Thursday Night, August 16th, 2012 – 11:30pm

Our day started with the arrival of this in our dining room:
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You just know it’s going to be a weird day when it starts like that. Carter says that he is known for his epic bed-hair and we’re starting to believe him.

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We want to be rolling down the track today, so when we get to the barn Trent, Carter, and the rest of the gang get down to business.

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The cart team decides that they are going to build a steering system, whether or not we have time to build a luge. However this cart sits on the ground, it will be steerable – so sayeth Kevin, Lili, and Liora.

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After years of Tinkering School, I find that teams that are jovial tend to be productive. Kevin and Liora are certainly both, as they iterate through some design decisions.

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The track team is getting serious. Rowen and Elizabeth put some diagonal braces on the new section.

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Ben moves back and forth between the track team and his mini-cart. This is about the third or forth version of guide wheels we’ve seen him work on. By any measure, that’s some serious tenacity.

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Gever takes a moment to start building some stilts, and Frannie quickly takes over.

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Carter and Elizabeth finish up the track section with a splice, and now there is one more solid length of track for a total of 24 feet.

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Christie and Rekha are also becoming experts at laying up new braces.

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With the real wheels affixed, the cart team wants to see it roll on the new track sections. Frannie, Elizabeth, Liora, and Kevin carry it through the barn to the start of the track – which is eight feet off the ground, posing a new kind of problem for the heavy cart.

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But, with a little help from Josh and Trent, they get it up on the rails. Much talk of building a ladder and platform ensue.

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With the stilt project exactly halfway done, Frannie recruits Elizabeth to help her try out the stilt.

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With the track now reaching halfway across the first work table, it becomes a part of the barn furniture. Trent takes a break while Rekha, Carter, and Elizabeth make some precision cuts.

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Meanwhile, Ben keeps working on, and refining his cart – a chair has started to grow out the back of the top deck.

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Version 0.1 of the stilts are done, so naturally, Gever has to try them out – just to make sure that they are safe, of course.

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Frannie is a little dubious of the curved stilt, and her fears turn out to be completely grounded as we soon discover that it is almost impossible to take more than one step without having it twist out from under you.

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There are plenty of sticks, so the foot brace is removed from the rejected curved stilt and a new, very straight, pole is cut to size. And just like that, the stilts become fun.

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Liora takes the stilts for a spin – with a little help from Frannie.

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Then Frannie takes them for spin – with a little help from Liora.

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Gever is enlisted as a stilt-aid, and after a pause while he invents a stilt-training curriculum, he helps Elizabeth take a few steps.

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And he helps Carter.

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And Kevin.

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Ben’s cart – with new seat installed – is ready for another test run.

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Seems like the guide-wheels are too tight, so it’s back to the shop to make some adjustments.

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Trent discovers the “proper” stilt technique and manages six or eight steps across the uneven floor of the barn.

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Meanwhile, the track crew has extended the track past the first table and has their eyes set on the second table. Christie screws on more bracing to keep the track from coming apart during testing.

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Then, Carter started channeling the Mad Hatter and we noticed that the whole day was turning just a little weird.

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The cart team declares the cart fully functional when Kevin and Liora get the new luge steering system in place. The cart is now fully multi-functional and can make a seamless transition from rails to luge – in theory.

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Another side-project bubbles up when the idea to cover the ramp to the barn in straw and make a snowboarding track (put forth earlier in the week) suddenly becomes the thing we are all working on.

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A tow-rope (the ramp is not quite steep enough) and a used skateboard deck are all that is needed to make our own winter wonderland. Elizabeth demonstrates her mad skillz.

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Pulling the rope is awkward because of fences, so a pulley is located which allows to the puller to run perpendicular to the ramp. Ben enjoys the much smoother and faster ride.

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Christie plows some hay down the ramp when she discovers that weight on the nose causes the board to purl.

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Frannie recruits help to make a few bumps and jumps, and then schralps the straw like she owns the place.

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Carter also finds his groove on the ramp and declares the ride “fun!”

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Rekha ends with a heel-flip that ends with a tumble in the soft hay.

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As the characteristics of the board and the straw emerge, the riders start to try more sophisticated tricks. Trent kicks off the board at the end of the ride.

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Almost forty feet of track are now complete. We don’t know quite yet, how we are going to slow down a cart going an estimated twenty-plus miles per hour, but we have a really great track. We’ve got the “going” part solved, we will solve the “stopping” part tomorrow.

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Despite a looming bank of fog, some of us decide to revisit the ridge hike from Tuesday.

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Back in the barn, the remaining tinkerers decide to help Ben test his cart on the lower part of the track. A hay bale is placed across the track to help him stop. The prospect of smashing into a hay bale doesn’t sound quite as good as it did before he climbed up on his cart.

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The simple pleasure of zooming along seems to wash away the concern.

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When the hay bale successfully catches him, he declares the whole ride “awesome!”

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And Rowen seems to like it just fine as well.

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And Rekha as well.

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But Liora knows that the proper way to ride a roller coaster is with your hands up!

We have a track, two very fast carts, and a few ideas about how we might go about slowing the cart down at the end so that it can make the transition to the luge mode. Tomorrow we will make it work.