Artistic & Creative Endeavor Reflection

Name: Austin Payne

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavour

1.

For my project, I developed a mobile game from scratch. This entailed activities involving computer science and game development techniques

2.

As I attended my first STEP meeting and various meetings throughout my Sophomore year, I really had no idea what to do for my signature project. I knew several students that used the opportunity to study abroad, which certainly would’ve been the simplest choice. Others used the opportunity to support their summer internship – but mine had housing provided! I have always been very interested in computers and video games, having built my own computer in high school. Some students proposed signature projects during which they would buy expensive computer parts to build their own – I do believe this is a good experience but not a transformative one. I ended up choosing my signature project closer to the end of the proposal deadline and now realize how the challenges I had to overcome made the project truly transformative.

At the beginning of my project, the first challenge was to come up with a game idea. I had to balance the desire to create something awesome, fun, and new with the reality that I was a one man team with a limited time frame and college classes and a summer internship taking priority. After going through several ideas it became apparent how easy it was to get carried away with the planning – soon the project would have way too big of a scope to be possible. The solution to this was simply diving in to an idea and seeing where it took me. Developing the game and adding new features as I thought of them kept me motivated to see the project through, rather than planning it all out at the start and becoming overwhelmed. Throughout the rest of my project, I overcame many technical programming challenges, as well as bringing a game from start to finish while balancing my time between other responsibilities.

3.

Many events, interactions, and activities during my STEP signature project affected me greatly. Perhaps most importantly were the programming activities that took place during my project. For most people, the hardest code they ever have to write might be a few lines long, contained in a single file. Even for computer science majors, which is certainly not “most people”, their assignments, labs, and projects rarely require more than a few files. Although this was not the first time I had done so, working with hundreds of files of code and assets was an activity that improved my ability to work in an environment similar to what I would encounter working on any enterprise software or software engineering project as an employee. Each piece of code written has to work seamlessly with the rest of the codebase, and while writing code one must strive to make it as easy as possible for future code to use and build off of it – or the codebase becomes impossible to expand and work with.

While there might not have been any “key” event, the key to this transformation came from all of the events put together. You can’t simply code a game from scratch all at once – it has to be broken down into very small pieces. Some of these pieces are very fun, usually flashy gameplay features that the person playing the game will notice. However the vast majority of the pieces are foundational code, menus, basic game logic etc. and only noticed if missing. These pieces are just as important. Each piece is itself an accomplishment that can fuel further motivation and eventually you begin to have a real working game! It should also be noted that because the fun features build on more basic features, getting to the point where they can be added is very exciting but takes real dedication.

Finally, there were several interactions that led to transformations in my life. One interaction was with various content producers in the game development community. Browsing what other independent developers are working on, ideas, artwork, and videos is very inspiring, helping with motivation and providing a base point to compare my game with. In addition, looking at all of these content producers helped me choose a source of assets for the game. Finally, the interaction I had with the hiring manager for my internship this summer was very significant. During the interview I brought up the project and some problems I came across when adding certain features, explaining my solutions and how they were innovative. The next year when the internship began he told me he remembered the interview and that I was his first choice because of the cool discussion we had!

4.

Through the opportunity provided to me by STEP, I was able to gain valuable skills in the fields of computer science and game development. This real world experience will enhance my professional portfolio by showing my capability to bring a game idea from inception to implementation, creating solutions to dozens of problems in order to do so. I gained insight into what it takes to make a game, which gives me an advantage in interviewing for a company. For example, I scored an internship by discussing the project with my hiring manager – this alone proves the significance STEP has had on my life. I recently received a full time offer from the same company for next year! Personally, my signature project made me realize how important creative freedom was to me and I probably wouldn’t want to give it up by getting a job at a massive game company. However, I gained more appreciation for the video games produced by these companies because I see the hard work that dozens or even hundreds of people had to perform.

Artistic & Creative Endeavor: Stop Motion Animation

Name: Katherine Mundt

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavor

1.

For this project, I created mini stop motion animation films of different media. I then put sound to these films using original music.

2.

I have no doubt that I underwent a transformation throughout the course of these past two years as a result of this project, however it wasn’t necessarily the transformation that I expected. In addition, this particular project actually turned out to be much more daunting than I had imagined. But, because of this, I believe that it encouraged me to embrace a challenge rather than doubt my ability to successfully complete it. I consider myself to be quite a determined person who is capable of much more than most people assume. But, I’m only human, so of course I have my limits, and like everybody else, under certain pressures I panic. Throughout the duration of this project, I managed to resist letting the overwhelming doubt that I could complete it consume my motivation, and I was even able to push my limits, all because I change my outlook on the challenges I face. Many times throughout my life I have been in situations where I am incredibly overwhelmed. When the weight of earning enough money to pay tuition while having to pay rent and medical expenses, maintain a social life, take care of my family, and complete what seems like thousands of homework problems in one night, is bearing down on my shoulders, it is difficult to stay level-headed. Often I would give into those pressures and just shut down. Sometimes there’s just so many expectations that it is difficult to figure out where to even begin.

This project definitely added pressures to my everyday struggles, yet the support and encouragements I received while planning this project as well as during it, kept me focused on my main goal. In addition, it was satisfying knowing that this project was designed to transform myself. It wasn’t a homework project, or a job, it was an opportunity solely anchored to self-improvement. I believe that the simple outlook of a challenge can determine the effort put in and the outcome.

3.

The first summer that I was working on this project was actually much different than the second. I was a full time employee at a local bagel shop in my hometown in upstate NY. And in regards to the project, I spent this particular summer devoted to preparing for the actual filming and creation of my project by exploring the professional world of animation, as well as familiarizing myself with my new equipment and software. I definitely had a sense that it would be a large time commitment from my time practicing with my new technology, but had I known about the extra obstacles I would be facing in the next summer, I would’ve started much earlier. This first summer, I made a trip out to NYC so I could visit an animation studio and explore a few art museums for inspiration.

Visiting the STUDIO in NYC and the Museum of the Moving Image were very valuable experiences, since I had one on one time with a group of digital animators and I had a tour of the STUDIO, and at the Museum I was able to see a wide variety of creativity and film techniques. Specifically during my visit at the STUDIO, I was able to inquire about the programs they use to create their digital works, and what schooling they each underwent in order to end up in an awesome animation studio in NYC. They showed me the advanced, and extremely expensive and complicated software, Zbrush, that their company used for certain components of their animations. Most of the employees went to schools in NYC for graphic design, and my favorite part about learning about each of the employees was that despite having different specializations within the company and working on different components of their projects, each artist was able to incorporate their own personal styles into their work. And even though each and every artist in the STUDIO, and even more generally, in the whole world, has a different style, the end results of their animation were very unified, yet still recognizable as collaborative. I spent over an hour visiting the STUDIO, and it was definitely my favorite part of the NYC trip, not only because I was asked to return and visit whenever I pleased, but because I was also able to share with these professional animators, my own homemade animations. I had a few saved on my computer that ranged from the very first stop motion animation I had ever made, which I made literally by using the “pause” feature on the video camera of my blackberry cell phone back in middle school, to the very short 1-10 second practice films I had started. I was very nervous at first since I was showing professionals my very primitive works, yet they only made me feel confident about what I had created. I was applauded for being able to create something given so little resources. That was basically the first time that I realized I am the type of person who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. If I set my mind to something, regardless of the obstacles in my way, I will do my best to perform.

This past summer was much different. Although I did spend some time researching the processes used by some of my all-time favorite stop motion animators, Tim Burton and Nick Park, most of the summer was spent taking pictures and editing. I also had to work around many unanticipated obstacles. For example, I worked full time at a grocery store for the first month and a half of summer until suddenly I had to get stress fracture surgery on my left foot, which took me off of my feet for literally the remainder of the summer. Trying to use a tripod on crutches and hunching over my mini sets weren’t the best combinations, either. However, despite these physical limitations, my research in regards to major stop motion film makers actually eased my conscience and made me feel proud of my small feats that I initially thought were not going to be enough to work with. For example, in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas,” the entire production required 13 animators, over 100 specially trained camera operators, puppet makers, set builders, and prop makers, eight camera crews, 19 sound stages, 230 sets, a composer and lyricist, and four sculptors. Also, the film roughly consisted of 110,000 frames, and it took around three years of full time efforts to complete, and had a budget of $18,000,000. And here I was, a single person playing the roll of animator, sculptor, composer, camera crew, editor, pencil and digital artist, with $800 in the STEP budget dedicated towards resources, and with just two summers to work on my project. I actually went through and did the math, and given that I had roughly 2616 hours of free time between the two summers, not including full time work hours, a sleep schedule of 6 hours on average every day and 1 hour every day of eating, assuming the I do (1/13)th the amount of work as 13 animators, and since 13 animators on the “Nightmare Before Christmas” set produce roughly one minute of footage in a week, if I were to work on this project for 15.6 weeks straight, I should’ve only been able to produce 71.9 seconds of film, so just a little more than a minute of film. Thus, even though this number is definitely obscured by other factors, and even though the quality of my filming was much more amateur than their professional set, being able to stand behind what I have created in this short amount of time is extremely rewarding.

As the end of this past summer approached, the deadline for this project hung over my head like a dark cloud. But, everything I had learned through my research and from the trips to NYC prevented me from panicking. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am able to step back from an overwhelming situation and create a game plan from a distance and with a clear mind.

4.

This transformation is definitely a significant advancement for my life since it made me realize that I’m capable of much more than I thought. Often in the educational systems that I’ve been through and that I am currently, I have felt like I’m in competition with fellow students, and that my efforts, no matter how much I put in, aren’t good enough. I think it is incredibly important for people to take on a challenge that will make them proud of themselves in the end. Even though I didn’t get as much done in this project as I had hoped, and it didn’t turn out looking like a hollywood film, I couldn’t be prouder of what I have done. I strongly believe that without being a part of STEP, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be face to face with such a challenging task, and I wouldn’t have developed the sense of self-conviction and determination needed to succeed. As cliche as it may sound, I genuinely think that STEP has provided me with the confidence and motivation required to accomplish anything I set my mind to, academically, personally, and professionally.

STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection

Name: Deja Miguest

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavors

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

For my project, I traveled to Los Angeles, California to take dance classes and learn from prominent and professional choreographers. The goal was to improve my dancing/ choreographic ability, interact with professionals in the field, and determine if I have the ability to dance and choreograph professionally.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I thought that I knew who I was as a person but I found myself struggling when teachers would say “put yourself into the movement.” Several teachers explained that any dancer can do the steps perfectly, what makes it interesting to watch is the personality and the intention the dancer puts behind the steps; a dancer’s movement style, the faces they add, the emotions they put into the piece all reflect the personality of that dancer and tells the viewer /audience who that person is. I realized that I don’t know how to display who I am through dance. Granted personality is a complex thing and every aspect of mine can’t be displayed simultaneously but, this trip made me think about what aspects of my personality I want to demonstrate. I need to be more confident in who I am before I can reach my full potential as a dancer.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

The first class I took in Los Angeles was from Josh Williams. The routine he taught was not difficult just quick and involved a lot of grooves and personality. He chose a select group of boys to go at the end and perform the choreography in front of the class. Even though they were all doing the same steps, the way each boy chose to execute the routine was completely different. Everyone had their own style, their own attitude, and their own intention behind the movements. I was able to see who each dancer was through their performance and it was spectacular. After class I got to talk to Josh, he told me what draws him to a dancer is their personality, ability to make others feel something, and “sauciness.” I never fully grasped how important personality was in dancing until I watched that group of boys dance together.

The class I took with Galen Hooks also focused heavily on personality. The character for the dance routine was rock musician. She kept emphasizing that the routine is not about dancing pretty and correctly, it’s about embodying the character. She purposely didn’t demonstrate the routine several times because she didn’t want to influence how we, the dancers, did the routine. Galen really wanted to see individual interpretation. This class really challenged me to push myself to add faces, try manipulating movement, and embrace the character of a dance. It was the first time I think I was comfortable trying to add my personality and quirks to a routine because she pushed us throughout the class to do so. This class gave me specific points to work on as I am performing and I think that was something I tried to utilize throughout the week I was there.

The last class I took for the week was from Lee Daniel. During the class I focused on adding my own personality as well as adjusting the movements to fit my style and feel comfortable on my body. At the end of class Lee Daniel called me to go front and center because he liked the way I did the routine. It was more proof that choreographers really look for personality and energy just as much as they look for correctness of movement. I got to talk to him after class and he told me that a good dancer is able to take the steps and add more while still paying attention to the details of the movements. He was very encouraging, he told me I have potential and that I should definitely keep dancing.

These three experiences were the most influential because they helped me identify a problem, gave me suggestions on how to overcome my problem, and highlighted the benefit of me working on my problem. Adding personality to my performance and choreography is something I believe that I will continuously be working on but I’m happy I have had this experience to guide me through that. I need to continuously push my boundaries and comfortability as a dancer in order to transform from a good dancer to a great dancer.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

Realizing that I struggle to show who I am as a dancer while I am performing has given me a goal to work toward in my dancing. I feel like I have been stagnant in my dance career and I wasn’t getting much feedback in classes on ways I could improve. A personal goal of mine is to choreograph/dance for a large scale artist in a video, special performance, or world tour. Prior to my STEP project I wasn’t sure what I was missing as a dancer or what I still needed to improve on. Now I think I have a better understanding of what choreographers and teachers are looking for in dancers and how I can distinguish myself from a class filled with one hundred other dancers. This will also help me to develop my own style of moving and dancing which will be important if I want to choreograph.

Newfound Strive and Perseverance

Laura Sayre
Re: STEP Creative/Artistic Endeavor Reflection
12 September 2017

The STEP Signature Project that I pursued was an artistic endeavor, entailing a summer spent touring, competing, and performing as a member of Drum Corps International’s (DCI) Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps. This experience maintained a duration of 3 months, lasting from May 20th until August 12th. It fostered not only my physical growth and athletic propensities via intensive training, but also my mental and emotional growth through high-demand assignments and expectations of staff members.

There are many aspects of my self-understanding that were transformed in response to my involvement with the Boston Crusaders, but the ones that seem to stand out the most are the changes in my view of perseverance and desire to retain mental engagement. Going into the competitive season, I held a disposition that tended to easily resign when things became too complicated or tasking. The events and experience of the Boston Crusaders 2017 season transformed my value in striving to be the best I could be, both in performance and out. Hand-in-hand with the initial fear of pushing myself to achieve higher standards was the absence of determination to stay mentally and emotionally capable. Through personal trials, failures, and successes, I summoned the motivation that I had previously lacked, which maintained my positive outlook for the duration of the summer.

Drum corps instructors and staff members have exceedingly high expectations of their students before the DCI season even begins. If I had upheld my self-deprecating approach to challenges I had to face, I would never have overcome them or even come close to the standards which had been set for me by staff and even older and more veteran members of the Boston Crusaders. Of course, changing my attitude did not happen overnight. It took weeks before I no longer had to solely try to motivate myself; soon enough, my self-determination became the core of my mentality. Had it not been for the bars set by my instructors and role models within the corps, I may still have had the same “oh, well” temperament as a result of not desiring to rise up to the challenge.

Once I established a sense of urgency, I had to learn what it meant to keep a positive outlook and remain committed so that I did not readopt my prior viewpoint. Within the activity of drum corps, it is common for members to fall victim to a temporary mental weakness dubbed, “hitting a wall.” This is a time during which students typically have regrets about their decision to not stay home for the summer and willingly sign up to go through painstaking and over-tiring training entailing 3 months of sleeping on gym floors and buses. As soon as a member hits a wall, it oftentimes takes days for him/her to overcome it and get back into the groove of his/her exhausting schedule. I envision it as more of a well than a wall. I have experienced hitting a wall so high and so difficult to rise above that I felt more like I was drowning than climbing. Getting out of this well proved to be one of the most complicated tasks I have ever faced because of how mentally and emotionally draining it was. However, I overcame my wall/well dilemma with pure optimism and perseverance, virtues I gladly give credit to my [at the time] seemingly devastating experiences for obtaining.

The final occurrence of my STEP Signature Project that I recognize for its transformation of my values and self-understanding is an injury I endured leading into the last two weeks of the DCI 2017 season. While we did not know what it was at the time, MRI screenings following my return home revealed a femoral stress fracture, a fairly uncommon injury that the doctors found I had sustained the last 14 days of my project. Rehearsing and performing on my leg was excruciatingly painful and I had medical staff on tour constantly tending to my needs in order to get me to the end of the season in one piece. Due to my newfound self-determination and grit, I found it within myself to push through extreme physical pain and the desire to give up, despite having an injury that could possibly be detrimental to my long-term athletic competences and health.

By the end of the season, I changed in ways I otherwise would never have expected to if not for my experiences during the course of my STEP project. Such transformations as these are so essential to one’s maturing and stepping into the world as a full-fledged, competent adult and member of society. My gain of appreciation for my own determination and desire to achieve greatness will foster my growth in professional and personal areas of life. These attributes are key to being in healthy community with others and reliable as a working person and responsible citizen and friend, and I cannot give enough recognition to STEP for catering to my transformation and inspiring me to take great strides into my future.

Going Solo

Tanner Pryor – Artistic and Creative Endeavor

For my STEP Project I decided to venture out from my usual experience as a drummer in an alt-rock band to a solo musician. I used some of my funds to take guitar lessons and singing lessons for one summer. The rest of the funds were used to travel and perform in various cities around Ohio.

I have spent the last two years in an alt-rock band called Remember the Fall. I have been drumming for them for two years and before that I drummed in every band my high school had to offer. Because of this, I have always been a supporting musician. One thing I noticed over the years is that I love being on stage and I love when I have a crowd focused on me. The problem is this doesn’t happen often as the drummer. I decided that I wanted to be able to be independent of a band and be able to run my own show. I wanted to have the crowd focused on me.

During my project, I accomplished my goal. I can proudly say I am a solo artist. I played four solo shows throughout the summer and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I am capable of being independent of a band and can perform alone. I would not have been able to do this without the lessons I took in the first summer. I have always been a self taught musician so being able to have a teacher was a great experience for me.

During the first summer, I took guitar and singing lessons with two different teachers. This is where I learned to sing. I already knew how to play guitar and the lessons served mostly to build on my knowledge and teach me songwriting techniques. I, however, had absolutely no singing experience. I came into these lessons with zero knowledge and finished a competent singer.

These lessons were surprising to me. Like I said, I am a self taught musician and therefore have very little experience in taking lessons. I expected my vocal coach to teach me songs that would eventually fit in my set list. What I got, however, was ten weeks of broadway musical songs and lullabies. And it turns out; this is exactly what I needed. She taught me all of the techniques I would need to be able to sing anything. She avoided pigeonholing me into pop songs.  We spent as much time learning songs as we did learning warmups and how to shape my mouth and throat.

My guitar lessons were a similar experience. We discussed music theory and finger picking techniques. In the middle of the summer, my guitar teacher went on tour in Europe. When we started lessons again, he shared the wisdom and learnings he developed while abroad. I am very grateful for everything he taught me as I was able to apply it all during the second half of my project.

In the second half of my project, I played four shows. These were fundamental in shaping my transformation. This is where I actually applied what I learned in my lessons and practice to a real life scenario. I learned how to put shows together, how to fight preshow nerves, and how to implement constructive feedback. I played shows in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and even Missouri.

 

 

This transformation I experienced was very valuable to my life. It opened a whole new avenue in terms of the opportunities I will have when performing. It will be much harder to find opportunities to perform after graduating. By expanding my abilities and shaping myself as a solo artist, I will be able to avoid the need for a band. I can set my own shows and be totally independent. This will greatly expand my performance opportunities.

 

I have recorded my thoughts after all of my lessons and performances  as well as multiple practice sessions and accumulated them here at tannerpryorstep.wordpress.com (site still under construction)

Restoring A Classic Motorcycle

For my STEP signature project, I restored a classic 1972 Honda CB350 Supersport. I bought an old CB350 that had been in a crash, neglected, taken apart, and put into boxes in a basement near Columbus. Over the past year and a half, I’ve spent my free time fixing, cleaning and restoring the bike into a functional motorcycle. (It you found this interesting and want to read my blog on the project, it can be found here)

Above: A picture of the motorcycle before it was disassembled by the PO (Above) and a picture of the bike after its restoration (Below)

Throughout the course of this project, I have learned a lot about myself. When I first started this project, I had never even touched a motorcycle, let alone taken one apart. The only knowledge I had going in was a general idea of how an engine worked. In a lot of ways, it wasn’t even a project that I expected to be able to complete. But through the course of the project I had a realization: there are lots of things that people don’t attempt because they don’t think they are capable of doing it – but they are capable. I’m an electrical engineer. I had no clue how a motorcycle worked. There were several times that I almost convinced myself to abandon this project idea because I didn’t think I was capable of completing it. But I threw myself at it. It wasn’t easy. I screwed up plenty of things, wasted my time and my money on failure after failure. But in the end, I was able to push myself through. Now I have not only a customized motorcycle that I built myself, but I have new knowledge that I can keep with me for the rest of my life.

The other big thing that changed about me through this project was the way I handle problems. Before this project, any time I had a problem, there was a person in my life who could help me. In this project, there wasn’t. No one I knew had done anything like this before. As a result, I had to go out on my own and find people who had. I met people on online forums, I called professionals around the world, and I drove to small motor shops all around the state of Ohio meeting new people. Sometimes they could help, and were a massive resource for me. Other times, they couldn’t and I had to brainstorm new solutions.  It was a very transformational experience. By the end of the project, I felt more comfortable than I ever have before in facing adversity.

The biggest contributors to my learning were the problems I faced in restoring the bike. For example, I ran into problems in budgeting. I originally planned to restore it to factory condition (same color, same parts, etc.) However, I discovered right away that it was going to be too expensive for me to re-chrome the necessary parts. Also, many of the factory parts were extraordinarily difficult to find, and not even close to being within my budget. So I changed plans. I had to accept that there are factors out of my control and that all I can do is the work around them.

Another big contributor was problems I faces in the engineering of the bike. For example, the cam chain tensioner I had didn’t fit into the channel that was designed for it. To solve this, I ended up finding a machine shop near my hometown that was willing to mill out the channel to new dimensions that would allow me to install the tensioner I had. Another big problem was that my points weren’t contacting, which meant that the spark plugs wouldn’t spark. I bought new points, assuming the old ones were bad, but it didn’t fix the problem. I took the entire advance and contactor assemble out of the engine and checked it for bending or other potential damage that might have prevented it from contacting, but no such luck. In the end, I had take it and drive to several classic motorcycle shops around Ohio, in the hopes that someone could tell me what was wrong. In the end I found a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop in Toledo that miraculously had some of the original points for the CB350. We installed them, and it worked! Turned out that the reproduction points for the CB350 were dimensionally off. These are just two examples of the hundreds of time consuming problems I faced during this project. But what they taught me is that adversity is unavoidable, but it isn’t something that you can’t get past.

Above: A picture of the modified channel for the cam chain tensioner (Above) and the head and valves with the cam tensioner installed (Below)

Another big part of my experience was the networking and getting to know new people. For example, I had the body color parts on the bike painted by Jake Pierson, an automotive painted in my hometown. Before this project, I knew his name (had had done some work for my grandpa in the past), but I had only talked to him once or twice. I got into contact with him, and over the course of our business I like to think we’ve become friends. I also got to closely know John at Motorcycle Solutions in Toledo. I met John during the course of this project, and he was a massive resource for me. They are both examples of people that I wouldn’t have gotten to know if it weren’t for this project. I also feel that getting to know them got me out of my comfort zone. This project forced me to try things and meet people that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I think this experience is massive for me as a person. We all know education is important. It’s why we spend inordinate amounts of money to go to a college. But what I think frequently gets left behind in education is physical experience. There’s something massively different between problem solving with a written problem in a book, and looking at a real life mess and thinking, “what will make this better?” I’ve always been a decent student. I’m not going to claim to be the best (and I’ve got grades to prove it), but I’ve always been able to make it through and learn what I need to to get by. But real life experience is an entirely different thing. When you graduate, it isn’t about the mathematical theorems you memorized, or how to write in iambic pentameter. It’s about learning to solve problems you’ve never had any experience with. It’s about forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things. It’s about new meeting people and learning to work with them. That’s why I think this project is important to me. It’s a part of my education that, without STEP, would have been mostly neglected.

So that said, thanks to everyone who helped me along the way, and a huge thanks to OSU for giving me the support I needed to try something new.

Regards,

-Sam Taylor

A New Tool In A New Digital World

My project began with research, even before the STEP proposal was a glint in my eye, on countless parts and systems that would comprise my new tool. Like any good engineer, I love the paraphernalia I use every day to study, work, and learn. But as a burgeoning artist, I find myself struggling to find my way. Being able to assemble my own computer to learn it inside and out for use as a tool for art and technology was a truly transformational experience in how I craft my digital career.

The only time I had spent with hardware prior to planning my budget was accidentally breaking CD drives. Going through the computer science courses for my major taught me a lot about the theory behind hardware old and new, but I still had no idea what was really inside my computers of days gone. Either way, my current tools were years out of date, and college had ignited motivation to broaden my horizons. I always wanted to be more than just an engineer, and hopefully this project, vigorous commitment to artistic clubs, and extracurricular doodling could all help prove it. The most promising new area to explore was computer graphics, seemingly seamlessly combining technology and art. But without this project, I couldn’t even draw a cube on my screen without my laptop groaning and overheating. What makes this project transformational is how it gave me a platform to truly launch myself off. The project ended up giving me a worldview when one didn’t exist; how computer art works was only in my head prior.

After sifting through countless comment chains, tech reviews, and personal testing, I had my list of parts and new knowledge of how it all fit together. I had applied the theory taught and knew why what I picked was the best for what I wanted to do: graphics. Graphical Processing Units and high-Hz monitors alike joined together in my mind to visualize the end product. By the time my budget was submitted and approved, I was raring to go. But that’s when problems came; the assembly was more difficult than I imagined. Unlike LEGOs, parts can break if you’re not careful with them. Luckily, I got by with a little help from my friends and the online communities I scoured. It turns out that when you’re directed to “use force” to insert a chip into a cage, it really does mean with force.

I came out of the project with a new toolbelt to do work with. With the capabilities provided by my new tower, I’ve could mess around in engines and frameworks available online to advance my understanding of computer graphics to the point of being confident enough in it to enroll in graduate level courses in real-time rendering, which is presenting moving scenes in real-time, and soon computer vision, or how computers take in visual information. Being a computer science major, it is directly tied to benefitting my day-to-day life at school as well. Finally, I always wanted to give back this information to the communities that supported me in getting it, notably OSU. I’ve started volunteering my own opinions and knowledge founded in this project on the websites used in its construction. After being turned down by a handful of Columbus institutions, I’ve decided to network with the Animation Club and our own ACCAD to figure out a way to present the technical processes and information I’ve gathered across this transformation to the community. I’m even applying to ACCAD to continue my education very soon, and I’m sure my tool will accompany me along the way. Overall, being able to encourage myself to try the path of graphics that I always wanted to do but never could was the largest benefit of this project, and the people I’m able to help and inform will be the continuing reward as I advance my way into the bleeding edge between art and technology.

Chance Lytle | lytle.100

Game Development and Business

Name: Luke DeLong

 

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavours

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

 

Because my project was focused on developing a game and starting a business, the main activities included coding, creating pixel artwork, and networking with others. The first two were more straightforward than the last, but because of the networking was done, the company, Quadratic Games LTD., is working with a client to develop a game that they are attempting to develop

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

 

When we first started, I thought the barrier of entry would be much larger than it is. I figured companies would not want to hire two college students to help them develop anything. I was obviously wrong. My partner and I are now on the development team for an independent video game (indie game) and currently working towards completing the owner’s vision as well as bolstering our experience.

 

My major is STEM Education and as such, I learn a lot about the education system and how it works. This project has brought over education into the spotlight for me. I had always believed that a college education was required for getting well-paying jobs but I now realize that you can get to a very similar position just by practicing what you would like to be doing. Getting a college degree for game design is only one way to join the market. I only wish that there was less of a gap between the pay of a college graduate and a high school graduate even if they are equal in terms of their vocational skills.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

 

After starting our game, it was obvious that we still had a lot to learn. We both decided that we should spend part of our time dedicated to develop the game towards learning what exactly it is that makes a good game, how to implement the different mechanics we wished to see in the game, and finally the importance of testing our game on paper. These events bolstered our planning skills and also our ability to predict how game mechanics would play out.

 

It was shortly after we had made a small prototype on the computer that I found someone who was trying to find a group of people to dev his game. We ended up talking and it came to the point where I was hesitant to agree to help him so I put the condition on that if he was able to find more people then we would be more likely to consider it.

 

He came back a few months later with the people that I had asked for. The three people he had gotten to agree to help him were all college graduates with degrees in game design. Honestly, I was shocked that he even came back to us with the roster that he had formed but I was glad to agree to hear him out. We started out all signing non-disclosure agreements and then figuring out exactly what the idea of the game was. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that it had potential and we began working the week after.

 

I was actually shocked at how backward we had started developing our initial game. We hadn’t designed out exactly how the mechanics would work with numbers before we tried to prototype it in code, but with this new group, those that had degrees insisted that we get everything on paper and even run paper tests before even touching anything related to code.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

 

Ultimately, going into teaching, the concepts and ideas I’ve learned about making video games will not help me much. I have begun to see the tip of the iceberg of what is engaging for others and how the nebulous concept of fun works but overall this aspect of the project will not be too helpful for me as long as I stick to the education route I planned on following.

 

The business side of our project though has impacted me immensely. I had always heard how important networking was for businesses but it had never really stuck in my mind that it was as important as it is. Going into teaching, or any profession, networking can bring you options. I would never be able to be apart of the development team I’m on now if I hadn’t made an effort to reach out to others in similar situations to me.

Below are the different iterations of the artwork for an ooze that was to be intended to be in the game

 On the bottom of this image is the first attempt at drawing an ooze. As you can clearly see it’s very rudimentary and looks extremely flat. This is due to the pillow shading used to attempt to give it some depth. The ooze above the first attempt uses a more realistic shading as the object is curved almost like a water droplet. The corners are also more rounded to resemble surface tension

 The third iteration of the ooze is much lighter than the second due to the incorporation of internal refraction of light. The light source was also raised changing where the brightest spot on the ooze is located

 

The final iteration of the ooze before we moved onto someone else’s team sees a change in the color palette. We added green and yellow into the blue and white of the original palette. Ultimately I like the third iteration the best as this final one has a bit too much dark.

 

This is a blown up image of what the ooze would be dropping after defeat. We had named this adhesive. We used the shading style that made the first ooze look so flat and because of the size, it was not noticeable.

Stepping into Funk

Through my piano, composition, and Alexander Technique lessons, my goals were to develop a new style of workflow composition which captured ideas I had as fast as possible, so that I could move onto later stages of composition more quickly, and to be able to play with the freedom I could muster in a music ensemble. The Kawai ES8 Digital Piano that I eventually decided to purchase was extensively used throughout my project to develop composition ideas and practice set lists in apartment settings where nearby access to a decent piano was out of the question, and headphone use was strictly enforced. Due to the injuries I sustained, the scope of the project changed fundamentally, from results oriented to learning more and becoming a better human being.

I learned that thinking too much confuses the mind and makes my tension worse. Through my lessons, I came to realize that after a couple of iterations of mentally thinking about the process, the body must be the one to take up motions and knowledge and turn that into music. Secondly, I became acutely aware of the amount of physical tension I was holding as a result of my perfectionism, anxiety, and unconscious repressed emotion. By letting those things go through use of the Alexander Technique, QiGong meditation in Kung Fu, mindfulness, Sarno’s MindBody approach, Gallwey’s Inner Game of Tennis, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I realized that the body holds tension to distract us from thinking about the problems we’re having in our minds because it deems that they are too scary to deal with. I was able to progress quite a bit by switching up my approach between different philosophies and attacking the issue from multiple different angles. I learned how powerful attachment and judgment of thoughts could be. As I improved my mental hygiene, I began to notice dramatic improvements in my quality of life and overall mood, which helped me play much more expressively and freely as a result.

Before dealing with my injuries became the main priority of my musical pursuits, I always moved quickly from event to event in my life, with a mind so cluttered that I couldn’t sit down and not do anything without feeling overwhelmed and anxious. As a result, I kept working so that I wouldn’t have to think of anything. Combined with an attitude of setting unrealistic goals for myself and absolute perfection in whatever I was doing, it became very difficult to move forward. As I began to heal myself from my pain, I realized that a full change in my value system had to take place. I began to see “mediocre” work as “good enough” and learned that reasonable time and energy limits to several tasks that required a lot of concentration did indeed exist. Secondly, I became less anxious of the future by realizing that I am also defined by what I do, not only by what I think. Once I understood that all I must do is focus on today’s tasks that are achievable and realistic, and the rest will take care of itself, my concentration became much more narrow and I actually achieved more while being less tense and anxious.

Throughout Spring 2017, I played with a friend I met in the winter Alexander Workshop. We played a mixture of music improvisation bordering on jazz fusion, jazz, and blues. We also shared each other’s compositions and I learned a lot about how a singer-songwriter makes their music. The experience broadened my view of how music could be made, and that music could also not be taken as seriously, but could be just as fun. It was around this time that I realized that while I wanted to take my music seriously, the music-making process itself didn’t have to be as serious or restrained. As a result I loosened up and learned to have fun even if the theory behind the improvisation wasn’t very complicated or I didn’t play the perfect solo.

At the beginning of June 2017, I joined a funk group called “180 Funk and the Supreme Court Jesters.” While I was in Columbus taking classes Monday through Friday, I would drive to my hometown where practices for the group were held every Friday and Sunday. I also didn’t have much time to practice the set lists, which were fairly large (9 songs each). We had performances planned in mid-July, and set lists were announced a couple of weeks before the performance date was set. My experience with ear training and music theory was put to the test as frequently I had to listen to songs via offline playlist in my car as I drove to practice. I was also tasked by the leader to come up with ways to make the overall group sound warmer and fuller. I had to combine my knowledge of classical/jazz piano and music production to come up with ways to make the sound better. Many times I would transcribe the horn melodies and play them with both hands. As a result of all of this my ear became much sharper and my technique improved.

Secondly, my joining the group was purely by fluke, and the group leader emphasized that very serious commitment was only optional. I was able to practice taking one day at a time and trying just to be good enough. Many times I allowed myself to play what I could for however long I could, and I didn’t push myself beyond that. While progress was slower, it was meaningful. I was surprised to see that other group members were sympathetic and supportive of me as they knew the other activities I was involved in. At the beginning of practice, I didn’t really know how to play in the groove of each song very well, and I was so focused on playing my parts right, I barely even paid attention to the band sound. But as I practiced by listening to the songs more, I realized how I fit into the overall band sound and found myself not being able to hear individual parts anymore. It was also very enlightening playing with other people. I learned about other projects that musicians might pursue, got feedback from a lot of different sources, and met people with vastly different skillsets than mine.

I also jammed with 180 Funk’s drummer a few times over the summer, who is quite experienced and played in many bands. For most of my life, I had played music by myself, and as a result I kept learning theory and focused less on the actual function of each note and chord. A golden piece of advice I received from him was to not create complicated structures for songs, but to keep the structure and harmony simple, while adding in more complex things as a spice. This mindset opened my eyes to a whole new world of music that I had previously thought was uninteresting.

Firstly, I am now able to play piano and work with no pain, and limited capacity. The fact that I am able to function at all has tremendously impacted my quality of life. That combined with all that I have learned in the past two years has also given me the opportunity to enjoy and excel in very different fields while spending about the same amount of time on each activity as I did before. Music is more fun to me, and I enjoy the simpler things in life as a result of my experiences. It has also made me more focused. By focusing on things one day at a time and not worrying too much about the big picture, I’ve been able to get more done in a shorter time and churn out higher quality work. I understand my limits much more, and am more comfortable doing work that does not meet my perfectionist standards.

Here are some of the videos of the band and my recording over the summer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd_K4yHF2TA — Recording session, Early May
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb68WZy5_WE — Practice session, Mid June
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijrRqEF4pX4 — Gig #1, Late July
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_m5Fsjoki0 — Gig #2, Late July
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAI6Uey9pOM — Gig #2, Late July
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEnQZJ28WkU — Recording session, Late August

Artistic and Creative Endeavor App Project

For my STEP signature project, I designed an application using equipment and licenses. I developed an app using the newer coding language created by Apple, Swift (2014), using the IDE Xcode created for developing iOS apps.

 

The main change I underwent throughout completion of the project was learning how to program a graphical user interface (GUI) and learning that it is not where I see my career going. Although I’ve been programming for many years, I’ve always done small command-line programs that completed different simple tasks. The closest thing I had ever done to creating a user interface was creating html websites. Although I enjoyed creating this app and learning the new language Swift, I realized that this isn’t the type of work I want to do in the future. There are many specialized fields that a programmer or software engineer can go into, and I learned throughout this that I do not want to do higher level programming, but would rather work on things at a lower level. I completed this project while I was at an internship with Intel working on firmware validation, and I found that I preferred the lower-level C code and thought it was more enjoyable to creating an application with high-level Swift.

 

Throughout completion of my STEP project, I realized that I struggle with programming graphical user interfaces (GUIs). I’ve programmed a small calculator in Java before starting on my STEP project, but I only created the logic, not the appearance. When I originally started programming the app, I thought I would struggle with the language the most, but as I kept working, I realized that picking up the new language was simple, but when it came to the UI, I had no idea where to start, despite the templates available. I followed tutorials having to pause every few minutes and even now, I feel like I don’t truly understand how the connections were made between the controller and the view. I ended up running through the tutorial multiple times to try and grasp what I was doing instead of just how to do it. In an attempt to push myself and learn how to program an application without a guide, I tried to modify the app created at the end of the tutorial to have a small change that I preferred, but struggled with build error after build error. I ended up having to look up a multitude of tutorials to then figure out how to make the changes that I thought were simple. Of all the things I have programmed, creating this incredibly simple app was the hardest. Not only did I struggle to grasp it, I felt frustrated that the final product I produced could not be as perfect and as new and creative as I had imagined.

 

This change is valuable to my life because it opened my eyes into what I want to go into. Although creating this app did not make me realize that I want to go into application development, it did show me where my strengths and weaknesses lie as a programmer and what I get joy out of working with. For the longest time I thought I wanted to go into higher level programming because it is easier for you to see your progress and final result, but I have come to realize that my passion for C throughout my coursework and my enjoyment of computer networking classes could be a more suitable career for me to pursue. Although it may be harder to see progress, it is what I am more passionate about.