Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Lesson in Persistence

Carving a pumpkin
A computer student carves a pumpkin at the zoo

About two years ago, Katrina Lewis and I submitted a paper to a small, regional computer science conference held in my state on the subject of Halloween pumpkin carving as a design activity. 

Here is what one of the reviewers had to say about our proposal:

This would be an interesting presentation at a graphics/art pedagogy conference, but unfortunately it has little relevance in a venue discussing computer science topics. I believe the authors have picked the incorrect conference. Yes, computers are involved, but that fact alone does not make the work applicable.

One reviewer thought it was a great idea, and two thought it was terrible. Ultimately it was not accepted. Rather than give up, we kept our eyes open for a suitable venue. We found one in the Frontiers in Education Conference, held this year in Madrid, Spain.

FIE is a conference held each year that explores innovative practices in engineering education. When we saw that the conference was a week before Halloween, we felt it would be a perfect opportunity to share a bit of American culture, along with demonstrating our unique approach to teaching design principles.

One of the points our paper makes is that the current generation is accustomed to quick answers and simple solutions. Persistence in the face of adversity is a desired trait, but can be difficult to teach. Carving an excellent pumpkin cannot be done well in a few minutes, but rather it takes hours. One wrong move, and you have to re-think your whole strategy. In other words, it is an excellent opportunity to practice the art of persistence and focused attention.

I think getting this paper accepted to an international conference exemplifies the persistence we hope our students will learn. Sometimes, a rejection is not the final answer, but simply a bump along the road to something better. It took some time and perseverance, but in the end, it has paid off. Next stop: Madrid!