This week marked the beginning of our two week long camp at the Girls Athletic Leadership School (GALS) in Los Angeles. We started the week off with an engineering challenge. We divided our girls into groups of three then told them they had eight minutes to build a free-standing structure that could support an eight-pound weight and suspend the weight eight inches above their desks for at least eight seconds. Each group was given eight sheets of paper, approximately three meters of masking tape, a ruler, and a scissor. After distributing the supplies, I was met with looks of bewilderment and silence. The silence was broken shortly after when one of the girls raised her eyebrows and exclaimed “Are you for real?!” I was in fact, for real. I reassured the girls that this task was not a cruel joke, and with some gentle nudging the girls got to work. These girls were absolutely brilliant, they sketched blueprints, experimented with different paper folding/rolling techniques, and used their water bottles to test the strength of their structures.
Before we tested each structure, we asked if the girls how they felt during the building process. Every single girl expressed that they had felt skeptical about the task initially. However, they expressed that this skepticism seemed to gradually diminish as time progressed. Experimentation and collaboration quickly taught the girls that they were more than capable of completing the seemingly impossible task. The girls were bouncing ideas off of each other and were coming up with ideas that neither I nor my co-facilitators had ever thought of.
Four out of the five groups created structures that were able to support and suspend the weight. Although all of the girls did not successfully complete the task, they all succeeded at doing something greater – they tried. Life is full of failure, but if you live your life avoiding failure at all costs you’ll fail by default. I believe that failure to try is greatest failure of all. A single attempt at something you are unsure of isn’t the end of the world, and even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you had in mind you there’s still plenty of knowledge to be gained from the experience as a whole. I am more than certain the girls are going to other face scenarios in their lives where they feel like the odds are stacked against them, but I want this activity to serve as a reminder that there is no harm in an attempting the impossible.