Failure is Critical to Innovation, Yates Tells Students at Worldwide Event

A live stream broadcast allowed the Conrad Foundation to engage an audience from 86 locations in 10 countries and 15 states as they launched the Spirit of Innovation Challenge on August 21.

The centerpiece of the event was green tech innovator and world recorded holder Chip Yates, (shown above with a photo of the late Apollo 12On Stage astronaut and entrepreneur Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad) who spoke to the live and virtual audience of high school students and educators, profiling the challenges of his electric journey and demonstrating how he views setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for further innovation.

Anniversary Flight Partial CropFailure is critical to innovation, Yates told the students, who are preparing their own projects for the Foundation’s flagship program, the Spirit of Innovation Challenge. “It’s not as interesting for you to hear me say that that I built an electric airplane and flew it and landed it as it is to hear about what went wrong,” he said, showing images of technology failures, design errors, crashes, injuries and other problems that accompanied his world record-setting electric motorcycle and airplane triumphs.

“And just last week, I was attempting to set 5 new FAI world records in my electric Long-ESA, and ran into a whole week of data glitches, wind shears, and a catastrophic power loss at 500 feet.”  (**Click to view the full video.)  “Needless to say, there were no world records set that week!”  

It’s essential to take these setbacks in stride, Yates reminded the audience. “Failures are proof that you’re on the right track. If you’re moving forward and pushing the limits, you have to be able to deal with failure. We’re out at the leading edge with our innovation, and there are new opportunities tied to every failure.”

Chip’s Six Rules for “Innovation to Change the World”

  • Imagine a dream – BIG!
  • Define success
  • Build your team
  • Innovate and invent  
  • Execute, fail, adjust, overcome
  • Harvest, enjoy, and live life   

Click to view Yates’ presentation at the Spirit of Innovation Challenge August 21 launch event.                                       

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Yates has a deep and active commitment to motivating kids and teens in science, technology, engineering and math. His STEM presentations to

school groups demonstrate the real-world relevance of how taking these “hard” classes can result in very rewarding careers and accomplishments.  “I want to help kids realize they’re passionate about something,” says Yates. “We need young engineers and scientists on the forefront.”

**To request a visit to your school, email

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