Remaking Failure (part 2 of x): The Space Needle’s Legs


If you’ve been keeping tabs on our Facebook page, then you know that we’ve been working on our City of Light on and off for a while now. Once we got proof-of-concept with the basic buildings and determined the resistance level needed for our LEDs, we turned our attention to constructing our Space Needle. 


And that’s where we are.


Of all the factors related to our Space Needle’s design and construction—determining dimensions, features, materials, etc—finding a way to achieve basic structural integrity (ie, sticking the parts together) has been our toughest challenge so far. Some of that is just the nature of this particular beast: it has to be both strong and extremely lightweight so as not to break apart or cause injury should it come un-velcroed from our felt wall. Some of that is just the nature of The BBSC: our repertoire of materials for sticking stuff together has been mostly limited to glue (hot and not), tape, and solder, none of which have been particularly useful for our Space Needle yet.

To meet our requirements, given our constraints, we have used our development time to exercise our Persistence and Adaptability. The joints of our Space Needle “legs”, for instance, have undergone at least four iterations:

  1. Soldering was no good as the large swaths of aluminum just sucked up the heat.
  2. We tried a cold weld two-part epoxy on its own at each joint only to have them all break. One by one.
  3. We then cut some thin metal rectangles and epoxied them to the backs of the legs to hold the joints together, but the bends in the legs made it difficult to get anything with a straight edge to hold to both sides of the joint equally well so failure inevitably ensued.
  4. Our final (so far) solution: Pennies*. Not as lightweight as we’d like, but they’re the right shape and seem to get the job done.

It’s tempting here to start spouting pithy quotes about failure and how it’s just a point (or several points) on the path to success etc etc etc. But what’s more interesting to us is understanding just what enables us to keep going through our failures to find, even momentary, success. We see failure, like we see Empowerment, as a luxury good:

  • For starters, we need Brains. More than one, in this case, with diverse sets of knowledge and abilities.
  • Second, we need time. We’re constantly learning as we go, and consequently, our iterations often require time for us to confer, casually ponder, and enable our Creativity superpower to do its job.
  • Third, we need capital resources. Tools, materials with which to experiment, and money with which to acquire supplies as we go are all essential even for the most minimal of projects, such as this one.
  • Finally, we need motivation and Empowerment. Not only do we need to want to do it, we need to feel like it’s at least possible. Not surprisingly, it helps when the complexity of a project is somewhat obscured from the outset so as to enable escalation of commitment.

Simple? Maybe. Obvious? Probably. And it doesn’t take very much reading between the lines here to glimpse at least a few of the social, cultural, and economic underpinnings needed to achieve even the teeniest tiniest of successes. These are the real legs on which our Space Needle is built. So, where does that urge to spout the pithy quote even come from anyway?

* = That’s right. We’re literally building our Space Needle out of money. Symbolism aside, just don’t tell the US Treasury, please.