Hofstra engineering student’s failed 3D-printed arch stands as symbol of ‘resilience’

HEMPSTEAD, New York — This month, as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, we introduce you to a first-generation college graduate-to-be who is spreading an important message at a Long Island university.

She turned a mistake into a work of art, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.

In the Hofstra University library, a twisted plastic is found that, by engineering standards, was a failure.

Senior Esther Zhang was tasked with designing a structure to complete her degree. But in the course of months it “practically” failed, Zhang said.

“I just wanted to create this large-scale arch, like 12 feet long. Something that people could walk under,” Zhang said.

His 3D printed mesh creation was supposed to form a perfect arch. But in the process of cooking, it overheated and sank to the ground.

“It was very disappointing because I had worked for so long,” said Zhang.

“It was devastating. We saw that the piece had not worked as we had hoped,” said Professor Ted Segal.

The project now stands as a symbol for college seniors. Zhang made two smaller bows out of it and called it “Resilient”.

“I think it took a lot of resilience to get through these four years,” he said.

The university interrupted seemingly endless COVID challenges.

“It took a mental toll,” Zhang said. “Being stuck at home was a big factor that I think made us feel like our college career was stolen from us.”

Resilient means the ability to reform without breaking, adapting to change. The two arcs now form a point.

“You have to be adaptable,” Segal said.

“I just want people to know that they are capable of much more than they know and that there is much in them that is capable of going all the way,” Zhang said.

She credits her Chinese immigrant parents for instilling the lessons of resilience. Three daughters, all first-generation college graduates.

“Although her whole life and her family are in China, they endured all these years for their children so that we could have a better life,” Zhang said.

An experience that not only turned a college project into a work of art, but is also shaping a lesson for the entire Hofstra community. When things don’t go as planned, pivot.

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