Group work gamble

Group assignments – loved or loathed by anyone randomly assigned to complete a 20% assignment with a group of strangers. In a sort of last-ditch effort to show you why Biomedical Engineering is so fun, I thought I’d tell you a little about the group assignments I’ve done this year. As a disclaimer, this second semester (when most of my group projects are) has been online and so will probably be a little different to what you will experience.

First semester there was one group assignment, and technically it wasn’t even an assignment. For the singular lab of Biomeng 221, we worked in randomly assigned groups to gather data. While the engsci students take this paper as well, the labs are split so its only biomeng kids in your lab. This was a pretty cruisy lab, each group got given a big water tub machine that we used to measure the water flow rate off of different shaped reflectors. It kind of reminded me of those water pumps you find in playgrounds, but with maths. It’s pretty easy to split up tasks amongst everyone and rotate them around, and everyone is keen to do their bit. I think it’s most likely to do with the fact it’s kind of obvious if someone stands back and doesn’t do much, and since we’re all in the same, rather small, cohort it’s easy to hold someone accountable. We then used the data in an assignment we had to do individually, so it doesn’t involve any more compulsory group work. Very chill introduction to group work for the year!

I don’t know if this really counts as group work, but for the Biosci 107 labs in semester one you work with the same partner for every lab. You each fill out your own sheets that are marked at the end of each lab, and most of the time you are given your own equipment, but there are a few labs where you gather the same data. Having a partner in the labs that you see for 3 hours straight every 2 weeks is good for making new friends, as well as discussing the content and learning from each other. As most of the students are trying to get into med or just have a huge motivation, it means most of the people in these labs are rather on to it and work hard to complete the labs to a high level. For me as a second year just cruising, these labs helped me to steer back on track and understand the content we were learning in lectures.

On to semester two. This semester was a biggg group project semester, with two of the papers centered around working with the same group throughout. I’ll start with 204.

Enggen 204 is really a luck game. While my group was all active and enthusiastic, some of my friends have not been so fortunate. Your group of around 8 is selected from others in your tutorial stream, from all different specialisations. We started with a few icebreakers, and the first assignment of the course is actually and individual one. After this though, its all group assignments. It can be difficult to sort meeting times as everyone is on a different timetable, and sometimes group members don’t try to set up or attend a meeting. The size of the group can also be intimidating for others who will stay quiet and prefer not to share their ideas towards the projects. On top of this, I’ve heard experiences that involve redoing a lot of work last minute because some people didn’t start or finish their tasks. My group was really good, everyone was motivated to do well and contribute their bit towards projects. I’d recommend encouraging others to share opinions by asking them what they think about a certain point, which is easier to do in person. If you’re intimidated by the others in your group, remember that no idea is a bad idea, and not many people know exactly what’s going on 100% of the time anyway. Roll with whatever happens and take everything in your stride. It may be frustrating, but you’ll be rewarded when it comes time for peer evaluations and marks.

The second big paper for group work is Biomeng 241. These groups are only 4-6 students in size, and everyone is on the same timetable. It makes it much easier to organise and conduct group meetings. Everyone is a familiar face from the previous semester and other classes. From what I’ve heard and seen with my own group, everyone is keen to do their best. This paper is rough, and it is reassuring to know that everyone else seems to be struggling too. While we split some tasks among us, its easy to work together on certain aspects of the project so we could group our brain power. There was only one group I know of that had issues with people not getting involved, and while there is not a lot you can do about that having to do most of the work with a much smaller group, they will get what they deserve when it comes to allocating marks. Because we’re all doing mostly the same papers, its also an opportunity to just talk about our thoughts and feelings. It has helped me get to know more of our cohort, people I wouldn’t usually talk to in lectures. As group projects go, it’s probably the best one I’ve had the pleasure of being in.

Engineering is all about working with people to make everyone happy. While people in a professional setting are likely to be more reliable as it is their job, group projects at uni are not as predictable. Within the biomeng cohort you’re likely to get lucky and find yourself in a hardworking group, but if you don’t happen to stumble across such luck, its up to you to make the best of it and still do your best. Hope exam study is going well, all the best for electeng 101 x

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