How apt was Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, when he said:
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
And that’s exactly what Myra Jones, a hands-on mother and an R&D engineer at a leading MNC in Houston, had to say about learning from mistakes.
Myra is no stranger to building circuits and fiddling with electronics kits. As a kid she loved her Radio Shack 100 experiments kit and she wants to inculcate the same kind of interest in her children.
While she focuses on hands-on learning for them, she is at the same time dissatisfied with the ready-made educational fancy kits that are flooding the markets today. She is unhappy with the fact that these modules do not require any real effort, thus restricting the hands-on learning that her children require.
“There is minimal learning when you just have to snap the components right. I can’t even teach my children the basics with these kits because they don’t allow any opportunity of making mistakes. How will they learn if they are not given the opportunity to make errors?” complained Myra.
The reason why Myra is keen on hands-on learning is because she wants her children to pursue engineering just like her. “I have my reservations about those kits because I get no value for money. My kids are not learning anything new,” she said.
Until then she had not laid her hands on Mand Labs KIT-1. When we finally gave her to experiment with KIT-1, she had a volley of questions for us: “Will my children get to learn hands-on and will they be able to do all the projects on their own? What will they learn out of this? And what is the future?”
As the brother-sister duo unboxed KIT-1, it was sheer delight to see them toil it out. They were juggling between components, connections, stripping off shorter jumper wires, but once they got their first project right, their faces lit up as they beeped their buzzer together.
Of course, it was no cakewalk for them, but they were beaming at the end of it all. “This is exactly what I was looking for to teach my children. They made a few errors by not doing the right connections on the breadboard. So, they used the video given in the kit to understand how a breadboard works. It really helped. And their persistence paid.”
“I can recall the exact moment in my head. My daughter literally started jumping when she completed her first circuit and made her first light. She said, mommy, I made my own christmas light! I was proud,” Myra gushed.
And KIT-1 gives children the perfect opportunity to learn by doing, as American billionaire, Alex Spanos, puts it:
“The best way to learn is by doing… and getting your hands dirty.”
But our question here is how many of us are like Myra who don’t allow the fear of failure to paralyze us? Did you know that Thomas Alva Edison had failed over 10,000 times while working on the light bulb? It was only through his mistakes that he finally succeeded.
When we try to build circuits, we often mess up, burn a few components, do short circuits; do wrong connections; forget about the polarities (positive and negative terminals) of components etc. That is the time when exceptional learning opportunities arise and one’s patience gets tested.
In the world of instant gratification, Mand Labs KIT-1 teaches kids the virtues of perseverance, hard work and not to give up. To help users troubleshoot, the kit comes with detailed and visual step-by-step building instructions and tips. What’s more? It’s replete with dedicated technical support wherein users can send pictures of their projects and get advice from engineers.
Research shows children should be given room to make mistakes and they need to be trusted. “Existing educational toys use prefabricated parts that connect only the right way and have fixed outcomes with limited learning. However, Mand Labs KIT-1 is designed to be more open, modular and learning focussed. Learners will be able to not only build projects but also understand the underlying theory and concepts through testing, observation and math,” says Gurpawan Mand, founder of Mand Labs.
“Doing raw electronics gives children the opportunity to understand the technology around them, and not get scared of it. Children should get the drive to become makers of technology not consumers of it. Most products we use are black-boxed and sealed. And we as consumers do not have access to their inner logic and components. So, we are unable to explore how they work and what they are made up of. With KIT-1, our mission is to decode technology and make it less technical,” elaborates Mr. Mand.
While her children were tinkering, Myra realized that KIT-1 is more than just a tool with limitless possibilities. It allows children to tinker, gain real-world perspective and learn through experience.
Post-experimenting with KIT-1, Myra listed down a few pointers that the other kits in the market couldn’t have taught her children:
Their blunders made them better learners
Gave them space to explore
Created opportunities for oversight
Boosted their confidence level
Made them focus on solving their problems
Taught them the importance of teamwork and perseverance
“Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” American author, Peter McWilliams.
We often think we can avoid errors but they are an inevitable part of any scientific or entrepreneurial pursuit. Our errors actually allow us to become better and empower us to develop a much deeper level of understanding about our work. Errors teach us to be more resilient. American basketball player, John Wooden couldn’t have said better:
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Speaking about her children’s experience with KIT-1, Myra said: “When they started fiddling with the components, it all seemed easy. Only when they actually started working on the projects they realized they required a lot of focus and patience. It almost took them 15 minutes to get used to stripping the wires using the cutter. There was a technique to it.”
“They learned through experience and tried their best to not give up and it worked. The step-by-step instructions are a real deal. They were detailed and easy to follow. This do-it-yourself (DIY) kit has everything in one place. I don’t need to look for components separately in the market. Yes, it is all-in-one- as advertised,” she added.
Myra’s experience substantiates Mand Labs’ design philosophy – “let kids mess up”. We couldn’t agree more with novelist James Joyce:
“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”
Urmila, who is a Big Data and STEM enthusiast, works as the head of communications with Mand Labs. She is a believer in transformation of life and career through STEM. She can be reached on Twitter @umarak
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