Leadership skills on ziplines

Photo by Tyler Meuter

Last Sunday, Oct. 18, the Department of Housing offered a chance for Tech residents to participate in the Georgia Tech Leadership Challenge Course located on west campus adjacent to the GTMI building.

When the email invitation was sent, the spots filled quickly, and registration was closed within 24 hours. Unfortunately, this did not reflect actual attendance; of the 55 registered participants, only eleven deigned to appear at 10 a.m.on Sunday.

The four hour long program was designed to improve the leadership skills of participants as well as to have fun. The slogan of the day seemed to be “We’re here to have a good time,” which was often repeated whenever facilitators gave the instructions for an upcoming activity.

Upon arrival, Tech residents were greeted by the Leadership Challenge Course facilitators and duct tape. They were instructed to place some on their nose. Thinking this was merely a strange greeting, the attendees were surprised when the event started with an activity involving stealing other’s duct tape — the goal being to create a single mass of duct tape rolled on a single person’s nose.

After this whimsical task the event started in earnest. Their second challenge was a strange game called Ooga Booga where one person was blindfolded and set inside a boundary with a large number of random objects. A second person was seated in a chair with his back to this strange sight, and the remainder of participants were reduced to saying one of two words: ooga or booga. Using this binary vocabulary, they had to instruct the blindfolded person how to find certain objects within the ring and complete a specific task.

This exercise in communication was comical as well as informative, challenging the participants to think about normal modes of communication and how one method of communication might not be the only or best way. Of course, the attendees were mostly there to have a good time, and the lessons learned we quickly forgotten, or at least, not pondered deeply, while the rest of the Challenge Course was enjoyed.

From here, half of the group continued to do more challenges on the ground, while the other half proceeded to the more exciting aspect of last Sunday’s event.

The main draw of the Challenge Course would be the high ropes course. This portion of the event takes place on ropes and boards 20 to 40 feet in the air, depending on which level of the course is taken; last Sunday, both of the groups went on the higher of the two options.

Of course, being this high up poses an interesting safety concern. Unlike the similar experience offered by Boy Scout’s of America’s COPE, the Georgia Tech Challenge Course lets each participant be suspended by individual tethers only a few feet in length rather than being belayed by someone on the ground. This approach gives more leniency if the participants lose balance, as they will only fall a few feet at most and then be able to regain their footing. This leads to them being less adverse to the idea of falling and, thus, able to fully enjoy the experience.

The high ropes portion of the event culminated with a zip line back to the ground. Along the way, each person was encouraged to chuck a rubber duck into a bucket on the ground. One person succeeded in this task, but the final zip-liner (excluding the facilitators) decided to attempt this task by dumping an entire bucket of ducks onto the lawn. Unfortunately, he misjudged the distance, and every single one of the multitude of ducks landed on the grass directly in front of the target, as if to mock the one who would throw them so unceremoniously.