The importance of failing: how 3D printing teaches students persistence

At Makers Empire, we love to help young people be great … at failing!

This might sound like a strange goal but there’s a lot to be said for knowing how to fail well.

The technology-powered world that our young people are growing up in means they expect to be able to access whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. We hear a lot of warnings about what this expectation of ‘anywhere, anytime’ instant gratification is doing to our young people.

Are they growing up without knowing how to persist when things don’t work the first time, to put in effort to achieve desirable outcomes, to feel satisfied when their hard work pays off and to think creatively and optimistically when faced with problems and challenges?

At Makers Empire, we believe that design thinking processes can help put these valuable qualities back into the lives of young people and our 3D learning program is designed to do just that!

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Makers Empire’s 3D design software is a great environment for safe failing. Students can easily get started with their first design idea and make as many iterations as they like as they evaluate their designs, test things out and respond to feedback. Being able to return to a design easily and rapidly prototype their work makes it easier to embrace the challenge of designing the best product or solution to a problem. Students can easily create a design portfolio of their prototypes and before long, they too will have 10,000 ways that didn’t work- and feel proud of it!

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Carol Dweck’s work has famously highlighted the importance of having a growth mindset. We want our young people to view failures as opportunities to improve and to be equipped with the tools they need when things don’t work out as they hoped. Makers Empire’s lesson plans help teachers introduce design thinking processes to their students. Rather than focussing only on the final products, these lesson plans embed strategies and processes that encourage students to persist, try again and strive for the best design solutions they possibly can – and even make it fun!

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford

One 3rd grade teacher we know challenged her students to design 3D printed pencil pots to organise their equipment on their desks. To begin with, the teacher only printed out one student’s design and the pencil pot she chose to print out first, was a design she could see was likely to fail.

Sure enough, the pencil pot fresh off the 3D printer was presented to the young designer, who proudly filled it up with her pencils, markers and crayons – only to have them fall straight through the bottom. Rather than being viewed as the designer that failed, this student’s experience was used to help others improve their designs, especially by making sure the bottoms of the pencil pots were attached strongly. This student’s failure was celebrated and became an important factor in the successful design of the classes’ pencil pots.

Let’s work together to help our young people know how to fail well and often and follow in the footsteps of the world’s most successful failures.

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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.



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