On the second day of the Huang fellows summer program, we made a trip to a quaint log cabin for a low-ropes course. I was excited at the prospect of having a (cliché) team building exercise off campus, but I wasn’t ready to dangle 3 feet above the ground in the middle of a bunch of trees hoping I wouldn’t fall (thanks Wikipedia).
So there I was, with the rest of the Huang cohort in the middle of what seemed like a forest with the ever constant mosquitoes and humidity of North Carolina. Even though the program had only just begun, I felt there was a budding intimate sense of community amongst us. We were welcomed by the venue managers who gave us a brief overview of what our time there would be; sets of games that initially seemed only slightly more interesting than the perpetual O-week icebreakers.
But I quickly learned that I would only benefit from these activities as much as I was willing to put into them. We played games where we asked each other the most random questions that really revealed a surprising amount about our personas. We had games where we had to work with someone and develop a strategy to win the game. Then after a few rounds (to my slight dismay) we had to switch partners and play with new people. I had to learn to work with others quickly and had to be open to adapting to new approaches to the challenge. Also, not being in a singular team throughout the game also really made us focus on the point of the games-to have fun.
I found that this strategy has several real applications even in the science industry. Many times, because we are built to be defensive, we often forget that the goal is not to build the most impressive technology, but to be able to make practical contributions that have a positive effect on humanity.
But the most memorable activity for me was the “One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish” game. The goal was for the team to get a dummy fish across some distance to the finish line. However, we had to make sure we only moved when the game leader had her back turned and was saying the above phrase. If she turned and saw anyone moving or could guess who was holding the fish, then the whole team had to return to the starting line. Perhaps I enjoyed the game so much because it took so many attempts or because we had a mega team of twenty people (no wonder football is so hard). But to eventually win after numerous tries, it was crucial for us to regroup after every failed attempt and modify our strategy by learning from our mistakes, so we could do better. It was important for everyone’s ideas to be considered and for the team to make sure we had a unified front. We had to form a protective shield around whoever had the fish, move together and essentially “clump like mad” so the leader couldn’t guess who had the fish. Hence the clump Fellows was born.
The greatest thing I learned was that a group project only works if the group operates as a unit and really supports each other. We hear these clichés all the time, but their importance really comes to life when you have to put them in practice to move a rubber fish across 60 feet. Not only did this team bonding experience help me grow closer to other fellows, it also showed me the practical importance of teamwork ethic. We had to work together to learn very important skills that we will need in the collaborative field of science.
Ayooluwa is majoring in Mechanical engineering with a minor in Energy Engineering. She is passionate about renewable energy and would like to build a career centered on making clean energy access globally affordable.