Sunday Night, August 19th, 2012 – 11:36pm

Dig down in the streets of New York and you will find New Amsterdam. Paris is a multi-layer wedding cake of overlapping cities stretching back into antiquity. This session is trying something that has never been done at Tinkering School before; we will build on top of, and extend, the roller coaster that Session 4 built.

In the mid-afternoon, Gever starts by establishing the ground rules of Tinkering School. Firstly, don’t hurt your self, or anyone else. Secondly, if you see a piece of fruit, and you want it, you must eat it. After that it’s pretty much noise; don’t play chase games in the house, no tools get left on the floor, don’t touch other people’s stuff without permission, don’t antagonize the animals, and so forth.
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Gever’s “Structural Engineering 101” starts to get interesting when he recruits Natalie to help him demonstrate how strong a 1×4 is when it takes the weight on the edge.

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Althea lends her gymnastics abilities to the effort to break the 1×4 when it is laying flat across the blocks, but the elastic nature of the wood resists her best efforts.

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The audience stays with him when Gever dips into the structure of a cell to explain how the wood can bend and recover.

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Tara is happy to lend a (sandal-clad) foot to test the limits of the wood. A cheer spontaneously erupts when the loud snap of the wood splitting echoes through the barn.

IMG 4653Forensic analysis of the break reveals a lot about they way that wood holds together.

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A 2×4 four, according to Isaac and the majority of the Tinkerers, should be almost impossible to break.

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To test the strength of the 2×4 we decide to deploy the Hammer of Thor (a piece of railroad track lashed to a sturdy pole).

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Our estimate is that the chunk of iron weighs about eighty pounds.

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We measure the distance from the target and get the hammer situated to ensure a good clean hit.

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Everybody likes it when a you get to smash something for the sake of science.

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A healthy discussion breaks out about whether or not the board laid down before or after the hammer hit it. The photos don’t show the actual moment of impact. Sam, Gardner, Leo, and Natalie find much to debate.

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Back in the barn, the tool training gets underway. Gardner is up first on the chop-saw.

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Natalie decides to wear safety goggles over her glasses to keep the dust out during sawing operations.

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Elijah has been to Tinkering School before, but we didn’t get much use of the chop saw on his previous project.

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Maybe it’s the gymnastics training, but Althea has admirably good stance and body position for the cut operation.

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Isaac is an old hand at the chop saw since it’s a central element in the Brightworks workshop where he attends school – but it never hurts to have a refresher.

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Ethan takes his turn as well.

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And Miles.

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And Tara.

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And Sam.

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We move on to learning some basic skills on the cordless drills. Althea demonstrates the proper way to make a hole and not break the drill-bit in the process.

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Which is nicely emulated by Natalie.

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Before we go to dinner, Gever decides that it will help the tinkerers think about how to design new extensions to the track if they all ride it first. Tara is nominated to go first.

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Followed by Elijah.

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And Isaac.

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And Miles (as a writer, I am challenged by the moments at Tinkering School where everyone takes a turn doing the same thing).

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And Gardener.

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And Natalie, who sees the camera coming and hams it up.

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And Leo, who, upon arriving at the end, declares it, “Not as scary as I thought it would be.”

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And Ethan.

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And Collaborator Christie, who goes by in an absolute blur.

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Over dinner, Gever instigates a discussion of ways that the track could be improved and extended.

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Josh, barely able to keep up, takes down the ideas in his notebook. When the ideas run dry, he poses brain-bending logic problem.

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Tara and Althea accept the challenge and retire to their room to work it out on paper.

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The diagrams quickly become complicated.

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But, when they think they have the answer, they return to the dining room and present it to Josh – by diggity, they’ve got it!

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After dinner, we return to the barn to refine our ideas and get some details down on paper.

In the morning we will divide the work into chunks that can be handled by a small team. This is how it starts.