First Year Review: Spring 2019

Before starting my first year at Ohio State, I thought college was going to be a lot of memorizing facts to pass classes in order to graduate. I thought college was simply a continuation of high school, just with a more flexible schedule and semester-long classes. However, after starting my first semester, I realized my original ideas about college were very wrong. Unlike high school, simply memorizing facts in college will get you nowhere. After my first few midterms that did not go as planned, I realized that professors cared a lot more about how you think about the information taught in class instead of if you memorized the material or not. This was a huge shock. I spent my entire K-12 education memorizing facts and procedures that I knew would show up on tests, so I had to completely change my study habits and mindset towards classes. Although this was a difficult change to make, it has helped me grow intellectually. I no longer worry about memorizing every little detail about a subject, but rather I focus on the thought process behind everything. In the real world, you can look up various information when you need it, but you cannot look up how to think critically about a challenging problem. This has really helped me understand the purpose of college: learning how to think.

Along with a new idea of what college is about, I also developed different academic expectations for myself. In high school, I maintained a 4.0 without much of an issue, and I thought I would be able to continue this in college if I put in the extra work. However, this year really taught me that getting a 4.0 is not necessarily the most important thing. Getting a 4.0 as an engineering student would require countless hours of extra work, stress, and pressure. Instead of using my extra time to perfect my grades, I could use this extra time to grow as a person. Although my grades are still a priority, I have also been able to be a part of a scholar’s program, work on campus, meet new people, and attend various campus events. These out of the classroom experiences have helped me determine my likes, dislikes, and goals for my life beyond college. Discovering these things about myself would not have been possible if I allowed myself to be consumed by my course work.

Overall, I believe this past year has been extremely beneficial to me not only academically, but personally. I have learned how to better manage my time, how to prioritize what matters to me, and how to take care of myself like an actual adult. I’ve met new people with different cultures and lifestyles, and I’ve had countless new experiences and opportunities. This year has changed me for the better, and I look forward what other changes the next three years will bring.

Global Awareness: STEM Current Event

In recent years, climate change has become a more prevalent political issue. Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has brought more attention to the issue of climate change with the Green New Deal proposal. The Green New Deal focuses on climate by proposing to stop the use of fossil fuels entirely, rely on zero-emission energy sources, update all buildings to be more energy efficient, revolutionize travel to use electric cars and high-speed rail, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions of farmers. The deal also suggests non-climate related issues such as guaranteeing a job and quality health care for every American [2]. Although the deal proposes these ideas, no programs or actual solutions to these issues will be created by passing the deal. The deal would simply affirm that actions need to be taken to fight climate change within the next ten years.

The goals the Green New Deal aims to achieve by 2030 are simply not feasible. Within ten years, every American would have to start driving electric cars, gas stations would need to be converted into charging stations, and high-speed rail ways would have to be constructed. Not only would this be a major construction project, but the price of exclusively using clean energy would be substantial. The Green New Deal would argue that the clean energy industry would be a source of new jobs and would therefore help the economy. In 2016, the solar and wind industries have increased the number of jobs by 25% and 32%, respectively [1]. However, although there is an increase in the number of workers in these clean energy industries, the amount of power produced is significantly less than the fossil fuel industries. According to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2016, coal workers produced 7,745 megawatts of power per worker, natural gas produced 3,812 megawatts of power per worker, and solar produced 98 megawatts of power per worker. With these statistics, it would take about 80 solar workers to produce the same amount of power as one coal worker. This undoubtedly creates jobs in the clean energy industry, but this also increases the price of clean energy since more workers must be paid to produce the same amount of power.

Even if the United States could afford the cost of reconstructing its infrastructure and paying more clean energy workers, the actual amount of time that it would take to completely switch to clean energy would be greater than the 10 years that the Green New Deal proposes. A postdoctoral environmental fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School stated that stopping all carbon emissions by 2050 would be an “enormous challenge” that would require more rapid reductions in carbon emissions “than have been achieved historically” [2]. Additionally, the carbon dioxide (CO2) that has already been emitted will affect the atmosphere for thousands of years to come. Even if all CO2 emissions were to stop today, approximately 20 percent of the CO2 would remain in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years [3]. Although the future of the Earth may seem bleak, it’s important to remember that actions taken today can still make a difference. However, politicians and citizens need to create realistic goals and understand that their actions might not have direct results that they witness in their lifetime.

On March 26, 2019, the Senate voted on the Green New Deal. The deal failed by a vote of 57-0, with 43 Democrats voting present instead of taking a stand for or against the deal. Aggressive actions need to be taken to help prevent farther warming of the Earth, but these actions need to have realistic timelines. If the Green New Deal was revised to reach its goals by 2050 or later, the proposals it lays out might not seem so dramatic. Also, if the deal focused exclusively on climate change initiatives instead of employment and health care, which are already highly controversial political topics, it may receive enough political backing to pass. Until these changes are made or a new, better constructed deal is proposed, the United States will continue wreaking havoc on the climate that will have consequences for generations to come.

 

[1] https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/01/f34/2017%20US%20Energy%20and%20Jobs%20Report_0.pdf

[2] https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-releases-green-new-deal-outline

[3] https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2010/12/common-climate-misconceptions-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide/

 

Transferable Skills

Although my resume highlights my past achievements and jobs, a few things that aren’t explicitly stated on my resume are my transferable skills. As a student and employee at The Ohio State University, I have improved and gained many transferable skills throughout my time as a first-year student.

As an engineering student, I have taken two courses that are focused on the engineering design process and teamwork. In both of these classes, I have been a part of a four-person team tasked to complete various assignments throughout the semester. The first course focused on programming a MATLAB game and the second course focused on researching, designing, and testing an autonomous electric vehicle.  Regardless of the project my team was working on, the ability to work well with my teammates was crucial. I quickly learned that delegating tasks based on each team members’ area of expertise was most effective and that setting team deadlines a few days before the actual project deadline was vital to ensure all of the work was cohesive and complete. Along with learning how teams can be most productive, I have also learned how to manage conflict within teams. On several occasions, team members have either not submitted their work on time or their work was not satisfactory based on project guidelines. Due to this occurring, I now have experience with confronting someone in order to have an open and honest conversation about their work. Being able to talk openly with team members, even when the situation is uncomfortable, is a skill that I will continue to use whenever I work with a team.

As an employee, I have learned a great deal about personal motivation and time management. I currently have two jobs working as an office assistant at Ohio State’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Building and working as a remote office assistant for the Canal Winchester Chamber of Commerce. With both jobs, I work 10-20 hours a week. As a full-time student, I would not normally want to work two jobs. However, since I am paying for my own college education, I need both jobs in order to afford my next semester. Paying for college and working multiple jobs requires a great deal of personal motivation and time management skills. I constantly balance the course load of a full time student with two jobs so that I can eventually achieve the future that I want: graduating college in four years with minimal debt. Achieving this goal will not be an easy task, but I am determined to put in the work and make necessary sacrifices in order to achieve my goal. The ability to be motivated to achieve a goal and manage my time wisely is applicable in numerous situations and I will continue to use these skills throughout my personal and professional life.

Although I have gained these skills within my first year at Ohio State, I know that as I grow as a student and employee, I will continue to gain even more valuable, transferable skills. These skills will ultimately help me find a job upon entering the workforce as well as make me a more well-rounded individual.

Creative Code Project

During my first semester at Ohio State, I took a Fundamentals of Engineering course. In this course, students are assigned to a group of four people that they work with throughout the semester to complete various assignments. After learning MATLAB and the engineering design process, each group was tasked with creating their own MATLAB game. Most groups created one main game with one to two separate mini games to satisfy all the project requirements. My group, however, decided to create one game with two mini games integrated into the main game.

Although integrating all of the games into one was not going to be an easy task, my team was determined to complete this challenge. We had to not only program the entire game, but we also had to document our progress on a project website. My team quickly decided that the best way to complete this assignment was to assign each person a specific portion of the game that they would be the “expert” on. The person assigned to a specific portion would be responsible for coding and documenting that portion of the game.

I had never worked with four people to complete a coding project before, but this project helped me see the value in delegating tasks. Creating the game would have been much more challenging if we tried to write all of the code together. Dividing the tasks and having an expert in every area of the game made it much easier to discuss the project as a group. Whenever something was not working properly, we knew exactly who we needed to ask about how to fix it. We were also able to monitor our progress more efficiently since we could easily tell who had done their work and who hadn’t.

After all of our hard work, my team finally had a finished MATLAB game at the end of the semester. The game, called Adventure Awaits, was an adventure game in which players navigated through various dungeons and earned XP to defeat monsters. After a player successfully made it through a dungeon, they would be able to play a mini game, War or Sevens, to gamble their XP for future levels. To better understand our game, watch the video my team made advertising our game.

When reflecting about the game my team made, there are various ways in which the game could be improved. For example, the graphics could be improved and the monsters could move instead of remaining stationary. Despite these areas that could be improved, this project helped me understand the importance of trust when working in a group as well as the need for delegating tasks. I look forward to applying these skills to various other coding projects in the future.

 

Semester Review: Fall 2018

During my first semester of college, I have learned many new things both in and outside of the classroom. However, the most valuable thing I have learned this semester is how to deal with failure. Since starting college, I have been challenged in new and unexpected ways; I am enrolled in difficult courses, I am away from my friends and family for the first time, and I am still trying to figure out what being an adult truly entails.

During high school, I completed several Advanced Placement and College Credit Plus courses, but none of those classes compare to the courses I am enrolled in now. Adjusting to the pace of college courses has been harder for me than I anticipated. I have to put a lot more time into studying outside of classes than I did before, and I also have to learn how to fit taking care of myself into my study schedule. These adjustments, which I am still learning how to make, have affected how well I have been able to perform on exams. With poor performance on my exams, I have earned grades that I am not particularly proud of.

Although I wish I could be doing better in a few of my classes, I am thankful for the lesson I have learned throughout this semester: no one can be perfect at everything. I may be having a difficult time in some of my classes, such as physics, but I am still excelling in other classes. Two of my classes, Introduction to Java and Introduction to Engineering, involve programming. My ability to learn programming concepts and syntax quickly has allowed me to excel in these classes.

Not performing as well as I would like in some of my classes has helped me understand that adversity is inevitable in some situations. However, how I react to this adversity is entirely up to me. I have chosen to learn from my mistakes rather than to dwell on them. I have developed new study habits, attended more office hours, and improved my ability to adapt to new situations. These new skills will not only help me perform better in future semesters, but they will also help me adjust more quickly to different teaching styles that I encounter. Hopefully, with these skills and the skills I learn in upcoming semesters, the transition to college and adulthood will be more manageable.

First Hack OHI/O

Last weekend, October 27 and 28, I participated in my first Hack OHI/O Hackathon. Before coming to Ohio State, I had attended hackathons before. However, I had never attended a 24-hour, non-stop hacking competition. When I first learned about this event, I was intimidated; how could a freshman with minimal college experience be able to compete against older, more talented students? I spoke with several students and teachers before the event, and they all recommended participating in the event simply for the experience of teaching myself a new skill. I did not truly understand how I could benefit from such an informal learning environment until I was at the hackathon.

At the hackathon, I was surround by over 700 students who all had the same goal: create something amazing. Everyone interpreted this prompt in various ways, and projects ranged from robotics and virtual reality to software apps and websites. For me, the first few hours of the hackathon were spent trying to figure out what to make and how to make it. My partner, Avery Warner, and I both had different programming backgrounds. I had only ever worked with Java, and Avery had worked with R. For our project, we wanted to create something that would help better inform individuals about natural disasters, specifically hurricanes, in their area. We decided to create an easy to use application that allows individuals to see the path of past hurricanes, their wind speed, and their category classification. Since R is used to tidy data and create clear data visualizations, we used R to create an RShiny application.

Although Avery had worked with R before to tidy data, he had never used R to create an RShiny app. I learned quite a bit about tidying data from Avery, and we both learned a lot about making RShiny apps together with the help of Google. Throughout the process of creating the app, it was very easy to become discouraged when concepts became harder to understand. However frustrating the application became, I was able to learn a valuable lesson: anyone is able to learn a new skill if they are willing to try. I never really considered, or appreciated, how much information is at our fingertips thanks to the internet. This hackathon helped me realize that no one knows how to do everything, but being able to teach oneself new concepts and adapt to new environments is a skill that is often underappreciated.

The application that Avery and I built, called IMPACT: Hurricane,  is far from perfect, but it was the first step to improving my ability to learn new skills without formal instruction. I am very grateful for the experience that Hack OHI/O provided me with, and I look forward to improving IMPACT: Hurricane as well as teaching myself new skills in the future.


A screenshot from the IMPACT: Hurricane application created during the hackathon

My AspireIT Program

During my senior year of high school, I won an Aspirations in Computing Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). Winning this award not only introduced me to a supportive community of women in computing, but it also provided me with a $3,000 grant  to lead an AspireIT program. An AspireIT program’s main goal is to encourage K-12 girls to explore technology and pursue their technological interests. I was very excited to lead an AspireIT program and share my passion for technology with others, however leading such a program requires leadership, communication, and various other skills.

I spent the majority of summer 2018 planning, organizing, and budgeting in preparation for my program in August 2018. My program, called “IT & Me: Pathway Exploration,” exposed twenty-two 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls to programming and engineering concepts over the course of three eight-hour days. I planned a field trip to COSI, catering for breakfast and lunch every day of the program, a 3-D birdhouse design challenge, and a BOE-Bot robot competition. Although organizing this program was no easy task, the real challenge was implementing the program.

Throughout my program, several events occurred that required me to improvise and quickly decide on the best course of action. On the second day of my program, a student that had not registered for my program showed up to participate. On the third day, the restaurant I had placed a lunch order with accidentally discarded my order without making any of the food. Both of these situations required me to act quickly as the program leader and decide what to do moving forward. These situations were some of the first times in my life that I was forced to make a decision quickly with immediate repercussions. It was also one of the first times that the decision I made was completely my own. I did not have anyone guiding me on what to do; I had to choose what was best for my program.

Overall, leading an AspireIT program helped me improve my leadership, organization, budgeting, and decision making skills. Very few 18-year-olds can say they have managed a $3,000 budget and taught a class of twenty-two students. I cherish my experience as an AspireIT leader not only for the lessons I learned while leading such a program, but also for the impact I was able to make on young girls’ lives. I exposed multiple girls to the power of technology, and several of my participants decided to enroll in technology courses in school as a result of attending my program. I will never forget the excited looks on each girl’s face as they ran their first computer program, and I look forward to the next opportunity I have to share my passion for technology with others.