The audio in the video is a bit hard to understand, because it was quickly filmed with an iPhone next to a loud exhibit, so you might want to turn on the closed captioning… Enjoy!
In recent weeks a couple of reports came in from visitors playing with our Circuit Boards activity on the floor. Apparently, battery packs have been occasionally overheating due to short circuits, and someone suggested we look into a resettable fuse to prevent that problem. It is a bit of a mysterious component, described as a resistor that will break a circuit when it heats above a certain point, as happens during a short circuit. We started debating possible mechanisms by which it could work, and at some point we had the idea of bringing a regular battery pack and one outfitted with this PTC fuse in front of Heat Camera, one of our favorite exhibits at the museum.
Although our hypothesis for how this thing works was wrong (you can read about the actual mechanisms here, if you’re curious) it wasn’t too far off, and it was still a fun exploration of something we are actively tinkering with, aided by this great museum we happen to be working in.
We dropped hints here and there, but we're finally officially announcing it: this summer we are launching our very first foray into the world of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) with the folks at Coursera. The course is called Fundamentals of Tinkering, and is meant to be our most comprehensive and articulate (to date) attempt at talking about what we do and why, take a detailed look into why we design our activities they way we do, and offer some starting points for you to begin your own tinkering experience. We have chosen circuits as the theme for this initial course, because they are very "tinkerable" and can be approached from a wide variety of directions, from very low- to very high-tech.
We are very excited about sharing our constantly evolving thoughts on our passion for tinkering via this medium, and although we certainly had to make accommodations in order to use such a video format to talk about using your hands to learn about the world, we are proud of the final product. Most importantly, this is a chance for us to start a community of people interested in taking a first step into this world, or deepening their enthusiasm.
Sign up on the Coursera website, and see you all this summer!
At the end of May, some of us will be traveling to facilitate a chain reaction machine at a science festival in Moscow! Nicole has been working on a updated version of the bowling ball powered ping pong launcher that Walter debuted at Maker Faire way back in 2009.
This new version uses metal scoops from a restaurant supply store retrofitted on a wooden frame. And her and Walter have been collaborating to figure out how to release the bowling ball at the precise right moment when triggered by the last element of the rube goldberg machine. All the particulars haven't been figured out yet, but last friday night we had a test run in the learning studio.
A few minutes after the first drop, Maz came by and suggested that we try again while he filmed with the slow motion function on an iPhone 5S. So we loaded it up again and set it off! I love how you can see the wave of motion travel down the column as the bowling ball drops.
It already works great and even more amazing is the fact that it is designed to be disassembled and pack flat (and hopefully make it through customs).
One of the challenges of operating the Tinkering Studio as a drop in space on the museum floor is adapting the environment and facilitation of an activity when the audience is made up of primarily field trip groups during the weekday mornings and family groups in the afternoons. We want to offer the same activities to both groups, but lately when I set up light play for field trips I have been experimenting with a few tweaks to the environment and way that I introduce the activity.
Normally we run light play similar to other workshop activities. We invite visitors to work at their own space, encourage them to stay as long as they want, and close the gate to stop letting people in when the space becomes full. Additionally for light play, we encourage participants to build something to add to the collection of light vignettes, creating a collaborative artpiece as an outcome of the workshop.
This proves to be a little challenging with many field trip groups because they tend to want to move from place to place quickly and see the entire museum. Chaper
As an arcade impresario, Tim Hunkin knows a lot about coin operated switches. During his latest residency in the Tinkering Studio, Tim used paper circuit technology, strip LED lights, and a personal pegboard wall to create a wonderful coin operated light up marble machine.
He put two strips of copper tape on each track and as a quarter makes it's way down the path, it connects the two sides of the circuit and sends electricity to the LEDS
The angle of the final track was a little too shallow for the coin to move, so Tim added an offset hobby motor (like the ones used in scribbling machines) to help vibrate the quarter along.
Here's a video of the entire run! I like how this project fits together so many elements from different activities that we've tried in the tinkering studio while still being completely unique. Having Tim here always energizes our thinking and I'll bet that we'll have more experimentation with coin powered devices.