we do it. We compiled a list that summed up our camper thoughts on the topics!

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“We tinker because it is good for our brains and bodies and to learn about how to use staff in different ways. We also tinker because it is fun and sometimes helps the world. And also inventing new ideas to help the world get stronger. We tinker to have fun [and] learn new things. We also build thing[s] that help humans and people with disabilities and that is why we tinker.”

“We tinker because it is good for our brains and bodies and to learn about how to use staff in different ways. We also tinker because it is fun and sometimes helps the world. And also inventing new ideas to help the world get stronger. We tinker to have fun [and] learn new things. We also build thing[s] that help humans and people with disabilities and that is why we tinker.”

Our work on polygons and bracing yesterday blossomed into many, many hexagons and octagons today. These aren’t just any old slapped-together shapes though; these shapes are perfectly cut, carefully assembled and thoughtfully reinforced hexagons and octagons.

One technique we learn is to start a screw by turning it with our hand until it catches in the wood. This helps when we are drilling sideways and don’t have gravity to help us.

One technique we learn is to start a screw by turning it with our hand until it catches in the wood. This helps when we are drilling sideways and don’t have gravity to help us.

One photo can’t capture the many ways our tinkerers help each other during the day but holding wood and taking turns drilling are just two such examples.

One photo can’t capture the many ways our tinkerers help each other during the day but holding wood and taking turns drilling are just two such examples.

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Because we are cutting so many pieces that are the same length (polygon sides), we are employing a “stop block” that is a piece of wood clamped a specific distance from the chop saw blade. With a stop block in place, we can more efficiently cut duplicate lengths of wood without the need to measure every time.

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The submarine started as huge octagons laying on the ground and by the end of the day, the were helping to form a giant underwater vehicle. It’s amazing to watch these structures take shape and to know how much hard work goes into measuring, cutting and assembling all of this wood.

The submarine started as huge octagons laying on the ground and by the end of the day, the were helping to form a giant underwater vehicle. It’s amazing to watch these structures take shape and to know how much hard work goes into measuring, cutting and assembling all of this wood.

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By mid-week, our designs take on more complexity and detail and often require the use of new tools such as a jig saw or rope cutter. Collaborators do adhoc training with tinkerers so that they can feel even more empowered to use a variety of tools.

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A hot rope cutter not only cuts through rope but also melts the ends so they don’t unravel.

A hot rope cutter not only cuts through rope but also melts the ends so they don’t unravel.

One small group took it one step further and used the equation for calculating the cut angle of a polygon to figure out the angle of a 12-sided dodecagon. They then enlisted the help of a collaborator to plan and execute the cutting, glueing and clamping to create a very fine looking steering wheel for the submarine.

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David gave a demonstration of how pulleys work and explained how they can redirect force or lessen the amount of force needed to lift something. We have a pulley station built by our collaborators that tinkerers can try out during the day to learn hands-on how pulleys can be beneficial.

The group working on the sea monster today had a surprise visit from a Chinese dragon head that lives in our Mandarin teacher’s classroom. After getting a few ideas for how to decorate our sea monster’s head, the team worked to add hinges and pulleys to the mouth to allow the jaw to open and close.

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At the end of the day we spent some time giving “love lasers” of appreciation to each other. Lasers of appreciation were flying in all directions as tinkerers and collaborators talked about all the ways they came together to build and solve problems. One camper gave a shout out to the entire team that worked on the submarine, pointing out how they had gone from almost nothing yesterday to a fully built submarine frame today simply because they worked hard and cooperated!

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And to view many additional photos from the week, visit our Flickr page.

The Search for Sea Monsters - Day 1 - Week 4 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Sea Monsters '19David St. MartinComment

The first day at Tinkering School is a whirlwind. A friendly, fun whirlwind, but a whirlwind nonetheless. First we introduce ourselves, then talk about the goals of the camp, then we spend a lot of time coming up with a set of group agreements that will help us all have a good time, stay safe and accomplish the goals of camp.

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By the time we’ve done all this, everyone is anxious to get their hands on some tools, so we go directly to tool training, where we practice on the drills, chop saw and clamps. By lunchtime we all feel accomplished, excited… and hungry!

We learned the difference between a drill with an adjustable “chuck” and one with a hexagonal “collet.”

We learned the difference between a drill with an adjustable “chuck” and one with a hexagonal “collet.”

A partner holds the wood steady.

A partner holds the wood steady.

Every chop saw cut starts with a “ready call” to make sure everyone in the workshop is attentive and wearing eye and ear protection.

Every chop saw cut starts with a “ready call” to make sure everyone in the workshop is attentive and wearing eye and ear protection.

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We refer to clamps as our "third hand" because when we use a drill, we need two hands to operate it. A clamp can hold wood together for us.

We refer to clamps as our "third hand" because when we use a drill, we need two hands to operate it. A clamp can hold wood together for us.

The project theme isn’t unveiled until after lunch. We do this on purpose because we need all of the things we do in the AM session to even be able to contemplate what we could do with the theme! This week, our theme is:

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We’re building two things based on our theme: a Sea Monster and some sort of submarine capable of searching for our monster. Tinkerers spent the afternoon ideating on the provocation. For example, if they chose to join the sea monster group, they sketched and described their ideas for sea monster design. What would it look like? How would it move? How big would it be? Tatian helped them look for similarities in their ideas and a plan slowly came together.

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Tinkerers often suggest using their height or wingspan as familiar measurements. This is great because it allows us to say both “one Nik wingspan” and “48 inches” and understand that they mean the same thing. So our sea monster is now a “Nik wingspan wide.”

Tinkerers often suggest using their height or wingspan as familiar measurements. This is great because it allows us to say both “one Nik wingspan” and “48 inches” and understand that they mean the same thing. So our sea monster is now a “Nik wingspan wide.”

Both the sea monster and the submarine groups have basic plans they all agree on, and ended the day hard at work cutting wood to fit the plan.

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Tomorrow is going to be a big day of building, solving inevitable design problems and pushing on our goals to collaborate and make friends, try harder than usual, build something bigger than ourselves, and make mistakes and learn from them.

Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. And visit our Flickr page for many more photos from throughout the week.

Jungle Adventure Obstacle Course - Day 4 - Week 3 (Mark Day School)

Mark Day/San Rafael, Mark Day Jungle AdventureDavid St. MartinComment

Our energetic team of tinkerers put in their last full day of building today. They’ve really come together as a team. During our closing circle today they had so many appreciations to share (we call them love lasers), we had to cut our appreciation time short before everyone was finished sharing!

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Perhaps the reason the group is collaborating so well together is because the project is truly daunting! For example, the slide waterfall they constructed today is 13 feet long, the platform it attaches to is huge and the rock wall on the other side takes at least four people to move! There is a distinct chance the project won’t be fully finished in time for our showcase tomorrow, but finishing is not a goal for the week like collaboration and trying harder than usual are. Come see how far we get on our Jungle Adventure tomorrow!

Filling the cave with obstacles

Filling the cave with obstacles

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The cave takes shape

The cave takes shape

One, two, three, four drills in action to drive screws into the plywood sides of the cave.

One, two, three, four drills in action to drive screws into the plywood sides of the cave.

Because one of our goals is to “Build something bigger than ourselves” and because we certainly do, we often have a need to move and turn very large structures such as the volcano. We had many tinkerers volunteer to help. Tatian led our group through a step-by-step plan and execution for rotating the volcano onto its side so that tinkerers could add cross beams for a landing platform.

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The volcano frame needed to be shorter to accommodate our platform and to make room for building the cone (make mistakes and learn from them is one of our goals!) so David brought out the Japanese pull saw and gave a demo on how to use it.

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Bracing the volcano with 45° angled boards.

Bracing the volcano with 45° angled boards.

A countersink bit is used when you want to ensure that the head of a screw is flush with the chair seat plywood.

A countersink bit is used when you want to ensure that the head of a screw is flush with the chair seat plywood.

In a camp for 7 to 11 year-olds, we don’t teach a whole lot of geometry (triangles for braces!) and trigonometry but we do have needs for both during the week. Angled cuts are a common occurrence on our chop saw. Our collaborator, Beth, calculated the length and angle of our 14-foot slide using trig formulas. And our tinkerer, Jesse, determined whether we needed trapezoids or parallelograms for our structural reinforcement braces and then explained the difference during circle time.

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Click through the gallery below for more photos from today. Visit our Flickr page for many more photos from throughout the week.