# “You’re Fired!” – Avoiding Error on The Apprentice UK

In this week’s episode of The Apprentice UK the competing teams had to complete an international task that required them to fly out to Dubai. For this task, the teams were required to negotiate deals for specific items on a list for a luxury hotel. One of their missions on the list was to obtain the flag of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a specified size at the best price possible.

The apprentices seemed to struggle with basic unit conversions from feet to centimeters. In a hurry and under pressure they ordered a made to measure flag of the UAE over the phone. Whilst clarifying the dimensions with the producer, team member Kurt Wilson conducted a quick calculation and converted the required dimensions of 4ft by 6ft into 48cm by 72cm.

Oops!

Using PTC Mathcad’s built-in unit converter it’s easy to see where the error was made.

It’s fair to say they had a bit of a shock when they turned up to pick up the flag from the producer.

Nick Hewer remarked, “Here in the land of the sand dune, the camel, and the Burj Al Arab, size really matters. They came to buy a flag of a certain size, they got the size wrong, they got one the size of a napkin. Why? Because they weren’t paying attention.”

In the end this cost them dearly: the price of the first flag + the cost of the correctly sized replacement flag. They narrowly lost the task and their project manager got fired.

On a far more serious point, quantifying the impact of errors from what may at the time seem like trivial calculations can be difficult. Very often such decisions need to be made quickly and in a pressured environment, so it’s easy to see how such errors may easily occur.

A high profile example can be traced backed to 1999 when NASA lost a \$125 million Mars orbiter because one engineering team used metric units while another used English (Imperial) units for a key spacecraft operation.

“People sometimes make errors,” said Edward Weiler, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Science in a written statement.

The problem here was not the error, it was the failure of NASA’s systems engineering, and the checks and balances in our processes to detect the error. That’s why we lost the spacecraft.”

The crucial point is, humans make mistakes, but it’s the ability to identify and correct those errors before it’s too late that we should be focusing on. The question is, can you or your business afford to make what might seem like trivial errors that ultimately might end up costing the business or even your job?

See how PTC Mathcad helps engineers and scientists to understand unit conversions, giving them total confidence in their calculations and giving them the ability to stay one step ahead.