Arrival survival: Project X helps drive S&T freshmen through Opening Week

Team 42 cheers its remote-control vehicle during the Project X competition. Photo by Terry Barner

Team 42 watches its remote-control vehicle perform during the Project X competition.

Meet Team 42:

They arrive in Rolla at summer’s end like explorers ending one journey and embarking anew.

After their mid-August move-in day, many of the arriving freshman class at Missouri S&T have decked out their new living quarters, met their roommates and realized their parents are no longer down the hallway.

But it’s still one week until classes begin. What is there to do for equilibrium?

Answer: Project X.

Project X is the most visual element of S&T’s Opening Week, where freshmen are introduced to the campus culture, mentor groups and avenues for future involvement long before they get the first peek at a college course syllabus.

The next afternoon, the mass of new students meets at the Puck on campus and splits into small groups. Follow the adventures of one Opening Week 2012 group, Team 42.


Team 42 forms a circle next to the library to get the lowdown on what they will do during the week from team leader Marquia Lewis, a computer science major. Lewis then explains Project X, which begins as a plastic container of parts used to assemble a remote-control vehicle that the group will decorate with a team theme. During the week’s other activities, the group earns “Miner Bucks” that can be exchanged for more parts to customize the vehicle.

Freshman Ahmad Williams then stands and shouts, “I have a question!”

The others respond in unison, “We have the answer!”

“What is it? Williams asks.

“Forty-two,” they shout back to finalize their team chant. The exchange is from the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” where the number 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life.

As the group departs for the residence halls or apartments, some of the freshmen begin to pair up. “What’s your major?” is overheard along with, “Where are you from?

During the week, Team 42 members attend academic workshops to review trigonometry or laboratory safety, but also participate in lectures such as “Sex, Alcohol and Clickers,” where they watch upperclassmen act out scenarios involving responsible choices and then electronically vote on the answer.

Later, Team 42 decides their Project X should have a Twitter and iPhone bodywork theme. The artistic-minded students take pencils to cardboard to design it while the engineers in the group tear off duct tape and warm up hot-glue guns to craft the vehicle and attached boat. “Once the team got the (Twitter) theme, that’s what brought everyone together,” Lewis says.

At week’s end, it’s time for Project X to drive the campus obstacle course. Several students take turns steering. The others follow along and answer questions at the various stops for team points. After breaking through their banner to end the race, the team reflects on the week’s activities.

“It gets you ready for college life,” Team 42 member Katherine Overend says. “Going through the dining halls and going to class on time.”

“They really learned teamwork and how to accept each other’s ideas,” Lewis says.

“I have taken away a lot of good friends,” Williams says. “Being in this group and working with people on the same goal has bonded us.”

Story, photo and video by Terry Barner


  1. jerry Mistek says

    Interesting way to get the students to get used to each other. JJ Mistek BEE Class of ’66 Un of Minn
    Jaime Moore is my grand daughter