Posted by: crudbasher | December 4, 2013

In Praise Of The Tinkerer

In a typical day there are 86,400 seconds. I would like to ask you to use just 46 of them to watch this brief clip of Turkeys doing Dubstep.

First, I find it a very funny video but think about the bigger picture. Could you have created a simple little video like this and distribute it to 3.7 million people for no cost just 20 years ago? That massive capability to reach the world is why I say the Internet empowers the creative but how do people become creative? I think a lot of it comes from tinkering.

If I think back to my childhood and try to pinpoint what experience helped me the most in my current line of work, I’d have to say it was building Lego. I really enjoyed it, was pretty good at it and spent many hours doing it. It taught me a number of skills such as planning, pre-visualization, resource management, structures, tenacity, problem solving and patience. After building Lego, I moved on to building computers. Then on to software programming and thus to my current career. Everything I did was about building things.

I came across a great article talking about people who like to tinker like I did with Lego.


“My friends and I grew up playing around in the garage, fixing our cars,” says Frank Keil, a Yale University psychologist who is in his early 60′s. “Today kids are sealed in a silicon bubble. They don’t know how anything works.”

Many others have noticed this phenomenon. Engineering professors report that students now enter college without the kind of hands-on expertise they once unfailingly possessed. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “we scour the country looking for young builders and inventors,” says Kim Vandiver, dean for undergraduate research. “They’re getting harder and harder to find.” MIT now offers classes and extracurricular activities devoted to taking things apart and putting them together, an effort to teach students the skills their fathers and grandfathers learned curbside on weekend afternoons.

So why don’t we including classes like this in high school? Well, it doesn’t fit with a mass standardized curriculum. It’s individualized, and not time based. It requires trial and error and doesn’t have a result you can test for on a standardized test. And yet we need our kids to learn how to tinker. Our world will richly reward those who can be non standard, creative thinkers. I speak often of my Theory of Disaggregation where everything is being taken apart. The tinkerers are the ones who will put it back together again in a new form. With this in mind, I am very conscious sparking a tinkerer’s spirit in my son. So how am I sparking his curiosity?

Like this.

Nicholas and Daddy watching a rocket launch.

Nicholas and Daddy watching a rocket launch last night.


  1. Excellent post! LEGOs also played a huge role in my childhood development to challenge my tinkering skills. It’s helped me develop a sound understanding of mechanics and engineering as an adult. Currently I work for a summer technology program that uses LEGO robotics to engage and teach through hands on learning. Educational trends are leaning more and more towards blended/hybrid learning to help bridge these gaps. In my Utopian world, fun resources like LEGOs would have a place in core curriculum as a learning tool to inspire creativity in young minds.

    • The Mindstorm sets are amazing. I wish I had had them when I was a kid. 🙂 Just imagine what they will be able to do in 5 years time.

      Thanks for commenting!!

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