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STEM Glam Gallery: Wright Brothers

This week, we are honoring two brilliant men from the past, the legendary Wright Brothers, inventors of the world’s first successful airplane.

Story behind their success:

Fascinated by the toy helicopter their father brought home, young Orville and Wilbur took an interest in flight and spent their childhood building kites and helicopters. However, as they grew older, they could no longer spend as much time on their hobby and instead focused on their business ventures to earn money. They eventually found a niche in the bicycle business with their Wright Cycle Company and successfully launched their own brand. Now armed with money and time, the Wright brothers began to do serious research on aerodynamics and devoted themselves to solve the problems of flight. Their mechanical experience with bicycle repairs helped immensely as they built a wind tunnel to conduct experiments and developed their first designs of the aircraft. To test their models, the pair travelled to a beach at Kitty Hawk (chosen for its strong winds that added lift) several times and recorded detailed data on their experiments. They would then improve their model based on their analyses and made further conclusions. Finally, after 13 years of continuous effort, in 1903, the Wright brothers achieved the very first powered flight in the world and proved that the skies are, in fact, not a limit for mankind. As Orville Wright once said, “If birds can glide for long periods of time, then… why can't I?”


Just as the Wright brothers faced many obstacles on their long journey to success, many students and professionals face various difficulties in their different projects. Innovation and research have never been easy, and it is extremely common to experience frustration in such pursuits. Yet in this rationalist world, only the successful end results are highlighted while we remain relatively oblivious to the process of success and the hard work behind the scenes. As a result, when we hear the story of the Wright brothers, we feel admiration for them but we often do not believe that we are talented enough to achieve such feats in life. This type of thinking discounts their hard work and undermines our own potentials and contributions. Even if the Wright brothers had died before their first successful flight, their previous work would still have mattered and definitely would have made things easier for the next inventor. In fact, the Wright brothers partially owe their success to the previous generation who wrote the research materials they read.

Regardless, the bottom line is: every effort matters. Not every scientist or engineer will reach the height of fame like the Wright brothers or win the Nobel Prize, however, every effort taken matters to the world and adds to the knowledge of the community. Every struggle counts towards success. And for those of you who are currently struggling, your work counts and you are getting somewhere in the world. You may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but how else would you get out except to keep moving?

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