Researching, Documenting, and Completing a Computer Build

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


My STEP Signature Project consisted of conducting research into which computer parts would best fit the budget given by STEP. The parts chosen were then acquired, assembled and the process was documented in order to aid those who hope to build a computer of their own in the future.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

My STEP Signature Project has mainly altered the way I view projects in general. Due to the computer build, I have become much more detail oriented and patient. It has presented me with the opportunity to make much less mistakes when faced with a daunting task due to the fact that I can now look at a problem without becoming frustrated as well. Another change that I discovered during the project is how much more satisfying it is to make something yourself rather than simply purchasing the computer, or having someone else assemble it for you. Finally, I was able to grow a better understanding of the hardware side of technology, which I may not have received had I not been given the opportunity to complete this project.

  1. 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing
    the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project
    that led to this change/transformation.

The first thing that I realized while completing my project was that I should work on maintaining a level head while trying to solve a problem. Fairly early on into the project, I realized that the motherboard would take up a large portion of the case, and that the fan might not fit as well. I had started to become worried, and frustrated that the fan would not fit, which made it much harder to complete the precise work that was required. After leaving the build for an hour and coming back to it, I realized that I would be able to mount the motherboard first, then mount the fan after the motherboard was secure in the case. Before this event, mounting the processor also gave me some trouble. It’s a very small object, and the pins on the bottom can become bent very easily. The mounting system was something I had not used before, and I had become worried and frustrated when it would not simply snap into place like I thought it should. After second and third guessing myself, I realized that I could simply apply a little more pressure, and it would slide right into place like it was supposed to. These two events proved that I should be a little more patient and keep a level head when dealing with any problem that I am faced with, especially when it involves precise work.


Throughout the duration of the project, I was also given opportunities to document my thought process, and share it with the Makerspace community. The Makerspace community also offered the chance to bounce ideas off of the other members, see their thought processes, and improve my own. I feel like this collaboration allowed for my project to improve a great amount, and it turned out a lot better than it might’ve had I not interacted with other members. This interaction with this community was able to provide fresh ideas on how I could improve my build and process, and it also made me look forward to helping others in the future the same way current members provided aid with my project.


Lastly, being able to build a computer using the parts purchased confirmed my passion for completing a project myself, and seeing something through from start to finish. Some may claim that it would have been much easier to simply purchase a new high-end computer, and they may be right, however the experience that I had gained from this experience in terms of technical know-how and practical problem-solving skills could not have been purchased. I would highly recommend to anyone who is considering purchasing a computer to weigh the pros and cons of completing the build themselves. They will more than likely find the same benefit that I found which was a sense of accomplishment, new technical skills, problem-solving techniques, all of which can be applied to practical situations as well as coursework.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


The previous changes are valuable in my life for multiple reasons. First, as described in my previous answer, all of the changes that I experienced can be applied to both practical problems as well as coursework. For example, the problem-solving techniques and technical skills that I have gained grant me the opportunity to be able to troubleshoot my own issues that may arise seeing as how I know the build. By knowing what makes up a computer, and knowing how to troubleshoot one, I can also better understand how software that I may be writing (in and out of class) could interact with the system. Another example of where these skills can come in handy later is once I graduate and enter the workforce. It is extremely important in the workplace that you can keep a level head, especially considering that almost every developer position will require you to be able to solve complex problems with a team. By learning how to keep a level head, and problem solve off of my STEP Signature Project, I am better prepared for the future.


Music Festival Website

Name: Daniel Lomeo

My STEP project consisted of going to two music festivals and creating a website to document my experiences. The first festival was Boston Calling, a small city festival held at Harvard. The second festival was Firefly, a camping festival located in Dover, Delaware. I also attended Bonnaroo, a camping festival in Manchester, TN, with my personal funds. I put previews and reviews for all these festivals onto my website.

This trip proved to be very transformational in many ways as each festival offered something different. I was no stranger to music festivals before my project, but going into to these festivals with a website in mind changed my perspective about these events.  First, at Boston Calling, my appreciation for small festivals and the arts grew substantially. Boston Calling was the first smaller festival I have ever attended. It was amazing to be in smaller crowds, and get closer for each show. It also allowed me to make more friends at the event. Often times, I would see the same people over and over again, and get to know them. The atmosphere at the festival was very laid back, and the crowd helped enhance the magic of the performances. Some of my favorite acts during the festival were Jack White, Fleet Foxes, and Brockhampton. Being in a smaller festival, I was able to better connect with the artists. For example, at Fleet Foxes, the band was able to play a very special set with the fans as most of the attendees were waiting at a different stage for Eminem. It was raining and cold, but the band put on such an amazing performance that it didn’t even matter. The lead singer also came out for a solo encore because the crowd didn’t want to leave. It is moments like this that made me realize how impactful live music can be, and the ability of music to touch the hearts of the audience.

Even though I attended Bonnaroo with my own funds, it was still extremely transformational. For those who are not familiar with Bonnaroo, it is much more than a music festival. It is a celebration of art, music, and life itself. With the mantra “radiate positivity”, Bonnaroo attracts a crowd that comes together to create an amazing community. At Bonnaroo you are surrounded by 80,000 friends that you haven’t met yet. This type of atmosphere is amazing because it is a stark contrast to how strangers treat each other in society. Being at Bonnaroo teaches you that positivity is contagious. I take the pure happiness and community at Bonnaroo and apply everyday. It’s extremely surprising how a little kindness can start a chain reaction where ever you are in the world. In fact, the festival itself acknowledges this with its “stay true to Roo” guideline.  The music at Bonnaroo was also fantastic. My favorite acts of the weekend were Anderson Paak, Muse, CHIC, and Virtual Self. The stage production was a lot more expensive than at Boston Calling so it was cool to see an extra layer be added to the performances.

Firefly was a good experience, but transformational in a different way. The crowd at Firefly was a lot younger and a lot more immature than at Bonnaroo. In many ways, the festival was more of a party destination than a celebration of music. However, I made the best of the situation by using what I had learned at the other festivals. Putting a little positivity into the crowd made a huge difference. For example, at Firefly there was a lot of issues with people pushing to the front of the crowd where people had already been waiting. Instead of getting mad at someone who wanted to push past me, I started a conversation with him. It turned out he was a new concert goer who wasn’t familiar with crowd etiquette. He was also a really nice engineer based in Philly, and I got to know him pretty well. Being at Firefly taught me that even a bad situation can turn good with a little bit of kindness. The music at Firefly was also extremely well done. My favorite acts of the weekend were Portugal. The Man, Kendrick Lamar, and Martin Garrix.

Making the website was also a really fun, new, and challenging experience. I improved my writing skills, my critical thinking skills, and my design skills. All which will benefit me in my professional goals.  Writing the previews for each festival allowed me to better plan how I wanted to spend my time, and the reviews helped me digest and appreciate the experiences I had during my trip. I plan to keep the website active throughout the year with lineup speculations, and hopefully I will be able to attend more festivals next year!

Overall, this trip was amazing and very transformational. I was able to improve my people skills, immerse myself in art and culture, and have a fun time. I will be taking everything I learned during the trip and apply it to everyday life. To end off my reflection here are some pictures and my website for you to check out.




STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Naishil Patel

Type of Project: Artistic/Creative Endeavor


As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you.

Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.



  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


I used the STEP project funding to gain experience in the construction of computers by developing a personal desktop capable of handling heavy calculations and modeling so that I could better explore possibilities in both of my fields of interest – computer science and engineering and Math/Physics. In practice that consisted of identifying the type of computer I would prefer, understanding what components go into building a computer, selecting the ones that were best for my needs, and then putting it all together while documenting the whole process. Surprisingly, I found that selecting the parts was the most eye-opening of the tasks.



  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.


I think the biggest impact the came out of this project for me was the realization of just how deep and complex the countless subdivisions of human culture and technology can be. What I’m trying to get at here is the idea that if you take any topic, say – for the sake of argument by absurdity – the subculture of loopy straw enthusiasts. There are purists who will preach the sanctity of single looped loopy straws – composed of perfectly conjoined ends meeting at an exact three-hundred-sixty-degree arc positioned precisely at the center of the length of the straw. There are radicalists who will settle for no less than the most convoluted jumbles of thin plastic piping short of those protein folding models that biologists make for demonstrations. There are free spirits willing to accept all seemingly double ended tubes as part of their loopy straw subculture, even perfectly normal and straight straws. The point here is that there’s a lot going in this in subject that you’ve probably never heard of before. There are a lot of legitimate questions and considerations to be had that have never occurred to you. Should the opening and closing holes of the straw be parallel? Does it matter how many loops there are? Should the straw aim to mimic some well-known symbol with its twists? With questions like those in mind, please understand how I came to realize something similar applied to the science and subculture of building a PC. Having just finished a major course on the makings of a computer in CSE Systems II, I had thought I knew a fair bit of what it took to build a PC but I was wrong, much as one might oversimplify the intricacies of loopy straws.

There’s something to be said about the value of exploring a new subject and finding much greater depths than imagined. In the context of my life, that suggests that there will always be something new for me to encounter, something I’ve never seen before, something to add to my view of the world that always seems so self-contained except in those moments that these new things enter. All in all, I think that points towards a healthy lifestyle.


(For the sake of giving credit where it is due, a part of this discussion was inspired by a similar argument about the infinite sub-divisibility of human culture a long time ago from a source I can’t quite remember. Either Randall Munroe’s comics or CGPGrey’s YouTube videos.)



  1. 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


While the foray into loopy straws above is great and all, the specifics of what that means in relation to my experience with this STEP Signature Project bear mentioning in detail.

It was at the point where I started doing serious research into which components would be best for my build that I started to notice the plethora of options and subcategories and specifications available for each component. The first thing I did was create a list of components that would be necessary to put a build a computer: CPU, GPU, memory, storage, case, fans, Wi-Fi adapter, operating system, power supply, keyboard, mouse, monitors. Then, one by one, I proceeded down the list and tried to find the component with the best price, performance, and efficiency to match what I needed. However, for just about every component category on the list I found that there was a veritable ocean of factors that outside of those three that were important to me. For example, when considering storage options, it was first all about the decision between hard drive and SSD, then the decision between PCIe and SATA III ports, then the decision between M.2 NVMe and a less compact option – the rabbit hole never ended. What made it even more shocking was that I could tell that for every higher-level decision I made, like HD vs SSD, there was an entire set of ‘rabbit holes’ I wouldn’t encounter simply because I would not be investigating the subcategories of the eliminated option, HD in the case of this example. There were similar levels of subdivision and complexity for nearly every other component on the list. Outside of that there were even customization options I hadn’t considered, such as RGB lighting, which is where I ultimately drew the line between this developing philosophy of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and the point of needless expense. I guess I’m not one for aesthetics.

Of course, all of this is not to say that this higher-level thinking was the only transformation I experienced over the course of this project. Naturally, there was a significant growth in my technical and practical expertise in identifying and handling complicated pieces of tightly interwoven technology. I also gained a better understanding of the concepts I covered in my computer systems class earlier this year, such as the efficiency of a hierarchical memory structure. I got to experience it first hand when I started using the machine for my internship with P&C Data Warehouse at Nationwide – especially in how it could run test scripts about 3 or 4 times faster than my work machine, freeing up hours of my time for working on what really mattered.



  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


There are several different ways in which this transformation has already been valuable for my life, and more in which I expect it be significant in the future.

The first and most obvious benefit is the presence of a high-quality machine that can download and install any software package I need almost at will, with almost no delay between the conception of an idea and the first keystrokes involved in its realization. An example might be when I decided that I needed a better command line interpreter to improve some of my efficiency: it took me less than five minutes after making that decision to have Zeit Hyper 2.0 up and running with the exact plugins I wanted.

Another benefit might be the experience that I now have with the composition of a computer. This should help me solve hardware problems much more easily. A desktop is no longer a black box but rather a complex connection of various parts – each of which I know the purpose and expected normal behavior of.


Lastly, there’s the benefit I talked about at the beginning: the realization that there’s always more to learn. As I mentioned before, it’s hard to anticipate what sort of effect that kind of transformation can have, but I have high hopes.



Link to STEPMaker Guide (pending update):


Some Pictures:

Attaching the CPU and CPU cooler to the motherboard


Motherboard and Power Supply fitted into the case

Filled Case


Configuring the storage through the UEFI on the initial boot-up

UEFI on initial bootup


Baseball Stadium Comparison Tour

Dustin Nelson

Artistic & Creative Endeavors

For the first time, I traveled alone this year. From June 16-25, I went to Baltimore, Washington DC, New York City and Boston, all in that order. While in those cities, I went to a baseball game at each of the city’s professional baseball stadiums to make a total of five stadiums visited. Once I was done with the trip, I wrote an article for each stadium discussing how it compares to my hometown stadium, Progressive Field, and had it posted on a blog that I write for, titled “Cleveland Sports Talk.”

The one thing that I noticed change the most for me was my sense of independence. Before this trip, I considered myself pretty capable when I was on my own but doing so still worried me. Having people willing to always help out nearby made me feel secure to do whatever when I was on my own. At times, it was also a false confidence in myself because I never had any experience to support my confidence. This trip changed that. Everything I did was on my own. If I ever had an issue, I challenged myself to solve it without asking for help but was never afraid to talk to someone if necessary. A lot of people were worried for me, knowing that I was traveling alone, but I will always be thankful for the growth the trip gave me individually.

Outside of learning about myself, I was also able to learn a lot about the world around me. The biggest realization for me was just how important time management is to any aspect of life. I am constantly told at OSU how important it is and have learned that it is huge for my success in classes, but always struggled with it. Not only did I struggle with it, but I also didn’t notice the benefits it has for using it in other aspects of my life. A large reason why my trip was so successful was due to my use of time management. I have a new appreciation for time management and understanding of it, so I am hoping that, along with more work on it, I will be able to find more success in using time management for my classes.

Before this year, I have never been on a plane, never rode a train to get to other states, never been to Baltimore or Boston, never planned my own trip and never stayed in a hotel on my own. Those are just a few things I did on this trip for the first time and some of them even multiple times. On top of all that, I did all of these things with no help. Just saying this makes me have a higher sense of confidence in myself that I can be just as successful when on my own. Finishing this trip and completing it without having any issues is what gives me that confidence.

Not everything on this trip was perfect. There were times that I had no idea what I was doing. Part of being independent is also being able to ask for help when it’s needed. This was something that I had to do at times, like finding where to go or figuring out the boarding of a train. In addition, even if I didn’t need help I still had to not be afraid to ask any questions I might have because there isn’t someone else there to keep track of things for me. This included asking the hotel about what I was being charged for or asking people about the stadiums so that I could learn more about them.

A large part of being successful on your own, as I learned, is being able to master time management. While on my trip, I had to make sure to be everywhere on time and give myself plenty of time to get there on time. If I didn’t plan out my days beforehand and figure out how much time I would need in all of the situations, I may have missed a flight or checked out of a hotel late. I have always struggled with giving myself a sufficient amount of time when traveling, so this was something I had to focus on. In addition, I was using public transportation walking and ride services to get around, so these tended to be more unpredictable than traveling on my own with a car. However, I was able to do my research and plan out a schedule for each day before starting that day, so I found myself being successful and never being late.

When I decided to go to college, growing as an individual was one of my most important goals. This trip allowed me to grow in independence and my time management skills. These are only two of the many things I gained from my experience but are both extremely important. College is all about being away from your family for the first time, but in reality, they are still there. Once college is over, I will be even more on my own and it will continue that way. So, being independent and improving in this aspect will be huge towards reaching all of my goals.

The time management will be most important when it comes to my academic and professional goals. This upcoming semester will be important for me to improve in my academics and having better time management skills in all aspects of my daily life will be a big step in reaching this goal. Once I move onto medical school and become a doctor, which are my future plans and professional goals, my days will only get busier. Due to this, time management will continue to grow in importance. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I had to take part in this experience and I look forward to seeing the effects it has on my future.


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Summer Art Study in New York City

Thanks to STEP, I was able to participate in a summer intensive art study at The Parsons School of Design (within The New School) in New York City. What I did was to take a three-week, three-credit intensive painting course from June 4 to June 23.

I chose this program because art is always one of my biggest interest besides my major. I really wanted to intensively engage with art and develop my art skills professionally during the summer when I don’t need to fit art into my normal schedule. I expected that I would learn a lot of art techniques through studio class, and spending three weeks in New York city would be very eye-opening, but I never imagined that I would develop such a precious relationship with so many great people that made me fall in love with New York. All of these make this trip transformative to me.

Spending five days a week and seven hours a day in the studio was not tiring for me at all. Every day was fulfilling, and I think this is the magic of passion. Thanks to my art teacher, I practiced and learned a lot every day. My art teacher is a great Spanish artist based in New York, specializing in murals, portraits and oil paintings, and I like his art work so much. He taught me how to see colors in a different way. One day we were painting nude model in oil, and I asked him why we always paint nudeness but not models with clothes on. He said that skin is actually more difficult to paint, because it has more colors. Many people normally assume that skin has only one color, which is yellow or white or black, but it is actually not. When I just started to put on colors, I had a hard time to get the color that I see for the arm. He came, and he mixed warm red, cool red, and a little bit purple and demonstrated for me. I wondered why he added purple. He said, “because I saw them.” And he told me to play with colors. I soon realized how artists got different eyes. At this point, I started to train my eyes to see different colors. I also become more resilient after three-weeks practice. When I did some sketches and some paintings by myself, I sometimes got mad when I didn’t like them. Now I feel I am more confident to fix the paintings that I don’t like now and improve them, instead of just leaving them aside without patience, because this is what my art teacher would do.

I feel so lucky in this trip since my art teacher likes my style and he invited me to help him with the mural in the restaurant and his painting as well. It was a mural in a Peruvian restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue in Brooklyn. I doubted if I could really paint a mural since I had zero experience. It was a mural in a restaurant, what if I ruined it?  While my art teacher encouraged me a lot, and told me that he would not ask if he didn’t think I could do it. I felt so honorable that he also showed me his real art works in his studio, including the one he was doing for the prince in Spain. I admire him a lot since they are such amazing pieces. I feel the most fascinating thing about doing art is to see something happen. I had a feeling of huge achievement after I saw a wall changed from blankness to beautiful and lively scene of rituals. I believe that next time I travel to New York City I will go to this restaurant again. The painting I helped with is a street scene in Taiwan, and what I did was a basic part. After the program ended, he sent me the picture about this painting with some progress. This painting was almost like a real photo to me. I feel art has a magic. I was amazed since it was so good after he applied color on it.

Our class is very diverse. We have 14 girls from all over the world, including Paris, England, India, Columbia, Canada and China. Although not many of us have art as a major, everyone likes art. We had a lot of nice conversations about art and culture, and we even watched World Cup together during lunch which was so fun. I also had very deep relationship with my roommate Anna, who is a half-England and half-Japanese. I would never forget our conversations about culture and politics in China and England. These all opened up my views. Over the first weekend, we went to a Lower East galleries tour which was held by Emily Lambert, who is also a part-time professor in Parsons. She is a very experienced artist while she looks really young and beautiful. I love her so much since she was very nice and outspoken. Thanks to her, we were able to talk to some artists in the galleries face-to-face. I knew how usually the market price of a painting in the gallery is decided, and I learned that it is not that easy to keep doing fine art. Talking to artists who were currently having exhibitions gave me many inspirations. I was confirmed that one can make achievement in his life only if he focuses on doing this thing in his life.

As an international student pursuing undergraduate degree in OSU, this immersive art experience in Parsons gives me an opportunity to have a different perspective about America since New York city is another very diverse and different city than Columbus. I feel I can see art works in the museums in a different view point now, and I also have a greater view about different cultures after I met many good friends from all over the world. This trip made me fell in love with New York city and I’m determined that I want to pursue a graduate degree in this city in the future.



Doug Varone Dance Intensive

       For my STEP signature project, I participated in a three week summer dance intensive with Doug Varone and Dancers.  I spent my time there working closely with and learning from the eight members of the company and Doug Varone, himself.  I grew as an artist and a person, and I was able to make many connections while I was there.


       The biggest transformation that I noticed take place was my confidence.  The company created a very safe environment, which allowed me to build confidence in myself as a dancer, artist, and person.  I found myself not trying to hide, but being comfortable and proud of my dancing. I took more risks while I was there, and collaborated with other dancers in choreography.  I was not afraid to make choices and make my artistic voice seen and heard. In the past choreographing and fully sharing my voice with others intimidated me because of the judgement that comes along with it, but this intensive gave me the confidence to challenge myself and try new things.  With this newfound confidence in myself as an artist, I noticed that my confidence in myself as a person grew, as well. I can be a pretty quiet person, but I felt myself break out of my shell here, and really let people see who I am.


       One key aspect of my project that led to my transformation was the extremely welcoming and safe space that the company built for us.  They truly created a whole other world for us. I felt completely separated from the rest of the world, which allowed me to really focus on myself and how I wanted to grow.  On the day we moved in, we had an orientation session with the company, and one of the first things Doug said was that during our three weeks there, we were encouraged to grow and try new things, and that we would be supported the entire time.  There is something so liberating about going into an environment where no one really knows you and being told that you have the freedom to challenge yourself and learn new things with no judgement. It inspired me to try choreographing and to step outside of my comfort zone and take risks in class.  Without this environment I never would have pushed myself to do those things. The safe world they created allowed me to completely be myself, and gain confidence in my abilities and actions.


       On that orientation day, Doug also said that his biggest emphasis in his company is the concept of community, and that it is very important that we bring that concept into the workshop.  When he said that, I didn’t think much of it because many companies say community is important, but don’t really practice that belief. However, I immediately noticed that here community was actually extremely important.  There were around fifty students participating in the workshop, and by the third day of classes every company member knew every student’s name. To have a teacher come up to you before class and call you by your name, after only really engaging with them in group settings, is so powerful.  It makes you feel seen and important. Throughout the workshop, the concepts of community and being seen became more prevalent. One of the activities we sometimes did in class was just standing across from someone and looking at them. It sounds a little weird from the outside, but when you participate in it, it can get kind of emotional.  You start to see people in different ways and you create a sort of unspoken connection with them, which also circles back to the strong sense of community in the company. One experience I had with this that kind of acted as a turning point for me was when I did the activity with one of the former company members who was teaching at the workshop.  It was very clear that we were both able to really see each other for who we are and that was powerful. That experience and the sense of belonging and importance that was present throughout the intensive definitely helped me gain confidence in myself.


       Doug and the company have a sort of rule of going into everything with no expectations.  In so many situations in life, especially in dance, we have very little control of the outcome.  To go into something with a preconceived notion of the “right” way it’s supposed to turn out, is almost setting yourself up for failure.  For example, in dance if you go into a performance thinking that it needs to be the best performance you have done and that you need to get certain people’s attention, you will most likely end the performance feeling defeated and unhappy with yourself.  In reality, though, the performance was probably really great, and the expectations you had going into it stopped you from enjoying the moment. It isn’t fair to yourself to think like that, and it can even become destructive. It can stop you from doing things you love because of the fear you will fail.  While it is hard to go into situations with absolutely no expectations, if you go in with the intention to give as much as you can, they become so much more enjoyable. This mindset helped inspire me to try new things during my three weeks there. I went into everything unfocused on things that could go wrong, and was able to recognize my successes along the way.  This helped me gain a sense of confidence in myself that I needed.


The confidence that I gained at this intensive is so important in my life.  I left the workshop completely inspired in dance and life in general. I know that I am capable of taking risks and that it is okay if they do not turn out the way I initially thought they would.  It is valuable to my personal life because it gives me the courage to actually be myself and voice my opinions. I know what I am worth and what I have to offer the world. It is important to my future plans because I know that I am capable and good enough to contribute to choreographic works.  I have an artistic voice that I can share with people and have it matter. The confidence I gained inspired a new love of dance for me, and it is making me so excited and ready for a career with it. I am so thankful for this opportunity and for everything I learned and experienced while I was there.       


STEP Computer Build Reflection

For my STEP signature project, I chose to assemble a functional computer build from scratch.  The primary objective of this project was to build a computer from scratch using high-quality parts.  This project has allowed me to exercise my artistic creativity, as well as my passion for technology that has accompanied me since I was a little boy. This project has also helped me to identify how each component in a computer operates, as well as how they are put together to create such a magnificent piece of technology.

During the process of acquiring all of the parts necessary for the build, I quickly became very overwhelmed with how many components are necessary to create a working computer.  I realized very quickly how complex this project really was, and was eager put my head down and get started.  Like the acquiring process, the building process was also very complex and took a lot of careful research and precision.  I had a general idea of the work necessary to assemble the build, but as I got started I understood that my previous assumption was a bit of an understatement. The build process really opened my eyes to the in-depth complexities of technology in this day and age.  My project, though simplistic compared to the advanced technology in our society today, gave me a taste of how far humans have evolved as a civilization, as well as in math and science.  This build process also solidified my passion and love for technology, and gave me a strong sense of accomplishment and empowerment once I was able to turn on the computer I built.

During the acquisition process, I had to become very familiar with each component I was looking for, and why I needed the component for the overall build.  This allowed me to become very familiar with the related technology, and educated me on the components necessary for a working computer desktop.  As I was learning myself, I was then able to communicate the components necessary and effectively with friends, family, and others interested in my project.  Personally, I believe that this knowledge is very important and practical, and will be very useful in the future wherever my career takes me.

As I was putting the components together, I was able to develop a very deep sense of appreciation for the technological advances of humans as a species.  Each specific part was so complex in its own identity.  The intricacies of each component were so complex that adequately identifying one component could take up pages upon pages of explanation.  Personally, that sparked my interest immediately, and gave me the appreciation of the time period we live in today.

Lastly, this project allowed me to meet some fellow peers that shared the same passions as myself.  As I was acquiring my parts, I had a very fun and interactive conversation with an employee who was just as excited as I was to build my computer.  The employee, Ted, was very passionate about building solid computers and gave me lots of great advice and information that I previously didn’t know.  He was a major help in the building process as well, a very valuable asset that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to run into.

Creating the STEP Build Document was the most difficult part of my computer build. Being able to provide step-by-step instructions was one battle, but making sure to use the correct terminology was most difficult. Because I didn’t come from a heavy technological background, I found myself asking my STEP advisor and peers a lot of questions about the meaning of phrases and the order of steps. However, when I was writing my computer build document I worked with my advisor to create a document that would be simple enough for people without a technological background to embark upon the same journey as I did. I am very proud to say that we have accomplished that in my build document.

Upon completion of the build, I felt a very strong sense of pride and empowerment. As a business major, I was able to piece and put together a piece of complex technology that many would find a daunting task.  Building this computer really gave me a sense of how adaptable I really am, as well as how I can get out of my comfort zone to dive into new projects.  I think these skills will be very valuable in my business-oriented professional career. These traits will allow me to adapt to any changes that could happen in my job field, industry, or my day-to-day life. I am also able to feel comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone to approach projects that could benefit myself, my peers, or society.  I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to participate in such a life-changing project that will remain with me for many years to come.


Above:  Motherboard with attached RAM DDR4 8G strips


Above: Completed build inside tower case

Build Document: Step Build Document

Road Trip to Six National Parks

For my STEP project, I traveled with my sister, Hailey, to six iconic national parks across the country. The purpose of this project was to take pictures of the incredible, unique landscapes that makeup America. I have been exploring local national parks and forests since I was very young, but the funds from this project allowed me to go much further than I had been before. Doing this signature project was truly transformational because it allowed me to get exposure to stunning scenery that I have only ever seen pictures of. Likewise, the responsibilities involved in executing this trip gave me life lessons that I will carry with me forever.

One of my most obvious takeaways from this trip was the importance of placing myself fully in the present moment. On the drive to our first national park, I scrolled social media almost the entire drive (when I wasn’t driving). I practically missed all of the scenery from Illinois to South Dakota. I couldn’t stop thinking about the responsibilities that were waiting for me when I returned home. I also couldn’t stop wondering if I would be having more fun at home with my friends rather than on this road trip. Being glued to my phone was like being glued to my hometown. It felt somewhat like a safety net because having my phone allowed me to know that I wouldn’t miss anything at home, but it also felt like a weight holding me down because I couldn’t miss anything at home.

Staying grounded is something that I am constantly working on. I like to be involved and hate feeling like I am missing out on stuff going on. At home and school, I have come to spend every moment preparing for the next. I study so I am prepared for exams and I work so I am prepared for expenses. It seems that moments where I am truly present in body and mind, are few and far in between.

As we finally arrived at our first national park, The Badlands, I was so struck by the amazingness of the geography around me that for the first time it seemed harder to focus on anything other than exactly what I was experiencing. The rocks in the park were massive and striped with beautiful red and white layers. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was so excited to explore the area that I was finally able to stop worrying about the rest of the world and simply experience what was happening around me. From that moment on, I made a promise to myself that I would not use my phone except for emergencies. Each moment was infinitely more satisfying when I was truly experiencing it, rather than just coasting by. I was able to notice little things that I would have otherwise missed.

Having the goal to place myself in the present moment, led me to another life lesson. Most of the places that were on our road trip itinerary were places that looked incredible based on pictures I have seen. Being that I was on a photography based road trip, it seemed that it would make sense to go to these places because if other photographers were inspirited at these parks, I would be too. The second we entered each park it was easy to understand why each one was so popular. Every park had its own rare and wonderful landscape. From the red rock formations in Zion and Arches, to the snowcapped (yes, snowcapped in June) mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, each location had its own fascinating appeal. I was inspired by every aspect of these parks and couldn’t stop taking pictures. As I was taking pictures, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated at how the pictures would turn out. I was seeing so many beautiful things in front of me, but then it seemed like I could never get pictures that accurately captured how beautiful what I was seeing actually was. In fact, I returned home from my trip with amazing memories, but overall disappointment with my photos. I felt like I just didn’t have a knack for photography. When I met with my aunt, a photographer herself and my STEP pre-reflection mentor, to review and edit some of the pictures, she told me that she loved the pictures that I took. Upon second look, my pictures were growing on me too. As we were talking I found that I had likely been disappointed by the pictures because the real landscape was far more beautiful than what I felt I had captured. Being in these parks was such a unique experience. The temperature, the smell of the park, the sound of people or water or wind in the trees… the experience of being there was far more impactful to me than the images that I returned home with. My favorite pictures were hung in my room as a reminder of how amazing of an experience this trip was, but I know that the only way I can recreate that feeling would be to return to the parks themselves. I enjoy going through my pictures because they also serve as a reminder for me to always seek to put myself in the present moment.

I am incredibly thankful for everything that I gained from this trip. I know that I will be positively impacted by these experiences for the rest of my life. On top of gaining a fuller self-awareness and improving my mental health, this trip inspired me to reevaluate other aspects of my life. About a month before going on this trip I decided to go vegan. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the energy for this trip if I stayed vegan, but I stuck with it and I felt healthier than ever. Furthermore, going on this trip inspired me to try and live a zero-waste lifestyle. Seeing the amazing parks reminded me how important it is to take care of the planet and one way I can contribute is by minimizing my waste.

I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip. It was, at times, difficult to prepare for, but I would have done it over again any day. The experiences in the parks, interactions with people, and lessons I learned will be with me forever.