Second Year Transformational Experience Program (also known as STEP) at Ohio State is a program for second year’s living on campus or in an approved greek facility.

Ohio State’s Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) was developed as a continuation of the university’s effort to redefine the student experience. Before STEP was implemented, The Ohio State University commissioned a study to identify the predictors of second-year student success and they were found to be:

  • Participation in campus events
  • Living on campus
  • Peer interaction
  • Interaction with faculty
  • Institutional Commitment

STEP provides all of these to me. At first, I was apprehensive due to the time commitment to join STEP, however, I am so glad I decided to do so. I have found that STEP has provided me the opportunity to prepare myself to be an upperclassman in college.  As terrifying as this might sound, I have been equipped with more resources, connections, and knowledge moving forward.

One of my favorite parts of STEP is the signature project that follows the program. Following my recent change to Civil Engineering, I decided I wanted to gear my project towards outreach in Civil Engineering.  Because of this, I found multiple service-learning opportunities internationally that sounded very interesting to me. I plan to use my grant from STEP to travel overseas to put my civil engineering education and experience to a good cause.

STEM EE Scholars 2nd Year Interview Project

As I have mentioned multiple times before, I have a strong passion for the themed entertainment industry.  More specifically, I one day hope to design and construct roller coasters all over the world.  One thing about the themed entertainment industry is that it is very small.  Because of this, it is important to get to know as many people as you can.  It is a very close-knit community of professionals, so if one professional can recognize you from conferences, interviews, etc., it can only help me in the long run.  Because of this, I chose to interview Jonathan Wocher of The Gravity Group, LLC. Gravity Group is located in Cincinnati, OH and specializes in wooden roller coasters.  The company has multiple projects globally and is highly successful in their coasters.

As a mechanical engineer, Jonathan works primarily on the trains of the rides.  He personally has only worked on trains for most of his time with Gravity Group.  A lot of the coasters are similar in size, so a lot of the mechanics of what he does can be carried over from ride to ride.  Since I primarily want to focus on the structural aspect of ride construction, I asked if Mr. Wocher had done any of this himself.  He said that for the most part, he has worked strictly with mechanical tasks such as parts ordering, project management, to name a few.  Since the Gravity Group is a small company, however, he said that most of the engineers do a little bit of everything.

Jonathan ranges from working on one to five projects per year. Most parks that are not full-season open at the same time, making the demand for coasters high in the offseason.  He said personally his first projects are the most memorable.  He mostly worked with drafting and enjoyed rides like Zippin Pippin, Dueling Coasters in China, Twister in Sweden, and Quasi (timberliners), each using different details. It was exciting for him to be able to implement new concepts into wooden roller coasters that have not been used before.

Ever since he was a kid, Jon was interested in roller coaster design, as was I.  He, therefore, tailored his career in engineering towards that. It was a goal for him to be in the industry but he was not going to count on it due to the small, competitive nature of the industry.  He stated that he still could be in a career that he enjoys without being a roller coaster designer. In general, he knew regardless he would be in a career he enjoyed. Engineering and roller coasters went hand in hand for him in his education and early career.  In addition to his mechanical engineering major, Jonathan was a business minor.  He said he very much enjoyed is business classes and said they definitely helped him develop himself from a management standpoint.  He also took additional classes such as C++ to supplement his degree. Overall, he says his degree was worthwhile and he’s glad of how it turned out.

As a final word, Jonathan Wocher instructed me to continue to do what I was doing.  He said I have a good vision in mind of how I would like my career to turn out.  Despite this vision, he warned me not to pick an “ideal” job right now due to the high number of options in the industry, and to stay open to new opportunities.  He told me to always keep checking to make sure what I am doing is in line with my goals, and to make sure I never stop learning skills that will help me in the long run.

Finding the right major, even if it isn’t before I get to college.

I always think back to high school when I knew I wanted to major in engineering.  I picked mechanical engineering because I knew that it was the broadest and would most likely match up to my theme park design aspirations. Throughout my first year, although I got off to a rough start, I feel like I got a good idea that I wanted to stay in my major. However, this fall, it hit me that I wasn’t in the right place for myself to truly thrive.

I examined my talents and aspirations again and soon came to the conclusion that my true passion lied in Civil Engineering from the beginning.  I now wonder why I didn’t enter this major, to begin with.  After re-evaluating my academic plan and looking through the possible classes I could take, I re-fell in love with my major. The classes were things that I found much more interesting than I ever did with mechanical engineering.

This idea played into the Engineering Expo career fair at Ohio State.  After talking with employers that were looking for civil engineering majors rather than mechanical engineering, I realized that this was the industry for me.  I can’t wait to see where this change in my academic career takes me.  Going forward, I have a much stronger feeling of motivation, because I know that I’m working towards something that I am more passionate about. I am confident that I made the right choice changing to civil engineering, and I encourage anyone to remember that it is never too late to start all over!

Sauder Manufacturing Company Internship – Summer 2018

I often find myself forgetting all of the opportunities that I have for myself in my own hometown.  I was able to put this thought behind me and embrace these opportunities this past summer while working for Sauder Manufacturing Company in my hometown of Archbold, OH. Through this experience, I was able to get a grasp on all levels of engineering that play into running a manufacturing company.

From working with maintenance to ensure that all the machines are running properly, to helping design prototypes of furniture pieces going into production, I truly got a view of all areas of the company from the “blue sky” stage to the production stage.

I especially enjoyed my time in new product development as the New Product Development Assistant.  In this position, I was able to put my previous SolidWorks experience to the test by designing new prototypes of a new sleep chair that was going into production.  Through this, I was able to learn more about technical communication through the assembling of the bill of materials as well as using SolidWorks PDM to be able to organize the work and optimize the process between all members of the new product development team.

Because of this internship, I became a better version of the engineer that I aspire to be.  Classroom knowledge is vital when it comes to an engineering profession, but some of my most valuable lessons thus far have come from professionals that mentored me and worked alongside me.  I cannot be more appreciative of Sauder for allowing me to learn so much from them.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds thanks to this amazing opportunity!

WOW Outreach Experience

Today, I had the opportunity to work with a pretty awesome program. The Wonders of our World (WOW) program is an outreach program in which Ohio State students travel to various Columbus City Schools locations to give interactive workshops on different science topics such as sound, physics, or birds as I worked on today.

WOW allowed me to travel back to my younger days in elementary and middle school when I was figuring out why I loved science so much. I loved being able to reach out to the other students and interact with them and educate them about birds. A lot of these kids have little to no interest in these topics initially, but I loved being able to see them light up and really take a genuine interest in what I was sharing with them.

STEM education is crucial in K-12 education, especially in the early stages. STEM careers are the future of our society, and if we do not have enough students growing up wanting to obtain a career in a STEM-related field, then we are in big trouble. If a student leaves their school ages hating learning, then the education has failed them. However,  if an interest in STEM and love for learning, in general, can be captured, then the future is in their hands. One of the coolest benefits of STEM education is that it fosters that interest and love for learning new things. It takes that passion and drive that kids have and uses it to solve our world’s problems in engineering, medicine, and science and math.

I would have never gotten the opportunity to be a part of this great program if I was not a part of the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Exploration and Engagement Scholars Program. I am forever thankful for the doors it has opened for me and the opportunities like the WOW program it has allowed me to be a part of.

SKYnext 2018

If there’s one thing I have learned about the themed entertainment industry, it’s that its small, and its growing. Fast. In order to stand a chance in this industry, you have to put yourself out there. You have to be willing to get your name out and do all you can to learn more and more about the industry itself.

I was able to do this when I was granted the amazing opportunity to attend SKYnext two weekends ago. At this event, I was able to hear from industry professionals and hear more about what they do, their story about getting into the industry, and their tips on how to do the same. Not only did I sit and listen to these incredible individuals speak, I was also able to interact with them, talk one-on-one, and take their advice on my next steps. I was also able to talk with other students and recent graduates about their experiences. I learned so much from the professionals, but also the students. We exchanged information on what worked for us and what our plans are.

A big takeaway from this event was that this industry, although competitive, is extremely connected. Almost everyone in this industry knows everyone else. Because of this, it is possible that I was attending this event with possible future colleagues, and although they may work for another firm down the road, we have the ability to help each other reach our goals.

I cannot express my gratitude for the employees not only of Skyline Attractions for hosting but also for all those who came in to speak with us. Because of their time that was given to us, we are all one step closer to achieving our dreams. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the industry in the future.

Engineer for a Day 2018

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to do something that involved working with hands-on projects, math, science, and design. I never really thought hard about being an engineer until early high school. I ever got pushed to think about being an engineer when I was in middle school, and do not recall ever being informed on what exactly an engineer would do for a living. Today I had the opportunity of granting this to middle school students of Columbus. As a volunteer at Engineer for a Day 2018, I was able to take my past and present experiences as a mechanical engineering major at OSU and inform kids about the major and why I chose it.

Middle school students, for the most part, usually will not find being an engineer very exciting. I’ll admit, too, that if someone asked me if I wanted to crunch numbers for the rest of my life when I was 13 years old, I would probably say no too. But being able to help them understand all the possibilities with an engineering degree was priceless.

When I saw their interests growing when I told them about NASA projects and some of the labs I am currently working on in my engineering class, I saw myself, as a middle school student, wondering what I would decide to do with my life by the time I became old enough to go to college. It was a great experience to help them take another step in their education and earl professional development.

First Semester Reflection

The first semester of college is always quite the undertaking. Sure, being on your own and meeting new people is a great time, but when you mix it with an added level of responsibility and newer, harder classes in which you aren’t prepared for, it turns out to be a big change that not every person is cut out for. This semester has been packed full of challenges and victories, all of which came together for a pretty interesting experience.

The autumn semester of my freshman year of college was overwhelming in the best way possible. Throughout the past few months, I have been able to challenge myself to try new things and step outside of my comfort zone. When I first came into college, as much as I thought I was ready, I found myself at a loss. I was often unsure where exactly to turn and if I would be able to adjust properly. However, looking back now, I am so glad that I decided to trust the process and stick with it all. I am so excited to see what will happen next in my educational journey.

STEM EE Scholars Interview Project

This project granted me with the opportunity to engage with my university and the community. I was able to interact with people that I may not have been able to otherwise. Because of this, I am now more connected to my school.

It was especially helpful to be able to communicate with Dr. Wyslouzil and Isa C. Fernandez-Puentes. Graduate school is something that I am strongly considering, so it was good to get insight into the process from my graduate teaching assistant, Isa. I am also wanting to complete research opportunities before finishing my undergraduate, so it was helpful to discuss these opportunities and how to get involved with Dr. Wyslouzil.

Please click on the link below to read more about this opportunity for engagement.

Alex Short – Interview Project

Making a Childhood Dream a Reality

“A roller coaster.” That’s what my answer was to my mom as she took a home video of me on our camcorder and asked what I wanted for my fourth birthday. “A roller coaster, mom.” Not any new toys, not money, Hot Wheels, Legos; nope – a roller coaster.

My childhood love for these scream machines may have been something that was, at first, just a wild dream. However, as I grew and matured, I soon noticed that it was something that I actually wanted to make happen. Heading to Cedar Point at least once a summer was one of my favorite activities, to the point in which I set up a job shadow at the park during my junior year of high school. I had the pleasure of observing Robert J. Decker, Cedar Fair’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Design, go about his daily duties as a theme park designer, and getting more exposure and insight to the field.  I even got the chance to be on-site of the new, record-breaking roller coaster, “Valravn”. A photo from this experience can be seen above. This experience provided me with more than I could have ever imagined, and I now know that I would have completed my goal if I can end up in a position like Mr. Decker’s in the theme park design industry. This small but rapidly growing field is something that has caught my interest more and more over the years, and I am now in love with the aspects of engineering and design behind roller coasters and other theme park attractions than I ever have been before.

Coming to Ohio State was no exception to this. Before coming to campus, I became aware of a group that focuses on these exact interests, Theme Park Engineering Group (TPEG). Throughout the first few months of TPEG, I have already found a community of people that I can openly express my affection for roller coasters with, without being thought of as the kid with some wild dream.  Through the group, I have already begun to get involved by becoming an official member, helping out with projects, and making plans to attend the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo this month. TPEG is a great opportunity for me to network, gain more exposure to the field, and collaborate with people with similar interests. Because of this, TPEG has become one of my favorite activities here at OSU and I am so excited to see where the group takes me.