Blue Skies and Magic Backpacks

Dip Patel

The purpose of my STEP project was to earn my USPA Skydiving Coach rating. I am a licensed skydiver  with over 270 skydives and I love to teach, so the aim of the project was to combine those two things and enable me to grow as an individual.

There was a major change in myself and my outlook and motivation to achieve bigger goals this summer. Prior to starting skydiving, I would have never predicted myself to achieve what I have achieved so far. Even before this summer, I would have never seen myself reaching my goals so quickly. As I made my goals clear to both myself and my friends at the skydiving center, they were quick to push me to work toward them and were always helpful when I needed practice or pointers. I owe everything I’ve achieved in skydiving to them. Seeing this community come together transformed my outlook on people and my own nature to be more helpful. No matter the popular opinion or potential stereotype on people I always strive to see the good in people and work patiently with them to hear them out and help them as needed.

This summer was filled with great skydiving and even greater friends. Going into the season I made my intentions to become a skydiving coach clear to my friends at the skydiving center, and they gave me nothing but their support the entire way. Most of these people were much more experienced than me, as they were once my instructors not long ago. They were proud of me for progressing through the sport and for the skydiver I had become, and I was proud of myself too. The road was definitely tough, the sport is expensive and my family was not quite supportive of what they viewed as a dangerous and stupid hobby (which was understandable to some degree).

As I progressed further and prepared for my coach evaluation jumps, I noticed a key change in my relationships with people at the dropzone. My past instructors were now my best friends, and the owner of the dropzone had developed a sense of trust in me. This gave a stronger boost in confidence to pursue my goals regardless of any hardships I faced. I was at the dropzone more, I was jumping more, and I was getting better. I still remember finishing my debrief after an evaluation jump with the owner, and her saying “congrats, you’re a coach now!”

Working as a coach opened new doors, strengthened relationships, and overall made me a more confident individual. Being able to share and teach other people what I love most in life is the best feeling in the world. I am now able to say that I had a personal involvement in someone else’s positive experience. Furthermore, my past instructors were now my coworkers, and a sense of codependence made our relationships much stronger. My skydiving friends are like family to me, these are the people I am closest to.

The changes I underwent this summer will help guide me through goals and challenges for the rest of my life. Being able to set goals and come up with a plan to achieve these goals is a key skill for success. I can apply this skill to any goal I might have in life, whether it be career oriented or personal. As far as skydiving goes, I have now set new goals for myself within the sport, and I will give 110% to achieve them.

Multiplayer Indie Game Development

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a game start to finish? Well, I did. So I set out on a journey this summer, to design and develop my own multiplayer game without any game engine. This is a very daunting task. Should you choose to follow my path, you will never think that it is easy, but you will learn more than you’d ever imagine in the process. You will start by rendering your first square to the screen, and soon learn how to control the square with your key presses. A few months later, after many, many hours, and you’ll have learned Graphics, Networking, Game Logic, Serialization, Multi-Threading, and tons and tons of debugging. Was it worth it? Well, I’ll let you be the judge, but the satisfaction of having a product to show off after it all is definitely a great feeling.

My game was a 2D board game, which involved a server-client relationship and mini-games to provide a satisfying experience to the player. In addition to this, the player could hop into Editor mode and make their own maps, which they could send and play with their friends.

When I started, I assumed that I could develop a lot of features, but I had no idea how to even begin multiplayer. This uncertainty soon vanished, as over a matter of weeks I learned how to develop a format for packets, and how to reliably send them across the internet to make a multiplayer game. I’m a curious person, and like to understand how things work, so that’s why I set out to complete this project.

Let’s not forget to mention OpenGL. This may not seem very important, as it’s only the framework we need to draw objects to the screen, but it proved very interesting and challenging in development. OpenGL is used to communicate with the graphics card what we want it to do. However, much of this is done with matrices, and this can prove difficult when it comes to controlling a camera, or translating objects on the screen. I used Java and LWJGL (Lightweight Java Game Library – includes OpenGL, GLFW, etc..) to create my game, and it is very low level when it comes to game creation. If you use an engine such as unity, you can get a 3D ball rolling with collision detection in a matter of seconds. However, Unity is not an efficient solution when you have a complex project.

I chose to do everything without the aid of an engine for three reasons. The first is that I wanted to learn the underlying aspects of game development so that I truly understand the basics. The second is because I know that I don’t want to be a game developer as my job, but I would like to do it in my free time, so making the entire game is something I’d need to learn. The last is that I understand the power of scalable solutions. I wanted my project to not only work well, but run efficiently and reliably. This is why I chose to write my own serialization, packets, server, graphics engine, and game engine.

I hope that anyone who reads this realizes that the only way to reach a goal, is to start. I had little to no knowledge of game development when I began this project, but now I am confident I could make a game based on the many skilled I developed over the course of the summer.

If you’d like to view a trailer for my game, please see the video below:

Seattle to San Diego: Among the Giants

STEP Reflection

Nicholas Rossi

I went on a road trip from Seattle to San Diego. Along the way we stopped at several national and state parks and went camping and hiking.

Growing up in the Midwest it is a very hard to get a view of the outside world. We seem to be very similar to each other both in culture and in mannerisms. However, along the west coast you will find a wide variety of different people. I find it hard to find a similar theme among them. The west coast is the true melting pot of America that you always hear about.

I think that my world view has changed at least a little bit. I met so many different people of different backgrounds and cultures and experiences. I renewed my love for writing and camping. While I disagree with the idea that you have to feel inspired to write, it was difficult not to be constantly inspired by the beauty of the national parks. I can say I have been to the ocean. I have been to a rainforest. I have been to a dessert and now im back to tell my story.

One of the most profound experiences I had was in Olympic National Park. We had a campsite right along the ocean. We had started a bonfire on the beach with a group of people we had just met that day. We all sat together, exchanging stories and experiences as the sound of waves crashing filled the background. I felt overwhelmed with joy. Being an environmental major it’s very hard trying to keep an optimistic perspective. The environment seems to continuously be destroyed without any regard. It doesn’t seem like enough people really care. Yet its interactions like the one I had on the beach in Olympic that keep me going. Meeting complete strangers that are genuinely good and caring and passionate about the same causes you are. I will probably never meet those people again. I do not even remember their names or where they were from. Yet they still play a profound role in my vision of the world.

Another culture that I found very influential came from the people of Joshua Tree. From the way they dressed, to the way they decorated their houses, to their overall welcoming demeanor the people of Joshua Tree had a very good vibe. After just talking to a few people in the small town we were invited to lunch at a local café where they told us great spots in the national park and around town we should visit. I found the culture of Joshua Tree to be one I want to emulate throughout my life.

An interesting experience was one that I had at a gas station near the Mexico/California border. We were filling up the RV and struck up a conversation with some migrant workers in the truck next to us. Right now, they come across the border every day for work and odd jobs then go back to their families across the border whenever they were finished. During harvest season most of them worked in the fields picking strawberries and various other fruits. It was an interesting life, one that I cannot imagine me ever knowing. But there was something beautiful about it. I admired these men. They did not find their fulfillment in their jobs but rather in their family and community. No matter how hard of a day of work they had they would go home to their families and often celebrate in large groups of people from all over town. Then wake up the next morning only to cross the border again.

Transposed Subjects: The World in the Foreground

As I began this project, the beginning part of the summer was spent becoming acquainted with the various settings of a Nikon D3400 (a DSLR camera). An internship followed with Melissa Moon, a professional photographer in the Cleveland area, where I developed some of the more intricate techniques, such as subject acquisition and ways to influence coloration, outside of and in a professional photoshoot environment. Finally, the project culminated in a trip to Los Angeles, California where I put these newly developed skills to the test in an extremely diverse environment.

While this project was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it left multiple lasting changes. The primary change, being the developed and refined ability to use a DSLR camera to take amazing pictures, was intended, the development of my self-confidence and reduction of social anxiety were definitely not. Traveling to a distant location which neither myself nor my family had ever visited forced me to venture outside of my traditional boundaries. A person can read up and research a location, venues, typical weather, etc., but once at the location, it is typically drastically different from what they may have expected. By the end of the trip with constant changes, I was reassured in my abilities to counter anything that may come up. Additionally, once in California, I broke my typical isolationism and asked locals about the best places to visit, and then quickly restructured my trip as I discovered new information while using this newfound sociability.


Throughout the project I developed much more confidence in my abilities to adapt. Originally, I had planned on a completely different camera, with a wedding based photoshoot, and a much more nature-centric trip. Many components were altered throughout the trip, most unplanned, but there was little I could do. I had never even heard of a maternity shoot (part of my internship) before. Thus, without much experience in this area, I believed that a lot of the photos wouldn’t have been that impressive. Additionally, less than optimal lighting that day presented a challenge and believed that my attempts to counter it would be successful. After Melissa and I reviewed these photos, we were both impressed with the results. She actually requested to use some of them throughout the photo album she planned to present to the couple, bolstering self-confidence in my abilities and demonstrating that I could adapt quickly to a variety of situations.


Although the trip throughout the Los Angeles area had been carefully planned out, the situation quickly changed after arrival. I realized that working everything through a computer does not give a true idea of the experience and circumstances that you will face while traveling. Some venues were too far away to visit, other places were less than optimal depending on the weather, and some (like hiking the larger mountains alone) were much more dangerous than I had initially expected. Consequently, each day I was altering my plans from the original itinerary I presented in my STEP proposal. From minor changes to adjust where in the general region I was visiting, all the way to entirely different venues that replaced ones I had thought would be ideal, the end result was far from what I planned. The trip changed from more nature centric (focusing on the Pacific Coast Highway [untraversable with a bike], the Santa Monica Ranges, the Firestone Scout Reservation, etc.) to a more all inclusive trip (with a focus on the combination of city and nature that are present throughout Los Angeles). Other situational realities, such as strict corporate policies throughout much of the metro area regarding photography, and the impossibility of taking a bike everywhere in the city, were definitely unknown prior to visiting. Even self-confidence in my physical abilities flourished as I was able to walk 20+ miles a day, which I had previously thought impossible.


A trip to an unfamiliar destination is perfect for someone overcoming social anxiety for two reasons: no local knowledge and no repercussions. By knowing very little of the area they are forced to talk to those around them, as many things are still not answerable by the internet. Additionally, the extreme improbability of coming across anyone you encounter on the trip means that it is a low pressure situation in which a person can leave their comfort zone without fear of future interactions when one is unfavorable. I started by asking for food recommendations, then destination recommendations, and finally just random small talk with people around me. This led to meeting a family from Alabama on top of the US Bank tower, graduates of The Ohio State University on the top of the mountain behind the Griffith Observatory, and even a college couple from Quebec who spontaneously decided to visit Malibu for a week. Even though nothing groundbreaking was said, it was nice to have some conversation when traveling alone and develop skills in “small talk”. The lyft’s I took were the perfect situation that forced me to powerplay a conversation. With roughly 10 to 15 minutes in the car, conversation was necessary since the silence would be unbearable. Typically, I introduced myself with an “elevator speech” about why I was in California. Then instead of sitting in silence for the rest of the trip, I learned to develop small talk. This was much more pleasant than I would have thought. I learned about the lives of the drivers and heard how some traveled the country, while others were attending college, and still others were just trying to make it to next the paycheck.


The most unique of these experiences was meeting a driver by the name of Elod Elron. After the initial elevator speech, we discussed my future medical career aspirations. He began to discuss how while preparing for your career is important, you must learn to develop yourself and your interests. The conversation moved to discussions of how he was a licensed pilot, a programmer, and a certified dive instructor. Being extremely skeptical of what he claimed (as anyone in that situation would be), I asked him why he was driving for lyft. I discovered he was coming back from a dive and was going to get paid by taking someone back from the area through lyft, so why not? Knowing that I was doubted him, he implored I look in the back seat, and then google him. Not only did he have scuba diving gear in the backseat but he also had four separate books on amazon and his linkedin page had verification of each of his certifications. At this point I had arrived at my hotel, but he left me with the parting idea that a person should never live a year that feels like a week, and a week should feel like a month. If you only have so much time on this Earth, why waste it in a trance?. My trip had been the perfect example of this; even though it had only been a week, it felt much longer and I had developed more than throughout the rest of the summer.


While I initially ventured into this project with the hope that I would develop my interests in photography, I left with infinitely more. My photography had definitely improved after the internship with Melissa and, even throughout the week the technique behind each picture noticeably improved. My favorite pictures came after I learned the area and how to properly shoot in the venue, which unfortunately came later in the week. As I continue with my education at The Ohio State University, and throughout professional school, photography will remain one of my predominate hobbies. There is a remarkable improvement in quality of photos that I have taken recently, with this STEP project functioning as the main springboard due to the introduction to proper photographic techniques.


The arguably more important developments weren’t even photography related. As I continue to pursue medical school, and eventually a career in healthcare, both self-confidence and personability will remain essential. Having faith in your decisions, and remaining confident that you will be able to accommodate any situational changes is at the center of a diagnosis. Medicine is far from a perfect science, and thus this adaptability and ability “to think on your feet” will be essential for success in a career in medicine. Additionally, while it is necessary for a doctor to be able to treat the clinical disease, they most certainly also need to have good bedside manner. Part of this is being able to converse with a patient and develop a relationship even if the two do not share anything in common. The patient’s mental health is just as important the patient’s physical health. This relationship that develops from a single conversation could mean the difference for the success of a treatment. Patients may withhold information or not follow their treatment instructions if they are uncomfortable with their physician. Thus, much like the development of my photography skills, this STEP project spurred the development of personability throughout my professional endeavors, and I have already experienced some of the benefits this semester.

The following images are some of what I’ve edited. Many more are to come, but will be upload to a separate Google Photos Library.

Step Reflection – Ryan Wires

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


I spent the summer of 2017 designing and programming a video game in Gamemaker Studio. Along the way, I wrote out my thoughts and documented my work in an online blog at, where you can also find a download link to the game itself.

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


During the course of this project, I learned a lot about both myself and the work of people in creative fields. For one, I got to understand the feeling of creating a big project and showing it off to people I know. I’ve done big projects before, but none of my own volition, and none which I could share so personally. I discovered firsthand that, even though people tend to think of creative work as “easy,” it’s not at all. By the end of the project, I was mentally drained to the point that it affected me physically as well. But most importantly, I learned how much I can actually accomplish when I have a deadline to push towards, and how difficult it is for me to reach anything otherwise.


  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?


For me, one of the most important moments in the project was during the fourth week of development. I was with family for the weekend, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the game I was making. I would sneak off to work on it even when I probably should have been talking with people I likely wouldn’t see for a month or more. I realized what I was doing to myself late in the weekend, and finally put the laptop down and enjoyed just hanging out, even if it meant I was going to get a couple days behind the schedule I had set for myself.


After I stopped for a couple days, though, I found it incredibly hard to start back up again. I was already behind schedule, so what harm could one more day off do? That day turned into two, three, then four. It took me a while to both realize that I was only making things worse and force myself to get back to work. It felt like every bone in my body was resisting even looking at the game’s code. But once I was able to readjust my schedule to account for the time I spent off work, I was ready to sit down and begin again.


I had a similar experience coming back after my second gap in development, where I stopped ahead of time to go on a family vacation and get my wisdom teeth removed. I think it’s interesting that my deepest learning experiences didn’t take place while I was coding, but when I was taking breaks from it. In retrospect, it makes sense – while I was working on, every part of my brain was focused on trying to make the game as good as I possibly could. I worked on weekends and late into the night, and even had the game follow me into my dreams at times. There was no room for introspection, just action. But those pauses allowed me to really understand my work and myself along the way.


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


A couple obvious valuable results instantly come to mind – I have a great addition to my resume, and showing off a cool thing to friends is its own reward. However, I think the most important thing to come from the project is my understanding of my own work habits. I’ve always struggled with time management and getting myself to work on projects. Now, I have a whole lot of evidence telling me that the way I can actually get things done is by setting clear deadlines, and ideally telling someone else to hold me responsible. That piece of knowledge will follow me all throughout my academic and professional career, allowing me to start – and finish – whatever I set my sights on going forward.

Step Reflection

Joshua Lococo 

Building a Computer 


This summer I built a computer from scratch.  I bought and researched all of the components of the computer and made a PowerPoint slide detailing the process. 

My assumptions of computer making and expense changed while I was building the computer.  I was introduced to all the concepts of computer building and how expensive a computer can get.  The difference in price range for good computer parts to top of the line computer parts are drastic.  I was tasked with finding the components that were the best deal and also offered the performance I was looking for.  I have always been a bargain shopper, so when I was looking online for the parts it was something I was used to.  I found parts online and used a website that shows whether or not they are compatible.  When I found all the parts that I was looking for and put them into the website, I used Amazon to order the parts and wait for them to arrive. 

The main interaction that fostered the change was doing the research online for the parts.  This process was long and allowed me to build a great computer.  There are many resources online and plenty of people willing to help out.  Since this was my first time I wanted to make sure I really got a good grasp of how to do this, so I am appreciative of all those resources.  It is because of those resources that I wanted to make sure that I made something other people could use to help them out.  That is why I made the PowerPoint including the information on what materials I used and how they get put together.  This also showed me that the world is willing to help out.   

This is important in my professional career because I will be able to ask people in the same profession for help.     If I run into a problem I know that there are people out there that are willing to help me.  I will also be able to help people and read a variety of different papers and interpret what they are saying and how that information is going to help me.  Going forward in my academic and professional career, having this opportunity will help a lot in understanding and other skills I acquired.  

STEP Signature Project Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was participating in Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Six the summer of 2017. I spent a total of 200 hours training in vinyasa yoga. I received training in teaching classes, how to assist all the poses, different pranayama (breathing) techniques, meditation, and the business of yoga. At the end of the my training, I received certification in yoga allowing me to teach at various studios.

Going into my yoga training, I did not realize that my personal definition of yoga was completely different than what it really was. For years I had been attending yoga classes but not fully understanding the history or intent of the practice. By going through training, I now have a better understanding of what it yoga actually is, what it means, and how it can help me better my life. Before training, I had defined yoga as more of a “workout” but now I totally see it as a “practice” or a “way of life”. One thing I learned in yoga training was that yoga does not end at the mat, but rather it is meant to be implemented in one’s daily routine.

From this realization, I began to welcome yoga more into my life. Before my training, I had a myopic view of the world. I was not very spiritual and did not take time to be myself and welcome my thoughts and feelings. At the end of my training, I realized that I began taking time out of my day to thank myself for my hard work and created a better relationship with myself. My yoga experience was not just limited to the 1 hour practice a day, but it was incorporated into my 24 hour day. Through my STEP Signature Project, I have not only learned an immense amount about Eastern meditation, medicine, and practice, but I have also learned how I can use yoga to better myself and my daily interactions with others.

What really implemented this transformation for me was the people I met. I was able to participate in a YTT group of 17 women and 4 experienced yoga teachers. Having this small, close-knit group of women invited different perspectives, ideas, and opinions to my Vinyasa education. With all the women being different ages, ranging from 19-60, so many different ideas were brought into my training allowing me to better understand the practice from different backgrounds and age groups.

I also really appreciated how my yoga teachers were so willing to help me during my training. Part of my training required me to attend numerous yoga classes outside my scheduled yoga training and my yoga instructors gave me the best insight. If I attended one of their classes, they would assist me in a pose, give me constructive criticism, or help me work myself up into a challenging pose such as handstand. Their help allowed me to discover realms of myself that I had never delved into before and broaden my moral and intellectual understanding of yoga.

Additionally, I was required to have 10 personal practices at home where I would lead myself through a vinyasa flow. I found these moments of solitude and mindfulness to be extremely helpful in my growth. By taking time to be vulnerable and surrender my mind to myself allowed me to think about how my breath felt in my body and not how others told me it should feel. This practice created the ultimate personal relationship with myself that I hope to never sacrifice. I never thought being alone and being in communion with my breath, body, and mind would be so beneficial to my overall livelihood.

Lastly, my friends and family, who supported me throughout my journey, helped me immensely throughout my journey. I was so thankful to have generous roommates who would allow me to practice teaching yoga on them, siblings who would let me assist them in poses, and close friends who kept up with me throughout my training. I was also especially thankful for one of my close friends who encouraged me to also adopt a healthier lifestyle with my diet. Honoring my body with the food I ate was such a rewarding process for me and I was so glad to have a friend who guided me through it. Having a healthier overall lifestyle enabled me to discover my body and what serves it best.

This transformation is just the launch pad for the rest of my life. A month after I have received my certification, I have already been hired as a yoga instructor. This has been an incredible experience for me because not only is my yoga practice set in stone, but I get paid to do what I love and share this experience with others. I plan on keeping a yoga instructor job for the rest of my life even throughout the ups and downs of life or a full-time job. I love that this healthy, mindful practice can be something I get to do every day and I get to share it with others.

STEP Reflection

Brief Description:

For my STEP project, I spent the summer building a desktop computer that would perform not only speedily but also efficiently. The goal was to learn more about how to build something such as this computer, as well as increase my skills as an engineer with this hands-on experience.


This project helped me to see exactly what it takes to build a computer. During this project, I was able to truly see how every part is bought and put together to create the final product of a working computer. This made me realize why these products may cost as much as they do, as well as why they are able to perform all of these possible functions. From this, I was able to get a greater idea on exactly what makes up many of the devices that we rely on from day to day. I also was able to increase my knowledge on circuits and other things that I have briefly touched on in my engineering courses thus far. This was necessary in order to make sure that things were put in the right places so that the computer would work as it is supposed to. I believe that these skills will help me if I ever have a computer or other device that breaks, so that I may be able to fix it.

Key Aspects:

The first aspect of this project involved deciding which parts to purchase for the computer itself. I asked my younger brother who had built a computer before as well as some of my friends what parts they used when building theirs, as well as doing some of my own research. When I had decided what I wanted, I purchased each part on Amazon and had them sent to my house. This part showed me just how much goes into a computer, and that one small part can cost many hundreds of dollars!

Secondly, I was required to build the computer. I, again, had my brother and his friend help me out with the actual building process. They were sure to make me do the actual building, but we used their knowledge as well as information on the internet to make sure that things were being put together correctly. This took a good whole day to put together, but it was a fun and interesting experience where I feel that I learned a lot. There are certain parts of a computer that I did not know existed before this project, and there are many things that I did not expect to go where they went in the motherboard.

I lastly had to get used to using this new computer. I currently own a Macbook Air and am not able to use the software required for my engineering classes on it. I think that having this desktop will be helpful not only for those programs but my other homework since it works quickly and efficiently. Overall, building this desktop helped me to increase my hands-on skills I already had, as well as gain more knowledge about computers and technology in general.

Significance of this Change:

This change listed above is very important, firstly, for my education. In my classes, we are taught many different things but it is not too often that we are given a hands-on experience in order to use what we have been taught in lecture. I found being able to use what I knew about not only circuits but other things that were taught in my First Year Engineering classes was very satisfying. Also, this change impacted my personal life in that I bonded more with my younger sibling in building this computer. I also plan to use this project in my future professional life as an example of me taking the skills I have been taught in the classroom and using them to benefit my own life.

STEP: Photography in Colorado

Brief Description:

I went hiking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and took photos along the way. The goal was to experience physical and mental challenge while learning about photography.


Before completing this project, I was always so intent on where I was and what I was doing. It was important to me to pay attention to and appreciate my surroundings. While this is still something I value, I realized the impact of the people you are with, not just the place you are exploring. I have hiked with family, with friends, with strangers, and alone. Each time was a unique experience, and each time I came away from the day with a sense of accomplishment. Comparing the days, I noticed a difference in the emotions I felt when reflecting on the day. When I was with people that challenged me, brought out interesting conversations, and had fun personalities, I was more energized and excited after getting home. I was content and inspired in a way that I didn’t feel as strongly when alone. Through this process I realized the difference between the effects of spending a day alone vs. spending time with my family vs. spending time with an exciting group and when each would be most beneficial to me based on emotions and needs at the time. I have become more aware of my ability to choose who I spend my time with and it is an incredibly useful transformation to take with me through the rest of my life.


On one clear Saturday, my family thought to drive to Morrison to hike for the day. We hopped in the car, drove 40 minutes to the trailhead, and started hiking. We had a nice afternoon enjoying the views, casually chatting, and joking around. Thinking back on this day, I appreciate my family more and more. I remember feeling comfortable, content, and worry-free. These are days that are necessary to split up the activities of everyday life. Between days of work, it was easy to feel tired and fall into a schedule of just sleeping or watching TV when not at work. I was thankful to have my family to suggest ideas, like hiking, to get us out and about together, to make my life more active. It is important to be with people, in my case family, who you are as comfortable with as you are with yourself. This way, you do not feel at all like you need to put on any type of show or attitude/personality and you are able to commit to a days activities without it feeling like added effort. This summer I came to appreciate my family time, such as days like this hiking day.

It was fourth of July weekend. I had gotten off work for the long weekend and had planned to drive to Winter Park in the mountains with a friend from high school. For our first full day there we set out for a half-day hike across the mountains surrounding the ranch that is nestled in a valley in Granby. We talked through the entire hike, discussing our thoughts on our college experiences, our excitements about futures, as well as our worries about the coming year. We each brought unique experiences and perspectives, while agreeing on a majority of feelings and plans. After the hike I felt invigorated and comforted knowing that another person had the same ups and downs that I did.

These experiences were very different, yet both provided positive experiences and worthwhile relationship building. I believe different types of relationships are beneficial, even necessary, to build perspectives, gain insight, ignite vigor, allow relaxed fun, and all the aspects of life that make it worth living. The two very different days I experienced made that clear to me, and I now acknowledge the differences of my relationships and work hard to pull out the best parts of each.


This transformation in how I think about my relationships will positively impact the rest of my life. I am aware of what each relationship brings to the table, and when I need to focus on certain interactions more than others. I am intent on being cognizant of when it is time for me to be alone and focus on myself, when I need to entice excitement by hanging out with friends who will have probing discussions, when I need my family to make me content and comfortable, as well as the advantage of professional relationships. I will continue trying to learn about the value of relationships.

Step Reflection

Frank Tavolilla


Artistic and Creative Endeavors




  1. My STEP project was to transform my body and get out of my comfort zone. To do this, I strategically timed all my meals, counted all macro and micronutrients, and worked out in a manner that would yield optimal results.



  1. My view of the world changed significantly. I realized that the people around me are eating terribly. The average American is consuming much more sodium than they should be, and this causes health issues. I also realized that in order to really change your body, you need a crazy amount of self-discipline and patience. The bodybuilders that you see on TV do not get nearly as much credit as they should. The sacrifice of time and commitment is extraordinary. I felt as if every waking second of the day I was thinking about my next meal, or my next workout. I assumed that bodybuilders were just taking steroids, and that’s why they were always so much bigger than me.



  1. The competition I performed at was a national qualifier, with a roster of men who dedicated their entire lives to the fitness and bodybuilding industries. The negative stigma around bodybuilders is that they are conceited, and very self-centered. However, on my journey, my mentor Nick Topel and even the men and women at the competition truly cared about my development as a bodybuilder and as a person.


My mentor Nick Topel laid out the foundation that I needed in order to be successful on my journey. He created this routine for nutrition that he shared with me, for me to innovate and play with as I saw fit to best aid me on my quest to the stage. The show itself for me was an amazing time. I did not win but I was happy that I tried as hard as I could and my parents were proud of my dedication to the process.


The interaction with the stage, the interactions with my mentor, and the relationships I gained the day of the competition are something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Even the hard working days in the gym commanded respect from some of the biggest guys in the room, which made me feel like I was finally working hard for something and truly seeing results. I will cherish the lasting friendships that I made of the course of my project.



  1. This change is extremely valuable for me. I finally learned how to eat healthy and live a happier, more productive life. The self-discipline that I gained is something that cannot be taught, but rather forged through countless hours of hard work, failure, and commitment. This project is significant for my life because I can finally help my parents lose weight and lead happier lives. They’ve tried all different types of diets and workout plans, but in the end knowledge is power. I finally understand how to go about constructing a diet and workout regimen to aid in achieving one’s goals. The self-discipline that I have gained will help me with my time management skills, especially academically, and in the years to come where I will look to open my own gym and help others with their goals.