Friday, May 4, 2018

Maker Space Failures

     There are many posts written about successful Maker space activities.  I wanted to write a post about a recent Maker space failure.  One idea I have wanted to try for a long time was to build a wind tunnel.  I had a roll of material that looks like lamination, but was not, and several type of tape to hold it together.  I purchased some dowel rods and had a mound of donated cardboard to use for supports.  We looked at pictures and models.  We had all the materials and a plan; I thought we were primed for success.

      Students attempted to build a wind tunnel, and created some flying objects to test in it.  Not a single object even flew!  But they loved it!  A group of 8 students who had not participated in our Library's Maker program came out and for the entire 30 minute block of time they build and rebuilt their flying machines-even though not a single one of their creations left the ground.

      We are in the midst of testing season, teachers were asked to develop a series of fun activities for the afternoon of the last day of testing.  I decided to offer the wind tunnel session one more time.  A different group of students attended, and we looked at some more pictures of wind tunnels, agreed on a plan and began to build.

      Things went much differently this time.  All students jumped in to create wind tunnels.  There were two fans-one small circular fan and a larger box fan.  Most students formed a large group and chose to use the larger box fan for their wind tunnel.  One student decided to create his own design on the side using the smaller fan.

      We had one student who immediately moved off to the side.  She is a talented artist, and is a little shy.  On her own, she sketched up a plan of what a working wind tunnel would look like.

       In spite of the initial lack of success, I would definitely call the wind tunnel project a success on several levels:

                                                                1. Seeing the possibilities of making
     On the first day, 8 students who had not signed up for Maker space activity this year did.  They were engaged in building flying objects for the duration.  They now understand the possibilities and fun of making!  I anticipate that I will see them again for upcoming Maker space activities

2. The power of student choice in making
       I had originally thought that there would be one large group all working together on the same wind tunnel.  I was wrong.  Instead,  students formed groups that worked for them.  Most students did choose to work in the large group, while one student created his own wind tunnel design.  The other student self selected how she would make by sketching out how she thought the wind tunnel should look.  She created a "space" for herself to participate.

3. The power of failure
     The fact that our first wind tunnel project had no flying objects leave the ground helped to build resilience in the student makers.  It did not deter them from continuing to try.  The perceived failure of the first day, also empowered me as the instructor to rethink some components of the project and schedule to try it again.  We actually started the second day's attempt by looking at the earlier failed designs.

Evaluating these failures powered our later successes!

What failures have your experienced in your Maker programs and how have they been turned into successes?

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