What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

The culmination of my STEP project is a premier solo EP album which I performed on, wrote for, and produced. The EP consists of original compositions and arrangements for a small ensemble. Over the course of several months, we rehearsed the music and prepared it to perform in a studio context. With assistance from my friends and colleagues, both musicians in the ensemble and audio engineers, we recorded and mixed the tracks in the recording studio. Following the track detailing, we prepared and compiled the individual recordings into a cohesive EP album.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

The project was a very significant milestone in my career as a musician. It is incredibly meaningful to have recorded audio of my own work, a tangible format representing the culmination of my studies as an undergraduate. It was even more meaningful to be able to share the experience with my close friends. Over the course of two academic semesters, we grew individually and as an ensemble to mold a sound and style that was wholly our own. These elements are what supported my writing and made each piece strong. After the recording session, I was physically and emotionally very tired, because we had all poured out a lot of energy into making the recordings sound as good as they could. It was a very blissful feeling of exhaustion. One of the most significant parts of the experience was learning how to execute tasks and how to utilize techniques from my peers. The knowledge each of them shared was invaluable and has informed all aspects of my musicianship. I was grateful that they were able to identify my weaknesses and constructively help to better the product. I observed that I enjoy taking on a leadership role, but try to remain conscientious of what others are contributing. I make an effort to continuously check myself to ensure that I avoid any allusion to dogmatism.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

The experience was a significant culmination of the concepts that I have learned as an undergraduate. The project allowed me to apply learned recording techniques and processes. From microphone setup to mixing, I was responsible for executing numerous critical tasks in the studio. I also exercised the ensemble directing techniques that I had learned through participating in musical ensembles of various genres and sizes. And most critically I performed my own work in a recording session. Each of these elements were essential cornerstones in building my academic and personal career as a musician. This milestone in my musicianship is an excellent point for analysis. Not only can the project act as a presentation of my music, suited for venues and booking agents, but it serves the purpose of a project for self-critique. I will reflect on the project, informing my maturing musicianship and artistic direction.

STEP experience

Upon receiving an opportunity to obtain a STEP scholarship, I was initially lost in a sea of images of traveling to help a distant community in need or possibly learning more about the volunteer and fellowship options in my own backyard. However, as I progressed nothing seemed to fit. I knew I wanted to branch out and move beyond the scope of my major; to push myself in a new direction I may not have otherwise considered.

As I progressed through my weekly cohort meetings, I found myself mesmerized by the stories my professor told regarding the history of the campus architecture. She walked us through the trails and buildings I would have otherwise never noticed. As she did, she shared a rich history and provided insight into architectural mechanisms we are affected by so often without notice. For example, on the first day she began by taking us to the oval. She had us stand on the steps by the Wexner Center and look out onto the oval. I never noticed before, but the oval forms a small, shallow bowl-like structure, with the highest points near buildings and the lowest point near one of its center circles. It draws people in and encourages community and congregation, as it was meant to do. We continued our journey that day and I went on to my homework and classes. However, I found myself constantly thinking of the stories she told in the back of my mind as I made my way through the week until the next meeting. When my professor suggested something involving architecture, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Ultimately, I ended up designing my own curriculum for a Maymester class with the guidance of my STEP professor. I researched several architectural sites and practiced sketching a diverse array of features. I met weekly with my professor during the May term via Skype, where we would discuss my progress that week and plan for the next week accordingly. I traveled around the area near my home looking for places and objects to sketch. We also discussed some of the history of city planning and public spaces and compared its use in Spain to the United States. I would try to take note of various features that caught my eye during this time. During June, we met frequently and sketched a new location each time, discussing the importance of the site and its social and architectural significance.

When I was in Spain, I actively drew various locations visited, as well as took pictures and notes. I frequently discussed daily activities surrounding buildings and public spaces with individuals native to the area. This was also an excellent time to discover some of the dissimilarity that exists between the many regions of Spain. I was able to meet people from the area when visiting from Pamplona, Barcelona, and San Sebastian.

In Pamplona, I was able to attend the Running of the Bulls with a family that has been in the area for a long time. The architecture was much older and the city plan was based around a time when the town had to be walled. The borders and walls changed with the complexion of the city. Today, many of the remnants of those walls can still be seen. It was also incredible during this time to have the opportunity to get to know a large family that has been in the area for a long time. I had the opportunity to go with the to a churro shop open only three days of the year, one being that morning. They also walked me through the majority of the city and the various parts. It was incredible to see the areas that were clearly within the walls of the old village and those that have been built up in the past hundred years. After the walk, they showed me an old club in which the membership is passed from generation to generation over the course of hundreds of years. The tradition was that the men cooked and served the women. The inside was grand and filled with exposed columns and features that actually are embedded in the walls of more modern stone. The architectures flips from buildings made of stone with grand courtyards and smaller spaces for streets and rooms and then into a very modern-looking area with spacious apartments that look as if they could be in a city in the United States.

Barcelona was my first and last experience in Spain. It was filled with the lively and distinctive eating and culture. My favorite architectural site in Spain was in Barcelona. Here, the Sagrada Familia is still under construction, as funding trickles in from the local community, tours, and members of the church. Upon first inspection, the outside was massive and haphazard. After looking much longer, however, the story of how each feature was intertwined with another and the evolution of the features added to the church as time progressed became apparent. After going inside, I remember being struck by the light and magnificent design. Having visited cathedrals in the past, I did not know how much such a naturally inspired setting would add to the grandeur and energy of the space. The ceilings were held up by columns that were designed like trees and windows were placed strategically to play on the features of the natural light. After that, I was able to see many other features that Gaudi brought to the city, such as the park and a set of buildings downtown.

Barcelona also had an incredible local culture, very different from that of San Sebastian. Here, I was able to see a series of cafes that were designed for casual outdoor eating quickly transform into a location where people can pick up their meal quickly and head home, depending on the time of day. I was surprised to see people not only ordering hamon sandwiches as take out, but also seafood, shellfish, and cuts of meat that I could not discern. Even young children seemed much more open to trying various cuisine. I ended up just outside of a public square that was recently built to try to bring more people to that part of the city. The town had bands come in in the early evening and recently built shops and tapas bars. It seemed incredibly busy, but after speaking to someone in the city, I was told that just months before the area was entirely different. There was very little to do and the area was a much less favorable location to be.

San Sebastian was the most scenic location to me in Spain. It was a quiet town in Basque country near France. Surrounded by smaller villages, the area was bustling at all hours of the day. One region had a shopping district that attracted many tourists and the other was residential. The residential area made use of much more outdoor space for apartments than I have seen anywhere else. It seemed that almost everyone had a large wrap-around porch filled with plants to the point where it would be impossible to see someone standing outside. During the day, the village all seemed to be in the shopping district or by the water. An island nearby became a destination for many people during the day. After speaking to someone that teaches at a university in Spain, I was told that many retired community members would swim out in the morning, stay for a beer and a small lunch, and then leisurely swim back to the main land. Having attempted the swim once, I would find that to be incredibly taxing to attempt everyday. In the evening, I went out for pinxos, as was a typical dinner option for the members of the town. Its was incredible how individuals or pairs would walk comfortably between restaurants and have something at each destination, fluidly conversing with whomever else happened to be outside. I was told that it was a small and very community-driven area. Steps in the middle of a busy walkway became a place for people to sit and converse without upsetting the heavy flow of through-traffic. Even without knowing any Basque, I felt engaged in the community as people asked me questions and told me excitedly about the town in which they lived. While there, I also got to see an old-fashioned amusement park and a variety of cathedrals. Everything was much smaller and more spread out. The public spaces appeared to be part of an older city plan near the main street and in other places somewhat more modern. Here, I also got to hear some of the folklore associated with the town.

From my journey, I have been able to sketch and see things beyond just the image. I learned how to look beyond the details in favor of trying to capture an idea or only aspects in which I want to convey. I also learned how to let go and move beyond the concern that my drawings were not that of an experienced artist, but held meaning and content that helped me to gain new insight. I stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced a new field of study altogether. In the process, I was able to learn an incredible amount about a country and people rich in history and the way in which they utilize architecture to suit the specific culture of a city. In my meetings with my professor, I was able to take away a huge sense of inspiration to continue to pursue things out of my comfort zone. As she inspired me with news pegs regarding modern day architecture and shared snippets of history and tips for drawing, I found myself fascinated by the subject matter in a way I continue to find I bring up when walking through the oval or past Orton.

The greatest impact the trip will have on me moving forward is my interest in seizing unique opportunities as the come and constantly trying to think about how things such as architecture are affected by such a wide variety of social factors. I also learned the benefit of pursuing something that may not immediately fit the most typical option. I ended up having an experience that was unrelated directly to my field of study, but that has ended up having an incredible positive impact on my academic experience. This year I found myself showing around a student that is new to OSU and ended up focusing nearly the entire time on things that I learned during my STEP experience. I intend to take my newly found interest in architecture and try to learn more about the areas in which I travel and more about the area in which I live, constantly asking how something came into being and what is its significance now.

The Drive Documentary


During my STEP experience, I made a documentary about the sport of rowing and started a new hobby of making videos related to rowing.  At first, the project was going to be a short video featuring the members of The Ohio State Crew.

Why The Ohio State Crew?  As a rower myself, I have always had trouble explaining why I would undertake such a sport.  Being on a club rowing team means intense 5am practices, a limited social life, an early bedtime, and the actual running of a high maintenance and very competitive club; it does not seem like the ideal college experience for most people.  But there’s something about rowing- something indescribable that makes going to bed at 8pm in college seem miniscule.  I, too, struggle to explain exactly the feeling that one has rowing in the wee hours of the morning.  Thus, I decided to find out why my teammates rowed.  After interviewing most of my teammates, I decided to expand the questions to the alumni.  That would be cool, right?  So, I reached out to the club’s alumni, including Bryan Volpenhein, three- time Olympian and men’s head coach of the U.S. National Rowing Team .  To my astonishment, he not only replied to my email, but seemed enthusiastic and genuinely interested in my video project.  Bryan Volpenhein’s response caused me to expand the project and reach out to more rowers.  By the end of the year, I talked to numerous former National team coaches, Olympians, rowers not only from coast-to-coast, but across the world.

Rowing is usually a sport spread by word of mouth with a limited amount of information online, so I decided to expand my short video to not only capture the spirit of rowing, but explain the fundamentals of the sport.  In order to do so, I did an immense amount of research and spoke to various experts on the different angles of rowing.  This eventually led me to tour one of the most well-known racing-shell factories, Vespoli, located in New Haven, Connecticut.  In the same trip I was also able to interview Volpenhein and several members of the national team at the US Rowing National Training Center in Princeton, New Jersey.

Realizing the amount of valuable information that I gained and would not be able to fit in the documentary, I decided to also start a website.  This website is a new addition to the project and constantly under construction.

So What?

I found the STEP experience to be life-changing.  When I first undertook the project, I was expecting to have a small creative outlet while taking pre-med classes.  However, the project expanded to much more than that.  It allowed me to share my passion for the sport to others, discover an extremely strong network of people, and become even more immersed in a subculture that I already loved.  I had never before had the courage to approach strangers, let alone ask them about the root of their passion.  This project forced me to explore an entire list of skills by myself:

– How to approach others with confidence

– How to write professional emails

– How to do in-depth research on a subject without much online information

– How copyright rules work

– How to both film and edit videos and sound

– How to create short animations

– How to use programs like Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Audacity

These experiences pushed me extremely far out of my comfort zone to a standard that I never thought I would be able to reach and could not be more proud of.

Now What?

The skills that I learned through this project helped me make the decision to change my major from the Biology and Pre-Med route to Art and Technology.  It gave me the confidence to pursue my artistic passions, and is clear that the confidence and decisions resulting from this project have put my life on a completely different projection.  Overall, because of this project I have met my idols, some of the most extraordinary people in my entire life, gained a different and broader perspective on a sport I already loved, changed my academic route and thus my life goals, and gained the confidence to do so and continue pushing forward.

The final result can be viewed here: http://www.thedrivedocumentary.com/


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STEP Experience – Adventures through Europe: Public Health & Family

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

My trip through Europe was focused on two goals: learn more about my McArthur family history and gain first-hand experience with public health practices and views outside of the United States. I talked to my grandparents before my trip to Europe to gain as much information about my family history as possible. Once I was in Europe, Ireland specifically, I searched for my family name through a family crest data bank. I was able to learn about the immigration history of the McArthur Family into the United States. In addition to a data search I traveled throughout Ireland to explore the landscape, experience the regional differences in the cities, and visit landmarks that helped me gain a better understanding of where my family came from. The cities I visited in Ireland were: Dublin (Capital), Kilkenny (Smaller, inner-island city that contained Kilkenny Castle, which was built in the 12th century), Cork (Larger, south cost city that had a much larger population than Kilkenny and was in close proximity to Blarney), Galway (West coast city that has a very traditional cite center). I traveled by bus and train to each city which allowed me to view the rolling green landscape that covered most of Ireland between the cities. In addition to varying in size and location, the cities in Ireland also varied in their public health aspects. In each city I observed the environmental pollution due to city planning and transportation, asked Irish citizens about their personal health care experiences, evaluated the accessibility to health care facilities and pharmacies, and observed the promotion of public health and the resulting awareness of the citizens. My goal of gaining first-hand experience with foreign public health practices also took me to London and Paris.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

The overall experience had both personal and academic impacts on me. The trip was the first time I was traveling internationally with an itinerary that I had planned myself. I have traveled to Peru previously for charity, but the trip was preplanned and there were chaperons to guide us. I was nervous to tackle such a big challenge, but I learned how to make backup plans and balance the timing and budget of a demanding itinerary. Since my experience I feel that I have become much more culturally competence. Ohio State has been a great introduction to the diversity of the world, but it was completely different to be immersed in a culture that was different from my own. As for the academic impacts, this experience has deepened my understanding of public health and strengthened my desire to further my public health education. I really want to gain hands on experience in the public health field after graduation and once I have a grasp of the field outside of the classroom I plan to return and obtain a Masters of Health Administration. I also want make my public health pursuits international and I would love to return to Ireland for part of my career.

My public health goal for the experience was to gain first-hand experience with health practices and views outside of the United States. In Europe I learned that the access to health care facilities and pharmacies are much better, at least in the larger cities. Instead of large chain pharmacies there were many smaller family pharmacies. I also learned that the government regulation of controlled substances is less strict. My travel companion had a sinus infection during the trip and he was able to buy pseudoephedrine without any form of identification. When he asked why there is no ID requirement the pharmacist told him, “We don’t have the same problem with drug abuse as the US does”. I also observed the health habits of the European citizens throughout the trip. I noticed that many of the Irish smoked and even though I did not observe any facilities with smoking inside them, I frequently walked by pedestrians smoking. The conversations I was able to have with the European citizens were the most insightful. Right before I was about to fly back to the United States I was walking through US customs in the Dublin Airport and the customs agent asked me why I came to Ireland. I told him I was exploring the health care access and different aspects of public health in Ireland. He was shocked, but very excited about my travel purposes. He told me he was originally from the United States and had married an Irish woman who worked as a nurse in Dublin. He told me about the poor work benefits the nurses receive and the influence the government has in the health care field. He told me that most of the city bus drivers make more money annually than nurses do because they often use strikes as a way to increase their benefits. He felt that the nurses would never strike because it would put all of their patients at risk and the government has taken advantage of that by not paying them as much.

I originally thought my family was from Ireland because that’s what my grandparents had always believed. However, I found that the McArthur family had originally moved from Scotland and into Ireland during the industrial revolution. The McArthur family moved to the United States beginning in the early 1700’s and migrated through Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. It was a very insightful discovery into my family history and I brought a copy of my family coat of arms back with me.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

Moving forward I am really excited to keep working in the public health field. My freshman year I started as a pre-nursing student, but it just didn’t feel right. I switched my major to public health and found the course material very interesting, but I knew there was a difference between learning the material and working in the field. I had the opportunity to gain hands on experience through the March for Dimes organization, but I still desired to understand the public health scheme on a global scale. The STEP experience provided me a glimpse into the international realm of public health and I am very excited about the passion I felt during this experience. After graduation this spring, I plan to gain work experience, hopefully in a hospital administration position or in a non-profit company, and then return to school to earn a Masters of Health Administration. My ultimate goal is to work as a director of a hospital and have the power to make health care impacts on a large scale, especially in regards to access. The experience also inspired me to think about the global public health impacts I could make and created a goal to work in a foreign country, especially Ireland, at some point within my career.

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STEP Reflection                                                                                            Kelly Schnecke

STEP Experience: Artistic & Creative Endeavor


During the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to create an original documentary from start to finish. My funding was devoted to supplies such as a DSLR camera and a laptop for video editing. I was inspired by my hometown, Chicago. The documentary highlights the historical and modern societal implications that can be seen through public parks in Chicago. The United States experienced a paradigmatic shift in use of public space throughout the 20th century. The Chicago Park District created its first park (Lincoln Park) in 1843, after prolonged lobbying from residents. In creating this first park, Chicago created a legacy of dedication to public green space. The Latin motto of the city is “Urbs in Horto” or “City in a Garden”. As the city expanded, so too did its Park District. The Chicago Park District evolved with the needs of its constituents.  In the beginning, small parks in crowded neighborhoods served as a respite for its tightly packed residents.  The focus of the Park District expanded to not only serve as a respite for residents, but also to promote values such as physical health and environmental conservation. It expanded later yet again to incorporate tourism.

Chicago, North Avenue Beach © Kelly Schnecke

North Avenue Beach, Chicago © Kelly Schnecke


So What?

As a lifelong Chicagoan, I assumed myself to be fairly knowledgeable about the city. The making of this documentary taught me that there is always more to learn. I outlined my documentary based on my working knowledge of the parks and their societal impacts at the time (April/May). However, over the course of the summer, I reworked the script to accommodate new information. This included adding new information to each section and even changing the sequencing of each scene to better reflect the true narrative.

The process of filming each scene was incredibly enjoyable, though required far more time than I anticipated. On sight filming required careful planning. Many of the parks were accessible through public transportation, others were simply not feasible to get to that way. Once at each park, I often re-shot the same perspective multiple times. I valued my time at each park as the time to get as much material as possible.

Lincoln Park, Chicago © Kelly Schnecke

Lincoln Park, Chicago © Kelly Schnecke

I greatly underestimated the amount of time and dedication it would take to complete this project. I learned through perusing film blogs that a standard rule of thumb is “one hour of editing for every one minute of video”. My completed documentary is 30 minutes long, which would equal 300 hours of editing under the given formula. I did not track my hours by week, but I could certainly believe it.

Editing was an arduous process. Though I had carefully planned my videography, I still ended up with far more material than I could ever use.  I took hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures and videos. I obsessively nitpicked my material, adjusting everything in post-production.

Even narration took longer than anticipated. Since I had a completed script, narration seemed like it should have been simple. Wrong. It took well over 100 takes to successfully record the narration for the documentary. I believe that many of these takes could be chalked up to inexperience. It was easy to flub a word at the end of a scene and need to re-record the entire thing. Though some parts of the documentary came together organically, narration was not one of them.

Once I had successfully compiled the narration, videography and soundtrack, it was time to adjust levels. I watched the entire documentary at least ten times through just for the purposes of audio leveling, meticulously listening for places that needed help. I listened with headphones, I listened without. I shut my eyes to just hear it without the visual distractions.

Once I had nitpicked the documentary from start to finish, it was done. I realized how I could happily continue to make small changes forever. I loved the process of making the video. It was entirely self-structured and I loved having freedom of expression. Having to make changes taught me adaptability; having to devote so much time to its creation taught me perseverance.


Now What?

I am a senior studying Psychology and Spanish. These majors offer a certain degree of freedom of expression, which I have enjoyed greatly. However, I rarely get the chance to create new original content. I had never made a video project prior to this experience. Each step of creating this project taught me something new. Screenwriting was an entirely new form of writing for me, one that I hope to be able to use again in the future. Editing was possibly the most useful part of the project. I improved not only abstract personal principles such as adaptability and perseverance, but also incredibly practical skills. I learned how to use a DSLR camera and principles of photography that I will carry with me. I also learned how to use Adobe Premiere, a skill I have already had the chance to use again. In Spanish 5689S (Spanish in Ohio), we created digital narratives. I applied all of the skills I gained from my STEP project to create a high quality video.

Going forward, I will be able to use these skills in many contexts. Academically, I will apply my skills to any and all written work. Most of all, I hope to someday use the skills I have gained in a professional context. I aspire to become a bilingual speech language pathologist, a career that requires dedication, patience, creativity, and flexibility. My STEP project has positively influenced my life in every conceivable domain.

-Kelly Schnecke, STEP 2014


Urbs in Horto: City in a Garden – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBHuPxSx-3s

Blog about making documentary – https://u.osu.edu/chicago/




STEP Reflection- Neurologic Music Therapy


My goal was to gain knowledge on Neurologic Music Therapy in hospitals and clinics in Tacoma, Washginton and Denver, Colorado. I shadowed Neurologic Music Therapists during their therapy sessions with stroke and traumatic brain injury patients and patients with developmental neurologic disorders such as cerebral palsy, Parkinsons’, Down syndrome, autism. The age group I was exposed to ranged between infants to the elderly. In addition, the sessions of which I shadowed varied. Most one-on-one sessions involved music instruments used for attention and motor skills. The group sessions I shadowed which typically consisted of patients with Parkinsons’ involved the use and practice of motor and vocal skills. I worked within the institutions’ policies on patient privacy. My intent was to learn about various approaches to using music therapy in whatever way enabled me to see a range of those approaches in action.


So What?

With all of the exposure to the different methods used in Music Therapy, I learned the power of music in really being able to change the lives of people. I learned the importance of using music as a means of practice in developing and sustaining proprioception, attention, swallowing, motor, auditory, and vocal skills. In addition, because this was my first exposure to patients who experienced traumatic brain injuries, I learned that the collaboration between physical therapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists is vital. In one session, for example, I got to observe a physical therapist and music therapist working on walking skills with a patient who had a stroke. The music therapist used an auto harp to create a rhythm for the patient to move her legs along to. While the Music Therapist played the music, the physical therapist was able to help guide the patient’s weaker leg during movement. In this case, the therapists’ collaboration helped with rehabilitating the use of the patient’s weaker limb that was affected by the stroke. Overall, this experience exposed me to cases that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see. For example, I got to meet a 3-year-old boy who, as an infant, had a stroke which proceeded with repeated seizures. At 3 years old he had the right hemisphere of his brain removed. Seeing how he could function with his inabilities was absolutely incredible. The exposure to this was eye opening and humbling because it showed me how delicate life is and how strong the human body can be. It solidified my future goals as a future therapist treating patients with developmental neurologic disorders.

Now What?

Academically, being able to interact with people with traumatic brain injuries, developmental neurologic disorders, and Parkinsons’ gave me the chance to apply what I have been learning in all of my Neuroscience classes. It offered me the chance to visualize and better understand the clinical aspect of Neuroscience. Personally, aside from the educational exposure to all of the neurologic cases, I also got to explore the cities I shadowed in. I went hiking in the most beautiful places and got to enjoy some great west coast seafood. It really appealed to the adventurous side of me. Additionally, I got to visit some of the graduate schools in those cities and decided to apply to the Occupational Therapy programs there. In regards to my future goals, I hope to become a therapist and impact people in ways that these neurologic music therapists have. Being an active brother and President of my service fraternity, I have always been passionate about offering my service to the community. Becoming a therapist is one of the ways that I can contribute to my community, among other ways as well.

Starscape: Creativity Through Game Creation

I have always had a strong passion for games; they have influenced me in countless ways and have helped to shape my life.  For most people games are just something to do, but I have always felt that they can be so much more.  So for my STEP experience I decided to make one.


I spent my STEP experience carefully planning and creating a game that I wanted to make.  The hardest part may have been that planning and decision phase, but the challenge really drove me to see it through.  My initial plan was to create a game that used the Oculus Rift hardware to create a fuller experience; I wanted to make something that was immersive for whoever came along, whether or not they usually found themselves drawn to games.  I needed to pick something that would lend itself well to this kind of player perspective and after many changes and a lot of brainstorming I found what I was looking for.  I decided to create a game that would capture the relaxed joy of stargazing I used to experience as a child, camping across the country with my family and looking at stars that weren’t washed out by city lights.  To me the stars have always been a calming thing and I feel deprived of the ability to just look out the window and see them on a clear night.  There wouldn’t be a goal really, but I wanted to provide an immense open sky to fill with whatever constellations the player might see in it.

My initial work started in a game engine called Unreal Engine 4, which was a cheap, high quality engine with Oculus Support already incorporated.  The commonly used free Unity engine, utilized in many of the classes taught here at OSU, did not have this hardware support at the time I was doing research on what was best to use.  I spent a lot of time learning how to use the Unreal Engine tools, but the learning curve is very steep as it is a piece of professional software with limited documentation and I found myself stuck on simple problems, stagnating.  At some point during this time, the next free version of Unity was released, version 5, which did have Oculus Rift support.  I spent some time reevaluating the pros and cons of switching engines, but I had made so little actual progress in Unreal that I felt it was the better choice to use Unity.

This turned out to have been the right thing to do, and I quickly made progress building the environment of my game.  I wanted it to feel realistic so I used grass that swayed in the wind around the player and I positioned the view with a look at the trees and hills surrounding them.  The rest followed more slowly; I gradually learned how to use Raycasting to fetch an individual star, set up random instantiation on the surface of a sphere to create unique skies, and draw lines between them to create constellations.  My initial testing work was done with a mouse for looking around, the complexity of bringing in the Oculus not yet worth it since it wouldn’t have helped with basic testing anyway.  But by the time I was ready to pull it in, something had changed in the supposed computer hardware requirements, and my PC was somehow no longer compatible, though it had been only a month before.  I spent even more time trying to find out how to revert the software or trick it into being compatible again before realizing I needed to give up on that portion of the project if I were to finish.

With the Rift headset no longer the plan for player motion, I decided that a controller scheme would work best; most gamers are well accustomed to using a gaming controller to control their view camera.  While this gave me much more trouble than I would have thought, Unity not being particularly well-built naturally to accept controller input as I wanted, I was able to use my Xbox 360 controller for the game.  After this it was just a matter of final steps; I created a user interface, or UI, system for the game and at the last moment decided I wanted players to be able to save their constellations to look back on.  I added a screenshot system that took a picture of where the player was looking and saved it to their computer. With this final touch the game was complete.

So What?

For much of my STEP experience I was dealing with some serious personal health problems, and because of this there was a period of a few months at the beginning of 2015 where I found myself unable to work on it entirely.  The stress of my other issues combined with my regular classes made progress difficult to achieve.  But as the end of Spring semester ended, I was learning how to better deal with that part of my life and I was ready to return to work on this.  Due to this, a lot of my memories of how I felt throughout the experience are linked to that hardship.

While this experience was often frustrating and was definitely challenging for me, I look back on it with fondness.  It was, after all, the creation of my first game and I learned a lot from it.  I was sure that I could do it if I put in enough time and effort and I’m overjoyed to see that it was true.  The joy I felt as it slowly came together was what kept me going when I wasn’t sure how to complete the next task or whether I would ever be able to finish it.

Now What?

Dealing with those issues in my life while trying to focus on this project turned out to be a big challenge for me, but I was able to prove to myself that it was possible then and I would be able to do it again in the future.  Once school had ended I started a full-time summer internship, but even with that I found that I was able to juggle work and my game together.  Because of this, I now know that in the future I am capable of having a normal steady job while being able to work on projects like this that I am passionate about in my spare time.  That in itself was a huge step forward for my career and life goals, as I have long wanted to work in the game industry but have been wary of the current state of the large companies within it.

I always knew that making a game would be hard, but it was one thing to think about doing it and another entirely to actually push myself to figure out how.  I am a competent programmer, but so many of the obstacles I faced were far outside the scope of anything I had learned in class.  The technical challenge of a game even as simple as this was at times beyond what I had imagined.  At times I felt discouraged by the amount of work in front of me and I doubted my ability to even complete the project.  But looking back I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish.  While it was incredibly difficult at times, I was able to do it and prove to myself that if I put in the time and effort I will be able to continue making games as I want to.

I plan on revisiting Starscape again once school is over and I have the consumer version of the Oculus Rift available to work with.  While I am happy with what I made, it isn’t the immersive experience that I initially dreamed of.  I will work hard to turn it into that fully so that at any time I can lean back in my chair with the headset on and gaze up at the stars.

STEP Reflection: Drawing


My STEP project belonged to the Art Education category. The project allowed me to practice art, particularly drawing; the project also allowed me to explore other mediums besides graphite pencils—mediums like watercolor pencils, charcoal, and chalk pastels. The purpose of my project was to prevent the attrition of the artistic skills I haven’t exercised since 9th grade, especially since I do not have the time to take an actual art course in the span of my college career. I used the STEP funds to purchase art supplies, practiced sketching; and after sufficiently reminding myself of the fundamentals and studying drawing techniques, I proceeded to create actual work that could qualify as finished art.

So what?

I decided to do my STEP project on the Art Education category because I thought it would be more personally beneficial if I did something that I absolutely could not and would not do without funding, and this happened to be art. I have won a number of art awards during the earlier part of my school career, but have virtually stopped all activity in this direction once I had completed my art electives back in 9th grade. Once in college, it became clear (before STEP came up) that art was no longer an activity I can practice, and that I was going to lose my artistic skills through this lack of practice. Just imagine being told you would no longer be good at something everyone said you were very good at because you thought you did not have the time work at it. This kind of a situation motivated me to use STEP to enhance my Art Education.

I was of course delighted when the art supplies arrived from Dick Blick and Faber-Castell. Naturally, they were wonderful. Having tools of that caliber motivated me to do a fantastic job, and made the experience a lot more pleasant (they do not break easily and they were responsive). The project itself was harder than I thought, contrary to what I expected, because in a certain sense I had to relearn what I have forgotten, and I have totally forgotten a lot of things (the theory behind and the implementation of drawing, for example). In some cases I had to teach myself how to operate on relatively exotic medium, like water color pencils—which if I had known earlier that they would be so fun, I also would have attempted to try full-blown watercolor painting. But I was happy to be able to engage in an artistic endeavor again, and found it to be both challenging and relaxing because it was so different from the other activities I typically do (overwhelmingly engineering and science related).

I am pleased that I no longer face the danger of “art attrition”, and I am also pleased at my discovery of a new destressing activity. Practicing art also makes me a well-rounded person, because I get to explore other endeavors beside the one I am most comfortable with. This project also made my OSU education more valuable since I was able to learn and engage in activities that were not explicitly or implicitly part of my major.

Now what?

This project has allowed me to pursue something I never imagined I would pursue. It has helped make me a better-rounded person, because I was able to engage in an activity outside of my major. It has also given me a serious and permanent hobby, so I can occupy myself by doing something creative instead of just engaging in some passive activity, like watching movies. This project also makes me more appreciative of artists, because it gave me an inkling of what it takes to create serious art. Besides, I also learned a lot about art itself.

Here are some sketches I made of two people I admire:

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STEP Project Reflection: Making a Short Film


For my STEP experience, I decided to go with a creative endeavor project in film making. I’ve always had a passion for photography and I always wanted to expand this passion into film making. As a chemistry major, I don’t have much time to indulge myself in my passion for the arts outside of my course load. Thus, when the STEP opportunity arose, I had to take it because it gave me to an excuse to do something creative during my college career.

For my actual project, I made a short film about jump rope and why this sport is important to me. Jump rope is a sport that I got involved in right around the time I had to think of a STEP project. Since not many people know much about this sport, I thought it was the perfect subject matter for my short film. With my funds, I bought a new camera, a Sony a65 DSLR, and accompanying accessories and video editing software.

I spent the summer filming shots of me jumping, as well as researching about the sport of jump rope. I also did some research about filming/editing styles through watching videos of famous directors on YouTube. After filming, much of the time was spent editing my short film. The end result was a 10 minutes long video reflection of how much the sport of jump rope means to me.


So what?

What I learned from my STEP experience

The biggest challenge of my project was planning the time to actually film and edit when I was busy with my classes and work schedule. I initially planned to film during the school year of my junior year, but it soon became super difficult to fit the filming in. Thus that time was used to do research on the sport of jump rope, as well as researching the video style I wanted my short film to reflect. I finally found the time to film all the footage when summer came around. But from this experience, I also learned that it was a lot easier to film than edit. Initially I thought it wouldn’t take me to a long time to edit all the footage I captured, but having so much footage, it makes it difficult to pick the right one and fit it with the vision you have for your short film. Also, the skills I have learned through shooting my short film can also apply to my photography skills. It’s amazing how much I managed to learn while playing around with this new camera.


Now What?

From this STEP project, I’ve learned that sometimes life is not all about studying, especially for a physical science major like myself. Sometimes, a person needs a creative outlet. Growing up, I had a creative outlet in the form of playing piano, but since coming to college, I lost that creative outlet. Through making this short video, I got back in touch with my creative side and that itself as helped me personally. Sometimes I become too focused with school that I lost the creative side of my personality that makes up a big portion of my life. Having a creative outlet has helped me become a less stressed version of myself.  Moving forward, I hope to utilize this newfound creative outlet by making more short films in the near future.

Maymester in Ecuador -Amanda Tenorio

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The purpose of this trip was to gain service-learning through partnership with the University of Cuenca in Ecuador. To put things into perspective, our group contained both undergraduate and graduate students. A lot of our experience there involved reflecting on our cultural integration as well as learning the problems with the understanding of “leadership”, global issues related to immigration, and community stories exchanged from the elders.

So What?

We were each divided to assist teachers in the school in the country side that we were assigned to. The majority of the time I spent playing soccer with the 5th graders looking at this glorious view above. Gardening was a part of their curriculum and they were fascinated by our American status. They had so many questions and they idolized America as the most amazing place in the world. They had very few computers and their internet connection was limited. Many of the children valued sharing with one another therefore anything they had they were willing to share with us. The kids were taught to knit as well. We were helping out by providing assistance to the teacher we were assigned to. Sometimes we were told to teach the kids English words when the teacher became busy and had to step out. Because of the limit in teachers, they were usually occupied with a variety of tasks at once but they try their hardest to give their full attention. A full meal with beans, rice, plantains, and salad at the school cost only 2 USD.

The economic system is very corrupt. Politicians make $7000 a month, while our tour guide makes $375 a month and college graduates make no more than $2500 a year
at most. Their staple foods included potato soup, corn, and homemade juices. Many Ecuadorians traveled by bikes. You are considered a gringo even if you’re from another hispanic country. Anyone not born in Ecuador is considered gringo. It’s custom to have a huge lunch and a small dinner in the evening. In Quito, there were many selling fabrics to foreigners in order to make some kind of money for the day. Street art is common and they even have competitions among different schools to see who makes the best street art. I’m not sure how the “best” art is determined but whoever wins this competition gains funding for their school as a reward. There were many political street art statements in regard to a revolution. The gay scene was very taboo. I did not dare bring it up with my host mother. We had to find a whole in the wall place in order to even find any kind of gay friendly environment. There they had security guards to pat down everyone who entered to ensure the safety of the gay community members inside because of the hate crimes that occur.
Everything was relatively cheap in comparison to America. Bathrooms did not come with toilet paper so you had to go to your grocery store and buy your own to carry around.

Our program coordinator made sure to keep emphasizing that this was not going to be a traditional stereotyped service learning experience where we go to a country and build a house, and then think we impacted the community. We unpacked what it actually means to provide service and the basis of it was just listening and making sure to be there in whatever way the community asked us to. The most important of all is to just listen.
Our reflection groups included conversations about the difference of experience between the white students abroad versus the students of color. Our coordinator is following up with the community we were exposed to by asking them survey questions in the future in regards to if they felt that we actually helped them since a lot of service learning groups do not bother to ask, especially in terms of a long term impact.

As stated before, I learned the importance of listening to the Ecuadorians when it comes to helping their community. I learned that having students from various ethnic backgrounds on the trip means that dialogue has to happen on issues of diversity rather than ignoring them. I had an instance where I spoke up to the group about people of color not having to be responsible to educate a white person on what was said that was offensive. It brought a deep discussion with all the students and opened up dialogue where other students of color also spoke up about this in agreement as well. This was a reminder for me to constantly continue to learn and explore when it comes to sexism, ableism, classism, and marginalized identity issues because it is no one’s responsibility to educate myself other than me. I made a very valuable friendship with a graduate student named Rachel. Rachel made me realize how privileged our group was in our travels because no accommodation had been asked for people who may not be as able bodied as others. I didn’t even think about how all the hiking, walking, and climbing we were doing could affect students in the group who had knee or leg pains like Rachel. It was insight to my own physical privilege.

The Ecuadorian culture reminded me of my culture with both sides of my Dominican and Colombian culture because of the warmth in generosity and the feeling of being welcoming and sharing. I think many Hispanic cultures stress the importance of that love.

All the alone time that I had and isolation from my loved one’s made me contemplate the purpose of my existence and what I am doing with my life. Watching the culture in Ecuador made me realize that everything is made up. Meaning that I can travel to any country and I will most likely see a system of government, economy, and social norms made up to follow which made me think about how the society I grew up in as an American is only one very small experience. If everything is made up then what is anything? All I know is what has been fed to me and my learning is my unlearning .

Now What?

I learned that although I have many target identities, being American is a privilege when it comes to traveling internationally. Personally, this experience changed me in ways that I’m still finding words for. I built relationships with some of the students on this trip that I’m lucky are still continuing to grow.

In terms of my life goals, I want to visit Colombia after being on this trip. As a latina, I felt very far from being latina and hispanic in comparison to the population in Ecuador. Being in Ecuador makes me want to explore the roots of my ancestors as well as be sure to learn spanish fluently so I’ve been practicing. In terms of academic goals, I enjoyed the higher education route of thinking. I’m exploring grad school programs in higher education because of it. In particular I want to study the transition of first generation latino students experiences in college as well as the conflict of feeling in not identifying with either the stereotyped black and white American communities.

I admired how Ecuadorians value living among nature rather than conquering it. Coming back to America, I felt like I was suffocating because I was used to being around so many open mountains, flowers and trees in Ecuador. It made me realize how I take for granted the environment.