We were definitely surprised by the gusto with which the monks took to the challenge. Their observation were methodical, precise, and varied, even creative (for example, it was not uncommon for them to hold up the box to their ear to try and determine, from the sound of the mechanism, whether there were gears involved or not). They made very well-thought-out drawings and schematics of possible mechanisms, and then defended their ideas with each other with great vigor.
In general, the monks found up-and-down movements much easier to conceptualize than rotational movements, and in particular example number 4, in which the cam follower moved back and forth in alternating clockwise and counterclockwise direction, while also bopping up and down, gave them major headaches. No matter, they made valiant efforts by hypothesizing cone-shaped gears, as well as rubber band mechanisms.
Once again, our expectations were met and surpassed by these amazing individuals, who started building wonderful and delightful contraptions, depicting everything from prayer wheels wishing perpetual peace on earth, monkeys holding a “save animals” sign, to bucking bulls, helicopters, and birds of prey attacking a snake. The imagination and resourcefulness of the groups really shined, but in the decorations they chose to depict, and in the variety and creativity of mechanisms they designed. Some had to change their goals, and modify either their initial mechanism design, or the narrative they were trying to build on top of that, but did so without outwardly signs of frustration. In fact, the monks seem so impervious to becoming frustrated that it became something of a facilitation challenge for us, because we are so used to being able to detect when participants are becoming frustrated beyond a “healthy” point, so that we can intervene.
It’s hard to describe the joy and wholeheartedness the monks immersed themselves in what must have been a strange and unfamiliar activity (and things are only going to get weirder!), so I hope that a few photographs will do a better job of communicating that.