Week 3: Presentation challenges and new gestures

Last week (week 2), we participated in a short design course with local Costa Rican

My team for the design competition, who were great to collaborate with!

students over the course of four days. This past Monday, we got the opportunity to present our work to a panel of local industry professionals and professors. Truthfully, at times in the previous week’s design course, I lacked the enthusiasm to give 100% to solving my team’s problem (a simple method of controlling posture for patients with cerebral palsy). I think the main reason for this lack of enthusiasm was that the accelerated pace of the course made it difficult for me to value my own and my team’s work. I felt that it was rushed and not of good quality, and the result of our work was most likely not actually going to be used.

Regardless of my circumstances, my lack of enthusiasm about my project negatively impacted the way I presented on Monday. My peers kindly complimented it afterward, so it was likely not as bad as it felt. Nevertheless, I know the quality with which I can present, and Monday was not up to that standard. I think my attitude here stems from my modest experience playing sports. The best athletes are ones that, when the game is one the line, are able to perform at their best regardless of the circumstances leading up to that point. Similarly, I want to be able to present to the best of my ability when needed.

Let me stop and clarify though. The presentation given on Monday was far from career-critical. There were no grants, contracts, or opportunities for employment on the line, only a certificate given by Rice and a pat on the back. I am merely reflecting on factors prevented me from performing at the level that I know how. Like coach always said, you have to practice like it’s the game. Moving forward, I’ve seen how lack of confidence in my own work will make it much more difficult to present with enthusiasm and clarity. This appears obvious (and it is), but I’ve noticed that it often takes me experiencing certain failures to really learn a lesson. I guess sooner is better than later.

This past week was also full of excitement though! We traveled out the Guanacaste region on Tuesday to conduct more needs finding in local hospitals and conduct some qualitative tests on a prototype designed by last year’s cohort. My favorite aspect since getting to Guanacaste has been planning to build the prototype. The mechanical engineer inside me is rejoicing at the thought of designing brackets to support a sink and the most effective way to attach the frame together. To plan all this and coordinate between the three sub-teams we’ve been divided ourselves into, Dr. Richardson introduced us to a method of project planning far more effective than anything I have used in the past. For the first time since I’ve arrived in Costa Rica, I feel as if I have a good idea of all of next week’s schedule. We’ll see how long it lasts.

I mentioned last week that we were planning to go to a waterfall park that weekend, and how much I was looking forward to escaping to the wilderness for a while. I suppose it was fitting it was there that my teammates discovered a peculiar trait about me. When a sense of joy or victory is conjured up inside of me, it tends to work its way out from my heart, through my arms, and out through my index fingers in a motion that looks like me waving my fingers in the air. The particular instance it became obvious was when they let me frolic in the river for a couple of minutes. (Don’t worry mom, we were at least a hundred feet from the nearest waterfall). Chandler captured this moment in his video last week, but here’s a screenshot of it. Since then, it appears the team has attempted to adopt the motion as a sort of cohort hand sign. Their technique needs a bit of work, but we’ve got 8 more weeks.

Nice views at La Paz

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