Growing up, I can remember my dad going to exactly one movie: Apollo 13.
As a Mechanical Engineer, how could he resist the pull of a movie where the engineers are the heroes of the day?
This is the scene he came home telling me about:
I love the way they approach this.
They’re faced with an impossible challenge and asked to be creative. Engineers who’ve precisely crafted aircraft for particular purposes with years of testing (to keep a mistake like this from happening), and they’re the ones tasked with developing a “creative” solution.
While it’s certainly impressive that they accomplish this feat–very square peg into very round hole–the way they go about out it leaves me with a lot to think about.
After the problem was defined, their first reaction was to say, “Let’s get it organized. Let’s build a filter. Gotta get some coffee going.”
I love that their first instinct was to be positive and proactive. There’s no complaining, no frustration, no negativity. Instead, in the space where those less than productive reactions could live, ingenuity and creativity win the day. Even though it seems insignificant, I like third line, too. They’ve got the coffee brewing, and after some of the most strenuous work of their lives, they’re ready to put in the necessary time to fix this problem within the timeline using none of the parts and pieces they would request if creating a design on their own.
The cast of characters is wonderful here. They’re clearly a team, and they put forth a wonderful product that’s a clear solution to the challenge at hand. But I don’t recognize any of them. And I like that. I really like that. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, and these guys, though they get their moment here, they’re just a group who came together quickly, solved a problem, and saved people in the process. (OK, I’ll concede that they were probably brilliant NASA scientists among the most capable in the world, but they’re still the guys who weren’t the face of anything. They’re working in what seems to be a basement of some kind; not exactly glamorous.)
In our work as educators, the parallels here are clear. Regardless of the seemingly impossible nature of the challenge, we have to remember to respond to problems proactively, be invested for the long haul, and trust that teams of invested experts can make the impossible reality.