Surfspiration

It’s Declaration Week at Brightworks, and while students started brainstorming ideas for their expression projects, we sought out inspiration on surfboards!

Ambigo after an epic day of surfing!

Fortunately for us, Brightworks is just a 20 minute drive to Linda Mar Beach, a perfect spot for any newbie surfer to feel the power of the waves. Most of the group had never been swimming in the Pacific Ocean before, and for many this was their first time surfing. We worked with experienced surfers to learn the basics: protect your head, keep your eyes on the waves, and fall flat.

We lucked out with some pretty perfect conditions, and everyone was able to catch a wave or two. Most of us boogied in, and a few even managed to pop up on their boards.

Everyone found a way to move with the water—on surf boards, boogie boards, and simply body surfing.

Khalia was ready to catch some waves after a one-on-one lesson with Sean.

Owen and Rhone are all smiles after spending the day on the water.

Elijah rolling in with the waves.

Anthony and Amparo grilling up tasty treats.

After a long day of surfing it was great to grill out!

How did we move with the water, and why? Back at school the group took some time to reflect on the time we spent surfing. Many realized how important it was to work with the water, rather than to fight against it. We also discussed the salinity of our blood, and compared that to the salinity of the ocean. We noticed how easy it was to float in our wetsuits, and some talked about regulating their buoyancy with their breath (like the submarines we designed a few weeks ago). The trip was a great way for us to reconnect with the sea before submitting declarations for approval, and diving into our expression projects!

But does it float?

The Amber Band has been taking a closer look at how water works. This week we visited the Marine Mammal Center, played around on Rodeo Beach, and took buoyancy experiments to the next level. All of these explorations gave us a chance to learn more about the physics and chemistry of water, in an attempt to better understand our relationship to it.

We kicked off the first day back from spring break at the beautiful Marine Mammal Center.

We got a chance to see how marine biologists conduct blood tests to learn about the health of the marine life they rescue, and some of the techniques they use to help prepare marine life to go back out into the wild.

After our visit to the Marine Mammal Center, we hiked down to Rodeo Beach for a picnic. We decided to spend the afternoon playing around on the beach. There were tide pools, watery caves, drift wood, and so much more for us to get up close and explore. We took the opportunity to reflect on this spectacular day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Students noticed all the colors in a handful of sand, the warmth of the sun, the sound of the waves, and the smell of salt in the air.

We found some tide pools at Rodeo Beach.

Having lunch on the side of a sea cliff.

Cartwheels on the beach are the best!

We found a jellyfish that had washed ashore.

There’s a whole world in a handful of sand!

Rhone found a small dead fish that had washed ashore too.

Back at Brightworks, we continued playing around in La Petit Mer (the epic test pool built by Indigo Band) to understand buoyancy and density. What do we need to know about density to be able to move through water? We started by designing and building a vessel that could maintain a neutral state of water (does not sink, does not float) while containing cargo weight of 50 grams or more. Once they figured that out, students began pushing those limits by finding ways to move their vessel forward, backward, up, and down—all without using their hands.

Measuring the mass and volume of our vessels to calculate their density.

How do you measure the volume of an oddly shaped object? Water displacement! Phillip showed Ambigo how to measure the water displacement of their vessels in a graduated cylinder to find the volume.

Clem and Audrey experimented with ways to make their submarines “breathe” to control when it floats and when it sinks.

Next week we’ll begin building our very own boat! Ambigo has decided to tackle a seemingly impossible mission by building a boat that will safely carry us to Angel Island. We begin building next week, and hope to have something ready to test in the bay by the following Friday. Before that though, we’ll get a chance to learn more about navigating in the water and “reading the water” on a surfing trip in Linda Mar.

MagAmberGo Overnight on the USS Pampanito

Magenta, Amber, and Indigo (MagAmberGo) spent 17 hours on a World War II Balao class Fleet submarine, the USS Pampanito, to get up close to WWII submarine technology. We built batteries, practiced active sonar listening, simulated buoyancy, made periscopes, and deciphered patrol orders to plot our course.  After our tasks, we had dinner as a crew, and took turns on night watch. The next morning, the group reflected on their stay to consider if they could make it the full 75 days that most submariners would have been asked to do.

If you were asked to stay on the USS Pampanito for 75 days, would you?

“Yeah. I mean, because it’s a submarine, and it’s awesome. I’d rather go jump out of an airplane in the airborne, but I could do it. If it was a more modern submarine I could do it.”—Declan

“I would jump off. Sleep would be the hardest part, especially if there’s snoring.”—Khalia

“I would not because it is so hard to sleep. The beds are super uncomfortable, like plastic.”—Norabelle

“Absolutely not. I hate being on the water for more than five days. The beds were super uncomfortable.”—Elijah

“No. Because they don’t shower, it’s really small, we all have to sleep together in the same room, really cramped together. If I were the captain maybe I would be able to do it.”—Ella

 

“No, I wouldn’t want to be cut off from the world for 75 days at a time. If I were on the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, that would be cool. There’s a library and a museum! Nemo’s got a whole room to himself on the Nautilus.”—Audrey

“No way. I felt seasick the whole time.”—Felix

“If it was out, attached to ropes, and there were other people out there with me, then I would do it. I would not want to be submerged though.”—Rhone

“I think it would be fun. No war, but I could do it for a long time. I really like confined spaces.”—Oscar

“Well, I don’t know, it depends on if we were going to be at war with a lot of other ships or if we were just going to be patrolling another area to observe another enemy. I don’t think I would want to be engaged in combat because we could potentially die. If we were just there observing the area, or just defending our area then, yeah, I think I would in that situation.”—Morgan

“I wouldn’t do it on an old submarine. I would want a new one that is less sketchy, and probably work better. The Pampanito doesn’t work anymore. I hate airplanes, but for some reason it doesn’t scare me to go under water.”—Dash

“No. I almost didn’t do this trip because I have a big fear of submarines. Well, I kind of just wanted to see how I felt on a submarine because I had never been on one, but just whenever I think about them it kind of freaks me out. During the audio tour I was kind of feeling claustrophobic. Then once we got our bunks I was really freaking out because I was on the floor, but I was able to trade it up to a higher bunk. I don’t ever want to see a submarine again.” —Clem

“I wouuuld, but it would depend on how much I got paid. I would probably do it, as long as the crew didn’t snore. I would do it if I got paid a reasonable wage, and I could sleep.”—Kaia

“Nope, I feel like I would be extremely stressed. This is a really unfamiliar space, and I don’t have a good time with that.”—Corin

“If I were 18, during the Great Depression, then yes. Because money. It’s the Great Depression, and I’m 18. There aren’t a lot of jobs. Lack of space and sunlight would be difficult.”—Aidan

“I don’t think any amount of money could convince me to spend a prolonged period of time on there. I think just lack of sunlight, being in a confined space, all of that would be so draining emotionally, I don’t think it would be worth it.”—Zoe

“I feel like possibly if I was, let’s say, in college, and I had nowhere to live. Having free rent would be nice. Especially since Pampanito, or a ship similar size to that, is much larger than most apartments people have in California.”—Max Mayman

“I would not stay on any boat for 75 days. Maybe a kayak, and if I was able to get off to go camping. I would not be on a boat for 75 days straight.”—Liem

 

“You’re pretty much in a black box. The lives on board are either resting in your hands or someone else’s hands. We have a ¼ chance of dying out here. That’s awful! That’s something I don’t want to risk.”—Josh

“I probably wouldn’t, but it wouldn’t be a nightmare. Of course, that’s assuming that there’s no chance of death, no war.”—Cory

“Yes, I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to do some stint in the armed services. Once Trump got elected I also said to myself that I’m not going to enlist until he’s out of office because I don’t want to fight a war that we have no business fighting. Under the right leadership I would. Also, there is a part of me that is drawn to small confined spaces on long voyages. We took a lot of long car trips in a very small car as a family. I think it partially originates from that. I’ve always had thoughts about building a small boat and sailing it around the world.”—Jack

 

The Sea & Me

The Amber Band has been taking some time to make personal connections with the sea. To help with this, we worked with community artist Sierra Reading to learn about how she is helping others make personal connections through art-making. We participated in one of Sierra’s projects, Candle Conversations, where each student passed around a candle to share in a discussion while the wax dripped onto a cloth. As students passed the candle, they shared out intentions for the new arc, and let go of some of the things that they wanted to leave behind. Both Amber Band and Indigo Band got to participate in their own Candle Conversation, and we came together to explore indigo dye as a symbol of strength when we then dyed our batiked cloth.

Audrey and Oscar are carefully dipping the cloth in the vat so as not to disturb the indigo fermentation. It’s important to keep as little oxygen as possible from getting into the mixture.

Ambigo explorations of indigo as a symbol of strength with community artist and educator Sierra Reading.

During the By Sea arc we’ll be getting more opportunities to collaborate as Ambigo on excursions. We went to the Aquarium of the Bay to learn about our local marine life. Students worked in small teams to record observations on estuaries, ecosystems, and conservation strategies. Each student then chose an animal to research further. Making the connection to our San Francisco Bay got us thinking more about conservation efforts, and how we might do our part to keep the Bay healthy. We decided to adopt drains around the school! This presented a design challenge for us: build a device that will help you safely cleanup the drains in our neighborhood. Each week we’ll visit our drains to keep them free of leaves and debris to manage stormwater and minimize flooding in SF.

Ambigo visits the Aquarium of the Bay

Ella, Norabelle, and Owen are playing in the tide pools.

Rhone, Oscar, and Corin exploring under the bay.

We got up close with sharks to learn how they are an important part of the San Francisco Bay.

Taking our connections to the sea a bit deeper, we’ve been asking ourselves: What is our relationship to the sea as residents of California, and how might people living in other parts of the world relate to water differently? Just 5% of California was drought-free a year ago, and today it’s 91% drought-free! We took some time to simulate the Oroville Dam’s use of the emergency spillway by calculating how long it would take to fill a fish tank. The band had to find the volume of the model dam, the water flow rate, and determine their margin of error. We read more about the Oroville Dam, the recent history of the California drought, and American water usage. We decided to track our own water usage, and we analyzed that data.

Amber Band collected data on how much water we use in a day, and then made approximations for that water usage in gallons using USGS data.

How long will it take to fill the tank? Well, after calculating the flow rate of the water pump, the volume of the fish tank, converting cubic inches into gallons, and determining their margin of error (20%, Oops!)… they found that the pump outputs around 62 gallons an hour.

 

Next week we’ll continue exploring our personal connections to the sea by getting out on the Bay in kayaks, touring Angel Island, creating short film adaptations of the novels we just finished on the immigrant experience, and tracking our personal history on what brought our families to the Bay Area. We’ll also start looking at the physics of water, asking questions to find out what we need to know more about water to better understand our relationship to it.

 

Moving From Land to Sea

The By Land Expo Night was such a blast! We got to celebrate all of the hard work from the arc with the Brightworks community.

The Amber Band celebrating with friends and family at Expo.

Elijah and his mom on the ladder he built.

Audrey sharing a demo of her moss on Mars experiment.

Before Expo though, each student shared more about their process through their presentations. They talked about all of their iterations, the experts that helped out along the way, the good times, the bad times, and all the ways their project helped them to understand the movement of things by land in their own unique way.

Rhone presenting on his drift trike, and sharing out the struggles he faced when he bent the axle of his trike.

Oscar talking about the problem he identified in the LARP cart, and how that inspired him to design a mobile LARP Armory.

Declan sharing all the iterations that happened throughout his process, and the challenges of working with copper for his steam engine catalyst.

We took time before presentations to practice many times. We also practiced each other’s presentations with a round of “presentation karaoke”, an improv game that has the presenter sharing slides they’ve never seen before. Practicing our presentations got us talking about the expectations we had for each other’s presentation and exhibition of work, some worries about stage fright, and how we could all support each other as a band.

Audrey presenting on Rhone’s drift trike process in a round of presentation karaoke.

I made little drawings of each student’s project on worry stones as a way for them to feel ready for their presentations.

Of course we took time to celebrate too. The Magenta Band welcomed us in for a post-presentation party, and we watched Finding Dory on the Thursday after Expo Night.

Magenta Band, Indigo Band, and Amber Band celebrating after all the presentations were done.

As we begin to think about some explorations by sea, we took some time to mind map out all of our curiosities. Questions bubbled up like: How do fish interact with humans? How does water exist on other planets? How does our food get here? Next week we’ll begin by getting up close with some marine life, considering some conservation efforts we might want to help out with in our own Bay Area backyard.

Amberites mind mapping possible explorations for the By Sea Arc.

Iterate, iterate, iterate…

Each student made a mini zine to collect their feedback.

The Amber Band has been hard at work on their expression projects. Last week our goal was to have a second iteration ready for feedback. Each project built off of its first iteration, incorporating feedback from experts, and utilizing more advanced tools and materials. Students sought out feedback from fresh eyes in the Brightworks community, asking questions like: What do you think the purpose of my project is? What did you learn from my project? What are you still wondering about my project?

Elijah learned that he would need to make some structural readjustments to his ladder to make it safer. He was quick to take apart his second iteration. For iteration three he’ll broaden the base, fix some joint gaps, and add more support on the sides.

 

Declan was having some trouble getting the soldering metal to stick to his copper piston. He cleaned his copper well, helping the metal to stick, but now the edges were bumpy. To smooth out the joints he used a blowtorch and some welding tools.

 

Norabelle, Khalia, and Ella got some feedback to clean up the surface of their machine by replacing the tape with hot glue. They’ve already started replacing the tape for iteration three, and continue to add more chain reactions to their Rube Goldberg Machine.

 

Oscar did some user testing of his RFID tracker, and learned that the BWX LARPing community is eager to use it.

 

Audrey got some feedback on the variables of her experiment, and learned that she wouldn’t need to make an airlock, just an antechamber.

 

Felix is working on incorporating more visuals into the third iteration of his infographic to show the many effects of walking meditation.

 

Rhone’s second iteration is looking ready for the final design, using large PVC pipes as the wheels for his drift trike.

Amber Band Declarations

All of the proposed Amber Band project declarations have been approved! Throughout the exploration phase of the By Land Arc, we took a closer look at human migration. We researched traditions local to San Francisco, and traced those traditions back to their origins in Mexico; mapped how our school’s neighborhood, the Mission, has changed over time; designed vehicles that mimic systems from nature in a way that might allow them to cross borders; tracked movement by experimenting with mark-making techniques; and researched forced migration through the close observation of personally meaningful objects. Now in the third week of the expression phase, students are building on what they learned in the exploration phase through their own expression project. Last week students shared declarations with Gever and Liz for final approval, and here’s what was proposed:

Audrey’s plans for testing bryophytes in extreme environments.

Audrey

I am proposing to build on a project that I did previously in the seed arc where I figured out what you would have to do to plant something on Mars, or I learned how to terraform Mars in other words. I want to do this by building on the plant aspect of this project and researching plants that live in extreme environments. My guiding question will be: How do plants survive in extreme environments on Earth? How will they do the same thing with the environment on Mars? I want to research these plants because they could easily be fit to be the first plants on Mars. Two of the biggest problems with trying to plant things on Mars are dust storms and radiation. During this arc, we have mostly focused on how humans move by land, well, plants do it too!! I want to learn how plants in extreme environments got there.

Declan white-boarding out his plans for a steam engine model.

Declan

I want my final product to be a small, safe, portable steam engine that could be used for educational and recreational purposes. It should also be easily put together and taken apart safely, or could simply fit in a 12” x 12” box. You are probably wondering what makes this steam engine educational. Well, I am going to paint the steam engine different colors to indicate what is doing what. For example I would paint the airways that the steam is escaping from the piston blue to indicate this steam has been used and is not going to be powering the engine anymore.

Elijah collecting feedback from the BWX community for his ladder.

Elijah

The end goal is to have a wooden ladder on wheels that can be stowed when not used. It should have a foam landing pad to accompany it which will help for safer and easier transportation of the barrels and whatever else is up there. I may need help from someone else for construction due to my inexperience building and to help speed up the project, especially if I want to paint it. This is challenging because of my lack of knowledge about building. I will have to research the best ways to use wood in order to create a safe ladder. This will be a great opportunity to learn and develop new skills like design and engineering, while building a product that will benefit the school.

Khalia, Ella, and Norabelle drawing out the plans for their Rube Goldberg machine.

Norabelle, Khalia, and Ella

We will build a Rube Goldberg machine that will follow transportation on land through the years. At the beginning of the Arc Megan said we could make a Rube Goldberg Machine, but we had to do it in 45 minutes. We tried, but it didn’t work. So I, Norabelle, decided that I wanted to do it for my project so that I could actually get it to work. Ella and Khalia wanted to join because they liked making Rube Goldberg machines too. This project would be challenging because we’ve never really done many mechanical engineering projects, so it will be fun to see the chain reactions all leading to the end.

Felix experimenting with tape as a way to track his marks.

Felix

This project is based around the question “Can thirty minutes of meditation calm you down?” In order to find the answer to this question I’m going to practice walking meditation thirty minutes a day. While walking I will be listening to a calming meditation tape. In order to see the effect of this meditation I’m going to track my heart rate in the morning, before I go on my walk and after I go on my walk. I’ll then take my heart rate and put it into a chart listing the average heart beats a minute a day.  I’m also going to write a reflection at the end of each day that talks about how I’m feeling. When I’m all done if my heart rate has slowed down the question will be answered yes. If it stays the same or beats faster the question will be answered no.

Audrey, Elijah, and Oscar reflecting on all the work we did during the exploration phase of the By Land Arc.

Oscar

I will build a wagon add-on that will transport LARPing weapons to and from park. The desired product will make bringing the LARPing weapons to park much easier and more efficient by holding all of the LARPing weapons in a safe and efficient manner, and dividing the weight of the LARPing weapons throughout the wagon. By researching how weapons have been transported, I will be able to see how others have transported weapons, and incorporate other’s designs into my final design.

This project is a challenge for me because it will exercise my building skills, my programing skills, and my reading and writing skills. It will exercise my building skills because I will be building a cart add-on to hold LARPing weapons and armor. It will exercise my programming skills because I will be programing an Arduino to track RFID chips. It will exercise my reading and writing skills because I will be writing a research paper about how weapons were transported from one place to another throughout time. Right now we use a barrel on a wagon to transport the LARPing weapons to park. I think that making a wagon that is designed to carry LARPing weapons will be more efficient, and easier to carry, therefore making the entire experience more enjoyable.

Rhone hacking an old bike for his drift trike design.

Rhone

For my project I will make two drift trikes one out of wood and one out of metal and drive it down Bernal Hill to see if there are any problems and how I can fix them. I think that this project will be challenging because  it will involve welding and physics. I think that it is worth five weeks because it’s something that I am interested in and will not only get to explore the world of welding and drift karts, but also get to meet people in the BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel) community. I will talk about the BYOBW community and the people I got to meet in my presentation.