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STEM Beyond the School Day Series – Engineering Mindset 8 – Failure

Engineering Mindset 8: Children Persist and Learn from Failure

Can you remember a time when you failed?  Was it public–a moment when you get a pit in your stomach, your heart sinks, you hang your head, your face gets hot and you suddenly feel like the world is staring and you want to hide.  Or were you alone, face red, exhausted heart sunken and frustrated?  Either way, failing doesn’t generally feel good.  I think we need to keep a few things in mind: We all fail. We will all fail again. And, as long as we’re still trying, we can’t be a failure.  And never forget about tree climbing fish…  

“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid”


Failing gracefully is a skill we must all work on. But if you’re an engineer, you’re really going to need to embrace it. There are tons of examples where failure at one thing is actually a great success at another.  In the hands of the right thinkers, the wrong steps lead to one kind of failure but open new kinds of success.  Check out this article listing a variety of things discovered/ invented by accident. Remember, engineering mindsets certainly work together, keep your mind open for possible alternate solutions, and reframe failure–it might just be a different kind of success. 

Here is one way of looking at failure as something to practice through art activities. And never forget Thomas Edison’s quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   Another great mind said “You never fail until you stop trying.”-Albert Einstein.  In short, failure is success as long as you are able to learn something from it.  Preferably, something constructive like, a better solution instead of how to hide it better.  Check out this video highlighting some failures from some more familiar names.  None of these folks gave up and none of the folks are perfect, but all of them persisted which is something you can really cultivate when working with failure and build it into resilience.     

Check out these resources on how to better embrace and share this idea with your students:

What to do about Engineering Fails  

The Power of Being Persistent 

Failing Successfully 

Freedom to Fail Forward  

Failure is Knowledge, Knowledge is Power 


Million Girls Moonshot April Resources


  • Student Activity: Toxic Popcorn Design Challenge – This lesson introduces youth to the engineering design process as youth work in teams to design both a product and process to safely remove “toxic” popcorn and save the city.
  • Student Activity: Engineering a Flotation Device – Youth use the engineering design process to design a device that uses simple chemical reactions to create a floatable device for a cell phone.
  • Student Activity: Design Your Own Snazzy Sneaker – Youth use the engineering design process to design an environmentally sustainable shoe that meets design requirements they specify.
  • Group Activity: Team Building for STEM Challenges – In this team building activity, youth work together to lift an object by using a set of strings attached to a center ring. Each student grabs a few strings and must work together to raise the item in the center. The task requires concentration and communication and introduces the value of teamwork. Student Activity: Free activity sheet and accompanying video from GoldieBlox’s Curiosity Camp series.



PART I: Incorporating STEM Role models into afterschool: Let’s get started!

Recording and Sci Girls Role Model Video Link


PART II: Incorporating STEM role models into afterschool

Recording (COMING SOON)

This webinar is the second in a series of three webinars focused on STEM role models for afterschool -networks and programs presented by the National Girls Collaborative and Techbridge Girls. The presenters will provide concrete strategies to effectively incorporate STEM role models into programs for girls and examples of role models in action. Whether you are inviting a role model to visit your afterschool program, organizing a panel of STEM professionals, connecting with a role model virtually, or viewing a role model video, this webinar will describe key components and provide helpful resources to ensure a positive, impactful experience for the participants and the role models.


PART III: Incorporating STEM role models into afterschool


For more resources or information on MGM please contact




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