“The tower is pretty visually appealing for folks. It gets people excited,” said Gardner.
The alpine tower is different from the rest of the course in that it contains a much more individual experience than the rest of the course. In the field games and low elements, teamwork and communication are required to achieve the goal. On the tower, each individual must take it upon him or herself to conquer any fear he or she may have to make it to the top. The climber must assess his or her own abilities, and choose the appropriate route. In the field games and low elements, a participant can successfully navigate the obstacles and achieve goals without leading; when they are alone halfway up the tower, they must find the strength to lead themselves up to the top.
A facilitator looks on as the group
discusses their strategy for this low element.
“The alpine tower was the most difficult and entertaining challenge for me,” said Rob Keller, a second year MBA student from Oriental, North Carolina. “It was the most challenging physically, and mentally because of the whole height thing.”
The other high element is the giant swing. The giant swing is a wire suspended from the top of the alpine tower and another support structure of equal height. Participants are attached to the wire via their climbing harness and then their team members pull on a rope that hoists them backward to their desired height. It is then up to the participant to release herself from the hoist rope and swing. It may seem easy, but for those who find it difficult to let go, it can be a real challenge.
“The giant swing helped me overcome my fear of heights. I felt so free and liberated, but I really had to trust that [my teammates] wouldn’t drop me, and it was a big, big deal to trust them with that,” said Laquan Lucas, a first-year MBA student from Wilson, North Carolina.
These students watch as their classmates
conquer the alpine tower and giant swing.
The challenge course has existed in various forms at ECU for the past 15 years, but the current layout was completed in the summer of 2006 when Alpine Towers International was contracted to upgrade the course with two large strategic elements, the alpine tower and the low-element team development course.
“We are fortunate here at East Carolina University to have the Team Training Center Challenge course, where we can have students, faculty, and staff come out and do experiential, interactive programs,” said Gardner.
Increasingly, professors are finding value in the Challenge Course as an adjunct component to the curriculum of the classes they teach. One of the things they have realized is how well their students interact with one another after they have experience it.
“I learned a great deal about my fellow classmates, because I didn’t really know anything about them,” said Keller. “We learned how to communicate with all kinds of people. [We learned] about their background, their skill-sets, which in future classes will help when picking group members, because we learned who could communicate and who was dependable during these activities.”