It’s not often college students are able to put their coursework to use in a philanthropic way, but for industrial and manufacturing engineering (IME) students, that opportunity has been made possible in the form of PolyHouse.
In the PolyHouse program, students and faculty work together to improve the home of a local family in need. IME professor Roya Javadpour started the program as part of a project management course, and it quickly developed into an annual undertaking.
“PolyHouse project is a part of the graduate level class that I teach,” Javadpour said. “It’s a class that’s offered every spring and we’ve been doing it every year since 2004.”
A group of students in Javadpour’s class remodels and improves the home of a family in the community that may need special conditions because of disabilities, and might not have the funds necessary to provide those conditions.
“The benefit is for someone in the community who has a physical disability and is financially disadvantaged,” Javadpour said. “The purpose of the project is for students to learn the industrial and manufacturing skills through the ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy, and it’s really learning by doing good.”
Javadpour said she began the program because she saw need in the community that could be an opportunity to use coursework for good.
“It was just a little bit more than getting the usual reports that the students turn in,” Javadpour said. “I wanted all their hard work and efforts to go toward giving back to the community.”
The students who plan and execute the housing remodel do so with some guidance from Javadpour, but for the most part it is up to the student volunteers to provide planning, management and even their own physical labor. Volunteers are also able to help with the remodel.
“The students plan and also do the physical work of the project, but we welcome volunteers for the physical implementation of the project,” Javadpour said.
Because the project takes place during spring quarter, no family has been selected yet for this year’s PolyHouse. Javadpour said the class collaborates with local agencies to select an appropriate family.
“We work with nonprofit agencies,” Javadpour said. “They nominate the candidate, someone who has a disability and is financially disadvantaged.”
After the candidate family is selected, the first step is to determine the needs of the family.
“Students first go to the house and meet with the family, ask for their wish list and see what can be done,” Javadpour said.
The PolyHouse project is funded entirely by donation, and that the project volunteers have various methods of fundraising. One of the more outstanding methods in the past five years is the Move to Build race, a 5K run to benefit the PolyHouse project, put on by students in one of Javadpour’s lower division IME classes.
“I think it’s going to be a great event and I would like to see a lot of our Cal Poly community participating in it,” Javadpour said. “The students have been working really hard to put the event together.”
This year’s Move to Build race is Saturday, and has been in the process of marketing for much of the quarter. Move to Build project manager for marketing and IME senior Eric Goldsmith said the marketing team for the event has reached out to as many campus organizations as possible.
“We’ve reached out to greek life, clubs, local schools, all the Cal Poly departments, just trying to hit anyone and everyone who likes to run and likes pancakes,” Goldsmith said.
The pancakes Goldsmith mentioned are an added incentive to sign up for the run, which will also feature a raffle for a total of $1,500 in prizes, including various memberships and gift cards to local businesses. The marketing team also created a Facebook event page under the name “5th Annual Move to Build,” which has gained 115 “likes.”
Project coordinator and IME senior Mohan Singhal said they hope to see more people at the event than last year because of their marketing efforts.
“We already have 300 registered and we’re still expecting more, a lot of people show up on the last day to sign up,” Singhal said. “We’re shooting for 500.”
Based on last year’s numbers — 430 runners for approximately $6,500 raised — Singhal said they hope to raise approximately $8,000 for the PolyHouse project this year.
“We’re anticipating to raise more money than last year,” Singhal said. “We don’t have a set dollar amount, but our goal is to beat last year.”
According to Singhal, the event is geared toward all types of participants — groups of four or more can sign up for $15 each, with individual entries at $20. All entry fees increase by $5 on the day of the race, and those who do not wish to run can still contribute $5 to enjoy all-you-can-eat pancakes.
Both Singhal and Goldsmith cited the feeling of doing good as part of the reason they have enjoyed working on the Move to Build race.
“It’s really about the gratification of knowing the profits are going to a family in need,” Goldsmith said.
Singhal said the execution of the event comes with its challenges, though.
“We’re managing 26 kids and six project managers, and it definitely teaches you that anything can go wrong,” Singhal said. “One of the biggest things is getting the class to finish strong.”
Besides the Move to Build race, fundraising for the PolyHouse project is gained through company and individual donations. Javadpour said the fundraising methods are entirely up to the students.
“That’s for the fundraising team in the spring quarter to coordinate,” Javadpour said. “They come up with different activities, different fundraisers, different things that they want to do.”
The community reaction toward PolyHouse has been nothing but positive, according to Javadpour.
“We can’t do the PolyHouse without the support and the generosity of all our sponsors and all the support that we get in the community,” Javadpour said.
As for the students who work on the project, Javadpour said she sees the positive effects of philanthropic work in addition to the learning gained from putting coursework to use and executing a full-fledged remodel.
“There’s really no better way to learn the complexities of building than actually doing the work and doing the project,” Javadpour said. “It’s just kind of nice to give back to the community that we all enjoy being a part of.”