GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Second week of camp: Competitions conclude and organizational development – SUCCESS Camp 2017

The smooth glide of Sunday was still present on Monday morning. I felt it in my arms, my measured step, my eyelids. A warm blanket in the dead of winter you’re not ready to remove. Sunday was a beautiful moment to stop, sit, recharge. I sat for an extra minute, watching campers gathering their copy books from the dining tables and heading to Monday’s morning session. The camp wasn’t stopping for me. The SUCCESS train rolled on.

Aeriel made each group draw a number to decide the order. It was competition time between the Waste Management Solutions teams. The campers dressed well for their presentations – pressed shirts, jewelry, dresses. They were serious, and they were ready. Each group was polished and practiced, passing the baton from member to member and flowing through her predesignated section. In the end, we had to pick a winner. When we made the announcement, there was an uproar. Of course. I asked a camper, Esther, if she was upset she was not a part of the winning team.

“Mad, no. We’re happy for them and sad for us.”

As soon as she said this, the class broke into a round of applause for the winning team stationed now at the front of the room.

The winning Waste Management Solutions team

The campers didn’t have to wait long before another competition came to its conclusion on Tuesday after lunch. The taped, the glued, the colorful – the bottle rockets. Sarah, Range Safety Officer (RSO), prepared the launch pad. Each pair presented their specimen, which was filled with a set amount of water and pressurized to 60 PSI with a bike pump. Aeriel recorded the time from the rocket’s launch to the moment it reached the ground. The first rocket went straight up. It then promptly veered into a tree, its nose cone lodged squarely between two large branches. We hadn’t really accounted for that possibility, and in truth, I don’t know how Aeriel scored that pass. I do know this: the winning rocket’s time was 5.30 seconds from launch to ground.

RSO oversees the bottle rocket competition
The bottle rocket winners – Kristen and Doedelle!
Celebrating the bottle rocket victory


Becca rounded out the L-SWE organizational development workshops on Wednesday with a discussion on leadership transition. Considering the youth of L-SWE as an organization (it was founded in 2013), this topic was particularly pertinent as some founding members and leaders will soon be graduating. There was productive dialog that morning, followed by useful feedback for the L-SWE leaders from the members and vice versa. Growing pains come with any organization’s development. L-SWE has accomplished a great deal already in terms of recruiting passionate women engineers and outreach activities at local schools. As an organization, they will be tested as they continue to expand their programming, their membership, their reach. The thoughtfulness and the enthusiasm regarding L-SWE is there, and this makes me hopeful and excited for what is next for their organization.

Between these final days filled with classroom time, the L-SWE ladies ensured there were pauses, time set aside for entertainment. The first of the second week was a talent show on Monday evening. Modeling, singing, dancing, acting. Kirsten brought out her ukulele to play a birthday song for Maria. The next evening was karaoke. Aeriel, in the spirit of Madonna, brought the house down. To say the campers were delighted would be a wild understatement. I was impressed with her performance and her dedication to the performance. But I couldn’t bear it if you simply took my word for it. Ask Aeriel if you’d like to see the full video – you won’t be disappointed.

Better than Madonna

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