PC Build

My STEP project was building a custom PC. This consists of research, what parts are needed and what parts to pick, and assembly, putting the computer together.

A big part of software and computer science is abstraction, we separate different layers of operation so we don’t have to worry about all the small details that build up to even just a letter on a screen. As a consequence I think that for many computer science majors, including myself, we are often wrestling with how much we don’t know and how much we don’t need to know. Especially how much we don’t know about hardware, which is essential for us to do what we do. For me, I hoped building this computer would fill a gap in my knowledge.

But rather than technical knowledge, I think what I gained most through this experience is learning how capable I am. The reason why I did not build a computer prior to this project was that I was afraid that I wouldn’t learn anything. Even if I succeeded in putting a computer together, I worried that I would not learn any of the things I wanted to learn, and investing more than $1000 when my computing needs do not exceed my laptops abilities was a high wall to get over. WIth STEP funds I was able to lower the barrier to entry, and when I started I found that I could very easily understand the information and instruction I needed. In the end, a project I had put off for years for fear of its difficulty took me less than one week.

Most of my research for this build was done reading articles and reviews on the internet, but there were two people that were a big part of this project.

The first is my father, who has always believed in my learning and building skills. During my first year of college, when I went to any event that touched on female engineers, the same question kept popping up. “Raise your hand if as a child, you were not encouraged to tinker.” I think this stuck with me, first because of its strange wording, but also because I was one of the few women who did not raise their hand. My father has always encouraged me to do the handy-work that I liked. From origami, sculpture, putting together furniture, fixing washing machines, building catapults, replacing electronic screens, my father always believed in my skills. I never thought too much about it until I kept hearing that question.

My father’s knowledge and encouragement, throughout my entire life as well as during this project, really pushed me to finally build this PC.

Another person who helped me during this project, was my adviser, Dr. Bibyk. Dr. Bibyk has been a great mentor in many different parts of my education, but in particular, something that he helped me with for this project has left a lasting impression on me. When I was submitting my proposal, I realized I had accidentally submitted it later that the deadline my assigned STEP adviser had stated. When I mentioned this to Dr. BIbyk he reached out to my first adviser and asked for her to consider my proposal. The fact that Dr. BIbyk was willing to vouch for me, was really validating. It made me feel like my want to build this computer was not fruitless, that it would contribute to my education. Knowing that Dr. Bibyk is supporting all kinds of builds helps take away any doubt that having actual experience, rather than just reading about how to build a computer, was really important.

I definitely learned a lot about computers during this build, at the same time I can’t say I made the best choices for my PC components. I don’t plan on building a PC again, but I am thinking about all the things I can do with my computer and how I can leverage what features it does have and learn more that way. Going through this experience gives me a feeling of credibility and has helped me realize being able to teach yourself and navigate is the most important skill to have. It helped me be more comfortable with the idea of not-knowing.

One final thought that comes to mind to me is the history of the personal computer. The PC was heavily marketed towards men, and eventually that manifested into a lot of the gender imbalance we see in computer science. I think finally having built my own custom PC is a poetic way to say that I am still here, and prove to myself that I belong.

 

‘Humans of Oahu’

  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 traveled independently to Oahu, Hawaii to experience a different culture and environment far outside of my comfort zone. I interviewed strangers in Hawaii that included transplants, native islanders, tourists, businesspeople, college students, etc. to document their stories and pictures into an online collection entitled, ‘Humans of Oahu,’ modeled after ‘Humans of New York.’ Cultural activities also aided my experience—I participated in Hawaiian cultural experiences including museums, snorkeling, and traditional luau that coupled with interviewing developed my photography, writing, and interpersonal skills.

One of my favorite pictures from the project. It captures all the homes of Hawaii’s people

  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. 

The largest transformation that I experienced during my STEP project was the ability to empathize with other cultures while putting aside my own assumptions. Since I have never been out of the country or had a chance to experience a different culture, I expected it to be a challenge to shed my ethnocentric notions—meaning judgments of another person’s culture according to the preconceptions of my own culture. In my anthropology class from the previous semester, my professor challenged us to engage in cultural relativism, the idea that a person’s beliefs and traditions should be judged on the basis of their own culture, rather than the culture of the person doing the judging (in this case, me). This trip not only allowed me to engage in cultural relativism, but enabled me to move a step beyond that into empathy. The people I spoke with in Hawaii, though they are separated from us by thousands of miles, face similar issues that the people in the continental United States encounter. There is one example that sticks out as the most profound. More than once I had the chance to speak with Native Islanders in Hawaii. It was apparent to us both that most tourists arrive at the island starry eyed with the idea of luxury and sunshine. While these things aren’t hard to find if you’re looking, it’s also very hard to ignore the widespread poverty that lines the beaches and mountains. The difference between Waikiki—a tourist capital of the country, and Waianae—the home of our Airbnb and a hot spot of Hawaiian ancestry, is day and night. Waikiki lines their streets with billboards for massages, while Waianae lines their streets with tents and foreclosed properties. Hawaii might be unique in their mountains and beaches, but sadly they are not alone in handling a large homeless population.

Another transformation of equal importance that occurred was in myself: I became comfortable with the uncomfortable. Upon arrival, I was very worried about approaching strangers. What if they told us to go away? What if they were mean? Or if we couldn’t connect with the people we met—simply because of language barriers or a lack of cultural understanding. As it turns out, this is exactly what happened. The first time, the second time, the third time, and then, finally: someone was willing to speak with us! Then this cycle would repeat itself. I guess repetition makes perfect. When we were looking for people to interview, we were denied more times than I can count on my two hands. Sometimes it would take hours to find someone willing to speak with us. Other times people would agree to speak, but wouldn’t want to sign the non-disclosure agreement. Becoming comfortable with speaking to strangers has no doubt aided my degree in marketing. This summer, I am a Sales intern. There were times when I was hesitant to take the position because I was worried that my demeanor was too shy. This project has helped me learn how to have confidence in speaking out for myself and communicating effectively with anyone that I meet. I feel more confident than ever of my place in a room. Empathizing with the Hawaiian people has made me increasingly culturally aware, and I think this understanding and respect for other cultures is crucial in a business setting. In addition, this project helped me to craft a sense of independence. Upon coming to Ohio State, it was comforting to know that I had the safety net of my home in Cincinnati a mere hour and a half away. Due to this, orchestrating my own project will be a type of independence that I have yet to experience in my life. I know this STEP project has allowed me to transform into someone who is able to stand firmly with her own decisions and succeed in any environment that comes my way.

  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.

If I were to divide my STEP project into two components aiding my transformation into a more empathetic, confident, and independent person, it is clear what those two things would be. The first would be the foundation of my STEP project, meaning the cultural activities that I engaged in. The second, and most important, would be the people that I spoke with. The people themselves were at the core of my understanding of Polynesian culture.

I’ll start with the foundation—some of the most important activities that we engaged in include visiting the Pearl Harbor monument, touring Iolani palace, hearing about the history of the island in a snorkeling outing, and participating in a traditional Hawaiian luau. All of these activities together helped to form the larger picture of Hawaiian culture and enabled my transformation into a more confident, independent, and understanding individual. It was helpful to learn about Hawaiian culture while also understanding the history of the island, such as Pearl Harbor, that continues to affect Oahu today.

Snorkeling was the most impactful experience for many reasons. Throughout the trip, Natives we spoke with kept telling us about the importance of water in Hawaiian culture. I didn’t get it at first…, everyone has water, right? It’s not till you experience it for yourself that you realize how truly engulfed by water Oahu really is. On my plane ride to Oahu, a woman from the island told me not to worry about rainy weather while I was there, because ‘rain is a blessing to the Hawaiian people.’ This sentiment was echoed on our snorkeling expedition. The expedition tour guide really helped ease my nerves as she explained the importance of water to the islanders and told us that long-ago Hawaiian gods had brought water to the island to support all of its living creatures. Hearing her admiration for the water helped to ease my nerves. This brings me to the second reason that this experience was so impactful–and definitely the most challenging for me. I am terrified of anything having to do with the ocean—sharks, rip currents, and anything else that could be lurking out there. Before we got in the water, she told us of Ka’ena Point, which we could see from off of the boat. This point overlooks the Eastern coast of Oahu and is where the soul leaves the body over the water when someone dies. Hearing the Hawaiian people’s tremendous adoration for the water made me more comfortable and confident in my decision to enter. Beyond this experience, it was obvious that surfing is a way of life in Hawaii. It was helpful to juxtapose the importance of Hawaiian culture with the other people who would call the island home. The Pearl Harbor Monument was very helpful in understanding the racial diversity on the island today and the challengers faced by mainlanders.

Though cultural activities helped us to immerse ourselves into Hawaiian culture and to appreciate it, nothing could compare the benefit reaped in speaking with the people. It was truly a ‘people project.’ The most important part of this project that contributed toward my development into a more empathetic person were my conversations with native islanders, tourists, businesspeople, and college students alike. I was only able to gain so much from these conversations by applying what I had learned in my anthropology class from the previous semester. In anthropology, we learned of three question types to help produce meaningful questions:

1) Seeing Big’ Seeing big requires a holistic perspective. This means taking into account the world view, social structure, and economics behind a culture that form its structure. It is important to acknowledge how these three components work together.

2)‘Seeing Small’This means realizing not only what is being said, but also who is saying it, who it is being said to, how they are saying it, and also why they are saying it. The goal with seeing small is to understand another persons culture through THEIR worldview, hence engaging with the mindset of cultural relativism.

3) ‘Seeing it all’This last step requires us to cut ourselves some slack, since we can never fully see through the lease of someone else. ‘Seeing it all’ requires practicing a cycle of communication, thoughtfulness, and empathy. Wesch’s belief is that communication with others allows us to feel empathy toward another culture. When we feel empathy, we then feel encouraged to revise our previous conceptions, hence, thoughtfulness.

Although everyone had interesting and moving stories to tell, ‘Uncle Ben’ was the one I found to be most impactful. By the end of our hour-long conversation, he had his greatest struggles and his fears for future generations. He had invited me and Katie to come stay at his ranch the next time we were in Hawaii and welcomed our project with open arms. He did this all in the setting of a McDonalds. Ben told authentic, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening stories of his 70 years in Hawaii. I think this really allowed Katie and I to shed any ethnocentric perspectives we were carrying about what we thought Hawaii was. From the start of this project, I pictured Hawaii being full of happy citizens engaging in what Uncle Ben calls the ‘aloha spirit.’ Media shows you the glamour of beach homes and 5-star resorts. They don’t tell you about the homeless community on the beach that was cropped out of the photo. They fail again and again to mention the crippling poverty; cities of tents that line the beaches, homes shackled with locks and ‘beware of dog’ signs, and home prices in what’s considered the ‘poor’ part of town that still manage to soar past $600,000. Ben’s story is alarming, certainly. But unique? Not so much. He tells us that Hawaiian homes wrongfully evicted him from his home and sold it to someone he thought was a friend of his. He says that this is happening to Hawaiians all over the island, and that the younger generation is now having to move to the mainland because wealthy outsiders are buying up all the land and making housing unattainable to people with ancestral roots in Hawaii. I think Ben’s situation was a good example of us being able to engage in cultural relativism. Ben’s story made me feel for the Hawaiian people and their struggles. It wasn’t difficult to acknowledge his point of view, however, as his situation seems like something that is repeated all over the world. Areas that used to be have affordable housing and were cultural hubs are now being gentrified to make room for the wealthy and push out the lower class. Although Ben’s story isn’t joyful, it almost feels like deja vu. I’ve heard this before—much closer to home.

‘Uncle Ben’ is the first stranger we spoke with in Oahu

4. 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.

My STEP project, ‘Humans of Oahu,’ taught me to identify a level of empathy and confidence in myself that I wasn’t aware existed. I was helped tremendously with my skills as a marketing major with an intended career path in sales; many times, I approached stranger after stranger only to be shot down. More importantly, I had some very deep conversations, and gained a greater respect for other cultures that will no doubt help me in my understanding of business ethics. When I think about my future in Marketing and sales, I feel very encouraged to be socially aware in my marketing. If there’s one thing I realized in Hawaii, it’s that the signs advertising luxury spas often come at the cost of buying up the land of native islanders. When I spoke with different individuals in Hawaii, it helped me to cue in on my greatest strengths as well as my greatest insecurities. I was very timid with the first person we spoke to. I can see now in my Sales internship that the way I have approached people has changed and I am much less shy. This project was deeply satisfying to my persona as a whole. When I think of college and work, I sometimes imagine myself running around in a scramble trying to get everything done. With grades and deadlines approaching, there is little time to think about that person caught in the rain without an umbrella, or the woman sleeping on the side of the sidewalk. Of course, anyone would notice these things. But most often subliminally—any thoughts you have don’t come to fruition. This project encouraged me to engage with different types of people that included tourists, native Islanders, transplants, and college students alike. More than anything it brought the realization that these are people with problems just like us.

Link to Website:https://kienzlere.wixsite.com/humansofoahu

STEP Signature Project – Music Exploration

For my STEP Signature project, I wanted to creative expression through music. I have always wanted to take guitar and singing lessons, but have never been able to do so due to financial restraints. With STEP funding, I took vocal and guitar lessons at Musicologie in Columbus and challenged myself to learn the fundamentals of music theory. I took lessons weekly and saw significant progress in both singing and playing guitar.

Heading into singing lessons, I realized just how much I am uncomfortable with expressing myself and putting myself truly outside of my comfort zone. It’s one thing to play guitar by myself and sing in the shower, it’s a completely different experience singing in front of a teacher and trying to improve intentionally. I assumed that talent in playing music and singing is natural, but I did not expect how much attention to detail, focus, and diligence it requires to become better and truly skillful as a musician. I wouldn’t consider myself anything more than a beginner, but it was exciting to see various improvements throughout my project.

A key transformation that took place was in my ability to be vocal. I’ve always sat quietly and been hesitant to speak in front of people, afraid to make mistakes and be called out for saying something that’s not intelligent. Forcing myself to sing kicked this mentality out the door. I’m still uncomfortable singing in front of a group of people and enjoy playing guitar much more, but better understanding my voice will help me in presentations, in producing my podcast, and whatever other endeavor that requires articulation. During my first lesson, I was so afraid to sing with volume and I frequently ran out of breath. By my last lesson, I was singing confidently and with conviction. My view about creative professions transformed as well, I have the utmost respect for anyone pursuing a career in anything creative as, by only scratching the surface, I better understood the incredible amount of willpower, determination, and diligence needed to succeed. It’s not unlike any other career field, it just requires a different set of technical skills. My appreciation of the arts has truly transformed.

First, I took vocal and guitar lessons with Regan, my instructor, for over four months. In each of these interactions, I slowly grew in my development as a musician and someone who is more confident in their voice. At each lesson, we would start with vocal warm-ups, singing scales and loosening up any stress that I had built up. Then, we would begin working on songs that I wanted to learn, typically by Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, or Frank Sinatra.

It took a while to uncover what style of songs fit my voice well, but ultimately we settled on more jazzy tunes. Meanwhile, I was also learning more about guitar and music theory, learning both fingerstyle guitar and how to play chords to accompany my voice. This proved incredibly difficult as both singing and playing at the same time requires one to be automatic. I made slow progress at this, and it required lots of work at home to make my guitar playing for a few songs feel automatic. I only learned how to play and sing a few songs, but I’m looking forward to putting in more work after the completion of my STEP project to develop these skills further.

Overall, this project helped me find my voice and be comfortable presenting it. I have always loved podcasts, and wanted to start one but was initially afraid of how I would be perceived. After taking vocal instruction, I felt much more comfortable and launched an episodic podcast titled Around the Oval. Now, I work for the university and host a podcast for The Office of Student Life titled “Time and Change.” I don’t think this would have been possible without my STEP Signature Project, as it provided me with the skills and attitude needed to explore my interests.

My STEP project and the associated transformation will be valuable in my life in several ways. First, personally I love listening to and playing music, and this is only the next step in pursuing creative expression as a hobby. Professionally, I hope to become a physician one day, and from this experience I hope to be better at handling uncomfortable situations and managing my priorities. Music will be a relief from stress for the rest of my life. This project will also help me communicate better with various types of people, which will undoubtedly help me as I serve diverse patient populations that come from all walks of life.  Thank you STEP for funding this project and creative pursuit. I’m grateful for the experience and hope others’ are enabled to challenge themselves and pursue their passions in a similar way.

Over the course of my project, I recorded snippets of me playing songs on guitar. As mentioned, I’m far more comfortable playing guitar than singing, as it is very different when you’re in front of a live audience. Please enjoy this compilation that I made below of a few songs that I learned along my journey, thank you STEP for funding my transformational experience!

The Art of Self Discovery

My STEP Signature Project consisted of a domestic travel out west to a series of national parks including Zion, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Antelope Canyon. Throughout this two week journey my roommate Will and I captured pictures and videos along with keeping a field journal alongside in order to showcase the natural beauty and our personal growth.

Before embarking on our travels, I dreaded the 26 hour drive each way. I am one to get motion sickness easily which is the biggest reason why I never enjoy road trips. However, this trip felt very different from the start. I was going to explore a whole new world that I had never seen before. I was born on the west coast, but don’t remember anything about the west. The drive went smoothly and surprisingly fast, one I attributed to great company and constant curiosity. I was grateful for the drive, so that I could see the landscape changes along the way and the incredible geological and societal diversity. Arriving at the first enormous mountain with white peaks at the top, I realized how small I am. The world is full of millions of people and places that I will never see. God created such a massive piece of art for people to come together. I could see how God is individually working in everyone’s lives around the globe. Will and I also realized how long the Earth has existed and compared that to how short our human lives are on the Earth. Continuing along our journey, my understanding and view of myself and the world continuously transformed. I noticed how different landscapes and cultures help define our values. Lastly, the relationships and interactions along my journey fixed some of my misinterpretations of what living is all about. Traveling is very difficult. We had to live out of a car for days at a time, and additionally we were responsible for cooking meals on the fire and quickly adjusting plans. Many useful problem-solving skills can be related to our engineering fields of study. Adaptation and creativity are important characteristics for engineers in a competitive economy.

There were many events and various activities during the two weeks I was exploring new geography that led to the transformations I encountered. The trip was full of hiking almost every day for a few hours. Growing up running around in the woods all day, I had expectations that the hikes and trails would be easy. This was false for most of the trails. Majority were incredibly long and steep. While in Colorado, the trails were still covered with snow from the long winter they had there. This made following the path very difficult. On our way to Blue Lakes, the trail was completely covered by up to five feet of snow. We could walk on top of the snow in some spots, but other spots we would fall in almost waist deep. This led to our clothes being soaked, and the round-trip trail time to double.  However, we did not make it to the lakes. We were hungry, thirsty, frozen, and running out of daylight if we continued. The way back was horrific. I wanted to collapse the entire time, and I was very upset that we could not make it to this beautiful location. Although this day sounds terrible, I learned many things from it. It is not necessarily the destination in life that makes us who we are. It is the journey that shapes us no matter how gruesome it is. I was physically tested and emotional bat around.

This wasn’t the only trail we couldn’t complete during our project out west. While we were staying at Zion, a good portion of the strenuous trails that we were looking forward to were closed due to rock fall. Others were closed due to too much snow melt causing the rivers to flow high and fast. Since we set aside four nights of camping in Zion National Park, we quickly came up with other activities to do and a few other places to photograph. The last two days in Zion we decided to visit Sand Hollow, Red Cliffs Park, and Gunlock Park. These parks ended up being some of our favorite beautiful spots. Sand Hollow had amazing cliff jumping rocks into vibrant blue water, video clips that would spice up our end of journey video. The others had amazing sites and hikes as well. This showed to me that I need to make the best out of what is given to me everywhere I go. Some of the best experiences come from spontaneous decisions and living life on the edge. While we were camping at the Grand Canyon, it was raining almost all night, and we needed to cook food over the fire. With only a few dry pieces of

Traveling through a total of 11 states, we were destined to meet new people and interact with locals in each geographic area. In each of the national parks, I noticed a few things. The biggest thing was that there were not many college students or high school students. I was hoping to have conversations with other college student but realized that as a college student it is very hard to be able to complete a two weeklong project. Many students start working or internships when schools ends and additionally do not have the finances. I am beyond thankful for this program and for being able to strive and explore outside of the engineering classroom at Ohio State. Every tourist was extremely friendly. Most tourists were European or Asian, and some middle to upper aged Americans. There were a few interaction stories that stood out for me. First, in Box Canyon, a closed road kept us from completing our planned hike. We asked a local sheriff and a woman of the hotel staff for popular things to do in the area. The woman even let us borrow her hiking book if we returned it later that evening. I was amazed by the generosity and trust she had for complete strangers. It inspired me to continuously give to others no matter my relation to them. Another group of travelers at Zion noticed my cross necklace while I was hiking shirtless. He was from India, grew up following the Hinduism religion, and many years into his life converted to Christianity. This was an amazing and powerful story of how one person found God. We also met a group of younger teenagers at Sand Hollow State Park. They were very prideful of their land and this cliff jumping area. They spoke to us about the extremely hot summers and even why the lake was so high that year, the highest they ever remembered. While touring Antelope Canyon, we had one of the funniest native Navajo tour guides. He taught Will and I about his culture and ancestry, even showing us videos of him playing the triple flute. He was extremely friendly asking us about our background. He also showed us the best photographic techniques and spots while in the canyon, something we couldn’t have done on our own. After this tour, I was very appreciative of the Navajo culture.

Lastly, my relationships with both Will and God led to a personal transformation. Will and I were random roommates freshman year of college. I was blessed with a forever friend, who I will have lived with all four years of college. We are very similar people and know each other very well. Even being slightly off emotionally, we can tell something is wrong. However, this past year, with such busy course loads both in engineering, we never really had much time available to hangout. This project gave us adequate time to bond again and face struggles together. Additionally, we would spend every second of the day together, allowing us to get deep with each other, something guys don’t normally do regularly. We spoke about our lives and spiritual lives as we sat sit around the bonfire late at night after cooking dinner. We each had different perspectives during parts of the trip which we were able to capture with our cameras as well. We worked through any disagreements that we had, but ultimately having intentional time and experiencing new challenges and environments grew our relationship greatly. My love for people seems to take precedence over anything else. For example, this journey out of west would have the same beautiful landscapes if I went along, but it wouldn’t have been as special if it were not for experiencing it with the people you love.

Without experiencing new things, there is no growth. Without growth, there is no life. After this project I can greatly appreciate every conversation and relationship that I have, whether it be with my best friend or a complete stranger. On the other hand, I developed better critical thinking and problem-solving skills, useful for my career path as a mechanical engineer. Professionally, I have been exposed to such beautiful nature that I want to strive for ecofriendly products to protect the environment. My future plans and aspirations include starting my own company. Exploring my photography and video interests allowed me to see parts of the world that I can’t see. The video clips developed my video editing skills from an academic standpoint. My desire to travel and improve my photography skills increased as a result of such a transformational project. Additionally, I am confident in planning my own individual endeavors and want to continue to exceed my comfort zone. I hope another similar opportunity arises where I can reflect and grow as I did during this project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTw0widXCPg

STEP Project Reflection

Before completing my STEP Signature Project, I would say that I had a fairly narrow and even misinterpreted view of America and the breadth of landscapes, cultures, and people.  I have lived on the eastern side of the country for my entire life, and have only ever traveled west once when I was younger. I greatly appreciated that Kevin and I drove from Columbus to each of our destinations, as this allowed me to see the changes in landscapes and cultures along the way.  We traveled from the flat lands of Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas to mountainous regions in Colorado to canyon and desert lands found in Utah and Arizona. This change sometimes occurred slowly, while other landscapes transitioned more quickly. Nonetheless, each change was incredible and eye opening as to the extreme diversity of our country.  We truly have it all. One of the major takeaways from the trip was definitely learning to value the different relationships and interactions with people that we met along the way, as well as with Kevin. I realize that the Grand Canyon may have been around for 70 million years, but people are certainly here for much shorter periods of time. I am learning to value each relationship, conversation, and interaction and learn as much as I can from each culture, because I know that each person only stays on the earth for a short period of time.  We also experienced a wide range of interactions with people, as Colorado had very minimal contact with any people and the Grand Canyon was flooded with people of many different cultures. No matter where we went, I couldn’t help but notice that the locals at each of the locations had great pride in their homeland. Each spot has helped to define and structure the values and culture of each person, which has encouraged me to reflect on how the places I have lived have changed or defined me. We were able to talk with people from all over the world, and it amazed me that every person that we interacted with was genuinely kind and found satisfaction in being able to learn about my culture.  I was very excited to learn about their culture as well, so it was a very enjoyable exchange. The trip also tied into my religious beliefs as well, where I have continued to grow in the appreciation of nature, but also see how God is working and using many different people on the earth to continue to teach me and allow me to grow.

Another major takeaway from the trip was a better appreciation of the difficulty of traveling, as there are many details and unexpected situations that cause you to think quickly and problem solve.  As an engineer, these skills are critical to our success in the industry. For example, Kevin and I had to work through living out of a car for multiple days at a time, which required extreme organization and was very uncomfortable at times.  We additionally were responsible for accounting any expenses incurred throughout the day and cooking meals on the fire. For cooking, we had to plan out grocery shopping and think about the best way to prepare the meal with our limited resources.  Sometimes this involved creating tools from sticks or rocks at the campsite to achieve our goal. When we were in Zion, most of the hikes were closed, so we ventured out to nearby parks and had to replan out our days without very much notice. This taught us to think critically and quickly, taking into account any details that may influence our plans, such as getting meals or gas, accounting for changes to the budget, and preparing for weather changes.

Most prominently, my relationship with Kevin and the interactions that we had throughout the course of the trip led to the changes and notable transformations seen in myself.  Kevin is one of my best friends, so we were able to get along very well over the course of the trip. However, there still were struggles and disagreements that we had to work through and discuss with each other.  Additionally, Kevin and I had different perspectives and were able to see the beauty in nature in varying ways. We were able to capture different photos and videos throughout the trip, and looking through our shots has allowed me to appreciate how he experienced the trip and compare it to my own experience.  Through daily conversations with Kevin, I was able to greatly appreciate our friendship even more than the location, despite all of the beauty around. What was most valuable to me was being able to spend some intentional time with him and develop our friendship while navigating the challenges of new and changing environments.  We were able to problem solve together and talk through our plan for the budget, cooking meals, preparing the campsite, reserving places to stay, and many other things. All of these conversations help to foster a deeper understanding of what makes Kevin who he is and allowed us to better appreciate our friendship.  I was surprised by the growth we experienced in just two short weeks, and this has played into a new found desire to build more relationships like this one, whether it be at school or in the workforce.

A few specific interactions with locals and travelers during the trip stick out to me in particular.  While we were in Box Canyon, one of the trails that we had planned to hike was closed due to an avalanche.  This inclined us to ask some of the locals about other trail recommendations that we could hike instead. We were able to have a conversation with one of the sheriffs and some of our hotel staff, and they were extremely kind and even offered to let us borrow a book that listed all of the popular trails in the area.  They gave us advice on gear to take during the hike and how to best prepare for the conditions. I was taken back by their generosity and enthusiasm in helping us, which has inspired me to always give others the same care and help. Kevin and I also met a bunch of locals at Sand Hollow State Park, and they were also very kind towards us.  They helped us find a cliff jumping location on the lake, and asked many questions to try to get to know us and where we were from. They took pride in knowing the land and being from the area, which made conversation with them very fun. They gave us advice on other parks in the area to visit, and we ended up going to one of them. They loved telling us about their extremely hot summers and how the level of the water in the lake changes frequently depending on the amount of snow melt.  I was taken back by their kindness and advice, which actually inspired me to tell one of my good friends about the location, as he was travelling to the area shortly after me (he ended up going as well). Locations such as the ones that we visited should never be hidden or concealed, but rather proclaimed in order for the public to be able to admire the beauty, and the locals at each of these locations definitely understood this principle. They also understood that there is so much more history behind each location that can easily be overlooked.  It was through these interactions that I was able to better appreciate the beauty of the land from a deeper understanding of the history behind it.

Another few interactions that stood out to me was with our tour guides at Antelope Canyon.  The canyon lies on Navajo land, so the only way to see the beautiful canyon was through a native Navajo tour guide.  We went on two tours (upper and lower canyon separately) and for each we had a native Navajo guide. It was so interesting to learn about their ancestry and culture in relation to the canyon.  They were able to point out interesting and unique structures in the rock and provide advice on how to get the best pictures and videos of the canyon. They were eager to teach us all about their heritage, and one of our guides took pride in being one of only three people to play the triple flute, a traditional Navajo instrument.  He was self taught and was able to share how playing the instrument relates to his people and the land. Had Kevin and I just toured the canyon on our own, we would have never been able to reproduce the caliber of photography or have the deep understanding of the formation processes and native culture that surrounds the canyon. For this, I am very appreciative of the Navajo people and their lifestyle.  At the Grand Canyon, Kevin and I talked to a few Park Rangers, who were able to provide us with recommendations on different hikes, campsite tips, and even a bus trip that would show us the whole canyon. I was able to learn more about the complexity of the canyon through these conversations, and felt blessed to have more information on the massive park.

Kevin and I were also able to interact with a number of international travelers throughout our trip, specifically at the Angel’s Landing hike in Zion National Park where we met travelers from China, Canada, other states in America, countries in Europe and even Columbus, OH!  Although there was some language barrier, we were able to help each other take pictures and learn about the places people came from and why they decided to visit Zion. It was so interesting hearing all of their perspectives and seeing how each person interacted with and appreciated different parts about the environment.  Each interaction increased my curiosity towards other cultures and my desire to travel to their homelands. I am not necessarily enthused about seeing the landscapes as much as I am excited to meet more people, each with diverse backgrounds and histories that contribute to who they are as a person. This has helped me gain a deeper understanding of God, as His creation can be seen and appreciated through many different lenses by people of all different groups.  I recall one interaction with a two men from Great Britain at Horseshoe Bend, and they were absolutely hilarious. I loved their jargon and hearing about what they do overseas. It is so captivating to me that although outer appearance and language may differ between people, each person is the same and valued on the inside. This has helped me to better interact with my coworkers this summer, as I work in a very diverse environment.

Finally, I remember that during our first night at the Grand Canyon it was raining for the majority of the night.  Thus, we had to wait until the rain was mostly over to cook dinner on the fire. Luckily we had a couple pieces of dry firewood and found a some lighter fluid, otherwise we would not have been able to start the fire.  As it was, it took us about three hours to cook dinner and we ended up not eating until around midnight or a little after. This night really highlights the difficulty that we experienced having to cook our own food and prepare for the elements in living out of a car for the duration of the two weeks.  We learned to work smarter, not harder, which required us to think creatively and problem solve. We even were able to use some of the rocks and trees at some of the campsites to do a couple workouts throughout the trip. I was able to do a whole lot more than I expected through some of the creative ideas that we had.  I know that this will play into my success as a student and an aspiring engineer in the workforce, as these thought processes will prove critical to my performance and success.

This personal change that I have seen in myself certainly has allowed me to greater appreciate each and every conversation and relationship.  You never know where a person is from or what they have been through, and I think a better appreciation of this fact will allow me to become a better person and truly care for people without any expectation of repayment.  This along with better problem solving and critical thinking skills will certainly help me excel in the professional environment as a practicing engineer, as these two skills are vital to the success of an engineer. This trip and change has also increased my desire to practice photography more often, especially blessing others through relationships formed through the pictures.  Just as on the trip and exchanging photographs was able to build relationships and foster deeper conversations, I hope that I can continue to improve my photography skills and build more relationships in this manner in the future. I also feel more confident in planning my own trips in the future and feeling prepared to step outside of my comfort zone to try new experiences and learn about new cultures.  I look forward to my next opportunity to do so, as I see the value in experiences such as this one where I can reflect and truly see the growth that I experienced in such a short time.

Here are some pictures from the trip!

We also made a final video which is a compilation of all of the shots that were taken during the trip.  The video can be seen below.

Growth Through Music

For my STEP project I assembled a home music recording studio and personally created a music project that I released. While I did outsource for a music engineer to polish the final record, all other steps including writing, recording, publishing, etc. were all personally handled by myself.

Before beginning my STEP project I had ambitions to pursue a music career, but felt as though it were nearly impossible for me to do. Yes, I believed I had the talent, but I did not have the finances nor time to commit myself to not only creating good music, but doing so consistently. However, STEP gave me a chance to step outside my comfort zone and give it a try. Utilizing funds from STEP to build a studio, I thought that was the difficult part, but it was just the beginning.

I thought that with music the most difficult part of it involved writing and recording it, but I was sadly mistaken. Early on in the project I begin to fall behind. With early disbursement issues and unsatisfactory results, I began to lose hope. It felt as though every greatly written song did not sound as well as I imagined when it was mixed. Some songs required different skills and recording techniques than others and I felt like I was over my head. But something in my was determined to push forward.

Worried I may have simply burned myself out I decided to take a week break away from music. Although I was always tempted I decided to listen to the types of music I did when I began writing. Listening to the words of Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Russ, Nipsey Hussle, and John Legend gave me the inspiration to continue moving forward. After my week break I wrote and recorded an entirely new project and began searching for qualified engineers. The search was long, but after about a week and a half I found my perfect candidate.

After weeks of collaborating, making changes and additions, and agreeing on a theme, the project was complete and ready for distribution, but that was my next obstacle. I had never done distribution. Eager to continue learning, I took to the internet and Youtube and learned about the various ways to release your music to several outlets. I also learned other skills such as mixing, mastering, and improving sound quality. After a series of failed attempts, my music was finally published to Spotify and Applemusic. Determined to continue I decided to produce another one and release it as well. I am glad to say that I was successful.

What this project taught me is patience, resilience, and determination. The journey that I assumed would be slightly difficult kept me up several nights frustrated and ready to quit, but I know that nothing is easy that is worth fighting for. My journey was very difficult, but I feel as though I came out more determined than ever to continue pursuing my dream. I am currently working on a third project that I think will be greater than all because with each project I grow and improve. Had it not been for this experienceI would have never grown so much in my music career and character.

Tickling The Ivories

My STEP Signature Project was to spend the 2018-2019 school year learning how to play the piano. I am no musician, but I wanted to explore music as an outlet and potential hobby while building a new skill. I attended weekly lessons at Singleton Piano and Fitness Studio working on learning piano theory, keyboard familiarization, sight reading, and memorization. Towards the end of the project we even started looking at improvisation and jazz!

Music Book

100 classical pieces. How many can I memorize??? 🤔

I am so happy I took on this STEP project. I am a very competitive and driven person. I want to succeed even when I don’t know what exactly it is I’m trying to accomplish. So a lot of the choices I’ve made were focused on succeeding as a professional in a competitive field. When I initially formulated ideas for a potential project I concentrated on my field and trying to do something that would develop me as a professional. However, some conversations with my STEP faculty advisor convinced me to look for something that would develop me as person instead, not just a professional. With further introspection I found that I was focusing to much on maintaining my course down my chosen path. Everything I was doing seemed like a simple check off the list to work towards a career. This project gave me the opportunity to explore something new that had nothing to do with my major, internships, or my future career. It was just something I was curious about and wanted to learn. I needed that break in the monotony so I could step back from being totally immersed in my major and see myself as a whole person. While working on the project I discovered a love for music and started on a journey of improvement that I will continue for the rest of my life because it’s something I want to do, not something I have to do.

One of the biggest takeaways from this experience is my new relationship with my piano teacher, Lynn Singleton. Ms. Singleton is a wonderful person and teacher who helped me through my first steps on the piano. She made learning feel fun and stress-free while constantly encouraging me to improve. Without Ms. Singleton’s influence, this project could have easily turned into a chore. Instead, lessons became something to look forward to, and practice was a way to escape from the rest of the world for a little while. Ms. Singleton made the piano a gift and I can’t thank her enough.

Singleton Piano Studio

Singleton Piano Studio. 3327 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202. Shameless plug. 🤣

Along with my lessons with Ms. Singleton came my personal practice sessions. I knew that I wouldn’t improve the way I wanted to without putting in some effort of my own. My goal was to learn enough to continue mastering the piano on my own throughout the rest of my life. The piano, like any other instrument, requires a lot of practice and experience before you can just sit down and play. I had to work hard if I wanted to accomplish that “sit and play” ability in two semesters.

I made sure to set aside practice time and acquired an 88-key keyboard that I set up in my room so that there was no excuse not to play. At first, I was worried that practice would become another chore, and it would have been if I continued to try and practice an hour a day during my scheduled practice time. I quickly realized that this strategy wouldn’t work. I was so busy with school, work, and extracurricular activities that finding an uninterrupted hour of free time became almost impossible. Even my scheduled practice time would inevitably become filled with emergencies and events and a million other things that I needed to do. This isn’t what I wanted. Piano was becoming stressful and learning frustrating. So I switched tactics. I began to practice when I could for however long I could. Often this meant 5 or 10 minutes at a random part of the day.

Piano Keyboard

My keyboard. We’ve been through a lot. 🙏

Soon, piano became a way to relax and distance myself from my constant string of responsibilities. If I got overwhelmed and needed a break I could just sit on the bench and focus on nothing but playing for a few minutes. The music had no strings attached. How well I played didn’t affect my future or my ability to succeed. It was something I could do whenever I wanted to because I wanted to. I found that soon I was taking piano breaks 6 or 7 times a day at least. That meant I was practicing between 30 minutes to an hour every day without even noticing it. For the first time, practice was not a chore. It just happened as naturally as breathing (not to say that I’m any good yet).

Ms. Singleton’s attitude toward my learning together with my “do what you can” practice style let starting my piano journey be a fun and stress-free experience in the midst of a high-paced, stressful time in my professional development. I learned the importance of stepping back from all the craziness and centering myself by doing something I enjoy. The music wasn’t a competition. It wasn’t a check box on the list of “how to complete my major”. It was just nice and relaxing. I needed this project to show me that there are things in life worth exploring outside of career and competition. I am so glad I decided to do this and that STEP helped make it possible.

College Diet

“College Diet” is a short documentary film that highlights the issues around food insecurity at The Ohio State University. The project explores the causes and consequences of food insecurity. It also highlights an organization, Buckeye Food Alliance, who provide food and other resources to students experiencing food insecurity.

Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to nutritious meals. While completing my original idea, Doll House, I became aware of a food insecurity issue among my crew and actors- many actors had limited availability due to their work and school schedules. If they did not work a certain amount of hours, they would not be able to eat. I did more research on the issue and discovered that 51% of college students experience some level of food insecurity, with 15% of students experiencing high levels of food insecurity. With the level of privilege some students experience, food insecurity can seem like a far off issue. In addition, the experience is somewhat normalized by the association of a bad diet and college life.

Throughout this project,  I learned the extent of the effects of food insecurity. It can be extremely difficult to be successful in school when basic needs cannot be properly met. I also realized the problem goes deeper than simply bad budgeting. A living wage in Columbus is 11 dollars an hour at 40 hours per week. Students are often paid Ohio minimum wage, 8.55 an hour, and are only allowed to work 28 hours per week. With the mandatory and recurring expenses of tuition, rent, and bills, flexible expenses without due dates, such as groceries, often get put on the back burner. I interviewed a student that was supposed to be an actor for Doll House, and she had to drop out of a semester of school because her food insecurity was causing long term health.

This project allowed me to gain a great deal of empathy for people affected by food insecurity. The people I interviewed were people I have worked with closely- actors and crew I have used for many of my projects. The fact that I had no idea of this huge obstacle in their lives despite working closely with them was very indicative of how society treats this problem on a larger scale. While working in storytelling and communication, empathy is a critical tool in order to portray an accurate representation of an experience. I truly believe this project has opened up my mind to the many issues that, despite surrounding our society, has been hidden away to preserve the illusion that our privilege has allowed us.

This project has allowed me to collaborate with several of my peers, allowing me to create a much better product than if I were to pursue this project by myself. In a professional setting, there will always be a great deal of collaboration. While pursuing this endeavor, I was able to work with a composer, a cinematographer, and some crew. Before creating the film, I was able to shadow producers at the Cleveland Film Company and gained invaluable experience with working on a larger scale film set. I was able to apply these skills to my personal project, allowing scheduling and budgeting to go smoothly. With this professional experience as well as the added piece in my portfolio, I will be able to further display my skills when applying for jobs and internships.

Venturing outside of narrative filmmaking and going into documentary was extremely transformative for my professional and creative goals. Before, I had only known how to make a successful narrative film- I was only interested in storytelling in the context of narrative filmmaking. While this project started as a narrative film, it gradually transformed into a documentary. Not only did this help me deal with the obsessive perfectionism and overplanning that I outlined in my pre-project reflection, it also allowed me to pursue storytelling in context to a documentary film. With my STEP project mentor, I learned about a documentary objective and how to arrange footage to fulfill my objective. I learned how to effectively communicate my message to my audience. I believe this new skill will further strengthen my storytelling skills, and give me yet another tool to display when pursuing my professional and creative goals.

The new skills and experiences I received while creating this film were instrumental in my growth as a filmmaker. I believe this piece in my portfolio will allow me to display the breadth of my storytelling abilities, leading to my future professional and academic success. With this project, I was actually able to obtain an internship in social media marketing, a career field for which I have a great deal of interest. Going for a documentary instead of a narrative film allowed me to further learn about the documentary field- a style of filmmaking that is often preferred for social media posts. This experience has been extremely transformative for my future goals, and I am very grateful that STEP has allowed me to explore a new style that has quickly become the base of my future career goals.

 

Hangout Music Festival

Lida Linville

 

My STEP signature project was attending a music festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. For this project, I took a road trip with 3 other people and watched various artists perform live music. The festival grounds were filled with people from all over, art installations, and music. As my final product, I posted my photographs to an instagram account that can be accessed by the public.

Prior to completing my STEP project, I had only been to the southern United States once, and had never been to Alabama. In addition, I had never attended a large scale music festival or attempted to photograph an event. Photography and music have always been a passion of mine, but I never had the opportunity to explore such a large venue. Through my project, I was able to immerse myself in a new and strange environment. The first thing I noticed about Hangout was how everyone forms a community around the music. The groups of people who attend these concerts are diverse, but they all go for the same fundamental reason; to enjoy live music. For this reason, the crowds are friendly and generous, watching out for each others enjoyment and safety.

This experience is unlike any I have had before, which is where my transformation began. Throughout the course of the festival, I met unique people from places outside Ohio. Together, we were able to embrace the new environment and bond over a shared love of music and art. Photographing the whole thing allowed me to pay attention to the intricate details and preparation that goes into creating the atmosphere. I was also able to see artists I have never experienced before, exposing me to new genres of music. As I wandered around the festival grounds, I was able to hear hip-hop, punk, alternative, electronic music and more. This uncommon situation allowed me to broaden my horizons and open my mind to music I had never considered.

Through my project, I was able to learn new things about both photography and art. After I worked with my community mentor, I was able to use manual settings on my camera that I previously didn’t know how to use. This opened up the ability to shoot portrait shots, shoot at night, people, and live music. My mentor also looked at previous photographs I had taken and gave me suggestions on how I could improve. Although I had a lot of previous experience shooting in Ohio, Alabama and Hangout created a live and spontaneous atmosphere. At first, I found shooting the artists to be difficult due to the massive amount of people there. However, I picked up tricks along the way that allowed me to capture the energy of the concert without being up close and personal with the performer. This experience transformed and developed my photography skills greatly, since it was both challenging and entertaining.

As previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of music. In the past, I have been to local concerts that were 1-2 artists at a time. Although this is still a valuable and enjoyable experience, you are spending money on a very specific type of music and performance. At a music festival such as hangout, they bring artists from around the world who represent all different genres. This allowed my ticket to pay for artists that I may not have chosen to see alone in Columbus, but would still enjoy. An example of this was an artist called “Dreamerboy.” They are a new band from Nashville who were playing at the smallest stage in the morning. We didn’t know the artist, but we decided to check them out. There were about 7 other people watching that show when we arrived, and it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. I probably would’ve never noticed them if I didn’t stumble upon them at Hangout.

In addition to these transformations, I also enjoyed the ability to explore Alabama. My friend who attended the trip with me grew up vacationing in Gulf Shores, so she took us to her favorite spots. We spent a day walking up and down the beach, both meeting people who were attending the festival and people who were not. The drive down and back was long, but we had the opportunity to make the most of it. On the way back to Columbus, we stopped in downtown Louisville for dinner. Louisville is another place I had never been, and there was live music outside the restaurant we ate at. For a long time, I thought I was allergic to shellfish but I recently found out that I am not. On this trip, I tried shrimp and crab for the first time. Throughout my trip, I ate exciting new food and listened to lots of music.

Overall, the trip I took was a very positive experience that I would not be able to do without the help of OSU and STEP. I was able to learn more about photography and put my new found techniques into practice. These skills are things that I can carry with me as I continue on to my last year of college and beyond. In addition, I was able to take the time and travel, which is something that will not be as easy when I graduate and begin a full time job. Finally, I can appreciate new genres of music that I previously had never experienced live. This adventure is one that I can remember and cherish as I continue to explore my passion for music and the arts.

 

Instagram: @lida_linville_step

PC Build from Scratch

My build process consisted of choosing and buying parts within an allotted budget and compiling the parts into a functioning computer. I pursued the Artistic and Creative STEP Signature Project in the form of a PC build from scratch. I was also tasked with creating documentation on how to build a computer from the ground-up so that other individuals would be able complete a build following my steps.

Changes

One of the positive takeaways from this STEP experience was the discovery of the tight-knit community that comes with planning a build. Everyone goes through the same process of searching for the best deal and wanting the best overall performance. The community isn’t limited to people who decide to build a computer from scratch; a lot of the enthusiasts built their own PC 10 years ago and have been replacing parts as the performance starts to degrade. Everyone who has succeeded in this task is ready to help everyone else with his/her insights. The value of community knowledge is undeniable and ultimately leads to smarter individuals and deeply informed decision-making for everyone.

Creating anything from scratch provides training in discipline and perseverance, and it feeds curiosity in the subject matter. It was difficult for me to actualize the roles of each piece of hardware until I had to combine them all to create the machine I now have. I also had to create a build document so that any individual could build a computer from it. This was a very introspective process for me. I found myself having to take the machine apart in order to get revealing photos. I also had to take myself through the build step-by-step in retrospect for this documentation. There are a few orientations for certain parts and braces that were the most difficult to idealize and transform into words. It’s easy to say “install the processor”, but the real challenge is describing the process of using the thermal paste and how the brackets get screwed down to secure the cooler to the motherboard. The ability to teach is a strong reflection of knowing the material, and so through this documentation I added another layer of understanding to computers on top of the initial build.

Causes of Change

I am a strong believer in the concept that failures have more to offer in learning than successes. The mistakes I made during my build resonated with me because it made my build a much longer process than I had previously intended. I also damaged valuable hardware which would make anyone quick to learn from the causal mistake.

The build began with the installation of the central processing unit / processor (CPU) into the motherboard. Placing the CPU into the slot of the motherboard is simple assuming the contact is only made on the edges of the unit and the placement into the slot is clean. The installation of the CPU cooler was harder. There were rubber pegs that were supposed to be placed on top of holes in the motherboard, but they weren’t in the same packaging as the hex screws that get placed onto the rubber pegs so I wrote it off as a generalization of the instructions that did not apply to my particular case. I was wrong. After bracing the cooler onto the motherboard and getting to a point where the braces wouldn’t bottom-out, I took another look at the manual and all the little packages of screws and washers and found the notorious, rubber pegs. I then proceeded to undo my entire CPU cooler installation which I had been working on for the past 45 minutes or so (including having to pull apart the pieces connected via thermal paste) and redo the same thing with the rubber pegs in place. The motherboard is a hardy piece of equipment, but it definitely isn’t dummy-proof. If I didn’t stop screwing the braces to the board when I did, I could’ve easily snapped the board and I would’ve been down approximately $65.

The next part of my build that contributed to my growth was during my documentation process. As I mentioned above, I had to retrospectively think through my build in order to document every step and every decision I made to get to the complete build. I also had to include pictures, and of course I didn’t take pictures during the build process, so I had to take apart my build to some extent to get good pictures of sockets, smaller parts, labels, and wiring. When I removed the graphics card, I didn’t remember there was a latch that needed to be pressed down before removal to release the bottom of the card. I ended up yanking the graphics card out easily enough that I didn’t think anything was wrong. Luckily, the graphics card wasn’t damaged at all. The slot in the motherboard, however, was damaged, and resulted in the computer not being able to relay information to my monitor from the HDMI port on the graphics card. My motherboard had two  Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots, so I was able to install the graphics card into the second slot for expected results. It’s also possible to purchase motherboards with three slots and four slots. This motherboard set-up is useful for parallel computing and/or deep learning, but it’s rarely necessary for leisurely computer use and one graphics card can perform more than well enough for recreational projects.

Making mistakes is a trivial part of life, and even the most successful people to exist in the world have made mistakes. The most important part of making mistakes is learning from them and hopefully not making the mistake again, or at least not in the same way. The mistake with the graphics card will pay off if I remember the latch on the PCI slot when I remove the graphics card or replace it with a new one in the future. I have also been told by many members of the PC building community that even veteran PC builders damage PCI slots, so that was a source of comfort. The incorrect CPU installation did not result in hardware damage, but it did waste a lot of time. This mistake will pay off in the future as now I know to look for rubber pegs, or to simply not doubt the manual provided for the cooler. The cooler will need to be removed if I decide to upgrade my processor if I decide I need to upgrade my fan or simply, if either of them die.

The documentation process was helpful in providing a summary and a test over what I had done and how well it worked out. I don’t think I would’ve benefited from the build as much if I didn’t go through creating the tutorial. It was challenging to be tasked with putting actions, processes, and techniques into words when I mainly used videos for build assistance. The ability to effectively communicate ideas is invaluable in the workplace, and especially in engineering as engineering education isn’t focused on teaching technical communication as much as technical material knowledge. Also, individuals that pursue engineering disciplines stereo-typically don’t have the strongest communication skills (though this is certainly not true of all engineers). Especially in computer science, documentation is a task that no one wants to do, but is necessary for scaling knowledge.

Why does it matter?

I remember having a family computer in the basement as a kid that had no access to internet, and it had only a few games loaded on it via CD for me and my brother. At the time, it was merely an outlet of entertainment. As I grew and the technology grew, the entertainment capacity evolved as well as my interest in the internet. I remember my dad telling me not to get on YouTube without his supervision because there was content that wasn’t appropriate for me at the time. At some point, I understood that there was more going on behind the screen and the keyboard than what I saw, but I didn’t have an interest in it until I got to college and was taught the language of computers. I remember thinking it made so much sense to navigate that way, and then I started speaking in code in everyday conversations (side effect of being a dork), and then I decided to study computer science. Building this machine felt like I was fulfilling a necessary step in my journey of studying computers. In comparison, how can a scientist claim to study anatomy without being able to label all parts of a human body, or without being able to construct a model of the human body from scratch? As I alluded above, I am a visual, hands-on, learner and discussions of builds and hardware only contributes so much to by knowledge base before I think to myself “What does this actually look like? What is going on in that black, metal box?”

I enjoyed the build and I am going to enjoy maintaining it in the years to come, however it did confirm my opinion that I do not like dealing with electrical hardware and wires. I prefer engineering processes through code rather than hardware and it makes much more sense from a communication perspective. Setting a variable to “true” seems clearer to me than relying on an electric signal to go from a source to a gate 1000 connections away. Building this machine was so much fun and insightful and fostered so much curiosity in me that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I am so excited for the years to come and what my computer science career is going to bring me post-graduation.

Link to Build Documentation