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:

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!

The last days of Robots

The last couple days of our Arduino, Robot experimentation was darn fun! Arduino isn’t the easiest micro-controller to program but Nate and Ethan seemed to enjoy.

Some donated electronics donated their insides for our project. And because it’s fun to take stuff apart! Right Nate?


Nate harvested a momentary switch for our robot design and we got it to control our Arduino.

Bella and Calla were soldering powerhouses!

And Nate was very helpful.

And… the robot! Well, it wasn’t able to move it’s own weight, so that was a problem! And our switch wasn’t playing very well with our motor shield. Ah… sure wish we had one more class for gears!

MakeyMakey FUN(NY)

Saturday was our first class in our Arduino/Scratch/MakeyMakey Robots! offering. We spent the whole time with MakeyMakey and Scratch. Man, what fun!

Here’s a little video of some of the sounds the Tinkerers created. Sadly I got so wrapped up in the Tinkering I didn’t get anything from the last hour where things got pretty cool!

Video link: MakeyMakeyClass

By the end we were playing with conductive ink, aluminum foil creatures, and had bananas that changed the instrument from flute to piano to electric piano. I’m pretty excited to see what this group does with Arduino next week!

Small Engine Teardown and Build up Day #1

Man, I’ve been pretty darn excited for this class to begin! There’s nothing like the smell of gas in the late afternoon. I was sure to ask every Tinkerer if they wanted nitrile gloves before they got started and dirty… not a single taker.

Lubbock chose the leaf blower, something I had never taken apart, and it hid its secrets well….

Bella explores the muffler from her weed-eater (whacker)

Alejandro examines the cover of the centrifugal clutch on his chainsaw.

Oskar and his Dad examine the parts of the weed-eater they’ve dismantled.

Bella shows off her extracted 2-stroke engine. A whopping 30cc’s if I recall correctly!

Lubbock explains how some of the business end of his leaf blower works.

And Alejandro examines the piston, connecting rod and bottom of the crankcase from his disassembled chainsaw engine.

For you, a word of warning; given the right tools, the chances are your kid can have your weed-eater, chainsaw, or leafblower in many, many parts in under 90 minutes! Check in next week for more fun from 2-stroke engines.