⚓Explorer beware! The journey is more important than the destination

Dear Creativity,

This week I journeyed to Austin to watch the final presentations of a project I have been shepherding since January.  I designed and delivered a program where 11th-grade girls explored an emerging technology, TinyML.  Excuse me, while I geek out for a moment. TinyML is a combination of machine learning, a branch of Artificial Intelligence that uses data and algorithms to learn patterns, and embedded devices, small low-powered devices. The beauty of this technology is that it is private, speedy, and can be powered with batteries. All of your data stays with you and your device. To say that it is an emerging technology is an understatement. 

Electronics in a 3D printed enclosure
Image: A mushroom foraging tool for local Austin plants

My students would agree with me that it is bleeding-edge technology and they have the wounds and bandages of courage to prove it. When there aren’t a lot of resources and technology is always changing there are wounds to heal along the way.

Through these past months, I encouraged students to focus on the process and the journey. When all was said and done, it did not matter if their projects worked completely, but the skills they learned along the way were where the learning emerged.

This leads me to wonder …

Many times in my life I did not know how things would work out and had to trust the process, and my intuition, or take the risk to leap into the unknown. From a young age, I was not afraid to explore and tinker.  When I took apart a radio to see if I could fix it, I did not fear it not working but wanted to learn how it worked. The joy was in the discovery along the way.  Sometimes Humans desire projects and experiences to be wrapped up perfectly with a bow.  Unfortunately, our education system in the United States has set our students to prefer perfect results time and time again. 

Every time I met with the students learning about TinyML as a technology that could help enhance or change our experiences with food in the future, I would stress that no one expects it all to work fully and that the journey is the focus.  We were focused on the future and no one has a crystal ball for right or wrong solutions.  And they would come back with, it is not working, I can’t get it to work right. Help!

When I arrived in Austin last week to witness their final project presentation, I feared what I would see.

Red 3D printed enclosure with a green LED sticking out.
Image: Light lets your restaurant server know your table needs service

was blown away by everything they learned and how much they persevered to make their ideas work.  In finding their way to presentation day,  one out of eleven teams got the entire system to run, but 100% of them walked away with skills that would help them get through any challenge. As each team presented I beamed with pride in their wayfinding skills. They now had in their design, innovation, and creativity tool chest how to:

  • learn, explore, and experiment with new technology
  • pivot as new challenges were introduced
  • uncover solutions to keep them moving forward
  • communicate and collaborate with a team
  • break their big idea into smaller tasks

The skills learned were endless and I knew my job as a coach, guide, and facilitator of learning was complete. You see Creativity, we are never lost, when we practice finding our way through uncharted paths with you at the helm. This lesson is better than any completed project.

I look forward to finding my way to the point of podcast launch on August 20th utilizing my wayfinding lessons from the students. I don’t know where the journey will take me or how it will end, but with you by my side, I know it will be a sweet and joyous voyage.

Innovatively yours,

Dr. Abigail