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Group Projects Can Be A Roller Coaster

, , , , | Learning | October 16, 2021

At my high school, all juniors — sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds for non-Americans — have to take Physics. Both the honors and regular courses have the exact same final project: build a working model roller coaster and do your best to “sell it” to your classmates during your presentation.

For this project, we are supposed to make our own groups of either three or four people. No more, no less. Of course, I immediately partner up with the one close friend I have in my class period, but we still need a third. That third ends up being a girl we are somewhat acquainted with that no one else seems to want in their group. This should be our first red flag regarding her, but we don’t have a choice regardless.

Initially, things go fairly well as we’re given class time here and there to plan out our schematic and theme. It’s at this point that we get our second red flag: we both notice that our third member isn’t super engaged. This is especially true with the math-based parts of the schematic that we have to include as part of our grade, but we shrug it off because the two of us are doing well in the class and it isn’t especially hard.

Fast forward until about two weeks before everything is due. We start planning out-of-school meetings to gather supplies and start building. After we section off who’s buying what, we struggle to figure out where we can meet that’ll have the room we need.

Groupmate: “Hey, maybe I can ask my Grandma if we can go to hers on Saturday? She lives just around the corner from here.”

Friend: “Works for me.”

Me: “Yeah, same.”

However, that Friday evening, she shoots us a text.

Groupmate: “Sorry, my gram’s in the hospital and we’ll all be there with her all day tomorrow so we can’t meet.”

Me: “Oh, heck. That’s fine. Hope she’s all right!”

I immediately call my friend because we can really only meet on weekends due to conflicting extracurriculars, and we only have two of those weekends left. After she manages to pull some strings to get a back room reserved for us at her family’s church, we ultimately decide to just bite the bullet and have the two of us meet anyway to at least start on the model.

While we’re building up our base, we take a small break and my friend checks her phone. After a few minutes, she starts scowling before turning to me.

Friend: “Holy s***, [My Name], check [Groupmate]’s Snapchat story.”

Apparently, our groupmate forgot she had us both added on social media because she has posted several pictures of her looking as happy as can be in a brand new car that was apparently a belated birthday present from her parents. Of course, we’re both fuming, but there isn’t much we can do at this point. 

We eventually decide to just work through the day to get as much of the model done as possible. We debate having our third member create the presentation on her own time, but we decide it isn’t worth the risk since we know she has pretty abysmal knowledge of what we are doing at this point.

Monday morning, the two of us hunt down our Physics teacher. We both explain to her what’s going on and show her both the text our groupmate sent, as well as the proof of what she was actually up to that day. 

Teacher: “Hm, unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do right now. Y’all aren’t finished with your coaster yet, right?”

Me: “No, we were going to try and finish it up Friday, and we still have the whole presentation to make.”

Teacher: “Okay, let me know if she doesn’t help out then. We’re also going to do group member evaluations after presentations are over, so make sure you’re both honest on those and I’ll keep them in mind when grading. I’ll make sure you two don’t suffer if she doesn’t end up doing anything because I absolutely remember exactly how crappy that felt when I was in school.”

And, what do you know, she ends up flaking on us again by not only completely ignoring our texts but also by not even coming to school Friday. We end up finishing the project on our own that evening.

Friend: “I’m going to be honest: I hope she skips again the day we present. She’s going to ruin the whole f****** presentation if she has to do it with us.”

Me: “No kidding. She literally doesn’t know s***. I might actually ask [Teacher] about that if she does show up.”

The day finally came to present and we did just that. We were informed that our third member would, unfortunately, have to present with us; however, by the grace of the gods, she did end up skipping that day, probably knowing just how screwed she’d be if she did show up. 

Despite our two-man show, we ended up not only killing our presentation but also winning the first round of voting for the competition the Physics teachers set up for bonus points. We were also brutally honest on our group member evaluations about our third member. When it was all said and done, my friend and I got scores in the high nineties. Neither of us know exactly what score the other girl ended up getting, but we did find out later from a mutual friend that she failed the class and had to go to credit recovery that following summer.