[Wk 5 - Activity] Take Time for Tinkering


@Paola_Caneppele the reason I asked is that plant watering systems seem to be a popular arduino project for many people ( it also seems difficult to find things-worth-making with arduino when the medium is unfamiliar)

The sunlight in your project plus @Xanthe_Matychak’s question about power led me to re-iterate my project w/ solar to to servos, and wings instead of legs. Thank you for ideas!


In our #MakerSpace in the public Library in Fabriano we started on the #PLAY topic by taking a look at (an half of) the Mitch Resnick’s video on PLAY, guys were very motivated to start tinkering and the presentation went short through slides 3 - 5 of the presentation shared by @Bice_Rapaccini (from their meet “LCL on air”) and the so caothic image representation of tinkering (from

After that (about 4:00pm) we put some of the MakerSpace materials on the table: cables, breadboards, potentiometers, makeymakeys, batteries, leds, buzzers, arduino and, on that wonderful multigenerational and intercultural table we started to tinker. Results are:

  • Children of 6 years old were drawing on paper some of the images seen in the tinkering caothic picture here above
  • Alessio, Paolo and Valerio used for the first time the Makey Makey and let our monster project by the MakerCamp work sharing their hands, and they showed it to children
  • A child has begun drawing the monster
  • Roberto has used the breadboard, the battery, a restistance, a led and a potentiometer to create a test for the potentiometer in order to let others see how a floating resistance affects a led and showed it to Valerio and Paolo
  • Childrens saw him and started creating a led circuit with small breadboards looking for pieces above the table
  • Costin tried to move a stepper motor through a potentiometer with Arduino, with failure, and he was happy! :wink:

At 5:30pm we met Ruben, a 18th years old guy we have invited to let us play with the board table game “Il Baro” he invented on his own, basing on inspiration from a loaded dice. We enjoyed the game and be inspired by the tinkering to meet again and think (or tinker!) about adding some technology to the board table game itself.

Thank you LCL for letting us organize a specific acivity about tinkering: there has been a bit more “joy” and “movement” in the MakerSpace. Even if we experiment every week, probably today we have been more focused on the topic and we were all aligned on being prepared to be un-prepared! :wink:

Here are some pictures of this great day in the MakerSpace of the Public Library in Fabriano.


Wow @Enitha5 this looks great! I am wondering how you created it… And how the math is working in such a lovely hand made toy. I am sure it will be a fun process to playfully learn multiplication…

Do you mind explaining more… thanks! :sunny:


Neat. Another question then: Does the solar need to be right on the bot or can it be at the recharging station?

I asked about decision making rules because I have them and teach them but like to check them against other educators and leaders. I appreciate your “I use my gut” response. The artist in me thinks we need more of that. The eng/startup person in me is a little more uptight.

FWIW the rule is: Generate a lot of ideas, evaluate them for two criteria points:

  1. EASY/HARD to implement

Then start with an idea that is easy to implement yet unconventional.

WHY do I do this? I want students to work beyond their comfort zone (on something unconventional) yet I want them to go through many iterations so I am trying to prevent them from choosing ideas that will send them down a rabbit hole.

However, I have an EE friend who says, “A lot of creative stuff happens down rabbit holes.” He has a point. But he also has an alpha partner who pulls him out when needed.

When I’m teaching, I’m trying to teach students how to self direct with intention. “Don’t intuit your way through it” is something I’ve been known to say. But I’m calling that into question. It might be too rigid


Replying in a seemingly random order. Given your design interest you might appreciate this board game. Larger resolution image on my wordpress.

I haven’t played, or even proof-read this, but it’s suitably a 2nd or 3rd iteration to an original concept co-developed with a friend at Tufts a few years ago (thanks to a grant from Tufts CEEO).

Apropos to your questions, this version requires players to generate multiple sketches, select one, flip it upside down, add or remove 1 item (a simultaneous nod to Coco Chanel and Steve Jobs). What I noticed when designing this board was that in a different way I repeatedly asked players to ask themselves What am I trying to do? What is success in the context of this design challenge? There are so many ways to ask this question. Many children, as players, approach this sort of game as if it’s a race to return to the start tile; hopefully they learn another lesson about iteration and ongoing revaluation. What do you think?

:bellhop_bell: @feroda, if you’d be able to, I’d appreciate learning more about the game Il Baro that someone designed and brought to your making space


All things considered I strongly agree with you: as teachers we need prompts to motivate students, stir unconventional approaches, re/kindle fires; and we also need to watch out for those rabbit holes, or occasionally to pull students out of a well. E.g., in my paper shelters work students often use too much tape or glue, and make all too familiar shelter forms on iteration1 . I expect and accept that. When I work with them next, I share a slideshow of kyosho jutaku, ask for new paper shelters, and remove from each child the adhesive that s/he preferred. (The micro shelter also introduces themes like limited resources, neighbors, community, light . . .)

My perspective on this as a teacher is somewhat at odds with my experience as a student. In kindergarten I made a painting of all my favorite holidays, and my teacher told me the painting was “wrong”, that it should be of only one holiday. My ruminations led basically to the teaching de gustibus non disputandum est, and also to an unhealthy association of my parents as allied with my teachers against my interests. :metal: As a consequence I don’t really have any formal education in anything, definitely not in math, science, or engineering. From my perspective today I can appreciate that the k-teacher was trying to be helpful.

For now the solar panels are plugged directly into power and ground for the servos, and a board, separately powered, will send data/code to the servos. I don’t know if this will work. But the question you posed yesterday led me to read more documentation on Adafruit CPE’s power needs. I learned that they have a regulator which will accept 3.5- 6.5 v and will regulate this down to the required 3.3v. They also have a polarity protection diode, which would save the board even if you reversed poles of a power source. I have a separate and undisclosed project which requires that I regulate power in this way so it was exciting to learn some language related to the technology I need to figure out for that work. Thanks!


Excellent. I would bet your game is a good warm up exercise to a real project. An experience a teacher can point to when a student is stuck on their project. “Remember when you landed on the iterate tile when playing the game? Now it’s time to iterate on your project.”


For this week, I wanted to play with Scratch. I didn’t have any project defined, but I wanted to explore sounds on this platforms and see what I could do with them.

I started drawing some circles and playing a pre-set sound when the mouse was over a certain colours, but then I realised that I was able to record my own sounds. Since my baby was next to me crying, I decided to record his crying and see how I could use that record.

After that, I explored different elements that Scratch provides, as timer, loudness sensor, etc, and got the idea that I could link the loudness level to the crying sound of my baby! From there, I got the idea of recording me shushing, and putting everything together. What I got for now, is a sequence of crying baby sound when the user speaks loud, and after some iterations, me shushing, which ended up being quite funny!

You can see my project here.

I started the process without a clear idea of where I wanted to end, just a basic guideline about exploring sounds. I allowed myself to just explore the platform, the elements available and to get inspired. After I got an idea that I liked, I looked for other elements and started putting things together, which felt actually like playing as a kid. I really enjoyed the process!

As next step, I’d like to add something visual, maybe a video, to these sounds and see where I end :slight_smile:


Hi David! Looks like a fun project! I really like the castle structure. I am curious, could you say more about your inspiration /context for this project? What do you mean by it being “easy for the light to be unseen”?


We had a tinkering session with my son today!
He was playing with lego bricks for a while when he suddenly started crying. He was very upset because he was about to finish building his idea when it broke into pieces. Then I explained that I will try to build something and try to understand how it feels to see it broken into pieces. The result is the skier seen in the picture :)We built together with my son. At the beginning it didn’t have arms so my son offered to build arms, I added the poles. The poles were short, so he added one more piece to make them taller. Now we are trying to move it forwards. In a few steps it breaks down and we repair and try to do it better to move further without breaking down. We are not successful at all but at least he is not crying or even he is not upset when it breaks down. He is now open to build something new when the first sample breaks down.


Today @sean and I tinkered with projecting Scratch projects. We explored landscapes and video sensing.

We noticed that when projecting onto fabric, you can mix images from the front and back:

We’re going to keep tinkering with projection and fabric! Might try bigger fabric panels next time, and exploring different angles.


Hi Lily, what I mean by it’s “easy for the light to be unseen” is that a laser, because of its coherence, only appears as a dot somewhere in space, unless you interfere with the light (e.g., with fabric or smoke or something). I chose to bounce / diffuse it in such a way that one doesn’t risk beholding a too-intense reflection (which could damage an eye).

The context is that I am repurposing old teaching equipment that either bores me or could be cooler. Previously this castle with button and dial was for Scratch via Pico or Arduino w/ScratchX. As these platforms have become less supported/viable, I’m trying to make the equipment’s primary utility something new (though you can still play Scratch with it, and have a laser alight with your project :smile:).

It’s become important, I’m dimly aware, that I have this kind of equipment readily available to share at symposia, back to school night, and so on. It should be good teaching equipment but it’s also part of a show. So - I don’t meant this in a pejorative way - the context is that aspect of teaching that is circus.


Almost forgot - I also use the castle as a heuristic to talk about computer and network security. (You can’t keep rats out of the castle but you can keep them away from the crown jewels.) Laser castle was for a faculty preso in case my slide of a castle wasn’t working. :european_castle:


These days i’m stuck with wooden sticks,i made simple painting on the back,then shake it, bring one of them and ask little boy to arrange the shape,and identify it.


I loved reading this post, especially this part:
“Costin tried to move a stepper motor through a potentiometer with Arduino, with failure, and he was happy!”
That made me smile so much. It’s something I’ve been experiencing myself a lot over the last few weeks - when things don’t work but still having fun in spite of (or maybe even because of) these failures, and the motivation to persist and reiterate :slight_smile:


Wow! The stuff people have shared this week has been amazing and fascinating!

Last night I did a lot of procrastinating watching youtube videos, mostly about Jim Henson. This led to an attempt at making some crude “animatronics” which was a lot of fun. The idea was to make a moving eye that could be used in a puppet.

A lot of tinkering was required as I hadn’t really used motors before and I had problems with the eye spinning too fast. I found some information online about increasing the resistance by running the current through the graphite in a grey lead pencil, but the motor struggled to turn without some initial momentum. It was also challenging to make free-standing structures that could support the weight of the motor and the battery. I used a cardboard roll to make a stand for the eyeball and part of an egg carton to make the eyelid.

Next I would like to try experimenting with different kinds of motors, reversing the direction, and some coding to control the eye movements.




These dagu motors are great and have these little geared down (slower) shafts on the side:

What are these plastic parts that you are using? they look handy


I’m not sure if this counts as tinkering. I’m learning a new skill so that I can tinker with it.

The image below: Two solder joins from yesterday’s metalsmith class. As you can see, my brass join is not well aligned. The silver is better. Next step: practice, practice, and more practice


I love your picking basket! And I also really love the adjustment notes. This gave me a good idea for my next project, make the ideal bike shopping basket! Creating a container for things you buy or do very often could be a great creative project theme. Let me steal it :wink: