This Thursday: Scratch Day at the Tinkering Studio

We are hosting a Scratch Day event on Thursday in honor of the 10th anniversary of Scratch. Come by the Tinkering Studio and connect Scratch with the curious objects and phenomena of the physical world.

Join the tinkering crew on Thursday May 25th from 11am – 4pm to play, learn, and share together. By pairing Scratch with motors and light sources we will create and control beautiful moving light and shadow sculptures. Drop-ins welcome!

Scratch Day at the Tinkering Studio:
May 25th
11am – 4pm
Free with museum admission

Scratch Day is a global network of events that celebrates Scratch, a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, and animations. Learn more here: https://day.scratch.mit.edu


Lighthouse Mini Maker Faire

In April, the Tinkering Club after school program participated in the Lighthouse's Mini Maker Faire. Students in our program were the main facilitators of the activity, supporting the students at Lighthouse in making various forms of tin art (if you missed our blog post on tin art, check it out here ).



Before the event, Lianna asked for students to brainstorm tips for getting someone started with tin art. Students built on each other’s ideas as they reflected back on their own experiences as learners making tin art for the first time. Lianna transcribed their responses on the classroom whiteboard and I categorized and wrote up their responses into small “cheat sheets” for student reference on the day of the event. Their responses focused on supporting safe tool use as well as being thoughtful about their tin designs, which I thought were totally spot on for this activity.

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Our Tinkering Club students fully embodied the role of facilitators at the Lighthouse Maker Faire. It was great to see how much they’ve grown over the past semesters and their increased comfort with tinkering. Lianna and I made note of a few students in particular and they ways in which they facilitated that day.


Marla worked with two students who were running a booth from Grass Valley. They wanted to make the paper circuit version of the luminaria, and Marla instructed them on the basics of how to work with tin. When they were working on the paper circuit portion of the project, one of the girls had trouble getting her circuit to work. Marla jumped in and took lead on problem solving the circuit. She identified that when she pressed on the copper tape that rested on top of the coin cell battery, the light would illuminate and only then. She tested and made small changes until she figured out what needed to be changed.




Marceline stepped into a mentor role and pushed her skills during the event. She would notice as people were arriving to the table and acted as a greeter. She proactively introduced what was going on and made additional inspiring examples for the table without distracting from the facilitation time. Others excitedly showed off her work and wanted to have their photos taken with them (see her tree example above).

Karla was really thoughtful in how she got people started with the activities. She made an example with a large “K” to show that making your initials is an easy way to get started, and used that prompt to help younger kids who weren’t sure what to do.



Usually fairly reserved in Tinkering Club, Rose found a nice balance between helping others and working on her own projects. She offered options and suggestions to participants, like, “You could try this or that.”

Aurelia was an active facilitator for tin art. She made some last-minute examples in the morning, then stayed to help facilitate through the entire event (some students stayed only for morning/afternoon shifts). She was also very aware of the environment and helped with both keeping the table tidy and restocking materials when they ran low.


Overall, the day felt like a success! We had about two hundred Lighthouse students visit our table, and our Tinkering Club students had the experience being facilitators. Some of our students expressed how tired they felt at the end of the day - who knew tinkering could be such hard work!

Overdeck Family Foundation

This collaboration is funded by the Overdeck Foundation and the National Science Foundation.


Making Stained Glass Window Hangings with Tinkering ASP

To continue our explorations of light, shadow, and color at Lighthouse's Tinkering Club Afterschool Program, the next activity we dove into was making stained glass art. There are a few big reasons we chose to make this our next activity. First, it builds on students' interests and prior skills. In past activities, soldering has always been one of the most popular elements to participate in, but all of our previous soldering has been related to circuitry. Making a stained glass window uses those same tools and materials, but in a different way and for a new purpose. Additionally, creating a stained glass window allows you to manipulate a common material in a way most people don't have access to. Glass is everywhere around us, but it's not often we get to physically cut, arrange, and connect pieces of glass for our own purposes. Lastly, we appreciate how making stained glass is a practice done all over the world, and this activity allowed our students to engage with that process.

Though we had some examples that were 3D, layered, or used custom shapes, most students ended up making pieces that were flat, square mosaics of color. Sara's ocean-themed stained glass was inspired by the film Moana. The blue tones represent the sea and the green represents life. The copper spirals coming off the sides symbolize flowing water.


Many students enjoyed the process of cutting custom-sized pieces of glass for their projects. Karla commented, "this is sooooo satisfying" after cutting her first piece of glass. It's surprising (and a little bit scary) to cut glass for the first time, but her statement perfectly captures the feeling when it works.


Yesenia was frustrated by the slow pace of soldering her seams, so she came up with a technique to make it go more quickly. She would loosely bundle a medium sized ball of solder then begin to heat up the copper tape. When the tape was hot enough, the whole bundle would melt to join the two pieces together. Karla built on this idea by twisting together several strands of solder to make a thicker piece to work with. At one point during the session our co-facilitator, Rosie, exclaimed, "This is so much more helpful! Why Didn't we think of this before?!"



Another innovation the students developed was using masking tape to help hold their pieces together before they were soldered. At times the glass pieces would slide around when we tried to attach them, but using the masking tape made the piece more secure. Below you can see how Thalia held the loose pieces together with a piece of tape stretched over the top.


Just outside the Creativity Lab (where Tinkering Club happens) there's a large atrium with beautiful, tall windows. There's lots of natural light that comes in during the day so it was the perfect place to display students' work. We were concerned about the pieces being fragile and the potential for broken glass if they got bumped since the atrium can be really busy at times. We ended up realizing that we could hang the pieces outside so that they were still visible, but safe from accidental harm. I really like how they cast colorful shadows through the space.

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One concern we had around developing this activity was around its "tinker-ability." The initial explorations into this activity were rich, and I think there's potential to dive more deeply into expanding on how to tinker with glass, and could probably be the exploration for a whole semester's worth of activities. Some thoughts were: make your sculpture 3D, experiment with layering glass pieces, embed flat elements between pieces of glass, incorporate LEDs to illuminate the glass, or build out frames for the glass using woodworking or 3D printing techniques.

I'm looking forward to revisiting this activity so we can try more of these ideas in the future!

Overdeck Family Foundation

This collaboration is funded by the Overdeck Foundation and the National Science Foundation.


Tin Art at Lighthouse

Our second light-themed project at Lighthouse Community Charter School was to create illuminated, perforated and scored pieces of tin art. Hojalata, tin artwork, is the Mexican folk art practice of manipulating soft tin sheets by bending, perforating, and painting. Tin art supports tinkering practices that students have been developing over the past two semesters, such as soldering, iterating on initial designs, and using task-specific tools.

One reason why we are very excited about tin art is because the artistic practice of manipulating tin is found all over the world. Tin art has been found in Europe, the southwestern United States, and throughout Central and South America. Many of the students at Lighthouse have connections to Central and South America and the practice of tin art is very strong in these countries. We also like that tin is an easy to manipulate and inexpensive material that can be shaped into complex and beautiful pieces.

Tin art has deep ties to tinkering (a person who made and repaired things made from metal was often called a tinker or tinsmith), and we believe the activity embodies tinkering because of its multiple entry points, the ability to manipulate the material in many different ways (emboss, deboss, add color or repetition), and the ability to incorporate circuit making by illuminating a tin piece from behind or within. Rosie, the head Lighthouse teacher in the Tinkering Club, also brought in her tin ornament collection from Oaxaca, Mexico. She told the students about her collection and was able to share something personally meaningful with the students.

We supplied two different types of tin for students to use: spray-painted soda cans to create luminarias, or illuminated tin art, as well as square, flat sheets of tin. Marceline created a luminaria, but instead of using a soda can, she painted tin sheets black and curved the metal around a LED tap light. She perforated a hand-drawn design into the tin using a pushpin by first sketching her character on paper before transferring.




Marla’s luminaria featured delicate punched flowers scaling the sides of the soda can. She added a single blossom on top of her luminaria because she wanted some light to shine upward like a lamp with a lampshade. The effect was the light from a single flower projected onto the ceiling of the classroom. In her artist statement, she explained that Japanese kimonos and cherry blossoms inspired her tin art design.



Some students also constructed their own lights for their luminarias. Students used prior knowledge of constructing paper circuits from copper tape, LEDs, and coin cell batteries to customize their tin art. Stephanie illuminated a starry luminaria with a color changing LED by constructing and soldering the circuit onto a base that could be housed underneath her piece.




Some students focused on color and texture in their tin art, like these two examples below, and used Sharpie markers to create striking, vibrant pieces.


After students finished their tin art, we encouraged them to write a title card to go alongside their artwork on the Tinkering Club bulletin board. On the card, students included their name, title, media, and an artist’s statement.


Shipping things!

Former Tinkering Social Club guest Jesse Genet, creator of Lumi Ink, launched a delightfully quirky yet informative YouTube show all about… shipping things! It's called Shipping Things. I'm already a subscriber!