Winter Break Camp: The Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker features a beautiful suite and large swathes of improvisation for dancers...

This is so beautiful. Eli, left, is the older brother of Abey, center. Eli has always been really cool about helping his little brother Abey. Here, Abey pays it forward, helping new camper Ada.

This is so beautiful. Eli, left, is the older brother of Abey, center. Eli has always been really cool about helping his little brother Abey. Here, Abey pays it forward, helping new camper Ada.

...but it's conspicuously short on actual nut-cracking. To remedy this, we spent Tuesday building actual, literal nutcrackers, and using them to crack nuts.*

Ryan and Lev finish the base of the Multi-Nutcracker.

Ryan and Lev finish the base of the Multi-Nutcracker.

We challenged ourselves to build a Tele-Nutcracker--a device that could crack a nut placed 10 feet from the human operator...

Scout and Amanda operate the Tele-Nutcracker.

Scout and Amanda operate the Tele-Nutcracker.

...and a device that could crack at least 3 nuts with one operation...

Carmen operates the Multi-Nutcracker, which is basically a wooden compression tester!

Carmen operates the Multi-Nutcracker, which is basically a wooden compression tester!

...and a fun game to roll nuts down a miniature ski-slalom on a single axle.

The Nut-Roller team found a gate-width and table-tilt that worked perfectly for the nearly-round walnuts.

The Nut-Roller team found a gate-width and table-tilt that worked perfectly for the nearly-round walnuts.

We also found some time to built miniature vices for at-home nut-cracking.

That poor pencil!

That poor pencil!

Delicious! 

A walnut, cracked and ready to eat!

A walnut, cracked and ready to eat!

You can find more photos here.

*In a Tinkering School first, of 19 kiddos and 5 collaborators, we only had one nut allergy--a mild one, limited to cashews. Hooray!

Winter Break Camp: Ice Hockey!

For the first day of Winter Break Camp, we made an Ice Hockey rink.

Young Jai assembles a hockey goal.

Young Jai assembles a hockey goal.

There were two goals, defended by plwyood goalies, a curved wall around the rink, and even a scoreboard. 

Net making starts with the warp...

Net making starts with the warp...

...and finishes with the weft.

...and finishes with the weft.

Pucks and sticks were, of course, home-made.

Puck-making!

Puck-making!

In all the rink came out to be about 96"x200".

Carmen cuts a curved top plate for a rink corner. There were eight of these curved pieces, and she did a lovely job of nesting her parts to minimize waste!

Carmen cuts a curved top plate for a rink corner. There were eight of these curved pieces, and she did a lovely job of nesting her parts to minimize waste!

Jadon installs the framing for a curved rink corner.

Jadon installs the framing for a curved rink corner.

In the excitement of actually using our finished sticks to shoot the finished pucks towards the finished goals inside our finished rink, we managed not to take a picture of the finished project. Kind of poetic, all that's documented is the process and teamwork. Lots more pictures of that, here.

Lev and Zachary paint a goalie.

Lev and Zachary paint a goalie.

Tool Training 2.0

Wednesday After School's are going to be be a blast this winter at Tinkering School. With every single member of the group being a return Tinker we delve deeper into our first day of tool training. We even were able to release the project and being working on our designs. 

First things first, tool training. We decided to ask a lot of questions to see what everyone recalled from their previous participation(s) before deciding to explore further tool operations in what I'd like to refer to as TS Training 2.0.

Nick learns how to use a speed square to make a perfect perpendicular line before making a cut.  

Nick learns how to use a speed square to make a perfect perpendicular line before making a cut.  

Ruben makes a cut with the chop saw

Ruben makes a cut with the chop saw

Sunny holds down a frame with Nick while he tries out the speed settings on the drill. 

Sunny holds down a frame with Nick while he tries out the speed settings on the drill. 

With 30 minutes to spare it was time to release the project... A Massive Moveable Marble Maze!

Wfinished off our session putting our designs down on paper before taking off. The youngest tinker in the group was so excited about their design they decided to bring it home (along with some graph paper) so they could continue working on it in preparation for next session. 

With drawing out of the question for Lukas due to injury he decides to explore some of the physical constrains for the group by measuring the bareing dimeter and the width of the wood we'll use.

With drawing out of the question for Lukas due to injury he decides to explore some of the physical constrains for the group by measuring the bareing dimeter and the width of the wood we'll use.

Becoming Familiar with Tools and Each Other

The first day of after school is all about learning about each other, the shop and tools. 

We begin by quickly circling up for introductions and some basic shop guidelines before we move on to tool training.   

We take tool training very seriously here at Tinkering School. We take time to stress the importance of each tools' purpose, potential hazards and safety protocol. We combine instruction, demonstration and individual practice to give everyone a opportunity to get comfortable with using them. Empowering the kids in this way helps set the entire group up for a successful session. With safety as our focus we create an environment where fun can be our outcome.

Click through below to check out these confident kids using the chop saw, drills and utility knives.  


Mini-Golf

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.

Success! Fin overcomes the treacherous hill obstacle on Hole #2!

Success! Fin overcomes the treacherous hill obstacle on Hole #2!

Cranberry Slammer - Thanksgiving Break Camp - Day 3

Tinkering School is a failure-positive environment. We acknowledge that, for people who want to try new, challenging things, failure is an inevitability.

We maintain a positive, attentive attitude through failure, and try to learn from it.

On this, the third day of Thanksgiving Break Camp, our reach exceeded our grasp! After successfully SMASHING (under a giant mallet) and SLICING (with a knife positioned at the bottom of a 16-foot sled track) cranberry sauce, this day we tried to SLAM it, between twon hammer, positioned on the end of a giant, rolling scissors.

We also tried to add a looping marble track, using insulation brought in by the industrious Aiden and Ayla (visiting from distant Los Angeles!)

The machines each worked in isolation, but we didn't have enough time to get them all working together reliably. But we did have a nice time trying. 

Here are some pictures, as always there are more on our flickr.

Selim, Ayla and Sam.

Selim, Ayla and Sam.

Braid power!

Braid power!

Demaris cuts, Jai catches.

Demaris cuts, Jai catches.

Zachary works on the marble loops.

Zachary works on the marble loops.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Slicer - Thanksgiving Break Camp - Day 2

Yesterday we smashed our cranberries. Today we wanted to slice our sauce! Days 2 and 3 are interesting because we have some brand new tinkerers and some that attended previous days.

We recap the contraptions from the day before and find out what we are building today!

We recap the contraptions from the day before and find out what we are building today!

After tool training we get down to some serious designing. Today we had Cranberry Death Sled, Elevator, and Simple Machine teams!

Cran Death Sled team plotting.

Cran Death Sled team plotting.

During the planning session the Elevator team decided it should use the up and down motion to power a Conveyor Belt.  It seemed like a lot for one day, but we were confident and wanted to go for it!

Cran Death Sled team gets to work!

Cran Death Sled team gets to work!

Brandin, AJ, Cadence, and Valentin create the Death Track.

Brandin, AJ, Cadence, and Valentin create the Death Track.

Up it goes!

Up it goes!

Mackenzie and Mason create the Conveyor Belt base

Mackenzie and Mason create the Conveyor Belt base

Zachary helps the Conveyor base take shape.

Zachary helps the Conveyor base take shape.

Ayla and Aiden test their Teeter Totter ball run!

Ayla and Aiden test their Teeter Totter ball run!

Ayla makes adjustments with the pull saw.

Ayla makes adjustments with the pull saw.

After some fun at the park and lunch the teams refocus and get down to business - we only have 2 hours to make everything work!  Today the tinkerers did a lot of independent problem solving.  The youngest were able to take design plans and recreate the objects in real life. The older ones took on tricky problems like how to secure the slicing knife to the track and how to hold the Death Sled at the top of the ramp until the right moment. 

After lunch building plan!!

After lunch building plan!!

Ike and Charlie make the pulley system to release the Cran Death Sled.

Ike and Charlie make the pulley system to release the Cran Death Sled.

Aurora adds supports to the Death Track.

Aurora adds supports to the Death Track.

Sisley attaches the conveyor belt material to the rods.

Sisley attaches the conveyor belt material to the rods.

Aime and Aiden perfect the Teeter and the Totter.

Aime and Aiden perfect the Teeter and the Totter.

At the end of the day we had arranged the contraptions and tested them in ones and pairs, but not all together.  It was time for a dry run - the best way to see what needs to get tweaked where.

After our dry run each contraption that needed adjustmenting received them from tinkerers overflowing with excitement. We then reset the whole machine and then loaded the Cranberry Sauce.

Once again, our machine almost worked perfectly! Each amazing contraption functioned, just not all together! We also totally sent a cranberry cylinder to its death on a tiny sled.