For my STEP Signature Project I designed and built my own personal computer. I documented this process and used the knowledge and experience I gained to create a series of videos to serve as a guide for others wanting to build their own computers. The primary objective of my STEP Signature Project was to explore a technical interest of mine that is not specifically related to my major.
My STEP Signature Project proved that I am capable of completing a highly technical project without a lot of prior knowledge and experience. Because I am an environmental engineering major, I do not get as much “hands on” experience in the classroom as some other engineering majors. In fact, since declaring my major, I have periodically struggled with the thought that environmental engineering may not be as useful as other types of engineering because it is not as technical. Even though I am passionate about environmental engineering I have always wondered if I chose to study environmental engineering simply because I lacked confidence in my technical abilities.
I saw my STEP Signature Project as a chance to prove myself (to myself) and explore an area of interest outside of my major. Going into this project I was a little unsure of my abilities. I have wanted to build a computer for several years, but I was never confident enough to try. I always assumed people who built computers were highly skilled and possessed knowledge that I could not possibly have, but this project showed me that is not the case. With the proper amount of research and preparation, anyone can complete a project such as this one. Building a computer does not require any secret knowledge or technical expertise.
The first step in completing my project was deciding which components I wanted to use to build my computer. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially for someone as indecisive as I am. There are thousands of different options to choose from, each with minute differences. I began by researching and familiarizing myself with the specifications I would want to consider for each component. Then I read and watched reviews for each of the components I was considering. I was shocked by how large the online computer building community is, and how much information is available.
One thing that struck me when I was researching my components was how few women were involved in the online computer building community. All of the videos I watched and reviews I read were created by men. This solidified my determination to create my own series of videos that explore the pc building process. As I was put my computer together I took pictures to document my progress and took notes about the challenges I encountered.
Once my computer was complete, I used all of the information I learned from my research and from the practical experience of building a computer to create seven videos that outlined the whole process. The videos are not super detailed, but I think they contain everything a first time computer builder needs to know without being overwhelming. My goal was to create a series of videos that I would have found helpful before building my computer while increasing female representation in the online computer building community.
After completing my computer and seeing it boot up for the first time, I felt empowered. Even though building a computer is relatively simple compared to many technological processes, I was proud of my accomplishment. I took on a task, created a plan, and stuck to it. I now know there is no inherent ability one must possess to complete a technical project such as building a computer. I feel more confident in my ability to research information needed to make informed choices.
My STEP Signature Project also made me more confident in my ability to share my knowledge with others. Creating the instructional videos helped me improve my communication and presentation skills; which are both very important for professional engineers. The process of building my own computer and creating informational videos was very rewarding, and I hope others find my work useful.