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Repost: Worst Group Project Ever February 25, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, physics.

See Jane Compute has this interesting post on group dynamics on course projects.

All I could think of while reading it was my stab at a computational physics class as an undergrad.  It was the first time being taught, and I and three guys were taking the class.  On our first project, we were supposed to develop a program that would compute the position and velocity of a projectile (using some algorithm that I can’t remember now but for some reason can see the plot of the error magnitude through time).  We’d planned to meet one evening to work on it, but I couldn’t meet as early as the guys.  They decided to get started when they were available, and I would show up later to help.

When I got there, the first thing I noticed were the equations on the white board.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Those are the equations we’re using,” one of them said.

“Those aren’t right,” I said.  “You’ve got forces equal to positions and accelerations.  Both sides need to have the same units, at least.”  I then set to work rederiving the equations correctly.  After that, the other guys would hardly talk to me, and the body language was obviously hostile.

If one is perfectly rational (and hasn’t an overwhelming ego), what I said was simply a statement of the obvious.  I was pretty good friends with one of the guys, so I asked him a day or two later why everyone was mad at me.  “Well, we’d already done a bunch of work, and you came in and changed everything.”

It hadn’t mattered that the work done so far was incorrect.  They were angry that they had to do things over.  I also suspect they were angry that I “showed them up”.

Unfortunately, this didn’t set a good tone right off the bat, and I ended up dropping the class.  It would have been a neat course, but since all the projects were group-based and our communications were notably stunted after that first experience, it didn’t seem worth the aggravation.



1. Engineers do THAT?! | Engineer Blogs - February 28, 2011

[…] in electromagnetics. I had attempted to take a class on computational methods in physics, but that didn’t go so well.  I talked to the professor, who was from electrical engineering, and he said that my physics […]


2. 11 Unbelievable Group Project Horror Stories - Best Colleges Online - January 25, 2012

[…] You came in and changed everything: […]


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