Inspired, Innovative, Intense: Reflections on the iMedia fly-ins

Spring semester is here ­- just a few weeks removed from an incredible winter term.

In iMedia, January is all about the fly-in projects. These winter trips allow students to build multimedia projects for the public good and showcase the skills they learned in the fall semester. It was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career.

My teammate Ashley Deese said it best:

The fly-in gave me an opportunity to work with a real world client and create a multimedia project for a client that would not have been able to afford it. Not only will this experience give me the competitive edge needed to stand out as an applicant when I am applying to jobs but it is also satisfying to know that we did something for the public good.

The process started with the draft. The advisors convened in late September to fill their rosters for the four fly-in trips: one in Cuba, one in Portugal and two in Costa Rica.

Each team spent October, November and December preparing for the trip – practicing video interviews, creating a group blog and coding sites in HTML and CSS for class.

In January, we hit the ground running. Each team had about a week to assess their client’s goals and gather the content for the site. Then we had 10 days or so to design and build the site.

Let me tell you – it was not an easy process. Literally, blood, sweat and tears went into these projects.

But it was rewarding once we presented our projects to our friends, family, industry professionals and iMedia alum on Jan. 24.

Elon iMedia students present a fly-in project.

Photo by Eric Townsend (as seen on E-net)

Here’s a list of the four projects:

Escazú, Costa Rica 

Client: Codece

Seven students built an interactive website for a community-run nonprofit that aims to save the natural beauty, traditions and culture of the young mountains of Ezcazú, which is adjacent to capital city San José.

Térraba, Costa Rica

Client: Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe – Teribe Indigenous Cultural Association

Seven students documented the culture and natural sites of the Térraba indigenous group in southwestern Costa Rica. A government-commissioned dam could destroy parts of the land, on which the people have lived for more than 500 years.

Havana, Cuba

Client: Organopónico Vivero Alamar 

This cooperative farm on the suburbs of Havana provides food and community services to Cubans. Six students documented what the farmers do and how the food travels from the farm to the table.

Ericeira, Portugal 

Client: Surfrider Foundation

The international Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. Six students built a site to showcase the preservation and educational efforts of a chapter in the coastal community of Ericeira, Portugal.

These projects were awesome!

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 8.25.19 AM

I managed the project on the Costa Rica trip in Térraba, which is an indigenous community in danger of losing part of its land and culture to government-commissioned dam. The Térraba treated us like family during our visit. They showed us all of their sacred sites, fed us delicious food they grew themselves and even took us rafting in their river.

My team worked really hard to create a site that would help preserve the culture of this wonderful community that we came to love.

“The job they did was of very high quality and very important for us. It is the first time someone did something like this here in the Térraba community,” said Jerhy Rivera, vice president of the Asociación Cultural Indígena Teribe (Teribe Indigenous Culture Association).

The Tico Times

But my teammates and I hit some speed bumps on our journey. So did other teams.

Future iMedia students, here’s the reality of the situation:

  1. You can’t prepare for everything. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Your flight will be canceled. You’ll get lost on a mountain for hours. Your client will want something unexpected. One line of code will render your site useless. So be flexible.
  2. Teamwork makes the dream work. Don’t fall prey to the perils of group projects. Try to be positive when things are falling apart. I’ve discussed this before, but learned so much more during the fly-in.
  3. Honesty and openness is key. One day, my teammates basically told me that I was acting like a “military taskmaster” as described by Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. I, being a realist, was focused on the large amount of tasks we had to do and the short amount of the time we had to do them. My teammates wanted me to be to more of a cheerleader instead of a micromanager. Achor wrote: “In short, sacrificing positivity in the name of time management and efficiency actually slows us down.” So after our come-to-Jesus meeting, the team morale shifted for the better.
  4. Fall classes are super important. Learn everything you can because you’ll probably back up your classmates at one point. The coder will help the videographer. The writer will help the photographer. It happens.

My classmates shared more insights.

iMedia13 Quotables

1. Clients won’t always respect your expertise. 2. You have to trust your teammates so they trust you. 3. Preparation is the most crucial factor to success.

Don’t set any expectations for the trip because they’ll be blown away no matter what you think of.

Dont’ be afraid to try something different, whether it’s a skill like coding. It was something I wanted to get better at so being the web developer for my group helped me a lot. Trying different food is also fun, too!

1. Working with a group on something that big means a lot of trust and sacrifice. 2. If there are people not doing their jobs, there better be some people willing to pick up the slack or things won’t get done.



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