Asee peer logo

Learning Through Error Recognition Using The Three Strikes Method

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Educating for Results: Tools used in Engineering Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.846.1 - 13.846.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Gary Steffen Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Learning Through Error Recognition Using the Three Strikes Method


From the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, to the crash of the Mars Climate Orbiter, simple mistakes can have catastrophic effects. From the ashes of such mistakes, come important lessons learned and the hope of never repeating them. Discovery of mistakes can be a valuable learning tool that can leave a lasting impression on those who make the discovery.

Throughout the engineering education process, students are asked to work problem after problem to assess their abilities. Many times students, without thought, view the grading of such problems as being purely right or wrong. If their answer is correct they move on to the next problem, and if their answer is wrong they still move on to the next problem. Students need to be aware of errors and where these errors take place. Recognition and acknowledgment of these errors can be a powerful reinforcement tool to the specific engineering principal.

One such error recognition method is called “Three Strikes”. As discussed in this paper, the Three Strikes method encourages students to analyze and recognize mistakes. The instructors using this method will purposely, and sometimes un-purposely, inject mistakes into lecture and laboratory problems. The student is encouraged and rewarded for identifying mistakes. Once a mistake is found, the problem is further analyzed to see how such an error would have affected the final results.


Learning from history has always been a valuable teaching tool. Scanning the cable television channels you come across multiple shows discussing historical and practical aspects of science and engineering. One such series, discusses engineering disasters throughout the ages. Each story thrashes out mistakes that were made in the implementation or design of an engineering project and sometimes shows how a simple mistake or change could have avoided catastrophes.

These engineering mistakes have been numerous. Some mistakes have been huge oversights missing complete concepts like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, known as Galloping Gertie, collapsed on November 7, 1940. The collapse brought engineers world-wide to the realization that aerodynamic phenomena in suspension bridges were not adequately understood in the profession nor had they been addressed in this design. This resulted in wind tunnel testing of all existing and future bridges across the country. New mathematical theories of vibration, aerodynamics, wave phenomena, and harmonics as they apply to bridge design arose from these studies. [1]

Steffen, G. (2008, June), Learning Through Error Recognition Using The Three Strikes Method Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3466

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015