Leadership Can Be Learned!

One of the most important takeaways from the ENGR 408/493 is that leadership is not something that comes naturally. Some people, naturally, have characteristics that make them great leaders, but for those of you who don't find it quite that easy, don't lose hope! One of the best ways to become a great leader is by practicing!!! That's what I did for my ENGR 493 class. I was charged with the task of working with 3 strangers, at the time, to complete a project through the duration of a semester (14 weeks).

Here is our basic problem statement:

On January 12th 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake was centered around Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. By the end of January, there were 52 aftershocks measuring an average of 4.5 on the Richter Scale. The Haitian government projected that upwards of three million people were affected by the earthquake, with an estimate of 316,000 people dead 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. This catastrophe left the nation in shambles. Director of the Department of Sustainable Development at OAS in Washington, Cletus Springer said that "You could tell very easily that these buildings were not going to survive even a magnitude 2 earthquake.” Buildings, even as large as the presidential palace were destroyed, various shanty towns and slums were deserted, and it left the country in a state where they were unsure if recovery was even possible. Along with all of the domestic and social problems, there also were numerous ecological and environmental problems. One issue that is prominent in Haiti is the number of plastic bottles that are all around the countryside. Because of the disaster, Haiti is unable to launch a legitimate recycling initiative. According to the New York Times article “Recycling in Haiti Eases Tensions in 'a Very Violent Neighborhood,'” the recycling initiative could also be key to “ending Haiti's dangerous over reliance on charcoal for energy, responsible for the loss of 98 percent of the nation's forests.” With the number of plastic bottles in the country, people could actually find something valuable to use those bottles for. Our task this semester was to conduct an intellectual properties search to find a patent for producing fleece from plastic bottles. The ultimate project goal was to work with an international consortium, ENGR 497, to establish a design for a small scale  PET bottle processing operation in Haiti. The scale that we are looking at is around 1000 pounds/day.

If you want to learn more about our findings, please see our ENGR 493 Final Report: Garment Fibers from Plastic Bottles.

If you would also like to learn about the growth and interpersonal dynamics between my group members and I, please see my Personal Reflective Paper.