STEP Reporting Back

Name:  Emmanuel Adu

Type of Project: – Creative Endeavor 

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

For my STEP Signature project, I was part of a four-person team tasked with developing the ADAS or Advanced Drivers Assistance Unit for the EcoCAR 3 competition.  ADAS are systems in place that assists the driver in the driving process.  Commonly this is cameras placed behind the vehicle that activates when the vehicle is backing up, giving the driver further visual assistance. The EcoCAR competition is a four-year competition where students from different majors, grade levels, and universities in the United States are tasked with redesigning a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to improve its efficiency while also adding emerging automotive technology.  For the later parts of my Signature Project, I worked with the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) a product development, design, commercialization port at the University that pairs students with professional engineers to complete real projects for consumers like Honda, GM and more.

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

The biggest transformation for me while completing my STEP Signature Project was my ability to learn new material at a faster pace and the increased attention I now pay to the smallest details.  My project was very technical, I had to learn how to do things that I was not comfortable doing such as computer programming and 3D CAD designing.  At first, I was confused, there were many times when I thought it would be simply impossible for me to learn how to code or design.  Eventually, I started asking questions, looking up tutorial videos, reading books, and in time everything started to make sense.  I was tasked with several high budget design projects; this experience taught me the importance of detail orientation.  A miss calculation in my CAD design could lead to a missed deadline or the entire item breaking down.

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

Studying Aerospace Engineering, computer programming had always been a skill that I lacked; I would even say I was afraid of programming due to the learning curve that is required.  I knew what I was getting into, my first team meeting everyone was either computer science or electrical engineering, they all had sufficient experience coding, and my goal was to learn as much as possible from them.  My first team meeting with the ADAS team was early January, my team had already made the ADAS code with MATLAB, a language I was familiar with but hated and used in several classes.  They wanted to transfer the MATLAB code to Python because Python was more industry-friendly than MATLAB, and didn’t have nearly as many troubleshooting.  This was a great opportunity because I was able to learn the Python language along with my team.  My role specifically involved calibrating the front camera to the point where it recognized the back of sedan style vehicles, if the car was about to get in a collision, it would assist the driver in slowing down.  I was introduced to Open Source programming by my team. ‘Open Source’ is an internet community where anyone can go to learn how to code, solve coding issues, or build on things that have already been code.  I particularly went to and to get assistance whenever I got stuck.  These community blogs and websites helped me substantially in my coding progress.

At CDME I was paired with Dr. Ko, an injection molding expert.  Injection molding is the process of creating plastic parts with molten thermoplastic polymers that enter an injection molding machine and then forms into a plastic part as it leaves the machine.  This is an effective method of mass producing many plastic parts. Prior to working with Dr. Ko, I had zero knowledge of injection molding and very little knowledge of 3D designing, to make it worst designing a mold for injection molding not only required good 3D design skills but also required the ability to visualize the flow of fluid as it entered the mold, design engineers typically spent their entire careers perfecting this skill.  Similarly to how I learned how to code, I started reading articles, then watched videos, and eventually had to buy a textbook.  After some time I began to enjoy designing molds or running the injection molding machine, it was a huge learning curve but I was able to do it.

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

My view of learning has been transformed ever since my signature project.  I have come to a realization that when learning a new subject that is different from what I am used to, sometimes the biggest obstacle isn’t the difficulty associated with the subject but the fear of my inability to learn that subject.  This realization has had a very significant impact in my life; I now believe there is nothing I can’t learn.

Voice Over Training: 2016-2017 STEP Experience

My STEP project was professional voice over training from November 2016 to May 2017 with Big Voice Productions in Gahanna, OH. This training was broad, including vocal exercises, recording in studio, business strategies and post-production in Adobe Audition. Through this training, I realized that voice over work is more than the passing interest I previously thought it to be. It’s a legitimate way to make a living doing something I genuinely enjoy. As I progressed through the lessons, I became increasingly enamored with the idea of pursuing a career as a professional voice talent after graduation, which contradicted my previous ideas of where my career would go.

I consider myself a very technical person. My interests have always favored tinkering with anything electrical or mechanical over any kind of creative pursuit. I have always preferred the logical to the abstract, rational to emotional and certain to uncertain. Thus, I ignorantly brushed off the arts as frivolous activities with little value beyond entertainment.

But this training changed that completely. Through forcing myself to dig deep and bring some emotion to this training, I feel like I freed the artistic part of myself that I was suppressing before. I learned that ambiguity is okay sometimes and that there is great value in simply bringing one’s full passion to a creative activity regardless of the outcome. Voice over training was relieving, empowering and challenging all at once, and it is undoubtedly one of the main highlights of my college experience.

The greatest challenge I had to overcome during this training was letting my guard down enough to perform. It’s impossible to deliver an effective, energetic voice over when you’re emotionally disconnected from the copy in front of you. My instructor, Ron, did not hesitate to criticize my lack of energy or for simply reading off the paper. He forced me to break down every word I was reading and think about what that word meant not just to me, but to I was talking to. Paraphrasing Ron, “the way your audience feels is always more important than the way you feel. Speak to them, not at them.” That was a really eye-opening statement because it made me think about the times in real life when I spoke “at” people instead of to them without really caring to understand how they felt about what whatever I was saying. With every piece of copy, whether it was for a commercial, announcement, audiobook excerpt etc. Ron made me come up with a very specific profile and back story for one person representing the audience. The point when I actually understood this was when I was lost doing a read for a pick-up truck commercial in an awkward, passionless monotone.

“Matt, who are you talking to?” Ron interrupted me somewhat condescendingly.

“Uhhh, people in the market for a new F150?”

“Not people, person. Who are you talking to?”

“Uhhh, A middle-aged guy with some money in a suburban or rural area?”

“Who is this guy? What does he do? Where does he live? What’s his name?”

“Steve, he’s a master autobody technician, 50 years old from Delaware, OH…”

“Talk to Steve.”

At first I thought this technique was a stupid gimmick to help people ignorant of an ad’s target audience, but as I did my next reading it became immediately clear that I had been approaching the copy from entirely the wrong angle. I thought I was announcing something to a group that was already at least somewhat interested in buying an F150. The real point of the ad was to convince a single hypothetical guy like “Steve” that he could swing the payments on a new truck. To accomplish this goal, I had to connect with Steve. That’s why the backstory was so important. It’s impossible to connect with anyone if you know nothing about them. Someone’s name is the essence of their personhood, a pointer to the array of everything that makes up their identity. By reducing my audience to one person and making that one person real, the tone, pitch and word emphasis in my reads naturally became less rigid and guarded and more aligned with the goal of the ad.

College is a place for people to develop themselves into knowledgeable, well-rounded and productive members of society, and I feel that voice over training has contributed more to that purpose than any of my technical, career focused classes. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a unique experience and gain a new perspective on the world. Not only was it fun and challenging, it was necessary.

Jingdezhen and Chinese Sleeping Trains

This summer I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime across China to learn about ceramics and life. My main purpose was to learn and absorb the rich Chinese ceramics tradition, particularly in the context of its porcelain factories in Jingdezhen, but I came back with so much more than that. I am getting my BFA in ceramics at OSU, and so most of this trip was spent doing a residency at Jingdezhen Ceramic Warehouse.

On this trip I spent a lot of time being stared at, yelled at, photographed, loved on, and in state of utter awe and bewilderment. I have traveled some, I went to France one time and then Canada, but I would not have called myself very cultured before taking this trip. Going to Europe and Canada is interesting, but besides the occasional language barrier and better chocolate, everything is relatively similar to home. China is not. I quickly learned that even though I was told that I was going to be surprised, I really had no idea what I didn’t know. Being a tall white female in a rural Chinese city is like being Jennifer Lawrence- no really, everyone thought I was Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone is so generous, but everyone also yells at you all the time. Then you realize they aren’t yelling at you they are just talking, but when you talk it you always yell. I learned that traffic lights are sometimes a suggestion, and Jingdezhen has the best fruit and people in the world.

This trip opened my eyes to what I means to free and to have access to information. It showed me the prevalence of poverty, and illuminated my own immense privilege as an American. I was vaguely aware that I might have those take-aways before I went, but there were other things that this trip showed me that I did not expect. I learned what it means to be part of a collective group and to care about more than yourself. I questioned why and how we assign value, the power of perspective, and the sensitivities of our western socialization.

As I said before, this was a creative endeavor, so the main part of this trip was to go to Jingdezhen, which is the porcelain capital of the world. An artist residency is when you go somewhere and have studio space and your job is just to make work there. We traveled for a few days when we arrived in the country and a week before we returned home, but the majority of our time was spent in Jingdezhen making work. I am a ceramics student as I said before, and I traveled with my professor and three other majors. The traveling at the beginning was mind blowing. We went through Shanghai, and Wuxi (famous for teapots) and Beijing and Xi’an the end.  On the very first night we were there our friend, and program leader, Li Chao took us out to dinner to keep us awake. That was my first experience with Chinese food. I never ordered any food ever the whole time I was there. One person is delegated to pick the dishes, and it all comes out on the table and you add stuff to your own bowl. I was nervous about the food at first but then I realized I had to jump in. The food could be a whole other 10-page paper, so I will save that part for your imagination. We began talking about our phones and internet and eventually got to the topic of Google and government censorship of the internet. Here was where I first encounters what would be one of the biggest takeaways from the whole trip: censorship and conformity. We asked Li Chao if it bothered him to not be able to use google or knowing something was blocked. His response was that it was not a problem because the government had to do it to protect the population from the dangerous things on the internet like pornography. It’s important to know, Li Chao is not a government sponsored guide. He speaks perfect English and lived in West Virginia for 8 years in his twenties, so that is not just the party line. He really believes that. He understands that he can’t see everything on the internet or use facebook, but he genuinely believes it is for the greater good of the Chinese people. It’s like a speed limit, you don’t get to go as fast as you want, but there are less accidents. I know this is not a perfect analogy, but that is the general way many people thing about it, even though we know that isn’t really why the internet is censored.

I was so surprised that night, but as the trip continued I realized that that is the opinion of pretty much everyone. Even when we were at the studio with the local university students, they would say the same type of thing. Once I asked Jia Li if he wished he could look stuff up, and his response was “what would I look up?” I didn’t expect that question, and I didn’t really know how to answer it, and so I said, well anything you wanted to know. Then again he asked me, “but why would I want to look up something that I don’t know what it is?” After having so many conversations like this I started to understand. I saw my own western education and and socialization to question the world and think critically. I could see how that colored my entire understanding of my reality and access to knowledge. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to fact check everything around them, and they couldn’t fathom why I would waste my time doing that. It was an entirely different world view that I had not pervious known existed. At first I was sad for them, and then I realized again that this was my western mentality that made me feel sad for them. My perspective of values and my training to strive for the best, the most, and the strongest that made me feel that way. My understanding of “being fortunate” and “blessed” really changed while I was there. I thought more about what it means to be content and happy instead of correct and greedy. It helped me grow in my understanding of a collectivist vs individualist (that’s us) society and in how other people can be so profoundly different then you but so dear in your heart.

When we weren’t talking about our different worlds or making work we were eating. Eating is an important community event in China, and it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I will be honest and say I don’t like Chinese food. I never ate it growing up, and I never liked it. Nevertheless, there I was in China for five weeks with nothing but Chinese food- even for breakfast. Even considering that, eating was one of my favorite parts of the day. Everyone talks and if you put food on a plate you get laughed at because the plate is just for bones. All the food goes in the bowl. I learned on my first day at the studio that you eat everything in your bowl. Not a single bit of food was wasted. There was not a trashcan in the kitchen because the concept that you would throw away food is not a thing. I realized that this is a reflection of the history of the people I was with. Many of the people alive in China today experienced the devastating famines and watched millions die. Because of that, you always eat as if you are starving. They eat every part of everything even the blood of the slaughtered animals gets jellied for dishes. This awareness of food availability struck me in a powerful way. Beijing and Shanghai are what we know about when we talk about China as westerners or in school. Those places are really not that different from any other western city expect the language and the food. As soon as we got to Jingdezhen, which is in a much more rural area it was like we stepped back into 1950 in a lot of ways. If there weren’t cars, you wouldn’t know. The poverty and quality of life was striking. Once again, the converse to that is what really transformed my thinking on this trip. I saw poverty and oppression and people who were lacking. No Chinese person around me saw that. I returned to the same conflict with my western world view. The people who are living in what I would consider poverty are overwhelmingly happy, and completely content to be where they are. “I have a good job, and a happy family and I am proud of my success,” is what those people who I considered impoverished would say. You can argue that this is because they don’t understand what they could have, but I don’t think that is true. They all watch Friends and American tv, they know what America is like. They don’t feel that need to be bigger and better than they are because they are content with what they need. That was such a powerful realization for me. The level of peace that people had with the world they lived in inspired me to think more about what I am doing and why. I realize that there are many people who this is not true for, because the government is oppressive and does hurt people. Poverty and lack of access to medical care is devastating in many ways, and I am not trying to brush that off or sugar coat it.  I am only speaking to the different perspective I got from talking to people. I asked the students in the studio if they would ever like to live in the US, and they said they would love to visit but they would always want to live in China.

Much of what I have touched on so far has been of the cultural nature, and that is because that was the most impactful part of my trip. Nevertheless, I did go there to learn some real skills, so I want to touch on those briefly. The Chinese Ceramic tradition is unique and prolific. What the ancient Chinese people discovered in ceramics went on to influence much of what we do in the ceramic world today. Jingdezhen was the center of the first porcelain factories that produced the blue and white ceramics that became so popular in the west and that you might be familiar with. The success of the ceramic tradition is a result of production efficiency. Division of labor is the name of the game. You are not an artist who does the whole piece you might just do the outlines for the image and then the next person only does the filling of the image. If you throw, you throw and you never trim. You probably wouldn’t even know how. This is so different from how we do ceramics in the US and the rest of the world. When I make a vase for example, I do all the parts. In Jingdezhen, one vase might be touched by 70 different people starting from the mine all the way to the firing process. In this way the artisans who are making these works consider this their job, not necessarily their art. Some might consider themselves artist, but that title is still reserved mainly for sculpture. Functional ceramics is producing a product, and it is not about and individual people’s artistic interest necessarily. We did a lot of observation of throwers, trimmers, painters, and glazers. No one spoke English but luckily ceramics is something you can learn from watching.


When I tell people here about how the ceramics are made in Jingdezhen I get a similar reaction most of the time. People say, that is so sad that they are not part of the whole process and that they are only able to do one small part. I will not go into how that is a very western response because I think I touched a lot on that earlier. What that response does relate to is what I am going to do moving forward and how I will use what I learned from my STEP project.

The idea of value is something I thought a lot about while I was in China and once I came back. Is value given or earned? and how is value related to making process in the context of an artisan artifact? I have to do a senior thesis BFA show in the spring, and I am basing my show around these questions I got from my experience in Jingdezhen. Here is a quick version of my project proposal I developed as a direct result of this transformation of my thinking about ceramics. It is important first to know that I primarily make functional ceramics (that is pottery).

What has always interested me most about ceramics is the creation of objects. The end product of this craft/art is a thing, a being that exists in the world. It is tangible and tactile. Being able to turn something from mug to an object is magical in a way that other art is not. A derivative of my fascination with the object creation in ceramics was my interest in functional objects. What can be more down to earth object then functional pottery. When we have an object that we use with some regularity we develop a relationship. That relationship holds value. That value intrigues me. I want to know what allows for that relationship and even what invites that relationship. What type of value do we draw for that relationship? Considering all those questions brings me to questions about my own role as the maker. What is my value as a creator of this object? How can I understand how to manipulate my role in the end value and relationship and object from my hands will have?

I hope to investigate these questions by doing what I do best– making. I went to China this summer to see the ceramic community in Jingdezhen, China. In Jingdezhen the whole pottery industry is based on division of labor, and it has been that way for centuries. The throwers never trim and the painters never throw nor do they know how. I got a lot of stuff to roll around in my head after that about what the value of those objects are in the context of their many makers. Does the division of the process retract form is overall value as a ceramic object in the end- basically no, Chinese ceramics has been done this way for centuries and it has been highly sought after and replicated since then.

Since I cannot recreate the ceramic process from ground to store self in the Chinese method I am going to investigate inherent vs. given value in a different way. I will be creating a mass of objects, mugs in particular, to see what effect repetition of process and impact of a large group of the same objects has on those 2 concepts of value and relationship formed

I am excited to see where these new ways of thinking and understandings of the world will take my craft. I am so grateful for the opportunity provided by STEP to do this trip. It has enriched my life, and I am a better person for it.



Voice Lessons 2017

My STEP project consisted of 3 months of vocal lessons with Daniel Gardner in Atlanta, Georgia throughout May, June, and July 2017. My expectation of what ‘done’ looked like at the end of my lessons was to have a basic knowledge of vocal mechanics, tone, and rendition of a song of choice.

During my vocal lessons, there were many times where my original expectations for the process of learning how to sing was different from what I actually experienced. My instructor and I started off by aligning on what I wanted to get out of my lessons, specifically regarding where I wanted to be at the very end. I mentioned that I just wanted to learn something new, that I have been interested in learning how to sing since I began playing the guitar at an early age, and would possibly want to be comfortable singing in front of a select few people in my life. As we began working through exercises, practicing at home, and developing the mechanics, we began to look at other songs. We started with “Imagine” by John Lennon. As one of the world’s most well-known artists and songs, I figured I knew exactly what the song was about after my instructor asked me to give my interpretation of it. We went through what each line of the song meant to me personally. Line by line, I felt myself struggling to understand what this song meant to me at an emotional level.

My STEP project really helped me with understanding the value of emotion and being conscious about them. I had never been forced to really think about how something made me feel, and use that to my advantage as a musician. The fact that I was lacking the ability to understand my own emotions was holding me back from executing the rendition of the song that I ultimately wanted to come up with as my end goal for the vocal lessons. Each lesson, we would repeat this exercise, and I would work to think about how the song were studying related to my own life experience, and how I could express that life experience in my own version of the song.

My professor stopped me in the middle of me stuttering through a sentence, and told to just sit back and listen. He turned on the instrumental track of Imagine, and began singing a rendition of the song on the spot. My instructor was singing the same lyrics, but melodically, changed the entire song completely. When he finished, he explained that he didn’t practice that, but was able to perfectly match his version of the melody with his own interpretation and meaning of the song. That day I learned two things, that almost every song that I have listened to is something much deeper than the melody, and that understanding this deeper meaning would help me tremendously as a musician.

In order for me to compose a true rendition of a song, I needed to put myself in it. To put myself in the song, I needed to know myself, my experiences, my emotions, and relate these to the lyrics. Understanding myself is something I feel like I hadn’t consciously done before, and after that exercise with my instructor, I felt that I needed to do a bit of searching. I started researching books on the topics of mindset and growth and came across the title “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins. The book had an ambitious, yet intriguing subtitle that read “learn to take full control of your emotions”. I wouldn’t say that specific moments define our lives, (and this book hits hard on this point) but I would say that my decision to take voice lessons changed everything. It inspired me to look within and get to know myself better, and because of this, I bought a book that grew my mindset into a state that seeks to understand my actions, what motivates me, and how I can use this knowledge to understand and be a positive influence on the people around me.

Because of my voice lessons, I was not only introduced to a new hobby that brings me great joy when I share it with others, but I was able to learn about myself and grow in the process. I have emphasized reading and self-growth/growth mindset as a direct result of my voice lessons. The opportunity to think intuitively and connect with a song on an emotional level got me interested in my own emotions and how they influence my everyday life. The big takeaway I have from maintaining a growth mindset and reading books about controlling and leveraging emotions, is that I have full control over what to focus on in a given experience. The only way for me to keep growing is to push myself away from a disempowering state, and be pulled towards an empowering state. The major driver for an empowering state has been to do things that align with my own life values, and fortunately, my added skill of learning how to sing has continued to compliment an empowering state and fueling growth.

I don’t plan on becoming a musician. I plan to continue to practice and get better so I can continue to enjoy music as a hobby, but it will only be a hobby. The real value I got from this experience was doing something that aligned with a core value I developed throughout my step project, which is growth. I feel that I have momentum now, and although I don’t exactly know what I want to do for a career after I graduate, I know that I will continue to keep my conviction that growth is the central value of my life. I strongly believe that if I sustain and nurture this value, I will be pulled towards a career that aligns with what I truly value.

Game Development

Name: Gregory Ochs

1. My project was to create a video game, which involved game design and development work, and working with others. The company, Quadratic Games, LTD was created to facilitate working with others professionally, and is currently working with a client to develop a game.

2.It is surprisingly easy to say, “I’m going to make a video game”, and much harder to do it. Coming up with a game design is difficult, since it needs to form the backbone everything in the game. Everything in the game hinges on the this. My view on how hard it was to make video game has changed significantly during this project. This has given me a new insight on the video game industry and a new appreciation for those who are in it.


This project has also shown me some weaknesses of mine I need to work on. Time management is a skill that is universally needed, but actually learning it takes, well, time. I have had to deal with trying to accomplish too much in not enough time, and how to deal with it. I have had to reevaluate my time priorities on several occasions, trying to match up what I can do with what I what to do.

3. Our project was a bit of a rollercoaster. During the initial days, my partner and I worked together to just start doing work, “let’s just make a game.” We started by creating a prototype of a game, something to base our thoughts off. This simple game was about collecting resources to allow yourself to move faster. However, this did not really get us anywhere because we did not have a plan to move forward.


Soon afterwards a friend of my partners expressed interest in working with up to create a game with him. He had a vision for a game, but lacked the skills to actually create a game. He promised to find some more people for us to work with, and much to our surprise he did.

Once we started to work with them, we realized that how we were doing our project was backwards, as we were making before we designed. We learned about the importance of planning before you try to create something. This lesson is one that has many applications, especially in a professional setting.

4. My major here is Computer Science and Engineering, and this project has given me the change to give me new skills for the future. The amount of work coding needed to make a game function is incredible, but so is the amount of organization and design that needs to go into the code. Nothing can really give you the skills to create large programs other than writing one yourself. The skills needed to create a game are the same skills that are needed to create other forms of software, and this will give me an advantage in skills that will help me in my professional career.

What I have learned about myself and the skills I have gained doing this project have made me a better person and will help further me in my career. The project has given me an opportunity that I otherwise would not have been able to do.