Professional Experience with Macquarie Uni’s PACE program: Wilderness Society

[music] PACE units are essential
for an IT career. Things like working in
a team, communication, preparing documentation,
and the key thing is dealing
with the client. The unit is made up of groups
of five students forming a team who deliver a solution,
or a project, or an application for a sponsor. Tonight’s exercise
is for the students to actually form their teams, to establish the roles within the team, like project managers, and technical people. The challenge tonight is
the Marshmallow Challenge, which is a fun exercise to
help teams collaborate, innovate, and be
creative together. They have 20 sticks of
pasta, a metre of tape, string, and a marshmallow. The tallest free-standing
structure wins. One of the key benefits
of the PACE unit is that they get to work with a real
client on a real problem. Our students are put
into their teams, and they meet their client. The client describes
the problem to them. We have a wide
range of partner, some of them are local
government areas, We have quite a few NGOs
and not-for-profits. One of them is the Wilderness
Society where they actually will try and develop a geocode or a map-reference
application to help bushwalkers navigate
through the wilderness. We had two groups
– four students in each group – create an app for our event. The app is a course map of
the Blue Mountains course. We have 700 people participating
in a 100K event through remote areas of the Blue Mountains, and this application
that the students have developed will
allow participants to check their smartphones and ensure that
they are on track. Getting lost was a big problem that they’ve had
for the past two years or so. They said it was a very pronounced issue. The app – we think –
will see a lot of use to try to curb that. Today, we finished a PACE
unit. It was basically a presentation to a
client who we’d been working for for the
past 13 weeks or so. I think that the presentation
went really well. It was just a really
good experience because me and the team were able to present to our clients
who were right in front of us, and it was very
professional which will be expected
in the real world. Communicating with
the two groups was an absolute pleasure. They were always so
prompt to respond to any questions that I had and explained everything
along the way. They were really flexible
and open to feedback. They ultimately make sure that
we get the app that we want, and one that we can sell
to our participants. This PACE unit has really helped
to kind of open up the door for application development
throughout the unit. It certainly broadened
my horizons. I’ve been able to apply the
skills that I’ve learned such as team skills,
communication skills, interpersonal skills, and
especially leadership skills. One of the benefits
of seeing the week 13 presentations when we have our sponsors and
students’ delivery is for me to look back and see the excitement
and joy in the sponsors’ faces. If we could bottle
that excitement when they see their
projects delivered, we’d have another 1,000
sponsors, I’m sure. When the opportunity arose
through the PACE program, it was gold for us. The PACE program
is going to be so useful for The
Wilderness Society. We’re already using it in other areas of our business
and it’s just going to help us continue to
grow and reach more people. By the end of the
13 week period, you’ll have sponsors who really understand their
project, and you’ll have students that really
understand their projects. The journey to that point
is what’s exciting. I’d definitely recommend this
PACE unit to other students. It’s been my favourite
unit so far. I’ve been able to accumulate
everything that I’ve learned in the past few years at uni and apply that to industry standards. University teaches
one part of the sphere of the problem but the PACE unit enlightens it. [music]

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