Archive for May, 2010

Wow, what an experience! As a class, I think that Poly House pushed us to the very edge of our limits, both physically and emotionally, and forced us to tread new ground in discovering what we are all truly capable of. Although the project frequently felt as though it would take a miracle to pull off, everyone in the class seemed like they had the family in mind as they worked around the clock putting their full heart behind the work that they were doing.
I must say that I am very impressed with everyone in the class, previous to this I had only had the experience of interacting with most of the people within the context of the class room. I had known most people in this class to be good students, it was refreshing to see everyone take the same hard-working approach to the intensive physical labor that this project necessitated. I honestly believe that everyone did everything they could to make the final product one that we could all be proud of, and in this respect, I believe that we were hugely successful.
I would like to extend another resounding thank you to all of our sponsor and contractors who were able to help us out. Thank you for putting up with my blank stares as I tried to comprehend just what needed to get done in order to finish the house. I know that this project would not have been as successful as it was without your help, and there truly is no way to thank you enough.

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It’s hard to believe the project has finally come to a close.  Just three weeks ago, we started out with a clean slate and only two weeks ago we poured the foundation.  Even in the last few hours before the reveal, the kitchen, for example, looked nothing like a kitchen.  Everything was chaotic and everyone was rushing to get the house cleaned up.  Within the last hour, the kitchen transformed from a messy construction site into actually resembling kitchen functionality.

I have some experience in the construction industry and this has been an amazing experience for me even.  Normally the time frame isn’t so small and the atmosphere is really relaxed.  It’s incredibly different in this setting and makes everyone step up to the plate to simply get the project done.

All in all, I think Poly House 2010 turned out to be very successful.  For me, it was a growing opportunity to branch outside of my comfort zone and be more vocal.  I came into the project as the quiet one that just went along with everything.  I am now coming out of the project as a much more vocal person and I’m not as nervous to approach people, especially when it comes to business relations.  I’m still not especially crazy about asking for donations since I don’t like pestering people, but I’m more confident about my ability to do just that when the situation arises.  And more often than not, people are very willing to help out when they can.

I would like to personally say thank you to all of the contractors and workers who came out to donate time to the project.  There is no way we would have been able to accomplish such a huge scope without the dedication of every single person who helped.

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I heard Polyhouse was a lot of work, but its impact on my life exceeded my expectations. Growing up in the city, I wasn’t used to the kindness, generosity, empathy, and warm-hearted spirit I saw reflected in the many new people I met through Polyhouse. I knew this course changed a deserving family’s life, but I wasn’t expecting it to have the impact it had on mine or my classmates’.

Everyday of working on Polyhouse introduced me to a new life lesson. I’ve compiled a few that I can remember below.
Course-work related lessons
  • Project management is tough! Handling so many people, materials, and needs were overwhelming! I am awed by how admirably the PMs and team leads handled it under pressure. Somehow they managed to do it, props to Jon B., Mike, Jamie, Shane, Nick, Eric and Kaitlin!
  • I can see how all of what I learned in previous group projects applied to this course. We had the huge class, and sub teams within the class that had to function within and among teams. Having these skills made our groups run more smoothly, as people were using teamwork to reach a shared goal instead of being held back by conflicting group interests. It was an exemplification of Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” motto.
Practical stuff I learned through Polyhouse
  • What construction tools are!
    • I’ve never touched a sledgehammer, circular saw, rototiller, or any of those fancy gadgets, but working on logistics with Doug gave me a lot of insight into the world of construction. It was fascinating and eye opening to realize things I’d never thought about before–like how outdoor wood needed a different type of screw than indoor wood.
  • How to drive a truck (and get it stuck in the dirt)
    • I drove a truck for the first time during Polyhouse! It was all going smoothly, but as I was backing up the mulch into the yard I got the truck stuck. I definitely will not be driving over piles of dirt anymore. Our class is grateful to have Cassidy so willing to lend her classmates the use of it even though we got it in a pickle here and there. I just wanted to emphasize how unselfish my classmates were, including but not limited to Eric and Tracy, in trusting us with their vehicles or volunteering it for Polyhouse.
  • How to make due
    • We were in dire need of wheelbarrows, and we were losing them fast. As soon as we bought one another would break. But great problem solvers like our veteran volunteer Alden fixed two wheelbarrows using ingenious methods that saved us money and time. A wheelbarrow’s wheel punctured? Just take the good wheel of another broken wheelbarrow. Lost the nut to a wheelbarrow? Make your own wheel fastener with a drill bit.
  • How to attach a hitch
    • More truck stuff!! Rick and Alden showed me how to back up into a hitch (it’s good to use another person to guide you!) and attach it.
  • How to save your fingers/thumb from the hammer
    • Did you know that you should keep your hand down the hammer’s arm the same length of the actual item you are hammering? In my instance I was hammering a stake down and our contractor Rick was kind enough to teach me that I could get my fingers badly injured if I didn’t keep my digits a safe ways from the actual hammer head. Thank you Rick!
Personal stuff
  • It’s ok to let guys do the manly work!
    • There are just some things guys are more useful at besides holding their ladies’ purses. When Michelle told me how Kyle ripped two square feet of dirt from the ground so easily, we more or less accepted our fate of working on smaller projects that didn’t require feeling inferior to the male musculature.
  • Perseverance
    • When I saw my classmate Dan working so hard even though I imagined his lobster red sunburn was painful, I never saw him complain or give up. He always dragged his body back to work and was always happy to lend a hand.
  • Persistence
    • The construction team is the most accomplished group in Polyhouse. Even though their scope seemed impossible to get done in a few weeks, they found ways to complete it and never let anything block their way to giving the Todds a better home. I admire how relentless Jen was in finding donors, and for setting aside time generating contacts for teams outside of her own group. Working with Jamie, I saw how she pushed her team to never give up. Her stamina and determination was inspirational.
  • Generosity
    • Our class could not accomplish anything without the donors–whether it was with their invaluable skills, materials, or time. The care that our donors had for their fellow community members is something I will always remember about my Cal Poly experience. The altruism the community had for this wonderful family was amazing. The Todds were practically strangers to them, yet everyone was willing to offer their help. Knowing that so many people believed in our cause and supported us the whole way through was an endless source of comfort when times got tough and gave me a lot of optimism for the future. Thank you!

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I knew that Poly House was going to be a lot of work but I didn’t know it was going to be this much work!!!  If someone would have told me how hard I was going to work, but still find a way to have one of the best times of my life, I would have called them a liar.  But here I am, one week after the Poly House madness, and I’m no worse for the wear.  I learned a lot about how to deal with many personality types, and above all, how much a team working together towards a common goal can accomplish in a very short amount of time.  Our team members, volunteers, and contractors, busted their humps this year, and Poly House teams in the future are going to have a hard time setting the bar any higher.

I simply cannot believe the overwhelming amount of support we received for Poly House.  I am so proud to be a part of this community.  This experience has inspired me, and will certainly influence my choices in the future.  I had a certain sense of pride when I was out and about, finding donors, selling pancake breakfast tickets, explaining to my friends and family why I can’t make it to different events.  I missed my Mom’s surprise 50th birthday party at a Padres game, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I was missing it for the right reason.  Afterward, I received confirmation from my Mom that I did the right thing, just to be sure.  Best of all, was the feeling that we did a very positive thing for a deserving family with one very special kid.  I hope Caleb’s life is filled with happiness, and perhaps now will be a little easier.

I send my very best wishes to the Todd family, and send my sincerest thanks everyone who helped with this project.  We made quite the army.

Jonathan Bailey

Program Manager

Poly House 2010

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Editor note: Romel is a Resident Advisor (RA) in the dorms and recruited more than 50 volunteers to help us. We probably could not have finished without their strength and willingness.

From Romel:

PolyHouse was a refreshing experience for me.  Never before have I had such a hands on experience that gave me instant gratification.  This project allowed me to test my limits at balancing this project as well as my other classes with actual physical work.  It was one thing to plan and design on paper or computer; however, it was a whole other experience to actually make those plans and designs work out in real time.  A huge thanks goes out to Landscape team for helping me enjoy my experiences on this project.  We were all so determined to get the work done that we often forgot our own problems and issues aside from this class.  We all worked so hard to the point of getting sick or not sleeping.  Our team’s dedication to our work helped my residents from my dormitory see what a truly dedicated and diligent Cal Poly student looked like and acted like.  A lot of my residents liked working with my landscape team members just for its relaxed atmosphere and never ending list of tasks to do.  They always received adequate instructions to perform the tasks to the best of their abilities.  The end result to all our hard work is a happy family living in a home that was built with tender loving care.  It can’t be any better than that.

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What do you think?

We will be publishing more reflections from students in a few days, but in the mean time, to all those who have been following us, we would love to know what you have thought about the project or the blog. Please enter a comment or two below.

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When we set out to do this project we defined success as 1) a complete home presented to the Todd family on time and 2) all of our relationships intact (students, family, donors, and volunteers). A week ago the scope seems so overwhelming and we were all working so hard, we weren’t sure we could achieve both. Given that we were trying to completely overhaul a property in 10 days and none of us had done it before, we  all agreed it would be a miracle to achieve success. At one point last week we reevaluated and decided that the relationships were more important than the home being completed on time, if we had to give up something it would be the completed home. I believe we chose the right thing and we were gifted with the Miracle we all desired. The home is near completion and we all enjoy each others company. We love the Todd family, they are so gracious and embracing of us. We appreciate the donors and are trying our best to express that appreciation. We all care deeply for each other and will never forget the 10 days we spent at Polyhouse. We appreciate the volunteers and couldn’t have accomplished it without their selflessly giving of their time. Thank you to all those who who helped us achieve this Miracle!

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As Poly House slowly winds to a close I have had the opportunity to reflect on everything that we have achieved.  Through hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) we have achieved something amazing.  I had the distinct honor of walking the family though on the first ever tour of their new home.  Our project might be called Poly House, but I think it would more appropriately be called Poly Home.


–          the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.

–          any place of residence or refuge

To me, a home is so much more than a house, and I think what we have built for the Todd family, is a place which will quickly be embraced as not just their new house, but a home.  From the scripture verses that got written on the concrete under the carpet, to the decorative tiles, or the beautifully inlaid stones on the front entryway (all of which contain the children’s handprints), this year’s Poly Home is something that I will never forget, and I expect the Todd’s will never forget the impact that a group of 28 students, and a community were able to make on the family in a scant 19 days.

Many people have mentioned the scope of the project on the blog up until this point, and I think it is safe to say that this is the biggest, and one of the most successful Poly House projects ever undertaken.  I remember those initial meetings when the students were brainstorming ideas for this project, and to see those ideas standing proudly on that property is mind boggling.  From the graciously donated garage from PWS, to the great master addition, to the driveway, the garden and the patio, this is not the same house.  This is indeed my proudest accomplishment in academia to this point.  As the project manager of such a big undertaking, I learned so much along the way.  There were many things I was proud of, and many things I would do differently, but as I stood with the other students, lining the driveway, emblazoned in our brand new t-shirts, waiting (yes waiting!) for the family to arrive, I couldn’t help but think about the efforts of so many people: all of my team project managers, all of their team members, all of the donors, all of the volunteers and all of the people who fed us.  We were ready to reveal our work to a grateful family, with time to spare.  That was when I felt the success of all of our achievements, and I am so very proud of all of my fellow students.  We pulled together like a group that had been working together for years.  Where one person left off, another was one foot behind them ready to keep pushing forward.  As those of us in California know, all of the road construction signs read, “Progress as Promised.”  That’s how I feel about Poly House, it just got done, because it had to, because we wanted it to, because it needed to, and because no one would accept failure.

Thank you to everyone for the chance of a lifetime.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

– Galatians 6:9

Michael Minasian

Project Manager

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A Success!!!

We gave the Polyhouse back to the Todd’s today. We completed the job, except for a few things that we can solve easily. We are all tired, but please check back soon for reflective posts and more pictures.

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It has only been about two months since we began this project called Poly House.  Looking back on my experience thus far, I am amazed what we as a class have accomplished.  I’ll admit that two months ago, I would’ve thought that our plan for this project was impossible to accomplish.  However I am glad to be proven wrong and to actually see a concept literally go from a drawing to reality in that short time.  I’ll attribute our success to the dedication and commitment that my peers have demonstrated throughout the quarter.

This year I held the position as Finance/Fundraising Project Manager for Poly House 2010.  The group working with me consisted of five individuals, each with their own distinct backgrounds and fields of study: Cassidy – Ag Science, Mike – Industrial Technical Management, Tracy – Accounting, Tyler – Engineering and myself – Engineering Management.  Looking back at the group over these past weeks, we have had our successes and our problems.  However in a project like this, you learn to put your differences aside, admit your mistakes and move on to complete the common goal.  I enjoyed working with these individuals as they all contributed qualities that would help make this year’s project a reality: Cassidy was the class morale officer and was essential in motivating the class for fundraising events, special announcements and the project itself; Mike was cool under pressure and would always offer constructive contributions during group meetings; Tracy was on top of her event planning and would usually have the answers to my questions before I even asked; Tyler was my go-to “sales man” for the project and really excelled at reaching out to donors and really selling the purpose of this year’s Poly House project.  The project is almost concluded and the team that was Finance/Fundraising will each go on their own separate paths in life, however, we each will carry a mutual bond that is Poly House 2010.  I wish them the best of luck in the future.

As far as my personal experience from this project, I really enjoyed the experience of working in a really close knit group and working towards a common goal.  I think this project has as much to do with relationship management as it does with project management.  Communication is key!  I was also really impressed with how much the human spirit can motivate people to do good things.  Many of our donors contributed to this year’s project simply because it would truly make a difference in the lives of the Todd Family.  It leaves a good feeling knowing that there are people out there willing to show this kindness and generosity to complete strangers.

Before I end my entry, I would like to say a special thanks to the following people:
*Mrs. Marilyn Britton and Mr. Gary Fowler (Yes i know that Gary would suffice) for coming out to the work site and providing us with food and company.  Your contributions have definitely made our long days much more pleasant and is something we all are truly grateful for these past two weekends.
*Mrs. Stephanie Allen for helping me submit all my financial forms and transactions with the school.
*Ms. Jessica Paz for answering all of my Poly House Fundraising inquiries and for advice on any finance related issues I have.
*Professor Liz Schlemer for letting me be in charge of handling all of the project financing; I hope I don’t let you down.

~Christopher Fung

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