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Class project raises $26,000 for charities

Published: Friday, April 27, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

When Dale Tibodeau designed his “Project Management for Engineers” class, he decided to do more than teach by the book. The result was a class project that generated more than $25,000 for community charities.

“I wanted the students to get the actual hands on experience,” Tibodeau said.

Students in Tibodeau’s  course spent the majority of the semester planning and executing their own charity projects to benefit the Bryan-College Station community. In the end, charities received $26,267.03 thanks to student efforts.

“In the classroom we talk about all the theory, the methodologies, the tools. We go over examples and some case studies and things like that,” said
Tibodeau, lecturer and industrial engineering department head. “It’s one thing to get that flavor of it, but the reality is you learn best by doing.”

Tibodeau, having been a part of several charity-raising events of his own, said he first got the idea for his class project from the popular TV show “Celebrity Apprentice” in which celebrities compete to raise money for charities.

Thirteen teams composed of students from different engineering disciplines planned, organized and executed the fundraising projects. Teams were expected to project a revenue and expense, and to set a goal for the amount of money they would raise for their charity. The project counts for 25 percent of their final grade.

“They’re doing something that obviously benefits the community,” Tibodeau said. “They’re learning as a part of it, and it’s a win-win for the community and the students”

Each team designated a project manager, decided which charity to support and, of course, chose a team name. The teams also decided what kinds of events — bake sales, auctions, profit shares — they would use to meet their goals.

Team “Cookie Monsters” decided to partner with the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley. The team designed a children’s camp from start to finish, complete with a daily schedule for an entire week, and, after having it approved by the museum, set up and led the camp over spring break. The camp generated $2,840 for the museum, as reported on the “Cookie Monsters” website.

Other projects covered activities ranging from volunteering at a battered women’s shelter, to collecting monetary and material donations for the local Goodwill store.

Fundraising methods used by each team to reach their individual goals also took different forms. Some used simple donation boxes, while others utilized Facebook events and profit shares. A member of one team went so far as to sell original oil paintings by his mother door-to-door, because some of his team’s other plans weren’t as profitable as projected.

“It’s not just a normal class project. We are actually helping the community,” said William Davis, senior industrial engineering major and member of team “Wonderball,” which chose to support the local Goodwill store. “It wasn’t, you know, do a paper or write a report. It was, ‘Go out and do something, and then tell us what you did.’”

Tibodeau was not directly involved in the process, and agreements were made exclusively between the student teams and the charity with whom they worked.

“I didn’t want any money coming through me, or I didn’t want to be an intermediary,” Tibodeau said. “I wanted the student teams to partner directly with the charities.”

Students said they learned valuable lessons from the semester-long project, and were required to include those in their presentations.

Jeremiah Courtright, senior industrial engineering major and member of team “Wonderball,” said it was important to be ready for unexpected changes at all times.

“Nothing ever goes the way you plan it in the beginning,” Courtright said.

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