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Tinkering Thursday – Feb 5th 2015

Tinkering Thursday is back. It’s taken us a couple of weeks to shake off the post-Christmas blues and carve out some time, but at last there’s been some activity in the lab. OK, so some of this happened yesterday: ‘Tinkering Thursday’ is more a state of mind than a requirement.

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The university Physics Society is running a high-altitude balloon project, and they’re getting properly stuck into their sensor and tracking package. Or at least, they’ve got the different sensors out of their plastic pouches and have run some electricity through them. LEDs have flashed, coffee has been consumed: all the required conditions have been met for programming to happen.

Meanwhile, volunteer Andrew gleefully seized on one of the Lego Mindstorms kits we found gathering dust on a store-room shelf. They’re legendary kits in education circles, and we’re keen to explore and think how we might use them.

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At the sticky-tape-and-straws end of the scale, this afternoon we tried making some eardrum models with students at Cramlington Learning Village. Not with complete success, it seems: the recommended route we followed led to the weird contraption you see in front of the speaker.

It didn’t work very well. Or at all, in fact. The idea is that you float the ping-pong ball in a tray of water and look for the ripples it makes, but we saw no movement. However, we had better luck with a long straw sticking out sideways, as you’ll recognise in the other picture. So the right sorts of things are happening, we just need to fine-tune a little to see the effect we want. Sometimes progress is like that.

— That was Tinkering Thursday for the first week of February. We’re still finding our feet, but it’s good to see activity. Next challenge: turning ‘activity’ into ‘progress.’