Studies

My FYP endgame: 21 days before our submission, my project was doomed to fail

Tiffany Goh // April 29, 2019, 6:22 pm

Overcame-FYP-1

“If I had to set an ambitious goal to work towards, success to me would be having our project featured in the newspaper,” I told my Final Year Project (FYP) partner as we sat across each other 10 years ago at Raffles City, both of us trying to figure our way blindly around the biggest and last project of our 4-year university lives.

Where should we start? What should we do? What topic should we embark on?

A few weeks later, we sat in a professor’s office to brainstorm some ideas. “I would like to do something that makes a difference in people’s lives,” I shared. “I don’t want to just do a normal project. I want our project to have an impact on lives.”

The professor listened to me patiently, then said gently, “Okay, but, a bit idealistic lah, huh?”

Even though my partner and I still did not know what we wanted to do for our project, we knew we did not want to compromise on our convictions, so we approached another professor to supervise us instead.

Eventually, my partner and I decided to do a research project on Facebook for our Communications degree FYP. 10 years ago, Facebook was still a relatively new platform in Singapore used mostly by the young.

My partner and I decided that we would apply communications research techniques to explore the impact to a parent-child relationship when both were users of Facebook. We were excited at the potential of our FYP findings value adding to relationships between parents and children.

We wrote in to the National Youth Council with our project proposal and were elated to be awarded a grant to fund our research!

We started on the project 8 months before the deadline. We interviewed 17 parent-child pairs, transcribed them, analysed the findings, referenced relevant research papers and books, put together observations, and submitted the draft report to our supervisor.

Sitting in her office, 21 days to the deadline, I remember my supervising professor saying these words in carefully measured tones, “This is wrong. Whatever you have done is wrong. You have to redo it. You will have to work very intensely, but I will work with you.”

My partner and I left her office, sat at a table, and tried to digest the information. We had 21 days to pull off a project that would have taken 8 months. At that point, I felt like everything that I had grasped tightly in my fist was forced open and stolen from me. I was left with nothing.

My FYP partner took out a piece of paper and calmly wrote down all the different sections our final report was required to have. Abstract. Introduction. Literature Review. Findings. Discussion. Limitations and future research.

She looked me straight in the eye. “I’m not trying to scare you,” she said, “but at this point in time, we have nothing.”

I nodded silently and swallowed hard. What we once thought was under control, had now been reduced to a helpless state and we were faced with a seemingly impossible mountain to scale.

Do we have time to redo the entire report? Would we be able to hand anything in? Would we even be able to graduate?

In that moment where there was nothing else I could depend upon, I knew that my only source of strength could only come supernaturally from God.

My FYP partner and I with our submission.

As we scrambled to rebuild the report, my FYP partner, also a believer, shared the story from Numbers 13 where God told Moses to send 12 men to explore Canaan, the land He said He was giving to the Israelites. But only 2 men, Joshua and Caleb, held on to that promise with faith, despite seeing the giants in the land.

“The 10 men saw only the giants in the land,” she said. “But only Joshua and Caleb believed that God was stronger than the giants they saw in the land. Despite seeing the giants, Joshua and Caleb still trusted that God was bigger and could overpower the giants.

“With this situation we’re in, let’s not be like the 10 men who were intimidated by the giants, but let’s be like Joshua and Caleb who believed that the power of God to overcome is stronger than the giants that stand in their way.

“Let’s believe that God can deliver us through these next 21 days and that we will be able to still produce a good project.”

Let’s be like Joshua and Caleb who believed that the power of God to overcome is stronger than the giants that stand in their way.

That word resonated deeply in my being and challenged me strongly. With the sudden obstacles standing in our way towering menacingly over us like giants, which side would I choose to be on? Would I wince back in fear and succumb to being defeated by these large obstacles, or did I dare believe in the unmatchable power of God no matter how big and scary they might seem?

Would I choose to be like the 10 men who only saw the problems, or choose to be like Joshua and Caleb who saw a God who was more powerful?

We worked tirelessly round the clock for the remaining 21 days. As I fought against time, I also fought in my mind and heart – as seemingly impossible as it looked – to still choose to believe that God could bring us to safety by slaying the giants standing in our way. That we could make the deadline and even deliver a project that fulfilled what we set out to achieve.

Time flew and before we knew it, the deadline came around. Completely exhausted, we submitted our report. The greatest emotion was simply the relief in being able to actually hand in a completed report, built from scratch just 21 days prior.

2 weeks after, we presented our findings to a panel of professors, the last checkpoint that officially wrapped up our project. As we came out of our presentation and walked towards a bench, we saw a copy of that day’s newspapers  and there, as unbelievable as it was, it had happened!

Our project had been featured in The Straits Times.

Titled “Mum’s catching up with me… on Facebook”, published on April 13, 2009, the article featured the growing new phenomenon of parents adding their children on Facebook and investigated how this trend might impact relationships between parent and child.

The article referenced our FYP research, which found that parent-child relationships improved as the advent of Facebook had allowed both parties to bond over more common topics, and opened up opportunities for conversations where there previously were not.

The article that featured our FYP research, as highlighted in yellow.

An awestruck wonder reverberated in my being. With the curveball of having to rebuild our report from nothing 3 weeks prior, I had long put aside about the ambitious goal I had set out 8 months ago: “Success to me would be having our project featured in the newspaper.”

But a few weeks before this, a reporter had heard about our project and proactively reached out to us with questions, with no guarantee that we would be featured, nor any indication of when the article might be published.

At that point, I didn’t have my hopes up: The unexpected series of events had forced us to focus on just meeting the pressing deadline. Being featured in the newspaper had been relegated to an unattainable, unthinkable, unspeakable, even frivolous wish. But God knows the most unattainable, unthinkable, unspeakable, even frivolous desires of our heart.

There were no other FYPs in my faculty that were featured in the papers that day. Only ours – the project that was in shambles just 3 weeks before the deadline; the project that had been threatened by gigantic obstacles and almost did not make it.

God knows the most unattainable, unthinkable, unspeakable, even frivolous desires of our heart.

God came through in a way that only He could have done. He remembered me, my wishful desire, and brought it to pass in the most timely way. And He would go on to do even more than that.

A few weeks after our submission, I visited the office of the National Youth Council and presented our findings to their staff as an update on the grant they had awarded us.

A member of the audience saw the value that our project brought to relationships between parents and children and invited us to present to his team at Touch Cyber Wellness, a non-profit agency advocating cyber wellness to help families grow in the digital age.

How could this have happened when we had rebuilt an 8-month project in 21 days?

"Work, for I am with you": Celebrating God’s faithfulness in my university years

10 years later to the exact month since this miracle happened, I am still extremely humbled at how I have been allowed to experience the mighty power of God. We succeeded in delivering a project that truly made a difference to lives; we actually achieved the ambitious goal of being featured in the newspapers, and we were given the opportunity to share our findings with people we never even dared to dream of.

This to me has been a personal taste of what Ephesians 3:20 says in The Message translation, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

10 years later, the giants in life now take on a different form and carry a different weight. It is easy to be daunted by the obstacles that stand ahead, but the lesson I learnt a decade ago challenges me to daily choose to be like Joshua and Caleb.

I want to continually choose to see a God who can defeat all the giants that crash my way.

THINK + TALK

  1. Have you ever experienced imminent failure?
  2. How did you feel, having no more options but to trust God?
  3. How did that experience change the way you trust Him?
  4. What are areas in your life now that you can submit to His saving power?