In Community As Lab we believe in giving our youth the tools to be successful. And one of the most important tools is the opportunity to fail. And, we often fail SPECTACULARLY! We agree with Mitchel Resnick and Eric Rosenbaum who say that “success in the future will depend not on what you know, or how much you know, but on your ability to think and act creatively — on your ability to come up with innovative solutions to unexpected situations and unanticipated problems.” (Design Make Play, 2013) So these unanticipated problems enable our students to flex their creative brains and look for new solutions to the problem.
“If your not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original… And by the time they get to be adults most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.” Sir Ken Robinson
It is not uncommon for youth to enter our program for the first time and be overwhelmed by the prospect of working with robotics, rockets, computer programming, etc. A common response is “What if I break something”? or “I can’t work with robotics, I’ve never done anything like that before.” We let these students know that failure is just another part of the design process. We give them permission to fail. This frees them to explore new challenges that they never thought they could even attempt. It is amazing to witness what is possible when youth are allowed to explore, experiment, question, and create.
This video from our Rocket Club demonstrates an EPIC failure when testing a rocket motor design:
Before we put a newly designed rocket motor into a rocket to be launched, we always test these motors on a stand like you see in the video. You ca hear the boom at the end of the video. That is NOT supposed to happen. You will noticed the bar at the top of the motor stand gets destroyed. It was damaged by the graphite nozzle that exploded out the back of the motor. The kids were amazed that graphite could destroy aluminum. Just a little example of a little mass plus a high velocity equals a lot of energy. This motor test and ultimately, motor failure, showed us a flaw in our design. So we have to go back, research the failure and try again.
I guess that’s why it’s called rocket science!!!