Friday Night, August 17, 2012

Up in the barn, there is a roller coaster – an unfinished roller coaster – and it calls to us. Like an itch you cannot scratch, the cookie you cannot have, or the water balloon you are not allowed to throw at your sibling.

It is also the morning in the week when tinkerers suddenly realize that this, right now, is their last day of building. But one can only stand so much premature nostalgizing, we abruptly depart the Ranch House and head to the barn.

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We missed the track so much, that our first collective impulse is to climb and sit and hang on it.

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Frannie (and Josh and Carter) start by whipping up an aircraft carrier style cable catch on the top of the cart (putting aside the problem of the passenger possibly being cut in half).

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Rowen takes his job as cart wrangler very seriously – which is good because if this heavy thing gets loose and hits a tinkerer, we’re all a little afraid of what damage will be done.

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By long-standing Tinkering School tradition, we make the smallest person be the test-pilot on any new project. Ben is filled with a mixture of anticipation and dread as he sits on the track at the test height (which we have named Petticoat Junction – further up the track you will find Bunny Slope, Rickety Mountain, and at the top, Suicide Slope).

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While final safety checks are performed, Trent relaxes on the tracks above Petticoat Junction.

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Elizabeth and Christie decide to build a slingshot. Little side projects are the encouraged legitimate peripheral participation at Tinkering School.

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Christie discovers some stretchy material that might be perfect for the slingshot.

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The sticks prove tricky to cut with the handsaw, so Elizabeth decides to escalate to the chop saw.

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Carter and Frannie successfully test the bungie cord braking system.

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If it weren’t for the fact that the cart will be carrying a passenger, this would probably be a workable system.

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Ben’s cart proves light enough for Gever and Josh to play a quick game of “You Take Him” on the test track.

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Elizabeth and Christie’s slingshot is starting to look serious.

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Ben’s cart. It may not be pretty, but it represents four solid iterations of independent problem-solving.

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As a group, we’re getting better at strawboarding. Trent is working on catching some air.

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And is frequently almost successful at it.

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Frannie shows that a good wipeout is as fun as a good trick.

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New Tinkering School friends Stacy and Joe are back (see Day Two for their earlier visit) to see how the project turned out.

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As the day wears on, Trent’s endless pestering of Lili results in her binding him in bungee cord to keep him out of further trouble.

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The hyper active imagination of Christie sparks a new trend…

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…and soon colored headbands and hair braids are sweeping the Tinkering nation.

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Even the sabotaging ninja (Rowen) is wearing a headband.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Elizabeth is festooned with Spectra line.

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After multiple successful empty cart runs from Petticoat Junction, the roller coaster is finally deemed ready for human trials. Ben and Josh discuss the safety and operational protocols.

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Even from Petticoat Junction, the speeds are exhilarating!

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The next-smallest tinkerer to take the plunge from Petticoat Junction is Frannie.

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And as soon as the cart can be reset, Christie is zooming by.

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Then Carter. The track and cart are inspected after each run to make sure they are holding up. So far, so good.

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Portrait of an Ecstatic Tinkerer: Rekha

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With a racer’s concentration, Elizabeth has her eyes on the rapidly approaching braking ramp.

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And Kevin rolls by with a huge grin.

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With ten successful runs from Petticoat Junction, and all parts of the track and cart in perfect working condition, Ben drags the cart up to Rickety Slope – the top of the track, fully eight feet, one and half inches off the floor.

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And he survives!

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Frannie is likewise unharmed but thrilled by the ride.

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Christie zooms down to a smooth landing.

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If there is a way to be literally “stoked,” Carter is.

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The stop at the end is a very rapid, and thrilling, decelleration – as can be seen in Rekha’s face and body posture.

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Elizabeth maintains her racer’s edge and focus.

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Liora enjoys the exciting ending as well.

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And Trent actually yells as the cart reaches maximum speed (later calculated by Josh as 16.1 miles per hour – within 4% of the theoretical maximum) at the bottom of the track.

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Rowen slides into the end of the track with a wicked grin of his own.

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And we see that same euphoria on Kevin as well.

Dousing Trent
Trent agrees to ride down one more time “for science” so that Josh can record video on a stretch of track that is marked every foot. That pretense proves to be sufficient cover for Liora, Frannie, and Carter to surprise him with a bucket of water just when he is hitting maximum speed.

We built a roller coaster.