RIT students win ROC the Project challenge

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Karen Chen, Aditya Saksena, Josiah Austin and Andrew Lok won this year’s ROC the Project.
(Photo: RIT)

A solution crafted by Rochester Institute of Technology students recently took top honors in the annual ROC the Project contest, a project management challenge.

Their plan, “The Common Source,” was geared to help Rochester’s M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence—this year’s partner for the Project Management Institute’s competition held by the local chapter. 

The competition aims to help college students develop their leadership skills while engaging them in project management practices. Teams, with assigned mentors, are asked to create a solution for an identified problem. Mentors then guide students to turn solutions into project plans using planning processes documented in the standard Project Management Body of Knowledge. The winning group is chosen from five teams.

Andrew Lok’s team used the term the Common Source to highlight the services provided by the Gandhi Institute. The team’s winning entry detailed two community activities in their winning entry: an art competition, highlighting concepts in nonviolence, for middle school students; and a safe space/conversation between high school age students and local police representatives, RIT said.

“The law enforcement safe space is to allow high school students, who would be going into the ‘real world,’ to have the chance to interact with police officers and ask any questions they have,” says Lok, team leader and fourth-year computer engineering technology student in RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. “We aimed for the younger generation of the target market, students that were still in middle school and high school. The overall goal was to increase the number of people who use the Gandhi Institute services and spread their influence as an institute of nonviolence.”

Twenty-eight RIT and University of Rochester students participated in the challenge. Each team was asked to create a project plan to raise the awareness and visibility of the Gandhi Institute among 14- to 24-year-olds. These plans were presented to a judging panel and the Gandhi Institute.

“It was a great gift to the work of the Gandhi Institute to have these teams of committed students looking so carefully at our current marketing and outreach strategies, and then suggesting some truly creative, resource-wise strategies for us to pursue to leverage our impact,” says Kit Miller, director of the Gandhi Institute. “We immediately put their good ideas to use in some small ways and have big plans in the spring to put these strategies into place.”

Lok’s group also considered another element of the project, which involved matching sorority and fraternity students with the Gandhi Institute as it seeks to add volunteers.

“Greek Life students require service hours and usually have a hard time looking for a way to meet those hours,” he says. “The Gandhi Institute could provide these hours, while the Greek Life students could provide the labor that they lack.”

For Leonie Fernandes, a lecturer in RIT’s School of Individualized Study, ROC the Project is a way for students to experience hands-on project management. 

“This event gives students the opportunity to experience project management with a real customer and problem statement,” says Fernandes, who is also a member of PMI. “In class we mimic this by having the students work on a project they devise, but now they get the experience of working and understanding a real customer.”

The RIT team had four engineers, which allowed it to approach the task pragmatically with multiple perspectives, Lok says. 

Many of the students who participated in the ROC the Project competition will help guide the Gandhi Institute as it implements the Common Source next year.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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