We recently looked at the role failure can play in helping young students to persist with challenging situations and develop growth mindsets. Well, it just so happens that prototyping can help students become really good at failing. In fact, four world-famous products began their lives as ‘failures’.
Great Failure 1: WD40
When was the last time you reached for the WD40? Maybe you silenced an annoying squeaky door, banished a rusty stain from your bath tub or dealt with a sticky chewing gum mess?
The WD40 website lists over 200 uses for their product, so chances are, you’ve used it. But you may not know that WD40 got its name because it was the 40th attempt to produce an effective product. That’s right – 39 prototypes! 39 failures!
Great Failure 2: Wheaties
The popular breakfast cereal, Wheaties, began life as a crackling, flaky mess on a stove top when an employee at a bran factory spilled some gruel. 36 prototypes later the company had produced a cereal flake that kept its shape and consistency when packaged and eventually became one of the world’s best known high fibre breakfast cereals.
Great Failure 3: Dyson Vacuum Cleaner
Dyson is now a world-leader in the vacuum cleaning industry. But what would have happened if James Dyson wasn’t passionate about realising the new kind of vacuum cleaner he had dreamed of? Would he have been prepared to fail 5,271 times if he had been content to settle for a Hoover?
Great Failure 4: Bubble Wrap
Next time you receive a parcel packed with bubble wrap consider that this product began life as a failed trendy, textured wallpaper. Yes, that’s right! Bubble wrap then progressed to a failed home insulation product before finally winding up as an effective packaging material that is also fun to pop!
The Importance of Prototyping
Feeling like you’ve failed can be a pretty uncomfortable state to be in. However, prototyping with 3D printing can help us view failing as a temporary, evolving state where we feel optimistic and empowered by our abilities to grow and improve. In fact, prototyping as a learning tool strongly supports the development of persistent, resilient growth mindsets. We want students to embrace the mistakes and flaws in their designs. How else will they get the feedback and information they need to make their designs better?
6 Key Takeaways about Prototyping
- Let’s begin by expecting our students to fail. We don’t want them to get their design right the first time. We want them to print out a prototype that they can learn from. No perfect models allowed!
- What if the classroom 3D printer had a prototype mode that students could only use to print models they knew were nearly right but not quite? How about a classroom rule that you can’t print the first iteration of your design unless you can name 2 things you think might fail?
- Once students have a 3D print of their prototype we need to give them plenty of opportunities to put them to the test. In fact, we want students to try and break their designs!
- The world’s best failures find out what works by being obsessively interested in what doesn’t work. We need to build in testing, evaluating, analysing and trialling into our design lessons. By experiencing many things that don’t work, students can refine, develop and improve their 3D designs until they find something that does!
- Don’t stop at one. A successful 3D design might be the result of 2,3,4 or more iterations. Design thinking is a cyclical process and there may be many prototypes produced and tested throughout the evolution of the model or solution.
- Failures only count if they matter! We need to provide design challenges that our students care about. Will it matter if we don’t really solve the problem, if we don’t end up helping another person or if our new tool doesn’t really work? If students are emotionally invested in the outcome of their design and are designing for real contexts, they are more likely to care about a successful outcome and struggle optimistically with their failures.
Learning to fail well via prototyping as a learning tool strongly supports the development of persistent, resilient growth mindsets. Let’s look to WD40, Wheaties, Dyson and bubble wrap for inspiration as we teach our students the value of failing well.
Makers Empire 3D: Schools
Makers Empire 3D Printing Learning Program is an ideal tool to teach students how to fail well:
- Students can easily develop prototypes for their designs and solutions to challenges.
- The software is intuitive and easy to use, enabling students to quickly try different ideas and make changes.
- As cloud based software, students can access their Makers Empire designs wherever they are, on any device. They can refine their designs easily as they carry out their tests and obtain feedback from relevant stakeholders and situations.
- 3D printers make it (relatively) quick, cheap and easy to produce fully formed and functional prototypes, meaning that the evaluation and testing aspects of the design cycle can easily be carried out in the classroom.
See other Thought Leadership posts:
- Levelling up a growth mindset with Makers Empire
- Top 10 growth mindset questions to ask students
- How Makers Empire develops STEM skills using 3D printing
- Developing 21st century skills with Makers Empire
Mandi Dimitriadis, DipT. is an experienced classroom teacher who recognises the power of technology to enhance teaching and improve educational outcomes. Mandi has extensive experience with curriculum development and learning, having previously developed programs for the Australian Government’s Department of Education. She is passionate about Design Thinking and how best to prepare today’s students for the future.
Makers Empire: Better learning by design
Makers Empire helps K-8 teachers teach STEM/STEAM concepts, design thinking principles and 21st century learning skills using 3D printing. Our pioneering 3D solutions for schools — 3D Learning Program and Learning by Design Course — include 3D modelling software, over 100 curriculum-aligned lesson plans and professional development. Makers Empire is used by thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students in Australia, the USA, Asia and Europe. Join our community today!
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