Archive for April, 2010

We’re really lucky to go to a school renown for excelling in two drastically different realms: agriculture and engineering. Being an engineer, I don’t know many — or for that matter, anybody with an agriculture background. So I am fortunate that we have resources on campus that could potentially help us as a knowledge base.
As a member of the landscaping team, I went to two unfamiliar places on campus today seeking advice on landscaping and gardening in general. I thought they could give us insight or possible donations. The first place I went to, the crop science building, was a bit confusing to navigate since I don’t have experience with how the staff/students/faculty are organized. I was left more optimistic about my visit to the Poly Plant shop. But getting donations is very hard and I can see how it will require a lot of persistence, resilience, and good attitude!
The landscaping team also went to visit Simon and Rubye this evening. She was making a delicious chili and Rachel and Caleb were playing in the back. The landscaping team took measurements of the dips in elevation and we took more pictures to help us plan. I’m very glad that we’re working with a caring family that is full of love and joy.
I am asking friends to help volunteer and buy the $6 all you can eat pancake tickets to support our cause. Currently, we may have to narrow our scope because of fears that there will not be enough funds/volunteers to support Polyhouse. And it’s heartbreaking–not because our ideas are not being fulfilled in a class, but because there’s always that risk that we may let down this sincere, good-hearted family. So please, if you have anything you can donate–resource, labor, materials–let us know! After the team visited Air Vol yesterday we were thrown aback by how good and generous companies/people can be. We hope to have more positive encounters in the future.

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The story of PolyHouse seems impossible to many. 30 Students + 1 family + 6 workdays = a new home. To many the equation just doesn’t add up, but to the students involved in the IME 556 class, impossible just isn’t in our dictionary. Impossible is just another challenge to become achievable!

This marks the 4th week of our Spring Quarter. What exactly does that mean? Well…

  • 4 weeks are already under our belt until summer begins.
  • 4 weeks gone means 1 week until midterms
  • 4 weeks gone 2 weeks until our first big fundraiser:

APPLEBEES: All you can eat Pancake Breakfast – May 2nd 8am-10am $6 presale

  • And finally 4 weeks down means only 4 WEEKS until we break ground in Nipomo with the Todd family!

I’m currently working with the finance team for this project. And, it has been quite the undertaking trying to raise so much money in such a short time, but so rewarding knowing there are so many people in the community willing to donate to such a great cause!!! I have truly enjoyed my time in the class so far. For me, there is a steep learning curve to tackle.  See, I’m not the typical student in this course.

1) I’m still in my undergraduate education.

2) I’m not studying to be an Industrial Manufacturing Engineer.

3) I’m not even in the College of Engineering!

I’m an Agricultural Science Major studying to be a teacher.  So how do I fit into this equation? I ask myself that all the time! I got involved in this course because one of my closest friends was in the class last year. She told me about this class, volunteered me to work the weekend and fundraise with a club I work with.  That’s exactly when my passion for this class began! It didn’t matter that I don’t have the pre-recs for the class or the engineering background; I was determined to take the class the next year. So here I am, absolutely loving my first engineering class!

This class may have seemed crazy, unfeasible and impossible to me at first, but really just like Walt Disney put it, impossible is FUN!  May 14th here we come….


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“Wait… we’ve got three weeks until what?!?” I won’t name names, but I overhead someone in class this morning say this. And it’s true. If all goes as currently planned, we’ll be pouring concrete on May 8th. I don’t know about you, but I am excited!

After talking with a contractor about the site and what we want to accomplish, the space team decided on the locations and approximate sizes of both a home addition and a new detached garage/workshop. We also decided that we’ll need to pour concrete one weekend in advance of the first official “work weekend” in order to meet our deadline of finishing on May 23rd.

I’ve been having a blast telling everyone I know and meet about what we’re planning. I called my mom earlier today to give her a PolyHouse status update, and she had the brilliant idea of posting a link to this blog on my Facebook wall… thanks Mom, great idea! For me (so far) the best part about this project is telling other people about it. It feels good helping the family, it feels good finding out how generous and helpful strangers can be, and it feels good knowing that community service projects like this one really bring people together.

Editor’s comments – We hope to provide the family with an addition and a garage, among other things, but it is dependent on the generous contributions of the community. In order to see how you might help, please refer to the “About Polyhouse” tab page on this blog.

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Tyler’s reflections

I have been taller than normal for as long as I can remember. Usually this involves me folding myself into small car backseats and leaning down to hear what shorter people say when I can’t hear them. Upon seeing Caleb for the first time it was hard for me to put myself into his shoes and to even wrap my head around the struggles he would face in his day to day life. After that first site visit I went crazy on Google, simply looking at what solutions exist out there that would simply enable Caleb to live life. I was surprised to see some ingenious inventions and solutions to some of the problems, and other apparatus that I am sure could be executed better. There are special bikes, desks, keyboards and even car petal extenders for when Caleb turns 16. I am excited to see the ideas that our class can/have come up with to improve Caleb and his family’s quality of life, and I know that they will enable them to take the steps to enabling Caleb to simply live life.
The team I am on is Landscaping, and as we have been meeting and talking, I have been working on drawing up a rough set of initial landscaping blueprints and putting our ideas onto paper. It has involved a lot of erasing and redrawing over and over as we talk our way through meeting all of our objectives and addressing Caleb’s needs. And I know that there will be a lot of reworking still to come in the future, but I eagerly anticipate when those ideas will finally move from paper and into reality.
-Tyler R. Knorr

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At this point we are really confronting some major decisions involved with improving the family’s home. At our meeting this afternoon it was great to see some of the ideas the space team has come up with and their reasoning behind them.
Some of my most recent activities have included contacting The San Luis Obispo Tribune and The New Times about donating advertisement space to help us with fundraising. I plan on sending them some more information about the cause, but so far it sounds like this is definitely something that they may be interested in. The SLO Tribune also prints a Donations and Volunteers section every Wednesday where non-profit organizations can list there contact and event information. It’s not a very big section but it is another channel to advertise for PolyHouse. I have also been in contact with past PolyHouse students to get their feedback on how they approached fundraising and I think we are headed in the right direction. As a team we have come up with a couple of fundraising events that we believe are feasible for the given time frame and will share more details at Wednesday’s meeting. I am really excited about the improvements to the design of the home that I have seen so far and can’t wait to see what some of the other groups have planned.

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Kaitlin’s post

In all my wonderful 4 years of my undergraduate college education, I have never been so excited about one class. In all honestly I had no clue what I was getting into until that first day of class, but I sat there and said “Kaitlin it is your last quarter why not take on a large project that you can give your whole heart to.” So, here I am already in love with this amazing family to the point where I want to call up ABC and see if they can give us the Extreme Home Makeover budget. At the same time I am excited for all of the work including fundraising the money to complete this project.

With that, I am getting more and more excited about my team’s’. We chose to combine Caleb’s Needs with Interior Design since the two go hand in hand. His family told us that one thing they would like to see is Caleb functioning as an independent individual in the family. This means the simple things like making the faucet reachable so he can wash his hands in the bathroom with no help. We are working to get his arm span and other similar measurements to make sure that all the adjustments we make meet his height and reach. My feeling is that he is the main focus of our project since he is one of the main reasons we chose this family. We had the opportunity to define our scope with the Space Team. We will be making the decisions on the interior design (whether it is the master bathroom, his current bathroom, or an added bathroom) and apply all of the research and learning to the design of his new room and bathroom.

-Kaitlin MATE ’10

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We have identified the work weekends this year. The family will move out Thursday, May 13, and we will be there bright and early Friday, May 14, to start our 6 days of work. We will work Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 14 through 16, and Friday, Saturday, Sunday, May 21 through 23. The reveal will be sometime during the afternoon on May 23.

We can use all the manpower possible. Email me (lschleme@calpoly.edu) if you would like to help out. We will send you the details as it gets closer.

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I just got back from our first team building exercise: a barbeque at PM Mike’s house. I was the first guest to arrive. The only thing Mike needed help with was a taste testing of the guacamole. Poor me. Thanks to Mike for the wonderful dinner, feeding 28 college students without a hitch is a pretty good indication that you’re the right man for this Polyhouse job! Tracy and Cassidy brought a cake, complete with a bulldozer working in a yard of icing. Amazing. The most interesting thing I learned tonight was about Romel’s unbelievable art projects he has made from cut pieces of paper. That guy has talent, and his work is a great example of what we can accomplish if our hearts are behind it.

I’m very excited to work with everyone in the class, and I can’t wait to see how the quarter unfolds.


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It is amazing how complex the planning is getting! We are using project management tools to help us get organized. We have created a Project Charter and an initial Statement of Work. The students are currently working on the Work Breakdown Structure which will help create a schedule and estimate the project resources necessary. We will be using Microsoft project to build, track, manage the project. Learning how to use these tools in the context of this complex project is the perfect application of project based learning.

As we begin fund raising in earnest, we are amazed at the reputation PolyHouse has in our community. Over the last several years Dr. Roya Javadpour has lead a group of students to renovate six homes in the area. Their past accomplishments are helping this current project. We are looking forward to adding to the PolyHouse list of blessings for local families.

We are getting together for some team building activities: a barbecue tomorrow, and a hike on Friday. We believe that in order to execute this project we will need to be a high functioning team and these activities will help us get there.

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The class is divided into six teams. Each team will take care of a different aspect of the project. There will be a “Finance Team” who will keep track of donations and all the monetary aspects of the project. A “Logistics Team” will make sure everything runs smoothly on site. This will include making sure we feed our volunteers, making sure all the tools are available when needed, and insuring that we are all working safely. There are four teams that will look at the improvements to the home. “Caleb’s Needs” are first on our list and we have some really resourceful students looking at how we can enhance his life. There is a group looking at how we might “Add Space” to the house. There are several options that we are exploring including adding a bedroom or even a separate secondary dwelling. The third team will look at the “Outside” of the house. This will include landscaping and possible cost savings through sustainable activities like solar power and gardening. The final group is looking at ways we might spruce up the “Interior” including new paint and possibly new floor coverings.

All this will depend on the contributions of the local community. We are very happy to have our first commitment from J Carroll to provide T-shirts for the class, the family, and the volunteers.

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