About Oren Connell

Oren is a veritable veteran of Austin Tinkering School. Born and raised in the wilds of Montana, not allowed access to father's workshop as a child, spends majority of time tinkering or sailing. Habits include: sailing, tinkering.
Posts by oren

Busy, Busy, September at OpenShop

We hosted our first OpenShop just over 1 year ago, opening our North location to young Tinkerers to realize their building dreams. What a difference that year has made! This has been a busy, busy month at OpenShop, with loads of fun, interesting projects and a great batch of Tinkerers. This month saw robots, lots of Arduinos, soldering, and the usual spade of powertools and hot glue guns. Here are the photos!

Noah and Evan get fired up over Arduinos and blinking some LEDs!

Some bandsaw time for some quick and easy gravestones.

Noah practices his soldering as he works on his LED adorned walking staff.

Combine a temporary switch, coin cell battery, a 3v bright white LED, some terminals from an old pager, and a long, straight stick. Cut a battery slot, solder it up, and let there be light!

Calder works on holes for his hovercraft. Hey Calder, pay attention to that knife!

Wright’s super cool ‘hovercraft’ invention.

Noah’s cardboard battle helmet. Should go well with the LED staff.

Today we start up October’s sessions! Grab your Tinkerer a 1 month pass and come play with us!

Maker Scouts! (again)

Maker Scouts is always so much fun, each week we choose a topic/theme/idea/word and explore. This week our magic word was energy. Mostly that applied to the enthusiasm of this group of kiddos! All had an intense passion for tinkering, making, and, you guessed it, plenty of ENERGY!

Piyali warms up with the hand saw.

Kami introduces the first challenge: To lift a collaborator!

And Griffin busts some moves.

Eliza is not to be outdone!

August checks out a model wind farm that Terry Garity brought in to share with the Tinkerers.

Solar and crank energy were also on display.


And Snap Circuits! This age group was really engaged with the Snap Circuit projects.

“Tobin, do you have a question about Energy? No, just about diapers? Cool.”

Iris gets a lift.

Dash tires!

Carl checks out a collaborator lifting device. (later re-purposed for a pretty awesome slide)

We spent much of Wednesday waiting for the wind to come up for an energy generation demo from kPower. Though the wind wasn’t great the technology was pretty impressive!


Anna and Eliza put a shiny coat of paint on their shelves.

Anna and Jonas work on the lunch lifter. It seems lunches are much easier to lift than collaborators.

Friday’s shocking guest was ARC ATTACK! We were so excited to have these world renowned artists in our own back yard workshop!

Ellie demonstrates wireless illumination of a fluorescent bulb!

Anna and Eliza haul away just a few pieces of furniture they tinkered up during camp!

Though we never got a collaborator more than a few feet of the ground the camp was a BLAST! What an amazing group of self lead tinkerers. See y’all again next year!




Maker Seniors 2014

Maker Seniors is always such a treat for ATS. We really get to tackle some serious projects, we can crank up the tools we use and the Tinkerers have the capacity to really create a healthy dose of awesome! This week we turned to an old favorite with a new twist. It’s been a while since we did boats and this year each team was challenged with a specific material.

Collaborator Joel and Jack work out the wooden frame for their cardboard boat. Yes, CARDBOARD!

Team Pickie test one of their two model boats.

Kami and her team discuss plans for their PVC craft.

We found some amazing goodies at bulky pick-up! 10 water bottle jugs came in pretty handy for the cycle powered raft platform.

Sealing up the cardboard seems like a pretty good idea!

Greg puts the drill press through it’s paces putting a few holes in steel brackets.

The paddle boat comes together nicely!

The final boat is a plywood jon boat.

It spins! And fast!

YES! WELDING! The camp was a twitter with ‘don’t look at the welding ark’ speak.


Looks pretty good up there!

A little front heavy but VERY successful!

The SS. Bazertle Bout (Bizarre Turtle)  prepares for its maiden voyage.

She floats! All four Tinkerers!

The cardboard boat tests the waters.


All the boats floated their teams and we had an amazing time building and sailing these crafts. Thank to everyone for all their hard work!


Flying Finish at Ann Richard’s

Well, we wrapped up another amazing week at Ann Richards School last Friday and what a blast! We must thank the campers, the amazing staff at Ann Richards, and our teen and adult collaborators. This excellent camp wouldn’t have happened without y’all!

Now to the photos!

Team Panda certainly took the award for best branding, most cohesive social media campaign, and their bi-plane was pretty cool too!

All the teams were inspired by Picki’s giant sling shot and built small egg protecting boxes to fling off the platform. This one was an egg retirement home!

Nooi is looking pretty cool!

Team Picki is proud of their revamped flying machine. After a couple rounds of failure they found a sturdy, stable little design.

Thursday’s testing goes pretty well. Proper launch technique will be a great challenge.

And then comes the big day… We modified last week’s launch platform a bit and got it assembled in the field.

And let the flinging begin!

Honestly, the sling shot had better results on the ground. But all eggs survived!

First up, Panda.

Blurry flight is still flight!

Kablooi presents their amazing flying dart. Two weeks running, this type of design proved to be very successful.

Erin helps hoist Nooi’s flying cat creature onto the platform.

A great launch and successful flight from Nooi’s flying box!

And the egg lives!

Picki preps to sling their flying machine!!!

All the eggs made it intact! Thanks again to Ann Richards, what a great camp! See y’all soon.


Ann Richards Flugtag Week #2 (mid-week update)

There’s something pretty amazing about working with so many brilliant young ladies at Ann Richards School! We started the week a little nervous. We were to have more girls this week and many of them were incoming 6th graders. How silly of us to be nervous! These ladies kick butt. This week we focused on a Flugtag again and are giving our high school collaborators more control over the class. 

Avery and Aleeya absorb some info about how paper’s grain affects its strength.

Trisha and Samantha begin work on their Big Mouth Tumblewing Gliders. It was great to revisit this project and see the collaborators have more success and be able to share more knowledge with this group of Tinkerers.

Emma gets a heavier glider going.

And sliding compound miter saw practice begins. Here are Arden (above) and Janea (below) in action.

But don’t forget about the handsaws. Our safety rules don’t let Tinkerers cut shorter pieces on the chop saw so a little physical labor is required and Julliana doesn’t shy away from it!

Lucero gets some practice with the drills.

Francesca shares some glider ideas with Lucero and Janea.

First casualty of the week.

Taping foam together to make wing ribs has been a popular technique for achieving uniform wing shapes. Here Alysha cuts her team’s wing ribs on the bandsaw.

And Erin’s donation of fabric has been a popular choice for wing skins.

Egg protection container.

It’s a bi-plane! The only person more excited is the guy taking the picture!

Alexandra gives their slingshot a test run. They were able to launch an eraser about 50 feet! We’ll see how far it launches a flying machine!

Stephanie and Maya test aluminum foil as a wing skin.

Samantha found that a small strip of foam provided enough support to stabilize the Nooi’s wing.

And  team Kablooi perform a stressful, but successful test run!

Today we work on the structure a bit and refine airplane designs! Check back soon!

Ann Richards Camp week #1

Our first week of camps at Ann Richard’s School has finished up and I’d declare it successful! The group of girls we had last week was such a blast to work with. The high school co-collaborators were great fun and Erin Willig killed it in her first week as an Austin Tinkering School Collaborator. Don’t miss the video link at the end of this post!

Stephanie explores PVC cutting. None of the groups used PVC… perhaps next week!

Some ramp and foil details

Bella and Emma work on the launch structure.

Rockets Red Glare gets her wings.


Stella and Katharine work on the launch structure.

Team Kabloi crack them selves up!

Obviously capes are required for any successful flight attempts.

It’s important not to get TOO attached to the eggs…

Rockets Red Glare looking pretty good on takeoff.

Bella launches team Nooi’s Francisco high into the air.

Katharine and Stephanie’s big box was very well balanced and protected the egg well. However, no optimized for aerodynamics.

Obviously, when you have a tall platform, you must re-enact scenes from Titanic.

Video of the flyings!

Mid-Week Ann Richards Camp Update

This year we’re mixing it up a little bit and hosting a summer camp at the totally awesome Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. It’s been a blast so far, with a group of smart, motivated, and excited young ladies!

We started the camp off with an exploration of some strange flying things. We tinkered with the very tricky Big Mouth Tumblewing, a cool, walk behind glider that is best made with phone book paper. We did a lot of exploring and even a little flying!

Bella begins assembly of her glider.

The first round of flying attempts proved how difficult a theme of flight was going to be this week. Luckily we seem to have a tough group.

Aidan gives her Big Mouth Tumblewing a test run.

Day two kicked off with some serious tool training. Many of the girls at Ann Richards have had some great exposure to Tinkering and Making, but this is a young group and we go over it again.

Precision in measuring is a great place to focus before we get to the saws. 

Alex tackles the BIG saw!

And Bella had NO problem cutting an exact 1′ long 2×4.

Stephanie uses the bandsaw to square up the sides of her craft’s fuselage. “Fuselage?” you might ask? Why YES! Ann Richards Tinkerers have been challenged to build flying machines that they will launch off a structure they also build. They will be hoping to fly a “precious cargo” as far as possible, with bonus points for style. It’s the first ever Ann Richards Flugtag!

Stella wants you to remember, no fun will be had here…

Erin (right) collaborates with Aidan (left) on some wing building.

Lanna does a “flex test” of their front wing structure.

Obviously, some frisbee research is required!

Sai pieces together the first wall of our launch structure. We’ve got a lot of work to finish before Friday but spirits are high, as is my confidence in this amazing group of young women! Stay tuned for the results!

AMMF Nerdy Derby

WHEW! Austin Mini Maker Faire was a major outing for the Nerdy Derby track. We had a line all day long, helped build hundreds of cars and probably had one of the most challenging track sites ever. We also had a nice pile of computer for deconstruction! 

Our volunteers this year were tremendously helpful. Steven Fletcher from St. Edwards helped us get the day started.

Because of the downhill location of our track things seemed faster than usual. We were also recommending a more efficient wheel setup and that resulted in very fast cars! And lots of them flying off the track….

Mostly left on their own, the computer deconstruction was popular all day. Attendees from the Faire helped out with descriptions of all the parts and inner workings. Pretty cool to see that information be shared with no planning or encouragement.

There were a few Tinkerers who kept coming back for more and more, improving their cars, testing new setups and overcoming the obstacles that our big track threw at them. YAY TINKERING!

It seemed to us that most cars were actually lifting off the track when they came over the hill! The lucky ones landed back on the track, the unlucky ones crashed and burned. The tenacious tinkerers figured out the issue and solved it! A huge thanks to all who participated, it was a tremendous amount of fun for us and we hope to see y’all soon!

And as a shameless plug, we’ll totally bring the Nerdy Derby track to your school or office!


Perhaps [UN]Structured was a bit of a misnomer, as this was one of the most structured class we’ve done at ATS. Instead of our usual free-form approach to fort building Tinkerers in this 4-class series were expected to cut very precisely, follow a standard studs on 16” centers layout and explore the basics of how most homes in America have been built for decades. Check out how they did!

Framing and compound miter saws make life SO much easier.

Marlee had some experience with the saw but more is never a bad thing. She also offered up “it’s only safe when you can count the teeth.”

Sarah and Whitney got the hang of things pretty quickly. Whitney and Sarah were both very exact in their measuring and cutting.

“Get back to work you darn kids!!!”

Rone cuts down some plywood for our door header.

Four walls complete and time for assembly! (Nice photo Josh!)

And it stands!

We were able to get a temp roof on it very quickly before the rain came.


Next [UN]Structured class we’re planning a little less structure, exploring alternative ways to build, 3D printing and CNC cutting! Check out the class here: http://austintinkeringschool.com/offerings/classes/unstructured/

Spring Break Camp

Today we offer a quick glimpse into last week’s Spring Break camp. This was billed as a ‘Challenge Camp’ but after day two the Tinkerers had settled on a challenge for the remainder of the week: Build the most impossible race track imaginable. Obstacles were the name of the game!

Day one started off with a simple challenge, transport a ping pong ball across the room via the fishing line tied off.

Lucas was pretty focused on a tightrope walking creature….

And Owen (don’t make me say it!!!!) was really using his head!

Alejandro shows of the 3D printed sideshow. We used the 3D printer to make some supports for bearings that we then used to make a car. A car that had NO HOPE of making it down the epic track tinkered up.

Lucas and Alejandro work on the banked curve, probably the most technical of our design challenges.

Owen: “Wait, you can cut metal??? Can I cut metal?”

Regan works the miter saw like a champ.

It was a bit of a gloomy day for setup but the track came together very nicely.

Paloma tests out our little car around the banked corner. One slip up in this section and you either flew off the track or crashed into Paloma’s straw jungle!