Archive for June, 2010

What an amazing journey this project has been over the last 10 weeks!  I have learned so much about so many different things, its hard for me to clearly describe all of the emotions that I have felt and am still feeling.  What I do know is that Polyhouse is singlehandedly the most worthwhile project I have ever been apart of.  The consequences of our failure to the Todd family and repercussions of our mistakes transformed this learning experience into much, much more than just another class.  The atmosphere of reality transformed each of us from students into truly dedicated professionals progressing together toward a common goal.  Each of us were pushed way beyond our normal limits physically, mentally, emotionally and from this I feel that we have grown a lot as individuals and as a community.

It seems as if it were just yesterday when we first drove to the very first site visit to meet the Todd’s and take note of our blank canvas.  Its truly mind boggling to keep track of all the work and planning that went into this project.  It just goes to show the communal power of dedicated individuals and the kindness and generosity from our community!

For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of this project as the fact that the Todd family is truly deserving of everything we could do and more.  Every interaction I’ve had with Simon, Ruby and the childeren has been a kind and sincere reminder that we couldn’t have chosen a better family!  I am honored to be a part of such a great and inspiring project and will never forget the great times I had during this quarter.  I have learned so much about myself and cannot thank my fellow classmates and community members enough for making Polyhouse 2010 the great success that it is!

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Dankie, Sukran, Jae Zu Din Pa De, Skee, Merci, Mahalo, Cheers, Shakkran, and Modupe

As I was writing this blog, I was trying to think of how many ways to say THANK YOU. Did you know there are over 465 different ways to say thank you? Well, there is a limit to this blog, so the ones above are just going to have to work! Anyway, throughout this project there have been many people needing a special thanking – from the amazing contractors to the dedicated volunteers and to the class participants.  But, I want to focus on just one person. This person is great, fabulous, amazing, a mentor, and someone to look up too.  Many words describe her, but really her name says everything — Liz Schlemer.

Its hard to believe just 9 weeks ago, Liz introduced herself and we, as a crazy class of 28, all said “I’m in!” to Liz and PolyHouse Project. We committed to being a part of this class and to this project.  In the end, it was all well worth it!

Here’s the moral of the story, Liz didn’t have to teach this class, this class could have easily taken a sabbatical for a year. Imagine leading a class whose legacy was heard all over the world, AND trying to pull it off as successful as in years past!?! The challenge was clearly huge, and I would assume daunting at times.  But, Liz really pulled this team together to create a cohesive group that was able to be adventurous yet tactful in their scope. Snaps to Liz for putting up with all of us (especially me), and being a superb leader, friend, coach, and educator.

Jumping into the whirlwind of PolyHouse has its ups and downs, but with Liz in the driver’s seat, we were ALWAYS kept between the lines! Thank you!

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I want to start off by saying how happy I am that I was able to participate in this class. It was a little more difficult to fit into my schedule than I had anticipated, but it was well worth it. Right off the bat I knew that it was going to be an interesting quarter. Though I joined a little late, it was easy to see the differing personalities that made up our class. All the more fun, I suppose. I enjoyed seeing people come out of their shells. Besides the fact that I got to know people I wouldn’t have normally met, I saw sides to people that I wouldn’t have seen in a normal class. In some cases this included a person’s reactions to stress. Save for a few incidents, I’d say everyone handled it well. The fact that we completed the task is evidence enough. As for myself, I’m a little disappointed. I’ve never been self-motivated, but I had hoped that I might overcome that throughout this project. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Luckily, there was enough to get done that no matter where I went there was someone that could give me a job to do. In the end, I am very happy with what we were able to accomplish and I am thrilled that I was able to be a part of it. I had a great time working with everyone and getting to know a lot of people.


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What an experience PolyHouse 2010 has been. As I have said many times before, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in such an amazing project. I would rather have classes like this, which are hands on and fast paced. I seemed  to be more focused and dedicated to this class than any before.

A class of this nature seems to provide a more realist representation of what the real world is like. Nobody was there to hold our hand or do the work for us. Once we agreed to the scope of the project, we had to make it happen. I heard many people outside of the class say, “There is no way you can accomplish this in just a few weekends!” This just served as motivation for all who was involved. I believe we all wanted to succeed for our own pride, but primarily for the Todd family.

The result of everyone’s hard work will last for many years to come. I hope it makes the Todd’s quality of life even better. I admire the resilience they demonstrate when facing tough times. I ‘m also grateful for everyone who participated in this project. We had such an amazing turnout from so many volunteers and contractors. This helped provide the necessary workforce we needed. I had such a great time participating in this project and will truly miss working with some of the people involved. I’m already excited to serve as a volunteer for next year’s class! Thank you again to everyone who was involved.

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Poly House. If I had a word count for my conversations this would be my most used phrase this quarter.  I soon realized that my conversations in the classroom, phone calls home, and chats with friends all seemed to be about Poly House. While it was probably a little due to stress, it mostly was because I had fallen in love (with the project, of course). Learning to be pushed outside my comfort zone and exhausting resources I didn’t even know existed. Poly House did teach me about project management, but it was so much more.

While the final product of the house turned out fantastic, I think the result of the relationships among teammates was the most impressive outcome. While the personalities varied from shy to overly outgoing and sensitive to outspoken, I am still blown away that 28 people could get along (for the most part) in such a high stress environment. I think this was due to the fact that each student wanted this project to succeed and was willing to expend every last ounce of energy they had to make it work.

Looking back on the project, I can see a noticeable change in everyone. Personally, I have learned so much about my abilities, my work ethic, and myself. Not only will I always look back at this project as a fun experience, but also as a time when I was challenged to try new things and work with so many new people. While the project might be over, the lessons learned and friendships built will last forever.

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PolyHouse will be one of the most memorable experiences in my life.  It has been a long time since I felt so alive from fatigue, and there is an allure of getting to that state of mind.  The class spent the majority of two weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) either working on site, traveling to the site, or sleeping for a few hours after a full day’s worth of work.  Being on site in Nipomo brought back so many memories from my younger days in track practices, where the whole team will run until exhaustion sets in, but we still have to march on physically and mentally.  The project was very impressive, and I’m glad nobody was seriously hurt on site.  PolyHouse magic is above us yet again!

After the reveal, I had a chance to speak with Caleb and casually asked him what he liked most about the place.  He said his favorite was his bedroom.  That alone melted my heart, because having individual space is a big step towards independency.  In the end, I was exhilarated the family liked their new home.  They will be living there in the years to come and it feels great to know they will form many great family moments in that house.  It was exciting to see how all the different projects came together to accomplish the same goal: providing a nurturing home for the Todd family.

PolyHouse also gave me a great opportunity to bond with peers that I only see in lecture environment classes.  This class indirectly lured me to look at myself as an individual and how I will fit in the overall group.  The deluge of magnanimity from the community will warm my heart for many years to come.  I thank all the donors and my classmates in PolyHouse for making this experience possible.

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It was only two short months ago that I was being told by professionals  that the scope of PolyHouse was unrealistic, yet today PolyHouse 2010 stands in the history books as a success.  Through countless man hours of planning, organizing, and hard labor we pulled together to make this the biggest PolyHouse yet.  Even as a member of this team I can hardly believe what we accomplished.  We managed to completely makeover the Todd’s home in a matter of a few weeks and give a very deserving family a new start.

The dedication and charity demonstrated by the donors, contractors, and students toward this project was truly inspiring.  It was not only members of the immediate community who were willing to pull together and help the Todds, but people from across the state and beyond who were willing to help out a family in need based only on their story.  A few short months ago I never would have believed that not only people would demonstrate such great compassion for complete strangers, but how willing they were to do so.  PolyHouse has truly been the life changing experience advertised and given me a newfound faith in community and people.

In the time since we handed back the house to the Todds I have noticed the immediate effects of PolyHouse on my life.  We were told early on
that PolyHouse would require us to step out of our comfort zone in order to accomplish our goal, and since I took that step out I have yet to
step back in.  I have seen immediate changes in the way I now deal with people in everyday life.  For as much as I gave to PolyHouse, I received
so much more in return and will always remember it as a great influence on my life.

-Rick Marcks

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I can’t believe the Journey is over. I would compare PolyHouse to the roller-coaster, Goliath, at Six Flags. At the beginning of the quarter you are presented with this enormous task, and many tell you it can’t be done in the allotted window: the beginning of the roller-coaster as you stare out at the massive slope you are about to climb. In the weeks leading up to construction the anticipation builds representing the climb to the top of the coaster. Finally you reach the peak, construction day, as the you make your descent the along the tracks the car immediately picks up speed and before you know it, you’re at full speed, there is no looking back or second guessing design plans. The ride consists of many sudden jolts in any and all directions, except backwards. There is no retreat.

The construction week’s definitely had their sudden jolts: news that soil was too wet to continue construction on the foundation, random sprinkler lines appearing out of nowhere along with wires, engineering change orders, and so many more. But as you make your way through the weeks and the end is visible the excitement and anticipation of completion grows. Finally, reveal day has come, you have entered the station to unload from the cars, there is cheering, crying, good jobs, and thoughts of “Wow, I can’t believe I just completed/experienced that”, what a wild ride. PolyHouse was a project that I am happy to have experienced and would do again.

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What a project!  What an amazing team!  Can you believe it?  Have you caught your breath yet?  I’ve never felt such a whirlwind of emotions from a single project.   Poly House proves that amazing things can happen when you bring out the best in people to achieve a common goal.  We renewed hope for the most deserving family and achieved the unthinkable with two months of hard work, a little belief, and a lot of luck.

I am forever grateful for the dozens of people who worked tirelessly to make Poly House a once in a lifetime experience.  The construction team consisted of the hardest working students I have ever met.  Steve Chauvet and Rick Brown must be psychics because the patience and determination they displayed throughout the project makes me wonder how they knew all along that we would achieve the impossible.  Wally Fellman of Fellman Contracting, Mitch Gary of Mitch Gary Construction, and Paul De Alejandro are amongst the finest people I have ever met; superbly skilled and generous craftsmen who made real sacrifices to make Poly House a complete success.  As requested Poly House will be making a generous contribution to Wally’s “Karma Bank.”  Cal Poly Nutrition faculty member Peggy Papathakis is an unsung hero for putting together a project team to remodel the Todd family’s eating habits into a healthy lifestyle that could make a greater impact on Caleb’s life than anything we could have built for him.  Landscape architect Michael Knight of Michael Knight Designs provided much needed artistic flair and elbow grease as he was on site for more twelve+ hour days than any other volunteer.

The days on end we spent at the Poly House site feel like an instant compared to the week it has been since we gave the Todd family their home back.  The memories of making a real difference in the community and the life lessons I carried away from this project will always be fondly remembered.

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PolyHouse.  A word that I will always remember.  To some it might mean stress.  To others it might mean hard labor.  So many things can be summed up in that one word.  Before I walked into the Technological Project Management classroom for the first time at the beginning of this quarter, if anyone had asked me if I’d ever heard of PolyHouse before, I would have replied by saying that it was just the name of some class at Cal Poly.  Now that we have reached the end, I have come to realize all of the different meanings that this word truly carries.


  1. A real-world large-scale project
  2. A calling to step out of one’s comfort zone
  3. A three-month teambuilding event
  4. A building block for a future career
  5. An unforgettable opportunity to give to others

Looking back over the course of this past quarter, I have realized so many things.  I have seen both my strengths and weaknesses come pouring out, as myself and the rest of my classmates were put face to face with one of the largest projects in which most of us had ever taken part.  In the end, setting aside the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears that our team put into this project, I look back at a successful mission that not only gave a deserving family a higher quality of life but a mission that also taught each and every one of us something about ourselves which we will never forget.  Those two items alone made PolyHouse 2010 worth every ounce of my time, money, and effort.

So, in the future, if anyone ever asks me if I’ve heard of a class called PolyHouse, I’ll just smile and ask them if they are ready for one of the longest stories they have ever heard.


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