The Omega Project

The brain storm was simple - or so it seemed at first.  All I had to do was generate enough interest to build an undersea colony from the campus of Oklahoma State University.  I was certian everyone would be as interested in the project as I was.In 1971 at the ripe old age of 19, I had no idea that the journey represented by the formal process of project building was going to be a life-long mission with many steps.  Had I known that the Omega Project was going to be only a very small step, I may not have attempted such a daunting project right in the middle of what I found to already be a difficult primary enterprise – graduating. 

     Understanding the primary politic right away, somehow, I had to convince the powers that were in charge at Oklahoma State University that what I was doing fit into their mold and into their priorities.  My long range goal was to spin off from the project and build an underwater colony in Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller.  (I’ll save the why’s of that story for later.)  But I discovered quickly that project building was more consensus building that grand adventure.  And I discovered that leadership was more about compromise than pointing the finger and shouting ‘Charge!’.  What I did not know and was about to learn that there must be a balance between all that consensus building and compromise and not losing sight of the goal.

 The Omega Project was designed to focus on new methods of educating in the university environment and new ways of engaging the learning process by using undersea colonization as a focal point.  It was not exactly undersea colony building, but it was certainly a foot in that door.  It allowed me to make contacts that I still rely on today.  And it allowed me to direct a wide ranging project that would eventually include over a hundred students and the Governor of the State of Oklahoma.  With the project came television and radio interviews and all the trappings of an effort that had potential to broaden its scope beyond its phase one.
     During the Omega Project which lasted one week on the OSU campus, we had arranged for a graduate student in Psychology to establish and run a simulated “Sealab” mission.  Here, six students would be isolated in a single room to play out a confined mission.  It would become the most popular event of the week and captured the imagination of the campus.  It was, in retrospect, it was an early 70’s version of “Survivor” played out in the campus newspaper, the Daily O’Collegian.  And just like the television adventure, there was plenty of drama, intrigue and eventually one crewmember quit and there was a lot of totally irrelevant but project building gossip played out in the campus media.

     When the Omega Project ended, I was rather desperate to get my academic career back in play and let the second phase go for too long.  And in the end, that was a good decision.  Better to graduate than not, as my father continued to remind me.  Affording dive gear would ultimately be easier with a university degree.

To Be Continued...


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