By: Mira Sneirson
At the start of this school year my classmates and I were challenged with the task of designing, building, and marketing our own functional vermicomposting bin. Sounds fairly straightforward, right? Well, it opened up a whole can of worms – no pun intended – as it pushed everyone involved to solve problems with no foreseeable solutions and to face failure head-on. This ongoing project, which we have now been working on for about seven months, has certainly been one of the most frustrating and difficult things I have ever done. But it has also been one of the most rewarding. I’ve learned how to appreciate criticism, to collaborate, and to speak up for myself. But I think the most significant thing I have taken away from the worm bin project is how to look at failure as something good, not something scary.
When we began the process, I was terrified. The project seemed nearly impossible. I was used to classes where all of the answers were in the back of the textbook. Now, there was none of that. It was up to us to find the answers for ourselves. We were divided into groups of roughly four people. This was an element of the project in which there was structure – each person in a team was given the job of either Designer, Builder, Salesperson, or Contractor and has a specific part to contribute – but other aspects, such as day-today schedules of work, were very unstructured. In my team I was assigned the role of Salesperson, and was responsible for creating our website and marketing our bin to the public.
As for problems we’ve run into, there have been so many. With the nature of the project in general, the speed bumps I found really challenging in the beginning were less to do with the functionality of the bin and more with the lack of communication within our team. Looking back on it, the communication between myself and my team in those first few weeks was even more crucial than I knew at the time. I should have worked to fix that. Later in the project, I did. I finally realized how important that was. But in the beginning things were very disjointed, which led me and my fellow Salesperson to create two different websites for the same team. Now, it turned out funnily enough in the end that was what we were asked to do, but in my mind that was the epitome of our gap in communication. As time went on I began to reflect on that, and trying my best to fix it. First I sent out very polite, quick emails asking questions or trying to clear up some confusion. Those slowly evolved me asking directly for what I, or my team, needed, and how that would be achieved.
Recently as we are starting to actually test the bins, more technical things have created obstacles such as hitches in designing. In wanting our bin to be unique we had some major oversights, such as forgetting ventilation and drainage. As we went through the construction phase and into testing we continued to face problem after problem. The mesh barrier turned out to be big enough for the worms to get through and the seal that closed some of the gaps was falling apart…not to mention unforeseen ant infestations. These issues that come up having to do with design always force us to think outside the box to figure out the best possible solution.
In the past I had always been one to look at failure as something horrible, and that mentality was crippling. If something seemed like it was going to end in failure, I avoided it at all costs. But from being a part of this project, I love failure. Okay, maybe love is a strong word. But I really grew to appreciate how helpful it is in pushing me to think and work hard. It provides something to build off of in order to make our worm bins better, and it is definitely not to be feared in this project or in any situation. It is strange for me to hear people say something will “end in failure” because now I see failure as not an end, but a beginning.
Big thanks to Mira for being our first guest blogger ever! To submit your EdCorp stories shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.