Since our #LEGOtinkering balance workshop at East Bay Maker Faire, we've been continuing to test out ideas and try new things around the phenomenon of balance using LEGO pieces with visitors to our Tinkering Studio workshop. I wanted to share a few of our more recent experiments as well as raise some questions that we still have about how to best support tinkering through this activity.
Our first prototypes centered around creating objects that balance on a single point, but we've tried building objects that move along a path. These creations tend to be a little more complicated and tricky to get going, but there's something really satisfying about creating a moving object. Many of the same principles apply to the exploration of balance in terms of making elements with a low center of gravity to keep them stable on the line.
We set up a makeshift 'zip-line' in the learning studio to test out their creations and we also built some individual stations for testing on a short piece of string.
After some initial prototyping, we created a testing station in the tinkering studio for participants to try out building their own moving models. We thought that it would make sense to try to add soem large and light materials like paper shapes and feathers to see if they could spin and twirl as the LEGO vehicles move down the line.
In addition to the zip-line table we set up the balancing tree from maker faire in the workshop with a spotlight projecting shadows to create two dramatic environmental pieces for displaying examples and showcasing visitors' creations. We thought that it could be interesting to try out a workshop where participants choose or cycle between the two different balance explorations.
Kids and adults made some pretty interesting creations to test on the 'zip-lines' with moving elements. It seemed that having the extra options allowed kids to go a bit deeper in the investigations and added more of a high ceiling to the workshop. As well the shared testing space created more opportunities for collaboration and social scaffolding as participants watched eachother try out their balancing sculptures. As another way of continuing the prototyping process with the tinkering explainers, we tried building together and solicited feedback about how it felt to be a learner testing out these two related activities.
Throughout our prototyping process, we've been collaborated remotely with Amos from the LEGO Foundation to share ideas and prototypes over skype calls which often consist of us running back and forth arounf the workshop grabbing examples. One of our most recent ideas was trying to make LEGO mobiles by adding copper hooks to the material set.
The idea of mobiles as another entry point to balance offers the opportunities for us to think about large scale kinetic instalations as well. Nicole experimented a bit with balancing a cast iron pan with a jumble of LEGO pieces as a demonstration of how to create equilibrium with something heavy and somthing light.
While we haven't tried out mobile making yet with visitors to the tinkering studio we are intrigued by the possibilties of adding another station to the mix to create a smorgasbord of #LEGOtinkering balance options in the workshop. For all three flavors of the LEGO balance we are still trying to come up with the a collection of starting points to encourage multiple pathways through the activity. We have soem ideas, but are still hoping to refine these examples to also encourage participants to really experiment with the phenomenon of balance and make some unexpected creations. We'll continue to share our experiments here on the blog and eventually through another instructable highlighting how to build the various balance elements.