designing for failure

Although the title is deliberately sensational, the article Research: Using ‘F Words’ in Elementary STEM makes a good case for including the Engineering Design Process in PreK-12 education. In engineering, if you aren’t making mistakes and yes, failing, in the early designs and prototypes for a project, you are aren’t getting to the best solution to the problem. Failing to put in the effort to discover all the shortcomings of the design will risk certain failure down the road. Engineers know that failing early and often is essential to a successful product and project outcomes. Practicing dealing with failure and learning from it should be included in engaging Prek-12 education, too.

American Society for Engineering Education – Pre-college Engineering Education Division – provides research into engineering education as well as educator resources, grade-level appropriate lesson plans, activities

Engineering is Elementary – Museum of Science, Boston supports educators and children with curricula and professional development that develop engineering literacy.

Elementary Teachers’ Reflections on Design Failures and Use of Fail Words after Teaching Engineering for Two Years, – report of research examining the benefits of incorporating the Engineering is Elementary curriculum and supporting “failure” within that context in preK-12 classrooms.

Here’s the problem. It’s the word ‘‘failure.’’ Failure means a VERY specific thing in schools. The big red F is serious. In school, failure is NOT a cheery message to ‘‘try, try, again!’’, it’s a dead-end with serious consequences. Using this loaded word to represent mistakes, hurdles, challenges, detours, etc. is confusing and unnecessary. Teachers cannot talk about failure as a challenge, when failure also means judgment—the worst possible judgment. And yes, I do just mean teachers. Specifically, teachers who are grading the work where the ‘‘failure’’  may take place. (Martinez, 2013, para. 5–7)

NASA for Kids: Intro to Engineering (video 2:42) – describes the steps in the Engineering Design Process and talks about the importance of failure to improve the design.