Sean Russell

ENGR 493 Individual Reflective Report

Sean Russell

For Engineering 493, I was part of the fundraising project for Morocco. We raised money so that the people of Tioute, Morocco could dig a well for water and improve their quality of life.  The town is home to just over 4800 people and is in need of better sources of water.  Over the course of the semester, our group raised over $1000 towards digging the well.  While this isn’t the full amount needed (around $10,000), it is a good start towards the goal. 

Our Morocco group consisted of seven people eager to help out those in need.  We began by splitting into two teams so that we could have a competition to see who could raise the most money.  My team (Team Sushi) consisted of myself, Steve Pantalone, and Peter Yeh.  We tried to do a few different fundraisers, but ran into trouble when we tried to get approval from the administrators at Penn State.  Our biggest fundraisers were weekly poker tournaments and an international luncheon in which all of the groups helped organize.

During the course of the semester, we were able to apply many of the topics we learned in Engineering 408 to our project and our group.  We started off using what we learned of core values and creating a vision to help guide us through the project.  We established a set of values and mission statement during one of our first meetings.  This helped us to remain motivated, stay on task, and keep our eyes set on the goals.  We even made a contract for each member that comprised of the rules and expectations of the group.  While it wasn’t legally binding, it still served as a constant reminder of what we needed to do and why we were doing it. 

One of the main principles we learned in ENGR 408 was the Five Stages of Group Development.  These stages are forming, norming, storming, performing, and adjourning.  Most groups in all different types of settings will go through most of the stages over the course of development.    

When we first started our ENGR 493 project, our group remained in the forming stage for quite a while.  It took us many weeks and many meetings to figure out what we were doing and split up into teams.  Although the forming stage did take a while, we were able to cover most of the norming stage at the same time because we started knowing each other quite well.  Once we finally formed our teams, the rest of the stages went much easier.  We were able to finish up the norming and began performing rather quickly.  This stage continued until recently as we were doing fundraisers, like the poker tournaments, quite often.  While this stage is over for now, we look to continue with more fundraisers next semester.  I’m even helping to plan a Moroccan and Cambodian dinner for January. 

We are currently finishing up the adjourning stage right now for this semester, but we will not be completely adjourned since we plan on continuing next semester.  The only thing that is completely adjourned is out little groups.  Any future fundraisers will be with the entire Moroccan team. 

Our group performed quite well together and spent very little time, if any, in the storming stage.  Most of the storming we dealt with was with the administrators at Penn State.  We were trying to plan an athletic fundraiser, like a badminton tournament, but were unable due to Penn State’s policies.  I know the other team ran into similar problems when they were unable to do a raffle because they would need a small games license.  Other than the problems we faced with policies and regulations, we had next to no storming among each other.

Another topic we were able to apply to our project was shared leadership.  Once we were into our smaller teams, we were able to take responsibility for different parts of the project.  We learned that everyone can do their own part to work towards a common goal and that there doesn’t need to be just one distinct leader.  Each person can have their own share in helping to lead the group.  This experience with leadership also taught us about the importance of being an ethical leader.  We questioned the ethics of the poker tournament using gambling as a form of fundraising.  We decided that it would be okay to do, but we made sure that it didn’t get out of control.  Ethics is important; sometimes leaders get caught up in unethical practices, like Enron, and it ends up hurting the business and people involved.

This project taught us to be good global leaders.  We are young adults in the middle of central Pennsylvania, but yet we are able to help the less fortunate thousands of miles away.  We are able to see (not directly) what all of our efforts will be able to do and how life will improve for them because of it.  Too often we get caught up in our own lives and never really have the chance to actively help others. We also donate to causes but never really see where the donation goes.  This project allowed us to see what we were doing and exactly who it was helping.  

Our project was a great example for us to apply our knowledge of sustainability.  Our small team was able to make our fundraising very sustainable.  Since we had poker tournaments every week, we were able to keep it going without much effort.  The tournaments are even sustainable for next semester and for future team members.  Both teams were very successful in making the entire group and project sustainable for semesters to come.  We can use what we have learned and our efforts to get the ball rolling to keep it rolling in future semesters.  Future project groups can use what we learned and where we faltered to be more productive and raise more money.  If they are able to start right away from where we left off, they will be very successful. 

I think our biggest mistake was splitting into two teams.  It took so long for us to finally get formed into teams, that it wasted some of the good time that could have been spent fundraising.  Also, by just having one larger team there is more manpower to do the fundraisers.  I know our team wanted to do a spaghetti dinner, but were unable to because we only had three people.  If all seven of us had been working together, it would have been much easier to pull off, much like the success of the international luncheon. 

Another thing that would help future groups would be to have them contact student affairs shortly after joining the group.  They had many ideas of fundraisers and were very willing to help out.  We were just unable to use them effectively. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this project.  I was glad that I was able to do my share of helping to improve the world.  This project fit perfectly with ENGR 408 because I was able to apply what I learned in class to a real-world situation.  Many classes teach you a bunch of stuff but never give you the opportunity to see it for yourself.  For instance, I’ve learned so much about forces and failures on beams, but have never seen it in real life.  Other classes teach you things, but you never use it until years later, at which time you have forgotten some, if not all of it.  I was able to take what I learned each week in class and use it to help me with the project.  I think this quick application of the principles allows for greater development as a leader. 

I think that both Engineering 408 and 493 have worked well together to better prepare me as a future leader.  I will be able to use what I have learned now and years in the future.  I can also use our group development as an example when I’m in future groups and build upon the successes and learn from the failures.  This project must have made a big impact on me and the rest of my group if we are willing to come back next semester and work with it even though we aren’t required to.