Reflective Questions
Tinkering is widely associated with 'trial and error'. Where do definitions coincide and where do they differ?

Tinkering and trial and error, in my opinion, overlap in some areas. Firstly both are hands-on approaches to problem solving. They both are usually iterative, and require the user to experiment with different ideas and techniques to reach a desirable outcome. Both terms are also sometimes used to describe the more unstructured and "chaotic" phases that most design cycles almost unavoidably have. 
What makes them different from my understanding is that while trial and error is usually deployed to fix a targeted issue, tinkering is more often used in the discovery phase where it is closer to processes such as lo-fi prototyping which help new ideas and approaches to emerge and quickly be evaluated. Through this course I also realized that tinkering can be a more methodical and sophisticated approach while trial and error is more close to brute forcing.

Can you take a typical I-Tech (or your own study domain) related project case and list 5 technical hurdles? to which extent do they allow for a 'playful' approach in tackling them?
Project - Making a chess robot:
5 technical hurdles of making a chess robot are : Figuring out how a robot can enhance chess, Designing the robot, Programming the robot, Testing the robot with humans and Evaluating the tests.
In my opinion a more playful,tinker-like approach makes most sense in the initial phases of figuring out how it can help and designing the robot. These 2 hurdles require brainstorming and multiple iterations so starting with a broad and playful approach such as tinkering can be most useful. While programming and testing/evaluating the robot can be more target focused approaches, a small level of playfulness can also be beneficial since new ideas can come from any stage in the design phase.

Where would you go hunting for tinkerspiration? List 5 physical and 5 online resources valuable for an I-Tech specialist
- Instagram pages (example )
- Youtube ( ex. )
- Online shops (ex. )
- AI (ex. chatGPT)
- Online forums ( ex. )
Physically I do not have any specifc places so here's five people that inspired me in tinkering ways in the last month:
- Amit, a multimedia dancer - inspired in approach/exploring wild ideas
- Floris, a programmer/musician - inspired in website building
- Ezra, a visual artist - inspired in VJing
- Ard, I-tech project group member - inspired in picking apart electronics
- Evripidis, creative technology student - inspired in synthesizers

List 5 domains, challenges or settings in which you would like to apply tinkering. Can you identify some sweet spots, (perhaps beyond the well-known such as STEM education) and can you also define some limitations? Are there 'untinkerable' domains?
Gaming applications, VJing, music production, Football and cooking are 5 domains I would like to apply tinkering in. Sweet spots in the domains i mentioned are the initial phase of a challenge like cooking a dish or making a song where brainstorming and prototyping/testing are at their peak. Untinkerable domains would be education or health, unless its a virtual/controlled environment with no real children or patients.

Take a look at the LEGO serious play method. The following book forms a good introduction: LEGO Serious play open source Take a look at the sections discussing facilitation - Do adults need a different approach or role in facilitation? Which concepts are relevant?
Adults indeed need a different and more carefully designed, in my opinion, approach to facilitation. Adult learning is more complex, especially when using LEGOs, a material that often is associated with children. However if designed carefully, the potential of learning and having high quality tinkering sessions are very high, since LEGOs are almost the ultimate tinkering toolkit due to them fulfilling almost all scaffolding properties that were described in class (ow threshold, high ceiling, wide walls, preciousness etc). Some relevant concepts for a successful session are collaboration, sense of control, constructive feedback and physical interaction with LEGOs/materials.
Read Invent to Learn chapter 5. Where do Papert and Montessori meet up? is there a fundamental difference in their approach? How well do their mantra's and thoughts on teaching translate to tinkering for 'children of different ages'?
Both approaches are similar in the sense that Papert and Montessori are advocates for the hands-on do-it-yourself approach in education, which it’s indeed something that children of different ages(and even adults) can learn from. The main difference is that Paper emphasizes on the digital aspect/computers aswell which makes sense since Montessori is from an era where digital technology was less developed.
Read Invent To Learn chapter 9. What are useful pointers for the space (location) and setting? Do you need a designlab/fablab?
Some useful features that a good tinkering space should have according to the chapter are safety, flexibility in the sense of space and resources like outlets for example, brainstorming facilities (post it, whiteboard etc), and open space so everyone can move comfortably. Logistics such as number of people (4-8 per group is optimal) and aesthetics also play a role, while good facilitators and teachers that can support a tinkering session in the right way can also enhance the educational experience. In my opinion although all those features can indeed make a session better, having the optimal space is not a requirement since I believe the motivation and people involved are more important. So I personally don't think designlab/fablab is a necessity but having access to it can enhance everyone's performance.
Now get back to your own practice as a designer/engineer:
where in a process do you use tinkering?
I use tinkering mostly in the initial stages of my design/engineering projects since to me its a great way to quickly explore and test different ideas. However since as a process it can be quite enjoyable i sometimes engage in it even if i dont have a specific project/process in mind. (making quick sketches in the train or prototyping/messing with electronics while watching a movie)

How can you translate a design problem or research problem into a tinkering playground?
There are many ways to do that but an efficient one could be designing a tinkering session where 1 or more people can get together and ideate with a hands on approach by using different materials. I personally am a fan of parallel play where each person works on their own idea and then everyone gives feedback/criticism but more cooperative approaches are also valid.
What can you use to get unstuck?
Take a break or try a different approach, but that can depend on the energy/environment/ deadlines and other external factors.
How do you get in the flow
For me getting in the flow comes with constant practice and genuine enjoyment of the activity that I’m “flowing” in. There are books such as Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey which describe more methodical ways of achieving that (the book also claims they’re backed by research) such as making task maps and being distraction-free which can sometimes admittedly help.

Tinkering is a way to generate knowledge. What kind of knowledge results from a tinkering process in your experience?
For me tinkering usually accelerates the brainstorming and prototyping phase of almost any project. The knowledge generated is usually in the form of discovering a new idea or learning to work with materials/resources I previously wasnt as familiar with. Tinkering with people also allowed me to learn from their process and use their feedback to improve my work. The iterative nature of it allows my skills as a problem solver and creative technology to grow since in my experience every productive tinkering session made me encounter and solve a series of small problems with each iteration.
Tinkering with classical materials like clay, paper, colour, textiles, is more related to craft. How does tinkering work with digital and electronic media?

I love tinkering with electronic media. To me it usually involves mixing and matching different software, programming, audiovisual assets and anything else that you can find digitally to quickly design and tinker with different ideas. Of course this amount of variety is not a requirement, since tinkering can entirely happen in a single digital space (programming is a prime example) but to me the process of “hacking” different spaces to work together is similar to picking apart and frankensteining physical materials together. An example of digital tinkering was in my graduation project were I used Ableton Live, Resolume Arena, custom Python scripts and a variety of different supporting apps and protocols to create a fully synchronized, interactive audiovisual show.
One basic characteristic of science is reproducibility. Is that possible with tinkering? Or do we want that at all?
I believe with proper documentation reproducibility is possible with tinkering. The level of the documentation and substance of it depends from project to project (scientific research vs. tinkering in your living room on spare time), but in general it’s a good practice in my opinion
Design practice changed during the past years, from long design phases to short, iterative processes, due to the availability of new prototyping technologies. Is this iterative process of prototyping qualitatively different from the cycles we do in tinkering?
From my understanding the process of going through short iterative phases is very relevant to the field of tinkering. In terms of quality it of course depends on the exact session and project but overall to me prototyping, and especially lo-fi prototyping, can be very similar to tinkering.
Can a co-design session be described as a tinkering session as we treat it in our course?
Yes, if the co-design session is hands-on and it relies on the participants to do physical work in iterative phases I would say.

The choice of materials (seed, tools, scaffolding, facilitation) has an effect on the outcome, the knowledge and products made in a tinkering session. How can we use that in a co-design session? Can we really influence the kind of results here, and do we want that?
Depending on the desired outcome of the session different materials can be made available in advance. I do believe their different properties can lead to different outcomes. The material table we were asked to make would be an excellent starting point when picking materials for a specific session since depending on the goal one can choose materials that compliment it well. For example in a co-design session that is early in the process and wants to tackle discovery and brainstorming materials with wide walls make the most sense, since it would hopefully give participants alot of room for exploration.
In “research through design” can tinkering fill in the design part?
I think in a full research project tinkering alone can’t do that. It is a great tool to use in support with other methods such as prototyping, trial and error, designing etc
Are there design questions where tinkering is not a possible or useful approach?
I believe yes but couldn’t come up with any specific examples so I asked chatGPT the exact same question. Here’s its answer:
“Tinkering, with its emphasis on exploration, experimentation, and iteration, is a valuable approach to learning and problem-solving in many contexts. However, there are certain design questions or scenarios where tinkering may not be the most effective or feasible approach:
1. High-Risk Scenarios
In situations where failure has significant consequences, such as in the design of safety-critical systems (e.g., nuclear reactors, medical devices, or aerospace engineering), a more structured and rigorously validated approach is necessary. Tinkering's trial-and-error nature might not be suitable where errors could lead to serious harm or catastrophic outcomes.
2. Large-Scale Systems
Design questions involving large-scale systems, such as urban planning, infrastructure projects, or large software systems (e.g., operating systems, banking software), may not lend themselves well to a tinkering approach. These projects often require extensive planning, coordination, and a clear understanding of complex interdependencies from the outset.
3. High Precision Requirements
Projects requiring high precision and accuracy, where minute details have significant impacts on the overall performance or outcome, might not benefit from a tinkering approach. For instance, semiconductor manufacturing, pharmaceutical formulations, and certain types of scientific research demand a level of precision that requires strict control and meticulous planning.
4. Strict Time or Resource Constraints
In scenarios where there are strict deadlines or limited resources (material, financial, or human), the exploratory nature of tinkering, which can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, might not be practical. Projects with fixed budgets and timelines might require more predictable and efficient methodologies.
5. Well-Established Solutions
For problems with well-established and optimized solutions, tinkering might not add value and could even be counterproductive. For example, standard protocols in certain engineering or medical procedures are based on extensive research and testing and are designed to ensure reliability and safety.
6. Compliance and Standardization Issues
Projects that need to comply with specific industry standards, regulations, or certifications might find the informal, iterative nature of tinkering challenging to reconcile with the requirements for documentation, verification, and validation that such standards demand.”
I agree with points 1,2,3,4 and 6 however i personally believe that nr.5 is not worded properly since in my opinion there is value in tinkering with well-establishes solutions, either to improve them further or most importantly to pick them apart, understand why they work so well and maybe use them as inspiration for other projects. Also all 6 points can be tinkerable if simulations or virtual scenarios are used.
Read Invent to Learn3)Links to an external site. page 41. how to balance real-world (criticality) with the fruitful mindset of tinkering?
The book specifically focuses on the educational aspect of tinkering. The authors criticize the school approach, which prioritizes learning by memory and teaches mostly the theory in a vocabulary form, and proposes a more hands on approach that mimics the tinkering mindset. They put emphasis on open projects, where students need to work together, iterate, and reach a solution. This in my opinion is a far more efficient way of teaching, at least in the STEM field since it allows students to discover the information rather than be presented by it and be forced to remember it, which is personally a way of teaching that helped me way better.
what is the critical impact your tinkering exercise could have? (on you, your design/engineering practice or problem, both positive and negative)
A positive impact of our project (designing a modular wearable device), in relation to the course is that we are using mainly tinkering methodologies which for me is something that I’m not asked to do often since most projects use tinkering as a supporting tool (or not at all) rather than have it be the main point of focus. This can broaden my understanding of tinkering and introduce me to new materials and ways of working. While i tinkered before, it’s one of the few times that the process of tinkering is put under a microscope and criticized which can help me improve it. A negative is that the actual project, the wearable device, is not something that I have a big interest in. I’d rather use tinkering concepts to develop my own personal projects, which is something that I attempted, however I discovered that for me the structure of this course is not ideal for this approach since the time is very limited and focusing on multiple things at once hurts the entire learning process.
what is the impact your session have regarding (more) stuff, ecological footprint and impact on our planet (i.e. how can you avoid that STEM workshops with waste material result in more waste material?)
Our session can potentially generate a lot of waste since it requires a lot of experimentation with multiple materials which by the end are only partially used. The obvious solution would be reusing them in other sessions however sometimes materials are left in a state which is not possible. In those cases I think recycling them would make the most sense so they can be remade into something that would be used. Recycling/Reusing would need proper organization with clear indications to the participants on what to do after they’re done with a material (e.w place bins with clear labels, set guidelines, properly inform participants etc). A system also needs to be in place where the distinction between reusable and recyclable materials can be made.

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