Saturday, 25 July 2020

SELA Success in Collaboration Awards and Six Tips for Online Collaboration

SELA is proud to announce that members Grace Faulkner, Kristel Bedregal Portugal, and Jaimini Solanki are members of the second place winning team of the Neil Rackham Foundation Award, for their project Anyone Can Engineer (ACE). This award recognises and celebrates the success of University of Sheffield students working on group projects during the COVID-19 lockdown. The award recognises the ACE Team’s project, inspired by SELA, to create an accessible introduction to the diversity of engineering roles, to inspire young people to recognise engineering as an opportunity for their future.

Coronavirus has impacted us all: from working at home, to queuing at shops, to cancelled holidays, everyone has been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. The Neil Rackham Foundation Award offered a prize-fund of £10,000, generously donated to the University of Sheffield by Professor Neil Rackham, to celebrate the success of student groups in remote working during this challenging time. Submissions were judged across four categories: collaboration; critical thinking; communication; and creativity and innovation. The ACE team was recognised in second place, receiving a prize of £2,500.

The video submission, shown above, documents the team’s project to complete a quick start guide to make engineering more accessible to potential future students. The video highlights the process of working collaboratively across continents and includes many tips for team working success including:

1. Setting Team Goals

‘Setting team goals on both a wider project basis and as part of a weekly agenda helps the team focus on our desired outcomes,’ observed team member Jaimini Solanki. ‘It allows us to shape the project to create a resource that reflects our own experiences and aspirations. Clearly defining our expectations of each other helped us actively build trust as the workload could be adjusted weekly based on the capacity of individual team members.’

2. Maintaining Healthy Team Dynamics

Third year bioengineer, and part of the team alongside SELA members Bhoomika Gandhi notes the importance of managing team dynamics, and recommends turning on your webcam during meetings, to make it easier to bond with teammates: ‘We believe that healthy team dynamics builds trust, which strengths a team and improves the efficiency and quality of the project. It also makes it easier to express opinions. We are a fairly diverse team and we respect everyone’s perspectives.’

3. Going Digital

‘Turning everything into an online format can seem chaotic at first,’ says Dimitris Boufidis.

‘That’s why it’s very important to have a clearly organised platform such as Google Drive to keep track of your documents.

‘The team saved time and made it easy for each other to find material  and work together on files in the shared space.’

4. Working Asynchronously

Project Leader, and SELA Cohort 2019 member Grace Faulkner reflected on the need to find ways to keep collaboration going even when team members are working different hours. ‘Working asynchronously has really helped us work efficiently over the lockdown. The more we worked asynchronously, the more flexibility we had to complete our sections, and as a result, our trust in each other grew. It’s something that I would want to continue doing even when we are able to meet again.’

5. Reinforcing Success

‘Successful team projects involve appreciating and acknowledging team members for their contributions,’ says Nomah Habeeb, second year bioengineer.

‘It’s important to have a clear understanding between the members to create a high team spirit. By ensuring the members are respected and hence comfortable, the team is motivated and driven to work even in unforeseen circumstances like COVID-19.’

6. Socialising

The team’s final tip, from SELA Member Kristel Bedregal Portugal, is to not overlook the social aspect of working in a team: ‘Part of the reason why we are a good team is that we are good friends. We set aside time at the start of meetings to build good working relationships. This gave us time to bond, and build trust. Having a friendly environment where everyone felt comfortable, especially amidst this pandemic, enhanced productivity.’

Asked about the importance of the project, Jaimini explains: ‘I want more students to be passionate and aware about engineering roles and not just the structural or manufacturing aspects, but the creativity, communication and team working alongside this.’

Dr Gary Wood, Head of SELA, said ‘We are delighted to see SELA members recognised with this award. It is testament to their hard work in bringing together a team to share their enthusiasm for engineering as they create new ways to inspire the next generation of engineers.

‘SELA recruits engineering talent from across the Faculty of Engineering, and develops students with the skills and aptitude to lead positive change and make a positive difference. Projects like Anyone Can Engineer demonstrate the capability our students can make right from the start of their leadership journey.’

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