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Heidi: Biology Poster Project

    "By using the project management method for my assignment, I was able to visually see what needed to be accomplished for my project.  I was able to plan how my time was to be spent and how efficient our group had to be. The project management method allows for critical analysis of every aspect of a project.  This is important in order for the endeavor to be successful. Also, this method gave me a chance to check off small goals leading up to the final product, which made it easier to revise parts of the project (schedule, budget, etc.) throughout the process of doing it."

Heidi  S. Buffalo Grove, Illinois USA

USING PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR A BIOLOGY POSTER PROJECT

1.START-UP:

The project was to choose a topic related to biology and create a poster with visual aids describing the subject.  The topic must come from one of six articles read in class throughout the semester. These articles consist of current events related to biology published in various science magazines and popular newspapers. The project must be done in groups of two or three members who must work together and contribute equally to the final product.  During the last laboratory period, each group is given three to five minutes to present their poster to the class.

This project was assigned at the beginning of the semester, but could not be started until all six of the articles were read in class.  About halfway through the semester, the groups and topic were to be selected. Two weeks before the last laboratory meeting, the group and topic were finalized. In essence, the project duration was two weeks.

2. PROJECT PLANNING:

2.1: Stakeholders: The stakeholders include the teacher, your group members, and other classmates. An important stakeholder is the teacher, who approves your topic and determines your final project grade. If you decide not to research a topic from one of the six articles, your new topic must be approved by the teacher.

Group members as stakeholders have their own special interests.  When you choose your group, try to include students who are interested in researching the same topic as you. Select students who have similar schedules and are willing to work at your level. For example, if you wish to get an "A," then choose students who also wish to get "A's."   Do not pick a student who absolutely cannot meet at the same time as the other group members. After you choose your group, make certain that all group members understand what is expected of them.

The stakeholders who are your classmates will be listening for an interesting presentation. Keeping your audience's attention during your speech is essential. You need to show your audience why your research is important and how that knowledge will benefit them in the future. You need to write an interesting speech and execute it using good public speaking techniques.

2.2: Schedule: Only three meetings are necessary if every group member does his/her job outside of the meetings. The first meeting should be devoted to dividing the tasks among the group. An easy way of doing this is having one group member do the introduction, one the results, and the last one the conclusion. After the first week, certain tasks should be completed. These are: choosing the group members, deciding on a topic, receiving approval from teacher, purchasing the poster board and glue source, starting to research the topic at the library and on the Internet, conducting at least one group meeting, and starting to type up bulleted lists. The second meeting should be spent strictly editing the bulleted lists and printing them out to be glued on the poster. After the second week, the following tasks should be completed.  These are: gluing everything to the poster, making sure the visual aid requirements are met, finishing research, typing bulleted lists, and finalizing the oral presentation. Finally, the third meeting should be spent running through the presentation.  One person needs to time the speech several times to make sure it falls within the time frame.

2.3: Estimate: The estimate was for buying materials and determining how much effort each of the team members must spend to get an ' A.' This project requires a few materials. First, a three-sided (trifold) project board is needed to display the information in an organized manner. Second, a computer is needed to type up several bulleted or numbered lists, and finding information from the Internet.  Out of the forty-five points that this project is worth, about fifteen points is awarded for creativity and neatness, so word processing information is recommended.  The third item is a glue stick or bottle to attach the printed material to the poster. If you can gain free access to a computer, the total cost of this project is around six dollars, including the poster and a glue stick, which can be split among the group members.  If you do not have access to a word processing program, you should purchase some writing markers as well as white paper, which would add about another six dollars to the total cost.

The time frame of the project is about two weeks. With regards to everyone's individual effort towards this project, it will depend on the complexity of the chosen topic as well as the group's desired grade.  If the group is committed to getting an "A," the suggested invested time is as follows: Purchasing the poster board and glue stick/bottle:  Ten minutes maximum- A trifold poster and glue source can be obtained at any local drug store or bookstore. Researching the topic: The amount of time for this task varies, however, time should be taken in finding several reliable sources. Each group member should spend approximately two to three hours the first week comparing sources and choosing the best ones.  The total research time for a group of three would be about six to eight hours. Typing up the bulleted lists:  This task can be delegated to one group member, if desired.  This one person should plan to spend around one to two hours typing, formatting, and editing the lists. But, the rest of the group members should assist in the editing process. Planning the presentation: This should be a task saved for the last group meeting.  Only about one half hour to an hour should need to be devoted to this task. If each group member understands his/her material that he/she researched, then it should be fairly easy to pick out a few important facts to include in the oral presentation.

2.4: Contingency: Try to avoid problems before they start.  In order to do this, you will need to think of any risks you may encounter during the time you will be working on this project. The first thing to think about is your choice of group members.  Try your best to choose compatible people.  If for some reason your group becomes dysfunctional, try to handle it yourself first.  Maybe get into another group or have the teacher speak to the other group members. As a last resort, do the project yourself and then indicate that on the peer evaluations of your group members.

Another risk exists if you want to research a topic not covered in one of the six articles.  You would need to get the approval of the teacher. The teacher will make sure it is a topic related to biology and is conducive to the project guidelines. Try to anticipate time problems and adjust the schedule accordingly.  Unfortunately, the due date of the project is not negotiable because the semester is close to ending. There is no other date other than the last scheduled laboratory period that this project can be due.

2.5: Baseline: The project was a new topic agreed to by the members of the group and approved by the teacher. Three meetings were planned and a check list of activities was made to monitor our progress (see PROJECT CONTROL). The cost was estimated at  four dollars and every one agreed that  they were going to spend  about three to four hours individually and four hours in our group meetings. The total hours to be spent on this project both individually and in groups totals to nine to ten hours. The time to finish was the mandatory two weeks, but we agreed to start  as early as possible in the first week to take care of as many tasks early in the semester. For example, do some research early, delegate someone to purchase the poster and glue several weeks before research needs to begin.  If these little tasks are taken care of before the two week research period, then there will be more time to do more important tasks.

3.PROJECT EXECUTION:

Follow the schedule created by the group as best as possible, and be productive during the given two week period. Before the last laboratory meeting when this project is due, make sure all group members are pleased with the content and the appearance of the poster.  Also, make sure the presentation fits the three to five minute time frame.  On the presentation day, be prepared to show your classmates what you have learned by answering any questions they might have after your group's speech.

4. PROJECT CONTROL:

Checklist:

By the end of the first week, you should have completed the following tasks:

1. Choose group members and decide on topic
2. Get topic approved by teacher
3. Purchase poster board and glue stick/bottle
4. Begin researching topic at the library and on the Internet
5. Have at least one meeting with your group
6. Begin typing bulleted lists

By the end of the second week, you should have completed the following tasks:

1. Glue everything to the poster
2. Make sure all visual aid requirements are met
3. Finish all research and typing bulleted lists
4. Plan and time oral presentation

*Remember you only have two weeks to
complete this project with your group members!

5. PROJECT CLOSE-OUT:

When I personally did this project, it was very successful.  My group and I met three times: once to discuss who would research what, second time to create the poster, and a third time to plan the oral presentation.  It went according to plan. However, we choose a topic related to me and my family, so our teacher's approval was needed.  Our teacher was eager to learn about a topic not discussed in class and our presentation definitely stood out from everyone else's. Since there was much repetition of topics in our class, our topic created a diversion on presentation day.  With regards to budget, all we purchased was the poster board, which was about four dollars. I had access to a computer and a glue stick.

This project gives students a chance to explore a topic related to biology outside of class. There is a plethora of topics that fit the criteria for this project.  I very much enjoyed doing this project because it gave me the chance to research a topic that I am very interested in.  Most importantly, I will be able to use this important information in the future.

Copyright ©  James N. Salapatas, PE, PMP  All Rights Reserved.