Leo McGonagle, executive director of the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership (GEL) Program, recently visited Rice University's Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) and shared with 34 RCEL students some of the interactive, hands-on engineering leadership lessons MIT students get in the GEL program.
McGonagle led RCEL students through a challenge called “Deliver!”: With two plastic-foam blocks, 25 sheets of paper, four pencils and 25 paperclips, the students had 30 minutes to assemble a bridge spanning a 14-inch “river,” and capable of supporting 10 “trucks” in the form of half-inch hex nuts. Every piece of building material had a price (40 units per pencil, etc.) and the group could accumulate units for every minute the bridge was operational and supporting trucks.
Like the weekly Engineering Leadership Labs in the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, students quickly realized that it was to their advantage to work quickly and finish the project under the time and material cost budget.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for young engineers to transition from ideation to action. A leader leads. It’s common in college for aspiring leaders to hesitate. It’s so collegial,” McGonagle said. "The MIT GEL program conducts engineering leadership labs every week. This allows students to be leaders and followers numerous times during the semester, resulting in significant growth in their abilities to lead."