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Back to Happy Accidents
Sabina Funk

What do Velcro and matches have in Common? Yep, Happy accidents (as mentioned below). Sticky notes were inadvertently created by 3M scientist Spencer Silver; instead of the super bonding substance he was trying to achieve, he was blessed with a feeble pressure sensitive tack that would remain useless until it became the greatest invention ever. 

The phrase “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents” is attributed to beloved painter Bob Ross. Growing up with an artist father, I was never allowed to use an eraser when I drew. Not only could I not disappear my perceived errors, but I was also tasked with transmogrifying them into something, if not useful, at least pleasing.

The hardest thing about the last couple of years in Design and Engineering has been the lack of happy accidents in computer-based learning. Computer applications are designed to be annoyingly deliberate and I suspect, for a lot of students, this takes away the possibility, and fun, of accidents, crashes, explosions and all the other exciting catastrophes that make life worth living. 

With the end of the hybrid classroom comes the joy and creative mess of creating architectural models in 8th Grade Design and Engineering. Cardboard, wood, cork and paper become the building blocks of architectural experimentation. Students manipulate the materials to the best of their abilities, but unintentional “Collisions between the deliberate and the unexpected” (Eric W. Reinholdt), create a myriad of possible architectural designs and provide the spark for innovation. Creating “concept” or “study models” are a form of three dimensional sketching, and are the most important step before dedicating a semester to creating a perfect, architectural  presentation model.

Working with real physical materials in space and time expands creative ideas and possibilities a thousand fold. I believe that it is the unintentional possibilities that make a project fun and worthwhile, as well as lead to those eureka moments. Manipulating the material world around us creates all sorts of opportunities to create "Happy Accidents." Just imagine taking a closer look at how those plant burs pulled off your dog’s fur. Or, watching in awe as the wooden utensil you are stirring a chemical mixture with, bursts into glorious flame!

Sabina Funk

Design and Engineering Teacher

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