Learning how to build great project teams is an essential skill in the engineering world. And a motivated, confident and well-bonded team is the Holy Grail of any workplace. So it was truly inspirational watching our group of 16 to 18 year old engineering apprentices take on the rollercoaster challenge on Broad Haven beach last week.
Using limited equipment, the team had to work within a tight timeframe to construct a structure which would allow a ball to travel its length by gravity alone. The ball also had to complete the course within a specified time range and the rising tide and gusting winds gave an added (and very real) edge to the task!
After electing a team-leader, the team sub-divided into three separate teams, each constructing a different part of the ‘Roller Coaster’. Working against the clock, the team leader was tasked with motivating and guiding each team, and then bringing the three teams together to assemble the complete structure. Collaboration amongst the three teams, and sharing of resources and information, was vital for the success of the overall operation. Coming at the end of a week-long residential programme, Roller Coaster was a great finale, with lots of energy, high tension and finally euphoria as the ball completed its course in a perfect 45 seconds.
As an outside observer, I was truly impressed by how well the group (who had met for the first time on this residential course, and was a first time away from home for many) worked together to complete the task. Apart from open communication and team cooperation, the task involved planning, innovation, time management, maximising efficiency of resources, leadership and trust. It was wonderful to witness the emerging confidence of the apprentices as they recognised the value of their individual contributions, and the huge shared sense of achievement when the “moment of truth” arrived and their project delivered success.