Cross Pollination of Ideas at Marble Machines


We pay careful attention to the examples and starting points we set up for activities in the Tinkering Studio. Marble machines is one of our favorite tinkering activities. In workshops we use a more extensive set of materials and the activity is facilitated. On the museum floor, however, the activity is usually unfacilitated and has a more limited palette. We often set up a simple example in the morning to give an idea of possibilities. Once the museum opens, what happens next is an evolution of visitors' ideas expressed through materials and we never know what will get made over the course of the day.

Example of a simple initial set up before the museum opens

One indicator of learning we see through tinkering is the cross pollination of ideas between learners. Last week we saw an amazing example of this at marble machines! Our initial example included a simple rubber band funnel.


The marble drops down into the V-shaped piece and bounces back and forth before continuing on through the clear tube.


Click to see a video of the example in action.

Throughout the course of the day we saw rubber bands used in all sorts of interesting ways to guide the marble. None of them were exact replicas of the original example, and instead drew on elements in similar ways with a unique twist to solve the challenge each visitor was working on.

Marble Machines Rubber Bands
This one uses a complex series of X's to bounce the marble downward to the next track.

Marble Machines Rubber Bands
This one was a related iteration, but with the rubber bands more stretched out. There are also a couple rubber band trampolines in there too!

Marble Machines Rubber Bands
This one shows a tunnel to keep the marble from flying away from the board.

All these ideas are remixed from one initial, simple example. In unfacilitated experiences we don't often get to capture clear stories how ideas get shared in the space, so when we see examples like this it's always so exciting!

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