STEP Project: RowBot Performance Monitoring Device

My STEP project involved developing a performance monitoring device for the sport of rowing. Creating this device involved communication with rowers and coaches to develop the best device for teams to use, and a combination of hardware and software development skills. As a former rower, I’ve heard rowers and coaches complain that the devices they use to keep track of their performance are outdated and missing features they’d like to see. I saw STEP as an opportunity to help local rowing teams – and maybe teams everywhere – by developing a device that could give them everything they wanted when it came to performance monitoring. There has never been a device quite like the one I envisioned, and designing an electronic device from the ground up is proving to be quite the ordeal. I’ll always be looking to improve it and get feedback from rowers and coaches, but I’ve already learned a lot and gained valuable experience from my STEP project.

I developed a lot of skills over the course of the project, growing as a technical designer and entrepreneurially. Throughout the years I’ve taught myself to do many things, always learning and tinkering with electronics, but the sheer amount I’ve learned thanks to this project amazes me. Before I started this, I never would have imagined I could gain experience in circuit design, embedded electronics, programming, product design, waterproofing, and so much more from a single project. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to learn new skills, but with a goal to work towards, learning comes easier, as each new skill acquired is a stepping stone toward building something great.

During the course of my STEP experience, I have also come to appreciate the sheer scale of a project like this. Electronics have always been a hobby for me, but this project allowed me to dive into every role required in the complex process of developing an electronic device from start to finish. One important thing I learned during the course of the project was how much work goes into developing both the software and the hardware for an electronic device. Working on this project mostly by myself, and with some help from knowledgeable people I know, I came to appreciate how many people it takes to quickly and efficiently develop of new device. Even with all the time and money in the world, I couldn’t do this myself, and so many people helped me along the way.

Some aspects of the project that led to my greater appreciation for the time involved with developing an electronic device from start to finish were the trial and error involved with hardware and physical design. I spent a lot of time figuring out the best shape for the outer housing, as there were a lot of specific criteria I need to meet. The housing had to be waterproof, fit in the existing mounting location in a boat, and have an aesthetically pleasing design. On top of that, I had to account for the components inside the device. Making sure buttons, a screen, and plugs could work with a watertight housing required many redesigns of the housing. The electronics design is an ongoing challenge, and there are always improvements to be made in that area. Since I imagined this device years ago, I never thought I’d be using embedded computer systems instead of off the shelf components. Designing an embedded system is a hefty task that required a lot of research into the components I’d be using. I eventually settled on a Raspberry Pi product for embedded systems, the Compute Module, but even with this simplified “brain” there was still a lot of complex design work to do. Figuring out all of the electronics and case design required me to hone my skills with several programs, from different CAD softwares to various circuit board design suites.  Searching through hundreds of pages of documentation for electronic components and learning new software gave me an appreciation for all the roles that go into designing a product and the time commitment behind every device like a cell phone.

I also believe myself to be a better entrepreneur and networker thanks to all of the interaction with outside sources that was required for this project. When learning all of the skills that go into designing a complex electronic device, there were a lot of things I just didn’t know. But reaching out to people to find solutions gave me valuable experience in making connections and doing what it takes to get a project done. I talked to coaches from Columbus and from back home, rowers I’ve known my whole life and rowers I’ve never met, and reached out to people with technological experience in organizations at OSU. Consulting with people in the sport helped me see the value of talking to users when it comes to product design. Their ideas and input ultimately shaped my vision of the final product and helped to create a device that will be exactly what rowers and coaches need, not just something that I thought would be cool. Getting help from outside sources when it came to technology was also a great learning experience. Whether it was fellow hobbyists on internet forums or people from clubs like the Maker Club at OSU, I learned the value of asking for assistance; if you have a problem, there is probably someone out there with an answer. All of this networking and problem solving will no doubt help me achieve my future goals, and to make this project the best it can be.

My STEP project fostered a combination of professional growth and technological learning in me, and I have become a much more experienced and capable person because of it. Facing all the challenges that come with designing and troubleshooting electronics helped me to develop professional relationships with people from all areas of expertise from sports to technology to business. I worked with people to coordinate suppliers for obscure parts, gather large data sets to see what rowers and coaches really want to see in their devices, and reached out to so many knowledgeable folks for help with roadblocks in the design process.

I developed my people skills and my tech skills thanks to STEP, and this growth will certainly help me when it comes to achieving my goals. A project like this is never really over, and it’s going to be a long road to bring the best iteration of my performance monitoring device to rowing teams that need it, but the skills I’ve gained can help me see this or any project through to completion. Having the courage to reach out to experts and enthusiasts that might have the answers you don’t is valuable skill in any field, and as I complete my studies in architecture, I know I’ll be able to find people to help overcome roadblocks when learning design software, prototyping methods, or just understanding architecture itself. Networking is essential to growing professionally and in entrepreneurship, and I would love to run a successful business one day. Being able to talk to customers and deliver what they really want is important in architecture, technology, or any area my future businesses may serve. Talking to rowers to get real end user feedback is great practice for delivering perfect final products. I now know what it’s like to be involved in every part of developing a device from the ground up, and meeting with people that will be involved with every step from concept to production. I achieved proficiency in areas I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d be dabbling in as an architecture student, and made great strides in bringing the perfect performance monitoring device to the sport of rowing. There is still so much to learn, but thanks to STEP I’ve already learned a lot. My growth through this program will allow me to tackle any project I set my mind to, take my career in any direction I choose, and continue to perfect the device that rowers have wanted for so long.

Early Prototype Bottom Early Prototype Top Researching Old Rowing Devices GPS Programming Faceplate Prototypes Test Placement for Screen 

STEP Project: Rail Experience

I built a website that coincides with this STEP project. It has nearly all the pictures I took as well as my interviews, video reflections and journals from the trip. Please enjoy them at this URL: https://kalmbach11.wixsite.com/rail-experience

 

The main purpose of this STEP Project was to help create and strengthen interpersonal skills through one-on-one interactions and increase my ability to understand and relate to others on projects and recreationally by expanding my mindset about the world around me. These objectives were achieved by traveling the country by train and interacting with the people on each leg of the trip and those encountered in each city center. Interviews were conducted with several people to firstly talk with each individual and secondly to discover more about who they are, where they come, and how they view the world.

 

As I traveled around the country there was one particular comment that I heard from nearly everyone that I interviewed concerning their home town. When asked to name one thing about their home town they wish more people knew about I heard, almost universally: people from blank town are some of the nicest people around, they are really given a bad reputation and no one is that distant or cold hearted towards their neighbors. It seems that everyone has their own community to be ingrained in and feels a need to protect it. This commentary was very reassuring while traveling as I felt more confident in my questioning of those I encountered and helped me more fully appreciate the similarities we all share as people. Everyone is trying to define themselves in the crowd while trying to find some group to be a part of.

 

It would seem strange how the two ideas of defining oneself and finding a group to be a part of would be such close bed fellows but from the conversations I had with people on the trains and in the cities, I have to say that it is actually quite fitting of a pair. The short version is that they complement each other quite well. When looking a little deeper you see people coming and going, looking to identify with a new place’s culture or carve out a place for themselves to truly express themselves. Perhaps there is a slight bias in the people I talked to as they were all trying to get somewhere on the trains but there were a large number of individuals who were moving to a new place to call home. The majority of those were moving within the same state (I went through some really big ones: Montana, California, and Texas so again there may be some bias) but still looking to start fresh.

 

I bring all of this to your attention because of the implications that arise, primarily that most people want to maintain some level of familiarity when they have to make a great change. For the individuals moving there is a new community that they can come and assimilate with but there is still some familiarity with the land, the lingo, and the societal expectations. The framework for who you are as an individual does not need to be stretched and reformed until after you have worked on who you are in the group. Once they have accomplished this they can move on to finding oneself.

 

The remainder of people on the trains who were not there for work were there for a vacation of some kind. Here you see the opposite occurring where the destination is a long way away from home and the people they know just as distant. These people want to discover what’s out there to better themselves and bring more to the communities they belong in. With these travelers they are way outside their comfort zone and use that as a way to refine themselves or discover something new in their lives never before seen. This separation from the support of those around you requires that a person pulls from their own well and it is with this that people learn more about themselves and what they can do for the people in their community. Both Ideas, it appears, feed back into each other and encourage the growth of individuals to the benefit of the larger whole to allow the individuals be the best they can be.

 

As with any type of travel, once you are introduced to something new and different your entire understanding of the world is altered. Sometimes these revelations are small, such as the clarification to why an object or location has the name it does, to the sudden realization why an event is so heavily weighted in a local culture. Whatever the discovery, it is not possible to return to a state where you haven’t learned that knowledge. In many of these cases you are responsible for spreading that new information as a way to expand the views of those around you.

 

Moving forwards, the experiences that I have acquired by participating in this project are not just my own to take. Others should and will learn about the things I have discovered coming across the country and how unique each corner is as well as how all of us are looking for the same things in life. Each place I visited had its own unique vibe and style to present but none ever disregarded or negated the others. The people I met who were “professional travelers” were the ones with the most wisdom and the most to talk about in a conversation. They felt in many ways that they were ambassadors and had a duty to reflect what they had discovered into their everyday lives for the benefit of all. I now feel that I have a similar obligation to bring this new understanding to the attention of others in the hope of making this large world of ours not seem so foreign and unknown.

STEP Reflection: Piano Lessons

The STEP Signature Project that I did was in the Artistic/Creative Endeavor pillar. I decided to take piano lessons and the goal was to become more fluent in playing different styles of music that I was not already comfortable playing. While taking these lessons. I learned much about music theory and how to put different aspects of music, such as specific chords together to create a certain mood using music.

My view of the world of music has changed while completing this step project. Not only did this change how I saw music, but it also caused me to change my assumptions that I had about myself and other musicians that are considered “advanced”. This project has caused me to look internally on how I approach any problems or difficult situations that I may face later in life.

As I learned I also played for various groups of people in different settings. In doing this, I realized that music is not only about the person playing, but it’s about you and everyone else that is around you while you are playing. Music is so powerful and has the ability to change the atmospheres that people are in. Therefore, as a musician, one actually has a responsibility to steward his gift well and use it for the right purpose.

As stated earlier, overall main goal of this STEP project was to develop my musical skills as well as my overall musical knowledge. I just used the piano or a keyboard to achieve this. However, the foundation of what I learned can be applied to almost any other musical device. Before this project, I was pretty much a self-taught musician. I had played the trumpet in middle school and had learned the basis of how music worked. I learned how to read music on an intermediate level. However, everything I knew about playing the piano came from trial and error or from the internet. Because of this, technique was never a concern or a focal point while teaching myself. Although this would have been fine in the beginner to intermediate levels of playing, during my experience, I learned that in order for someone to reach the next level as a pianist and to become the best player he can possibly be, one cannot ignore fundamentals because fundamentals are a foundation for everything else that is later learned. A great analogy that helps explain this deals with building a house.

If a small house is built without a strong foundation, the builder may be able to get away with not having a solid base. This would be the equivalent of being a beginner or intermediate piano player who can play basic things. He could get away with having bad technique and fundamentals and still be alright initially. However, if the builder were to expand on the house with the weak foundation, he would quickly run into problems. The foundation that he originally built would inhibit any possible growth that he could possibly have. This is the same for the piano player. There is a certain point that you reach in your skill level where if you don’t have a proper foundation, you become limited in your playing. The only way to fix this problem and to add to your skills, is to unlearn habits or bad techniques that contributed to the bad foundation just like the only way for a builder to build more on his house is to destroy his foundation and build a new one. Unfortunately for the builder, if this is the case, usually the whole house must be destroyed. In the case of the pianist, one may have to completely start learning all over from the beginning depending on his current foundation, however most of the time, it involves only a section of his or her playing that needs to be refined. I fell into this category. Because of this, it was frustrating at first knowing that I had to back track in order to progress. But this was a valuable lesson that I learned that can and should be applied to all aspects of life.

Jeremy, my piano teacher, started me off with exercises that developed individual finger strength and control. Different scales were also practiced with these exercises and allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. Although this seemed so simplistic and was very boring, I realized later in my lessons, that the improvisation skills that I originally was interested in developing was based on knowing these scales such as the pentatonic scale. I also learned that the style and feel of the music that one may want to portray had to do with scales that facilitate improvisation and also the rhythm that is played.

As time went on I realized that my improvisational skills were getting significantly better. I realized that one of the most satisfying things in life is learning and developing the building blocks for a skill and then later putting together those fundamental building blocks to create something completely better and unique. While I was learning these skills, I was also able to play for the OSU student organization, The Body of Christ (TBOC). There, I pretty much had free reign to play whatever I felt was needed for the situation. During these meetings I had the opportunity to play with other instruments for a mini worship set. To me, this was the most important part of the experience because originally, that is what I envisioned when I began learning how to play the piano. It was glimpse of what I saw myself doing later in the future.

One of the most important things that I took away from this experience is something that I stated earlier; if you are going to start something no matter what it is, you should make sure that you start doing it right, the first time. Not taking shortcuts is the best option there is to being successful at something. If you do take shortcuts, there is a good possibility that you may run into problems later down the road. However, because of the way life works, we as humans may find ourselves in a bad situation where either we were dealt a bad hand or maybe out of ignorance gave ourselves that bad hand. If either is the case, we should not be afraid or discouraged to try to fix the situation. I have learned that there are three major steps to fixing a situation that one may find himself in whether it was his fault for being in that situation or not. The first thing that has to be done is that one has to reflect back on his situation and investigate why and how he got there. This can be the hardest part because a lot of times depending on the situation, this step involves either letting go of pride and realizing that you did something wrong and or recognizing that you had no control of the situation yet, you still for some reason ended up where you’re at. In this step you are recognizing where in your foundation there are problems. The next step in addressing your situation is to figure out whether or not you have the ability to change the situation you’re in. If you don’t have the ability to directly or indirectly affect the situation, how can you obtain the ability to do so. Also, what is it going to take in order to make a significant change to your situation. The final step is to evaluate yourself and find out if you have what it takes to implement what needs to be done to change your situation. If you don’t have what it takes, how can you develop the character and discipline to do what needs to be done to change your situation. This process is crucial to anyone who wants to excel in their given field of study or in life in general. Because no matter what, there will always be problems ahead of us and everyone will fail and fall. But it doesn’t matter how you fall, only how you pick yourself back up. All this was eminent in me while I was striving to get better at the piano. There are many problems in this world, structurally and socially. My main goal in life is to be an agent of change in this world and in order to that one has to have a solid plan of attack in addressing problems, and I believe that these three steps that I learned is the key to pushing this change.

Here is a link of me playing the keyboard at TBOC along with a sax, bongo, and guitar. It was completely improvisation. It was a powerful moment. If your interested in finding out more about what the recording was all about, come to TBOC on Thursdays in the union.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/fepkybx8wqgl5hl/TBOC%20Worship%203.m4a?dl=0

STEP Reflection: Data Science Computer Build

Zach Feldman

Creative and Artistic Endeavor

My STEP signature project was a computer build that was tailored for use in data analysis. As a data analytics major and a sports lover, I have written multiple apps that are useful in the sports industry but can no longer run on my laptop due to hardware restrictions. For my build I used 64GB of G-SKill DDR4 ram, a 512GB Samsung 960 Pro NVME SSD, an Intel i7-8700k processor, and a GTX 1080 graphics card. This combination of hardware will be able to run any program I need to with as large of a data set that I will need. I also have a Corsair H150i CPU cooler that will make sure my processor stays cool even if I need to overclock it.

With the large price tag for this machine I have learned to appreciate the opportunities available to me in my life. Because I came to Ohio State and participated in STEP I now got an opportunity that so few people in the world have. In the short time I have had this machine I have taken delicate care of it to make sure nothing wrong happens to it. I spent a great deal of time making it look nice – including way to long on cable management that did not even end up that good – and making it a computer that I am proud to have. On top of the appreciation, I also got great experience with money management and budgeting. While I only spent a little of my own money on this project, I spent a long, long time looking through many outlets that sell PC parts. I found the optimal way to spend the money and ended up saving myself money in the end. Had I bought all the parts from the same place I would have paid a few hundred more dollars of my own money. It was fantastic, albeit a tad annoying, to see all the different email receipts in my inbox with the parts arriving at my house every few days.

One main way I came to the appreciation for this computer was when I was using PCPartPicker to help plan out all of my parts. This is used to make a parts list with projected price, but it also lets you view builds others have completed and posted. Through this I saw many builds with ‘budget’ in the name that were three, four, and sometimes five times less than the amount on this computer. I obtained a good knowledge of the market for PC parts and learned, although it has been inflated due to the crypto currency mining, it is a very expensive market. I soon realized how lucky I was to be able to spend very little of my own money to obtain a PC that was as much as five times of others’ budgets.

When I actually build the computer it was a great organization and planning experience. I ‘mapped’ out the optimal way to route cables and install components for the optimal performance. I could have just dove in and started putting parts together but I am glad that I took my time to measure and plan things out. I researched many tips and tricks for building computers that helped me get comfortable and get an idea about how I would attack my build. I also did a lot of research on airflow techniques to keep my parts cool so they last as long as possible, while not having dust issues or being too loud. This included learning how a water cooler worked for my CPU which has many configuration options and fan types. I figured out which blades were best for liquid coolers and the configuration that will keep my CPU the coolest. I would not have known any of this information without taking the short time to research it.

The whole process was also aided by one of my closest friends from back home that has an extensive knowledge of computer hardware. He helped me throughout and made recommendations that I would not have known about otherwise. He also was there to help me with the physical building process which allowed him to teach me how the parts actually worked together. I learned a lot that ranged from simpler things like how the buttons on the computer case worked to more extensive things like how the VRM heatsinks work on each respective part. It was great to be able to interact with my friend so much and get to spend a few hours building a computer.

This project was valuable for my life because I learned a lot of information that is useful in the tech industry (one industry I am interested in) and because I can now continue to work on my applications that were hampered by my old computer. I learned a great deal about how each individual components of computers work and now can apply this knowledge on the tech side of my life. I have always been interested in the industry and have been able to understand my previous software knowledge a little bit more due to the added hardware knowledge. In terms of data, I can now continue to run the applications I have written for myself without my computer running out of RAM or crashing. While the applications are not optimized completely, they scrape loads of data from the internet and then run many queries on those data that now run smoothly on my PC. As I continue to venture into the sports world (my dream job would be in sports) having as much hands on experience with analytics as possible is best and this allows me to do that on my own.

 

STEP Reflection: Scuba Certification + Video/Research Project

Riley Fanning

Type of Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavor

 

My STEP Signature Project consisted of getting scuba diving certified and gathering photography knowledge with a class offered at Ohio State. Once certified, I went on multiple dives with a GoPro to record underwater video and research the different organisms I saw to the best of my ability.

My view of the world was changed during this project since I was literally able to see the world underwater, which was a perspective I have never experienced prior to this project. Seeing the underwater world is something that many people may not be able to experience but is something truly beautiful and inspiring. The variety of structures and animals that are present in a short range from each other gives a little bit of an insight to the many organisms present in the oceans around the world.

I was able to better understand myself as well. Part of the reason I wanted to do a project which involved scuba diving was because I am interested in marine biology and grew up swimming and I loved being in the water. Although I felt excitement when underwater and scuba diving there was also a great calm and ease I felt while being there. I did not think I would be as relaxed as I was since the environment that I was submersed in was unlike anything I have previously experienced but cannot wait to experience again.

 

The event of scuba diving itself was one of the main events that led to my transformation. I was able to gain a new perspective, literally and figuratively, for the marine life that resides in a small section of the world’s oceans. I was also able to observe a variety of organisms in their natural habitat. Scuba diving was also a new experience for me and a new skill that I can continue to develop and expand with time with other certifications I can achieve. Once someone is certified in scuba diving they are certified for life and continue to build upon their skills and obtain higher and more advanced certifications which is something I hope to do in the future.

Through this project, I met a variety of people and created new relationships with them. With the scuba diving class I participated in at Ohio State and the photography class I took, I met many people that I will have lasting friendships with. I also created a relationship with staff members and other divers through Florida Underwater Sports which was where I completed my certification and went on other dives. Meeting people of different ages and backgrounds but with the connecting factor of photography or scuba diving was a great experience. One person, Ally, is currently a Dive Master and has been scuba diving since high school since she had the opportunity to scuba dive from living in Florida her entire life. Anthony, who I got certified with, also has a boating license and another woman who came on a dive that I was a part of works on Wicked, the musical. Although these individuals are all Florida native, they each have their own passion for scuba diving and reasons to become certified which was a great connecting factor between everyone.

Another individual that I have created a lasting relationship with is Kendra. She was my instructor during my open water dives to get my certification and was also my “dive buddy” on the boat dive I went on. She learned about my objective for this project, what I wanted to do, and helped me with other scuba-related material while I was in Florida. Kendra is someone that I was able to talk to about scuba diving and is someone that cared about my project and about myself.

 

With my major of Evolution & Ecology and my continued interest in marine biology having a scuba diving certification will open more doors for me since being certificated is a valuable skill to have when looking for jobs in my field and elsewhere. As well as becoming certified, seeing the ocean underwater gave me a new understanding and appreciation for the world’s oceanic ecosystem. Scuba diving has also helped me remain calm in less than ideal situations. One example of this was when practicing skills underwater with a lack of oxygen but continuing to keep calm and complete the respective skill.

Obtaining a basic open water PADI certification now allows me to expand that and get more advanced certifications such as: Advanced Open Water, Master Scuba Diver, PADI Rescue Diver, Specialty Diver, and more. By recording what I saw while underwater, I am able to look back on my experience and the different organisms I saw to better apply my research to a specific animal or organism. By doing research and writing a report from my own video documentation, I am further developing not only my scientific writing and research, but my creative video editing as well.

This project has allowed me to have a greater appreciation for those who continually scuba dive and help others become certified. I have also re-confirmed my interest in oceanic life by being able to see life-in-action and different species that I have never seen or heard of from living in Ohio. My signature project has also allowed me to explore an activity that I have always wanted to try and skills that I will be able to utilize in the future. On the research side, while that is still being completed, using the research and writing skills from classes I have taken at Ohio State will help me in this project in further developing my knowledge of the life I was able to see and better express information to others.

Engineering Desk Workstation Build

Name: Logan Morris

Type of Project: Arts and Creative Endeavors

  1. To design and build a custom PC workstation from scratch. This includes using CAD to construct a 3D model of the desk, then manually construct the design following a basic blueprint. This desk would then have a custom engineering ready PC built into it, which can be used for many years to come.
  2. I learned much about myself from this project. I grew as an engineer and came to a greater understanding of what I am capable of in terms of design. I have had numerous people ask me how I came up with the design, and I can honestly say that this has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my academic career thus far. I have gained confidence in myself and now know what I am actually capable of.
  3. From the start I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my STEP funding. I knew that I wanted to build something, and that I wanted it to impact my career in some way. Sadly, I have yet to really get a chance to design something from scratch at Ohio State, it always felt like I was following some form of template or going through the motions of being in school. This project was a chance for me to create something that was truly mine, and mine alone. I decided to build a custom desk, with a computer workstation inside.

I started by simply hand drawing what I wanted the desk to look like. Afterwards, I attempted to dimension it appropriately, but realized this was nearly impossible to do as one changed dimension changed nearly all of them. I turned to the CAD program called Fusion 360, which provided me with the tools I needed to turn my hand drawings into a digital 3D object which was much easier to dimension properly.

When the CAD design was finished I began to order all of the parts. It took a few weeks to get everything together, and about a month to finish the build completely. I learned significantly more than what I can include in such a small response. What I know for sure is that this project has completely changed my life and given me a chance to prove myself.

  1. This project has helped my in more ways than just professionally. I have learned what it

means to be an engineer. Gaining confidence in myself for design work is the most

significant thing I could have ever asked for. I personally thank all involved in this project

and hope that this type of makerspace project continue so that others can benefit as I

have.