Winter Break: The Port of Oakland

Project Announcements

Nothing says Winter Camp like waking up to a layer of frozen dew on the yard and idling in the driveway while the windshield defrosts. It was a rare California morning with temperatures in the 30's, so we huddled in the library to start our day and meet our new camp crew. We've got a few familiar faces among the campers, and we are thrilled to welcome back Jane - junior collaborator extraordinaire - as well as Overnight Camp Alum, Zeke. 

Inspired by the warm library, everyone introduced themselves by sharing what genre of book they would author. From "Cat Fantasy Adventure" to "What A Beard Says About You", it's clear this group has no shortage of creativity. We've got a tight build schedule this week, with half our crew staying only till Wednesday, so after a quick share of our goals and expectations (broadly; be safe and be excellent to each other), it's time for tool training. 

There are many tools campers can use at Project Ember, but the two most indispensable are the miter saw and the drills. We think about tools in terms of both their utility and their hazards. With an understanding of each hazard and a strategy to manage it, we can reduce almost all of the risk associated with these useful tools. 

Lenka makes her first miter saw cut of the day.

Oliver practices getting each screw in flush. 

A mini build project rounds out our tool-training. Building a gusset demonstrates a few important concepts.  We have to account for the width of the wood when determining dimensions; triangles make everything stronger; and the strength of a joint depends on grain orientation.  

 Clamps!  Is there anything they can't do?

Clamps!  Is there anything they can't do?

Al, Nik and Julian work together to finish their gusset.

Next up: Project announcement! This week, we will be creating our very own working version of the Bay Area's iconic shipping yard, the Port of Oakland. And what are we shipping? This week's smallest campers, Oliver and Collin. The kids are tasked with creating a boat, a truck and a crane with which they'll transport a shipping crate from sea to shore. 

 The Crane Crew dives right into designing.

The Crane Crew dives right into designing.

Working with Josh and Zeke, the crane team is made up of Liam, Cam, Julian and Al. The design session focuses on safety; how are we going to lift a box with a kid inside off the ground and move them from one place to another in a controlled manner? They consider how they might counter balance the structure, as well as if it will roll or rotate. A design emerges swiftly and the team gets to sistering lumber together to make a 10ft frame.  The boys test their relative strength to see who can knock a bolt into place with the swiftest tap of the dead-blow. 

 Cam, Liam and Al sister three boards together to turn 8 foot pieces into strong 10 footers.  

Cam, Liam and Al sister three boards together to turn 8 foot pieces into strong 10 footers.  

 The truck frame comes together quickly with teamwork.

The truck frame comes together quickly with teamwork.

Meyer, Collin, Nik and Eli have taken on the truck with Hannah as their collaborator. As they begin asking basic questions about how the truck will look, steer and move forward, they also encounter design constraints they need to talk to other teams about. How big will the crate itself be so that there is room in the bed of the truck? How high does the crane team think they can lift the crate? Although each group has their own tasks, our shipping yard needs everything to work together in order to be successful. 

 Meyer secures the truck bed into place.

Meyer secures the truck bed into place.

Our final and biggest team is designing our ocean liner with a sub-group working on the shipping container. Oliver, Lenka and Allie work with Jane to figure out the dimensions for a human-sized shipping crate with Oliver, Collin and Lenka all as test subjects.  This crew is extremely organized and creates a clear cut list, pre-marks all their wood and jots down measurements for easy referencing. They even keep track of all their scraps. 

Mykia, Sophia, Julia and Rafael make up the boat team and move swiftly through the afternoon, designing and completing most of a frame before day's end. Tomorrow they'll have to shore up the sides to get our boat weight bearing. 

Despite the chill, today was extremely productive. The kids are all determined to get their designs working by Wednesday, and with all the energy and enthusiasm we've seen, we think they're going to knock it out of the park.