Using Humor in Design: Using the Story of the Three Little Pigs to Understand Failure Analysis

By Cantu, Diana | Children's Technology and Engineering, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Using Humor in Design: Using the Story of the Three Little Pigs to Understand Failure Analysis


Cantu, Diana, Children's Technology and Engineering


In various design projects, students are often challenged to utilize the engineering design process as a guide for their work. As a teacher, this can often be challenging, as some students can become frustrated if their initial design does not function as anticipated. Failure becomes the focus rather than the student realizing that engineering is an iterative process and assessing the failure can lead to a successful attempt. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had given up after their first attempt at flight failed or if Henry Ford had given up on the modern assembly line. As classroom teachers, we should encourage students to take a failed prototype or design in a lighthearted manner and utilize it as inspiration to improve their design. Henry Petroski (1985) states, "Engineering is a human endeavor and thus it is subject to error" (p. 2). If we can instill a positive attitude towards failed design concepts, then maybe our students will be more inclined to undertake iterative design. By showing our students how to utilize humor in failure analysis, we can help instill a valuable habit of mind that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

What does it mean to utilize iterative design? This can be a difficult concept for students to understand, particularly at an early elementary age. We should always begin our technology and engineering lessons with a discussion of what iterative design looks like. I often teach this concept using a small puzzle. I put the puzzle together with the students on the floor and show them how the different pieces can be rotated to determine the right fit. I tell the students, "Do you see how this piece doesn't fit this way? Should I give up? Or can I try again?" Students laugh and tell me to rotate the puzzle piece until I can find the right fit. As I do so, tell my students that this is how the engineering design cycle works. I act all flustered about the pieces not fitting the first time I try. The students tell me to not get flustered and they begin to laugh and tell me to laugh about it too. They often say, "It's OK, you just have to try it a another way. If your first puzzle piece does not fit, keep trying." Students sometimes need to see this process broken down to develop an understanding of how it truly works (Figure 2).

A great way to teach failure analysis in a fun way to elementary level students is through stories, nursery rhymes, and songs. Petroski (1985) discusses several in his book, from Rock-a-Bye Baby to London Bridge is Falling Down. These are all great examples to utilize in discussing engineering failures. My favorite story for this concept is the Three Little Pigs (Figure 3). In the story, the wolf wants to eat the three little pigs. However, to avoid being eaten, the three little pigs build different kinds of homes to keep from getting eaten. One builds a home from straw, another from sticks, and finally another from bricks. As the wolf huffs and puffs at each home, he determines that only one home can withstand his breath. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Using Humor in Design: Using the Story of the Three Little Pigs to Understand Failure Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.