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 A Collection of (in some cases, rough drafts of) Essays - Kat - February 21st (10)

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Age : 25
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House : Ravenclaw and Burkenshire

PostSubject: A Collection of (in some cases, rough drafts of) Essays - Kat - February 21st (10)   Mon Feb 21, 2011 8:33 am

Fining Nonvoters?
One of the major perceived problems in the political culture of American in today’s world is the low voter turnout rate. Although America is known for being built on the ideals of liberty and democracy, compared to other democratic nations, America’s voter turnout rate is alarmingly low. According to an excerpt from Why Americans Still Don’t Vote by Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, only about half of the eligible voters in America actually cast their ballot during the presidential elections, which gets a far higher voter turnout than the off-year elections (501). Minorities, youths, and lower-income citizens often do not vote. Political scientists around the nation are working to come up with solutions to bring about a higher voter turnout rate. One suggested method is compulsory voting laws, which would require a fine of $100 for eligible voters who did not vote in congressional or presidential elections.
A $100 fine for nonvoters would effectively raise the voter turnout rate. Many other influential democratic nations implement similar fines, or have some other legal voting requirement. According to the textbook, nonvoter fines do exist in Australia, as well as many other countries, and although they are not always enforced, the threat of the fine is enough to bring people to the polls (185). On the list of registered voter turnout percentage in the textbook, Australia ranks first, with 95.2% of registered voters casting their ballots in elections. America, on the other hand, ranks twelfth, with 63.4% of registered voters turning up at polling places to exercise their right to vote (174). Clearly, the fine is effective in bringing in voters. If there is no cost involved, people see no need to change their patterns of nonvoting, and the voter turnout rate remains the same, or decreases, based on the influence of other factors. During the economic recession in the United States, people are more careful about where their money is going, and are likely to respond to such fines.
Others, however, have a differing opinion. Ideals central to the American political culture are those of liberty and personal responsibility. As the book states, many Americans would balk when faced with the idea of government-enforced voting (185). It is a firm belief among many Americans that voting and other forms of civic and political participation are a matter of personal responsibility. The idea that new rules, let alone fines, would be created for those who did not care enough to make informed decisions and exercise their right to vote in the first place would anger many. More people would go to the polls, but being forced to vote seems to contradict the very essence of voting. Politicians tout the words “right” and “freedom” in regards to being able to elect our government officials. If we are punished for not exercising these rights, are they really rights anymore?
I personally do not think that the $100 fine is necessary or beneficial to the operation of the United States political system. The first concern I have regarding the implementation of the fine would be the logistics of it; how would such a drastic, wide-sweeping fine be enforced. If, like in Australia, it would not be enforced regularly, the American public would not take it seriously, and it would be an empty piece of legislation. Also, I believe that it is possible that the lower voter turnout rate is not just a sign of apathy or disinterest of voters, as the book states that there is very little correlation between distrust of political leaders and voting rates (184). It is entirely possible that in some cases, the voter turnout rates could indicate an overall contentment with the policies used to govern America, since when people are unhappy, they are more likely to want to bring about change. I believe that a $100 fine would go against the ideals of the country, and more importantly, the fine would be a burden on those who do not vote not because they do not want to, but because they are low-income, elderly, young, or minorities. By fining those who already cannot afford to vote, we are undermining the policies of the politicians we are electing.


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To be successful, a person must set goals. Having something to achieve, whether it is something concrete and definitive, or abstract and idealistic, provides motivation and encouragement. My own personal goals have brought me to this point because they are a combination of these two aspects.
Being a very future-oriented person, while enjoying the things going on in my life right now, I never forget that my actions and efforts today will influence my choices and opportunities tomorrow. One of my long-term, abstract goals is studying law. My late grandfather was an attorney and his son, my uncle, currently works as an attorney, so my dad often teases that law is in my family heritage. Although I participated in speech meets in grade school, in high school, it was a discussion and debate course that led me to compete and succeed in the speech competitions. My interest in law and debate has given me motivation to work hard in school, taking the most challenging courses and studying to succeed in them. Law school is a lot of work, and it is important to develop good habits now to use in my undergraduate program so that they are second-nature to me in my career development.
My most idealistic goal falls under the vague category of “making an impact on the world.” Although I am young, I work to improve the lives of those around me. Whenever possible, I go with my family to serve meals to the less fortunate at -insert place name here-. Another aspect of service is my participation in the Young Catholic Musicians orchestra, in the violin section. Although music is not a career option, it is something I have a passion for, and using it to bring joy to other people, such as in the nursing homes I have played in, always makes me feel as if I have accomplished something. One other thing that I have enjoyed greatly over the last year is participation in the Warm Up America program at the local library. My grandmother taught me how to crochet a few summers ago, and when I saw a flier asking for people to help knit or crochet squares to make afghans, I was eager to assist in this community effort. I volunteered to help put the squares together, which was more difficult and more rewarding than I had originally anticipated. From my efforts, I have seen that one person really can make an impact.
Early in my childhood, I realized that I have many gifts to share. As I mature, a priority of mine has been to make the best of what I have, using my talents to change the world around me. I believe firmly in my goals, and I am proud of how far I have come. However, over time, my goals may broaden. The opportunity to study at a world-class institution will enrich my life, creating goals and opening doors I never knew existed.


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Relationships in Margaret Atwood’s Writings
Thesis Statement: Margaret Atwood’s literary work examines meaningful relationships and demonstrates the tremendous impact they have on the lives and memories of those connected.
In “Death by Landscape,” Lois’s childhood friendship with a fellow camper, Lucy, forms the basis for her emotional future. Lois shows signs of a strong attachment to Lucy from the very beginning of their relationship, when Lucy comes to Camp Manitou for the first time. Lois, currently in her second year at the camp, helps Lucy unpack and reserves the top bunk on her bed for Lucy, going out of her way to make sure that she feels welcome. The narrator explains that this instant connection is formed because Lois “knew that Lucy was an exception, to a good many rules; already she felt proprietorial” (104). Lois becomes fascinated with Lucy’s lifestyle, from her American citizenship to her experimentation in ballet and horseback riding. Lois admires Lucy, and the two become so close that during the winter, when they are separated, they write letters pretending to be sisters. Although circumstances constantly change around them, their friendship remains constant, even weathering the divorce of Lucy’s parents. However, everything changes when one year, Lucy is different than the summers before, telling Lois that she hates her home situation and her school, even discussing running away. On a canoe trip, Lois and Lucy climb up to the lookout point, and staring off the cliff, Lucy comments, “’It would be quite a dive off here’” (112). She disappears to go to the bathroom, never to be seen again; the last Lois ever hears of her is a loud scream. However, even after Lucy is gone, Lois still clings to her memory. She seems unable to move on emotionally, even as she marries and has children. Her husband, Rob, has family property up north, but the wilderness still haunts her, reminding her of how the “great outdoors” had taken away her closest friend. Lois covers the walls in paintings of the wilderness not because of their aesthetic beauty, but because she sees Lucy in them, hiding behind rocks and trees. Her life becomes a testament to her memories of Lucy, from the exciting days of sneaking around camp and lighting fires with stolen matches to the jolting moments in which Lucy’s unhappiness becomes most obvious. She becomes so absorbed in keeping Lucy alive that she retracts from the world around her, isolating herself emotionally from the rest of the world through her own suffering and pain and showing no signs of improvement over time. Lois’s relationship with Lucy has such a huge impact that when Lucy’s life veers from the known path, Lois’s life as a happy, healthy individual ends.
“Weight” also examines the idea of emotional isolation due to the abrupt severing of a close friendship through death. The narrator and Molly, her best friend, are law students hoping to make a name for themselves and make way for other women in a male-dominated profession. Molly and the narrator have a very close connection, sharing lofty goals and the determination to carry them out. The narrator describes Molly fondly, remembering her as pushy, intelligent, visionary, and witty, as the two often shared the habit of poking fun of the names that the men in their field called them. However, Molly begins to change, becoming more and more adamant in her mission while the narrator begins to back away from it. Looking back on this time, the narrator says, “Molly, I let you down. I burned out early….Maybe I decided that the fastest way to improve the lot of women was to improve my own” (173). Their relationship worsens when Molly marries Curtis, an overly dependent man who Molly seems to think she can “fix”; however, in the end, Curtis proves beyond fixing, abusing Molly, and eventually, murdering her. Molly’s life and death serve as the impetus for the narrator to leave the field of law and pursue another profession in order to keep Molly’s memory alive. The narrator founds a shelter for battered women called “Molly’s Place,” and in order to raise money for her foundation, she has affairs with successful, married businessmen. Her actions are morally questionable, and she constantly feels that her guilt and unhappiness are weighing her down; she makes statements that imply the lack of value she places on her own life, such as when she says, “It’s all getting to be too much work” (165). However, her own moral and ethical misgivings are not enough to stop her; she continues on, motivated by the knowledge that what she is doing is keeping Molly’s memory alive. Even after Molly’s death, the narrator values Molly’s life so strongly that she is willing to do anything in order to honor her, even if society would consider it degrading or wrong.


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My family always encouraged me to read; my mother read to us every night when we were little, and every summer, my dad and I picked out one of the classics to read together, from Oliver Twist to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. However, it was later on that I began to translate my love for reading that I had developed into something more: an appreciation for writing.
Through my high school career, I have developed a particular passion for writing essays. I want to be a lawyer, and I truly enjoy the process of researching, developing my ideas, and presenting my argument in a way that supports my thesis. These skills transfer over to a lot of other aspects of my life, as well. In my junior year, I joined my school’s speech team, and as a participant in the extemporaneous speech category, my ability to quickly assess current events and develop an opinion has helped greatly.
However, the aspect that is most appealing about writing is that it is not limiting. I have a very far-reaching set of interests; I love music and the study of languages, but I also thoroughly enjoy calculus and scientific research. In writing, I can explore any of my interests, discussing what I love in a way that shows who I am. Writing is not just important in English class. It transcends the limits of the classroom, and allows me to merge literature, culture, theory, and art. Writing is an opportunity to express my opinions in a way that is uniquely my own.


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The photo “Leaves, Mount Rainier National Park” by Ansel Adams expresses the way I see the world. First, it is a picture of nature, and I value greatly the beauty of nature and of life itself. However, it is not simply because this photo is of life that it depicts my view of the world. The photo shows various different types of leaves, like the various types of people in the world—no one is exactly the same. However, one plant stands out most; it is both the highest and the lightest, reflecting the sun. Although I am just one set of leaves in a world full of plants, no one else is exactly like me. I am one individual in a big world, influenced and surrounded by people who touch my life on a daily basis, but ultimately standing on my own, relying on my own abilities, strengths, and perspective to achieve my goals. I am a unique person with my own fresh ideas and my own potential to stand out and make an impact on the world.
Another way that this photograph expresses my view of the world and myself is through the implied color in the photograph. Although it is black and white, the dew on the plants and the various shades that they appear makes it clear that the leaves are new, fresh, and alive. The leaves reveal the youth and renewal of spring; however, the black and white shows antiquity, bringing to mind our history and the past. This shows that even in the present of the world, we are the product of our history, and it is important that we remember the mistakes of our past and learn from them, while making sure the decisions and actions of today are ones that will benefit tomorrow. I am a mix of our own personal history, as well, from the values instilled in me by my family and childhood, by my successes and challenges even today. I am a product of the changes over time in my city, state, and nation; it is because of the opportunities that those in the past have fought for that I am treated with equality regardless of my age or gender. However, I am also a part of the present innovations and ideas that will lead to a new future. Through working hard and obtaining all of the knowledge and ideas I can acquire through my studies and experiences, I will be able to make my voice heard. I am the one plant that is reaching higher towards the sun, with the goal of having a part in making a better tomorrow.


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The photo “Leaves, Mount Rainier National Park” by Ansel Adams expresses the way I see the world. First, it is a picture of nature, and I value greatly the beauty of nature and of life itself. However, it is not simply because this photo is of life that it depicts my view of the world. The photo shows various different types of leaves, like the various types of people in the world—no one is exactly the same. However, one plant stands out most; it is both the highest and the lightest, reflecting the sun. Although I am just one set of leaves in a world full of plants, no one else is exactly like me. I am one individual in a big world, influenced and surrounded by people who touch my life on a daily basis, but ultimately standing on my own, relying on my own abilities, strengths, and perspective to achieve my goals. I am a unique person with my own fresh ideas and my own potential to stand out and make an impact on the world.
Another way that this photograph expresses my view of the world and myself is through the implied color in the photograph. Although it is black and white, the dew on the plants and the various shades that they appear makes it clear that the leaves are new, fresh, and alive. The leaves reveal the youth and renewal of spring; however, the black and white shows antiquity, bringing to mind our history and the past. This shows that even in the present of the world, we are the product of our history, and it is important that we remember the mistakes of our past and learn from them, while making sure the decisions and actions of today are ones that will benefit tomorrow. I am a mix of our own personal history, as well, from the values instilled in me by my family and childhood, by my successes and challenges even today. I am a product of the changes over time in my city, state, and nation; it is because of the opportunities that those in the past have fought for that I am treated with equality regardless of my age or gender. However, I am also a part of the present innovations and ideas that will lead to a new future. Through working hard and obtaining all of the knowledge and ideas I can acquire through my studies and experiences, I will be able to make my voice heard. I am the one plant that is reaching higher towards the sun, with the goal of having a part in making a better tomorrow.

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My long-term goal is to attend law school. In the near future, my plan is to study business, economics, and political science along with some specialized coursework in science and language in an undergraduate program. While my plan may sound optimistic, this schedule matches my unique analytical and writing skills. Utilizing the law to argue against injustice and protect individual rights requires a wide range of study, and this ambitious plan manages to provide a wide variety of subjects while still pulling from a specialized background. This rigorous schedule provides incentive for me to make the most of the next four years and would help me capture the experiences that I will need to succeed. While law is very broad, this career has major implications that I have always found fascinating. However, my career approach dictates the importance of selecting the perfect college for my undergraduate program. The University of Illinois is that perfect college for me. It meets my academic goals, because it provides opportunity for me to pursue studies in my various fields of interest. The University of Illinois has a strong curriculum in my areas of interest, which will prepare me for a future in graduate school, and eventually, in the legal field. As well as having variety and options, the University of Illinois also has very strong programs in both business and economics. Being able to attend such a reputable university in these fields would be an asset in achieving my goal of studying law.

(I got in here, so I figured it was worth posting)
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In high school, my interests varied. I participated in many activities, from speech to service and newspaper to rocket club. I chose to become a member of my school’s speech team because my Discussion and Debate teacher is one of the coaches of the team. The team needed someone to compete in the extemporaneous speech category, in which students are given a question on current events and 30 minutes to prepare a three to five minute speech. I originally found the concept nerve-wracking; unlike the participants in other categories, I could not prepare anything before the big meets. Continuing to participate in this category, I have realized that although it is difficult, I am able to separate opposing positions and communicate those current issues in a very convincing manner. I received ribbons in all three meets of the year last year, and since I was one of the top five participants in my category, I was also invited to the final meet of the year. More importantly, I realized that speaking on important issues and promoting my point of view is something I find compelling and truly enjoy. It has helped me to develop and improve my speaking skills, to become more articulate, and to stay current in regards to what is going on in the world around me. At the beginning, I looked at news and events solely in preparation for upcoming speech events. Now, news articles and programs are interesting, and I find myself naturally evaluating the differences in opinion. Lastly, extemporaneous speaking has helped me to think on my feet, enabling me to analyze information and develop a stance much more rapidly. Thanks to the encouragement of my Discussion and Debate teacher, I have developed these new skills and am continuing to compete in my senior year.


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When I was young, my father would tell us how special his children were. I took this one step further, telling him about any occurrences at home or school where I was able to surprise my family, teachers, or fellow students with an action either academically or spiritually impressive enough to cause them to stop and say “wow.” From then on, my father called these events “wow stories.” The first time this happened was when I started reading years before kindergarten, and fortunately or unfortunately, discussions of the daily “wow stories” have become part of the conversation at the dinner table. While I always strive for excellence, the satisfaction I receive from volunteering with Angel Outreach or at the hospital, helping another student with her Spanish, outweighs any acknowledgement I receive from my intellectual acumen.
(this, sadly, is a true story).

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Interrogation Techniques
Terrorism is an issue that has inspired fear in many Americans, especially after the attacks on September 11, 2001. The United States has declared itself to be fighting a “war on terror,” working to provide safety to members of society. However, like in all wars, questions have been raised about the moral and practical justification of the methods used to protect citizens from these threats. Potential terrorists have been taken in for interrogation, and in some cases, cruel torture methods have been used to extract information. These torture methods include a wide variety of tactics that influence the willingness of potential terrorists to share the information they know. The techniques include various methods such as keeping the individuals in freezing temperatures, the forced shaving of beards and hair, sleep deprivation, and removal of clothing. These “enhanced techniques” are used to humiliate and prolong the suffering of prisoners, which would make them more likely to provide whatever information they know. However, there are also much more extreme techniques, as well. Many prisoners were kept in a facility at Guantanamo Bay, which has been the target of much criticism by humanitarian groups due to its use of waterboarding, a method used to trick the victim’s body into thinking it is being drowned. President Obama has worked to shut down the Guantanamo Bay facility, although his goal has been met with some opposition, particularly regarding where to put the prisoners who are held there. The fate of Guantanamo has drawn national attention to the issue of interrogation techniques, reviving debate over how far is going too far to protect the safety of the American people. Although many believe that harsh interrogation techniques are permissible under some circumstances, using torture methods to extract information from potential “terrorists” is ethically wrong.
Many people believe that harsh interrogation techniques are necessary and justified. There is even some debate about whether methods such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation or manipulation should even be considered torture. Waterboarding was allowed to flourish during George W. Bush’s presidency, although according to the article “Torture” released by the Macmillan Social Science Library, Bush stated on October 5, 2007, that, “This government does not torture people” (Bush qtd. in Macmillan Social Science Library 3). Bush believed that waterboarding and many similar methods, referred to as “stress and duress” interrogation, are simply a part of the process of gathering information over time. However, according to the Third Geneva Convention, torture is defined as “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession...” (United Nations 1). According to this definition of torture, which is held as standard throughout the international community, these “stress and duress” methods are considered torture, due to the mental and physical trauma they create. Another of the major arguments in favor of interrogation techniques is that the use of these methods could yield information that could assist the United States in protecting its citizens against terrorism. In working to protect the safety of the American people, many officials, such as George W. Bush and others in his administration, believe that harsh methods of extracting information from terrorists are acceptable, if not necessary. The article “Torture Is Moral When Inflicted for a Greater Good” by Patrick J. Buchanan discusses the importance of using interrogation techniques in gathering information from terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an Al Qaeda agent who has been involved in many missions to threaten the security of the United States, including the most drastic and terrible terrorist attack of recent years, which took place on September 11, 2001. The interrogation of Mohammed using these methods led to the uncovering of computers, disks, tapes, and cell phones with important information pertaining to planned attacks against the United States. Buchanan states that this is proof that, “the higher law, the moral law, the Natural Law permits ... [torture] in extraordinary circumstances” (Buchanan 1). However, it cannot be proved that all of the information collected from using unjust interrogation methods actually is able to be used to prevent terrorist attacks from harming American citizens. Nevertheless, there is some public support for harsh interrogation techniques, due to their perceived role as measures taken to protect society.
However, despite rationalization of the horrors of interrogation techniques, the use of cruelty and torture goes against the beliefs of many of the American citizens that the use of these methods is trying to protect. According to “Closure on Torture?” by William Schneider, only one fifth of the American people who believe that the interrogation techniques are torture support its use (Schneider 1). Schneider also quotes President Obama discussing the conflict between the nation’s values and the government’s actions regarding interrogation techniques. Obama said, "All too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight. All too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford" (Obama qtd. in Schneider 1). The United States is a diverse nation full of people who believe in freedom and justice, and the use of sleep deprivation, sexual manipulation, and waterboarding of other human beings does not correlate with the system of morals that this nation stands for, even if the individuals are considered threats to national security or sources of intelligence information. In many cases, however, the United States compromises its moral and legal standings, violating the Geneva Convention, for information that is false. This could be a result of misinformation, or could be caused by the tortured individuals wanting to stop the pain at all costs, including telling the interrogators exactly what they want to hear. “Bad evidence: not only is torture immoral, it doesn’t work” by Cathleen Kaveny quotes Jane Meyer saying, “I have heard nothing to suggest that information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques has prevented an imminent terrorist attack. ...I do know that coercive interrogation can lead detainees to provide false information to make the interrogation stop” (Meyer qtd. in Kaveny 2). If the torturing of terrorists is not giving accurate information or helping keep the American people safe, what benefit does it serve? If some of the information gathered is false, how can government officials determine what is true and what is not? If the main purpose for interrogating the prisoners is to gain information about the plans and activities of terrorist cells that have intentions to harm the United States, then torturing individuals into telling the government what it wants to hear seems counter-productive, and even detrimental, to this purpose. The so-called benefits of these interrogation techniques are not worth the damage to the reputation and ethical standard of the United States.
Although many agree with the use of harsh interrogation techniques to extract information from terrorists, it is not morally or ethically just. Situations like Guantanamo Bay merely weaken the relationship of the United States with the international community, showing a desire of the government to subvert the policies of the United Nations in the name of personal security. The torture and abuse of human beings is wrong, even when it is “merely” psychological torture. The research I did helped me to understand better why other Americans, including government officials like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s Vice President, would support interrogation techniques, believing firmly in the end result of being provided with information that might help the United States to crack down on terrorism. However, the more information I found on this topic, the more obvious it became that the behavior of the United States regarding prisoners in the “war on terror” has many negative effects on the national and international community. Within the national community, it is inspiring a higher level of fear in the people, as well as causing a divide in the national government. It causes an increased sense of distrust in the people of the United States, many of whom could be displeased with the actions of the government not only because of the moral implications of the interrogation techniques, but also because of the government withholding such information from the public for so long. The issue of interrogation techniques is a relevant topic in today’s world, where there seems to be an increasing level of conflict over the amount of safety that the government should provide. It is not right for the United States Government to torture terrorists, even if it is to protect us.


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Junior year, I was the Project Manager of my school’s Rocket Club. The club was part of a nation-wide competition, in which we build a rocket from scratch and launch it, hoping to have it reach a certain height and stay in the air for a certain period of time while landing softly enough to keep an egg in the nose cone intact. In the past, I had not done much in terms of actually working on the rocket, since my main job was to make the parachute we would need to bring it to the ground safely. However, as the project manager, my job would be to help design the rocket, to help with the building, and to make sure that everyone else completed their work in time for the rocket to be launched at flights that I would schedule. More importantly, parachutes were a thing of the past; that year, the rules had changed, and we were no longer allowed to use parachutes to bring the rocket down to the ground safely. We instead had to build streamers that were within certain dimensional constraints, which we had no experience with from the past.
As the project manager, I had my work cut out for me. Most of the other members of the club were either new or had just as little experience working on rocket construction as I did. However, I was not deterred. I worked with two other members of the club regarding how to build the streamers, and after doing some research, we determined the best materials and exact lengths to use in make them. I discussed with the club moderator what materials we had available to build the rockets, and looked at the rockets from past years to get a basic design idea. The engine mount was the easiest part of the rocket to build, since it came with instructions, but we had to figure out which engines worked best for us, testing various sizes and time-delays in the engines. The most important and most difficult part, however, was organizing flights, as all of the members had very different schedules than my own. I had to organize things in order to find times that would fit most of the members of the group, and make sure that the rocket was actually ready by the times that I set, which was one of the most challenging aspects. Through working hard, doing research, and talking to those who had more experience than I did, I was able to complete the building of the rocket. However, I learned that organization, diplomacy, and understanding are the most important qualities in my time as the project manager, because my friends in the club were important in making sure that the rocket was built, tested, and successful.

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A Collection of (in some cases, rough drafts of) Essays - Kat - February 21st (10)
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