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August 29, 2012

Did You Know?: Boiler Challenge Program

Boiler Challenge Program

Purdue Musical Organizations professional staff members participate in a team-building exercise at the Boiler Challenge high ropes course. (Purdue University/ Mark Simons)
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There's no better way to build trust, camaraderie and respect among co-workers or group members than to conquer a unique challenge together.

That's the concept behind the Boiler Challenge Program. Offered through the Division of Recreational Sports, the program offers high- and low-challenge courses targeted at groups of anywhere from eight to 100.

The goal, says Andrew Lyburn, assistant director of climbing and challenge education, is to teach participants more about their own skills and those of their group members, and about how those strengths best can be combined to reach goals.

"The Boiler Challenge Program really allows people to get to know each other -- and to better trust each other -- in a safe, non-work environment," Lyburn says.

"We have designed the courses in a way that, when approached in a group setting, the challenge is less physical and more mental. It requires a lot of teamwork and it plants seeds for experiential learning and group-oriented growth."

The Boiler Challenge began in the mid-1990s as a portable team-building program that catered to student groups. In 2001, the program expanded to include the L. Tony Hawkins Low Team Challenge Course. Then located off McCormick Road, the course involved tasks and obstacles that were low to the ground and provided a combination of mental and physical challenges.

In 2005, the program added the Class of 1979 High Team Challenge Course, built on the western edge of campus, where the low-challenge course also was relocated. The high-challenge course involves creating bridges between swinging platforms, traversing foot cables with planks or ropes, and similar tasks. Unlike other high-challenge courses, where activities often are individual in nature, Purdue's course allows sub-groups of up to eight people to complete activities together at heights of up to 40 feet.

The existing courses are available year-round, weather permitting. They are most popular immediately prior to the start of the fall semester, Lyburn says. Student, staff and residence hall groups as well as Greek organizations often use the courses, as do off-campus sports groups and businesses.

About 60 percent to 70 percent of the groups that participate in the program are repeat customers. That statistic, Lyburn says, underlines the program's effectiveness.

Stephen Backus, a Purdue senior who works as the program's head facilitator, says he enjoys watching the growth groups make while participating in the program.

"One of the best ways to build a better team is through shared learning. Completing one of our courses provides that," Backus says. "No matter how effective you think your group is, you could always benefit from a challenge course."

More information, including the program's price schedules, is available online at www.purdue.edu/recsports/programs/boiler_challenge/index.php.

A photo gallery of the Boiler Challenge is available at http://purdue.photoshelter.com/gallery/PMO-at-Ropes-Course/G0000a9Ok7V1Q.n0.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu