Valuable lessons learnt from paper planes

22 March 2018

Who says paper planes are just for wasting time and annoying others at primary school? On Tuesday 20th March UCE’s BSNS290: ‘Enterprise in Practice’ class had a very interesting workshop with Professor Jamie Collins.

  • UCE BSNS290 Workshop with Professor Jamie Collins

    BSNS290: 'Enterprise in Practice' student testing paper plane.

UCE BSNS290 Winning Plane

BSNS290: 'Enterprise in Practice' workshop, winning plane.

Professor Jamie Collins, challenged the BSNS290 class (and a few extras from UCE’s resident clubs) to design and build a paper plane to fly over 2 metres using an A4 piece of paper. Not a challenging start but that was only the beginning. After the first official test, the successful students received a new requirement; to include at least one paperclip, tape or string and to be made more sustainably which required 20% less paper than the original. Students were required to trial, test, iterate and adapt their designs to incorporate the new ‘regulatory requirements’. A third and final round included approaching the ‘marketplace’, who demanded that the planes be aesthetically pleasing as well adjustable for short haul and long haul. As in the real world the market decided the winner who walked away with $20.

Students learnt multiple valuable lessons from Prof. Collins’ class including:

  • ‘Overthinking is dangerous’ – Collins explained how overthinking can be a dangerous trap and encouraged the students to not over think by creating time pressure on the task. Successful students got straight into prototyping and testing and rather than overthinking and spending too much time on their first design. 
  • ‘Trial and error is important’ – When starting an enterprise, trial and error is a necessity before entering the market. By hosting three rounds with new requirements, students learnt the importance of trialling and adapting their design from their errors.
  • ‘Your failures do not define you’ – Failure is just as important as success. In fact, failure contributes to your success. Students learnt to ‘fail spectacularly’ in front of their peers leaving the workshop having learnt from their mistakes.
  • ‘Market awareness is essential’ – If you do not design for your market you do not have a viable product. Collins stressed the importance of engaging with the market place early and often, showing this in the third round when he chose two UCE staff members to be the ‘marketplace’ who chose requirements for the winning plane. 

Collins prefers a practical hands on approach when teaching students. He believes it is a lot more engaging and meaningful than using traditional lecture slides.

“I haven’t used slides for presentations in over 5 years. I prefer interactive, hands on, experiential, workshop kind of teaching. The less formal the delivery the more likely students are to take away meaningful insight”, Collins explained.

Students found Collins approach fun and hugely valuable.

“The ability to put a theory into something tangible helps me apply it to many other aspects of life”, said Tori McNoe.

Students can take the BSNS290: ‘Enterprise in Practice’ course in either semester or over the summer. The course enables students to think more innovatively and apply their academic skills and knowledge to a project for a new or existing venture whether that be a for-profit business, social enterprise or student club. Students will have the opportunity to use this experience to reflect on their personal career development. 

You can find more info on BSNS290: ‘Enterprise in Practice’ here.

Jessica Langtry

jessica.langtry@canterbury.ac.nz