Session E: Working At The Car Wash, Yeah!

Wow. What a week! We began with the simple starting point of 'car wash' and we have built a gull-winged Tesla that can comfortably seat five people, transporting them through a multi-colored Floptopus, car-cleaning rotating rollers, water jets and a repurposed shop vacuum drying system! Not bad for five days work, we think you'll agree!

Friday provides us with one of our shortest, but often most productive, build sessions. It is always incredible to see how much our campers can achieve with the added constraint of a deadline, and this group was no exception. The morning build session saw our teams conduct trials and testing, decorate, embellish and fine tune the various parts of their projects.

After a well-deserved lunch and park break, 2.15pm fast approaches. This is the moment we've all been waiting for...

Welcome to the Project Ember Car Wash!

All our passengers enter the 'PROJEMB' Tesla through an elegant gull-wing door. The Tesla team had the tall order of creating a vehicle that could comfortably seat five people - and they took the idea of comfort to the next level, with padded seats and a trunk to boot! They also devised a track and pulley system, ensuring 'PROJEMB' will glide smoothly through the car wash conveyor belt.  

A few final tests are needed before our car wash is ready for action. Christopher checks the water release system, and finds a willing participant in Evan. (He seems pretty happy with it!) 

We're now ready to add the colored water and put the Floptopus to work.

Our first crew through the car wash are the 'Tesla Team': Cory, Devran, Evan, Lucas A and Yildiz. They receive the colored water experience...

Next through the car wash are Asha, Varun, Lavanya, Ella and Zach. 

Unfortunately we did not prepare enough milk jugs of colored water, so buckets of water are brought in as a replacement. 'PROJEMB's passengers get a little wetter this time around...

Next up: Alyssa, Michael, Sophie and Logan get the Floptopus treatment.

We wouldn't want you to think it was just the kids who got soaking wet - we put the Junior Collaborators through too...

After a good soaking from the Floptopus, 'PROJEMB' makes its way through a series of rotating rollers. All the trials, errors and iterations earlier this week have paid off, as the side rollers now operate using a neat spinning system using castors, dowel and paracord (check out the videos later in this post to see them in action).

As 'PROJEMB' makes its way through the rotating rollers, there is the added surprise of an inspired water jet system. [All the photos below can become full sized images - just click on them].

After all the washing and cleaning action our Tesla has encountered, it is now time for 'PROJEMB' and her passengers to dry off...

Now that 'PROJEMB' has been thoroughly washed and dried, our car wash comes to an end and the Tesla door is closed for the last time.

But before we say farewell to our fantastic campers, here are some videos capturing all the action...

We hope you have enjoyed this project as much as we have. Our first week in San Jose has proved to be a fun and focussed one. Our campers have shown what can be achieved with a powerful combination of perseverance, determination, enthusiasm and ingenuity. We think the laughter, smiles and shrieks of joy speak for themselves!

Session E: Photo Update

Our car wash is coming on in leaps and bounds. Despite (in fact, very much because of...) the problem-solving, undoing and iterative frustrations we have already encountered in this project, we are now making fantastic progress.  

The team working on the first part of our car wash - the Floptopus - have been engineering a sophisticated swinging system with a built in water release mechanism!

Thursdays provide a unique opportunity for our campers to explore the wide variety of creative resources at RAFT; a particularly exciting prospect when you've got a Floptopus to make!

Ella, Asha and Zach delve into the sponge section.

Every day we like to create meaningful learning moments that our campers can build into both their projects and their lives beyond camp. One of the most poignant this week was about the art of undoing. Sometimes the best solution is not to keep pursuing a particular design problem; putting time, effort, resources and materials into finding a mediocre solution that feels unsatisfying, unreliable or just not quite right. Sometimes undoing your work is the answer. It can feel counterintuitive, like all the time you have previously invested is now wasted, but in fact, it often leads to the solution.

The 'spinning roller team' have already learnt this valuable lesson this week (see our earlier blog post on fun and frustration).

Smiles all round, as the roller team make impressive progress. By understanding earlier pitfalls and in developing a better solution, they have been able to complete the mechanism for all four spinning side rollers and developing designs for an overhead roller system!

Varun has taken on his own special side project, creating a water jet system to compliment the rollers...

No car wash would be complete without a way of drying the car, and ours is no exception! The hardworking Busta brothers - Lucas and Logan, have realised their drying system with time to spare and are now working with Team Floptopus.

Logan works on a water release contraption. 

Lucas stringing sponges to embellish the Floptopus.

And finally, the car itself. 

The Tesla team have been working hard to bring their ambitious design to life; encountering a few setbacks along the way. One of the plywood sides suffered a slight injury when part of it snapped off, but the team quickly pulled together and built a strong supporting frame. With a structurally sound vehicle, the team are turning their attention to the aesthetics and comfort of the Tesla experience!

There is just something about sponges today! The Tesla team have also been utilising RAFT's resources to create comfortable seating for the car.

With only a short build session standing between us and a fully functioning car wash, the anticipation for tomorrow afternoon is palpable. Please join us for what looks set to be a dynamic day! 

Session E: Fun and Frustration

Welcome to Wednesday, aka Hump Day; the mid-point of, and often the toughest day in, most people's working week. Here at Project Ember, we often encounter our own particular phenomenon on a Wednesday – frustration.

Monday is a day full of firsts - meeting new people, acquiring new skills, discovering the week's project, devising initial ideas - it is full of hope and excitement, expectation and enthusiasm. 

Tuesday is a day of action. It is a chance to work from yesterday's plans and use the tools, equipment and materials to create prototypes. It is productive and engaging.

And then comes Wednesday...

Wednesday is the day that ideas come together and ideas fall apart. It is the day when we realise that the first idea is rarely the best idea. It is the day for setbacks and failures and learning from mistakes. It is a day of iterations, adjustments, modifications, innovations. It doesn't always feel like progress. In fact, it can be incredibly frustrating. But it is one of the most important days of the project; for all those reasons. 


It is a strange and interesting paradox - that frustration can be fun. But we can vouch for it; we see it and celebrate it every single day. To us, fun looks a lot like focus, challenge, teamwork and collaboration; resilience, perseverance, curiosity and grit. We see it in innovative new ideas and solutions, in greater knowledge and deeper understanding of a design problem, in a renewed determination to get it right and make it better and, ultimately, in a greater sense of achievement and satisfaction. But don't just take our word for it, see for yourselves...

As we continue to celebrate failures and frustrations and use them as an excellent opportunity for growth, we look forward to sharing the journey with you.


Oh, we almost forgot to mention the other thing we celebrate on Wednesdays...

WOLF SHIRT WEDNESDAY! We hope our campers will help us to continue this time-honoured tradition - keep your eyes peeled in future blog posts.

Session E: Welcome to RAFT

After a colourful culmination of dropping, squeezing and launching paint balloons in Session D, the Project Ember team also had an action-packed weekend; saying a fond farewell to our friends at Black Pine Circle and relocating our program to our new day camp space at RAFT (Resource Area For Teachers) in San Jose.

For those unfamiliar with RAFT, they are a non-profit organisation who are on a mission to promote more hands-on, project-based learning in classrooms; providing ideas, materials and activity kits, as well as professional development programs, for teachers and schools. Our two weeks in San Jose are running simultaneously with RAFT's EduCamp program, so you might see some eager educators coming to view our project as it evolves.

Our team has also grown significantly this week, with three new Junior Collaborators joining the Project Ember family for our two weeks here at RAFT. At 15-16 years of age, Anna, Alex and Addison have experience beyond their years; competent makers with excellent problem-solving and communication skills. We are thrilled to be gaining their insights, enthusiasm and intuitive interpersonal connections.

We are excited to welcome Anna, Alex and Addison to Project Ember (and they seem pretty happy about it too!)

The first day of camp is always an exciting one; it's where we meet and make new friends and learn how to use new tools and equipment safely...

Day one also means project announcement. Here at Project Ember HQ, we have been eagerly awaiting this one - A DRIVE-THROUGH CAR WASH! We are particularly excited by the opportunity this project poses to fully immerse our campers creativity and imagination, and we have the added bonus of accessing some unusual materials and recycled products from RAFT's warehouse and resource centre. 

We initially split into two main groups, with campers following their own personal interests; either engineering the car and track or creating car cleaning contraptions. A productive design session ensued, with the car and track team (consisting of Cory, Devran, Evan, Lucas A and Yildiz) devising ambitious plans to recreate a gull-winged Tesla!

The Tesla Team come to an exciting agreement on the design of the car and track

The (rather large) car wash contraption team divided in order to conquer. Asha, Ella and Zach took on the challenge of creating a soaper-upper; with long, dangling, octopus-esq tentacles, it is excitingly and affectionately known as the 'Floptopus'! The next stage in the car wash conveyor belt is actually cleaning the car, for which Alyssa, Lavanya, Michael, Sophie and Varun are designing a series of spinning rollers to scrub and rinse (look out for a potential water jet system!) And finally, Logan and Lucas B are excited to be working on a drying system.

Art-ering Ram: One Day Workshop

Art-ering Ram: One Day Workshop

What a day! From the prompt “Mega-Paintbrush” to the final product  -- a print-making machine lovingly dubbed the “Art-ering Ram” -- this project epitomized what we do here at Project Ember. Our prompts serve a specific purpose; push kids out of their comfort zone in terms of scale or complexity...