STEP Project Reflection

Hello, my name is Carter and for my STEP project, I am doing research for the Department of Engineering Education focusing on how the socioeconomic status of students affects how the perceive their own intelligence.  I apologize for starting this so late, but I decided to wait to post my first response until I had approval from OSU’s IRB to conduct my research.  When I first began my project, I was simply assisting Dr. Emily Dringenberg in her research regarding undergraduate engineering student’s beliefs about intelligence in order to improve how undergraduate engineering courses are taught here at Ohio State.  To begin, I was first required to complete training in order to work with human subjects both directly and indirectly.  This occupied almost the entirety of my first week of work, along with reading how to qualitatively code data.  During my second week, my work on my own pilot study began.  I had read an article in The Atlantic recently called “The Birth of the New American Aristocracy,” which revolves around the topic of income inequality.  After reading, I was inspired to include its topics in my pilot study, resulting in my decision to focus on how socioeconomic status affects students’ beliefs about intelligence.  My pilot is also beneficial to Dr. Dringenberg as it is an expansion of the study she currently has underway, and data I collect from my pilot can and will be used in her ongoing study about engineering students beliefs.

To prepare for my IRB submission, I was required to submit multiple documents concerning the protocols for my study, including protocols for recruitment, interviews, data management, and analysis.  My submission was initially rejected on account of the protocol for incentivizing prospective students (part of the recruitment protocol) which resulted in my project being delayed.  After edits to my protocol and a re-submission of my pilot study proposal, the IRB approved my study and has allowed me to start recruiting participants.  As of now, I have multiple prospective students willing to partake in the experience, and my selection of interview subjects will be finalized by the end of the week.

So far, my experience in engineering education has opened a lot of doors for me.  Since this project allows me to see the entire cycle of the research project – from inception to publication – I have a clear view on whether the general experience of researching is a path I want to go down.  So far, my answer is yes.  I enjoy the process and never-ending desire to learn, and I could easily see myself going into a PhD program after my undergraduate experience.  Aside from research, I find the field of education to be very interesting, pushing me in the direction of pursuing a career in academia.  Although while I am interested in education, I don’t think I would like a career solely researching engineering education, but I would love to teach and use the skills I’ve learned so far to research areas in materials science.

STEP Project Reflection

A Study of Green Infrastructure in Portland, Oregon

Jaime Schmotzer

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

My STEP project involved traveling to Portland, Oregon with a classmate, Taylor Brill. We studied green infrastructure and stormwater management techniques throughout the city and met with local professionals to learn more about the projects and systems in place.

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

I am a City and Regional Planning student at OSU and am really interested in the ways cities function, including the incorporation of green infrastructure and stormwater management. Portland, Oregon is known for being advanced in stormwater management techniques and green infrastructure systems. I wanted to see these projects in person and also consider how the concepts might apply to Columbus, Ohio. During our trip, we met with a Portland city planner who explained some of the history of the city and how green infrastructure came to be so prevalent. The most interesting part of the interview was that Portland was in a similar position as Columbus around 30 years ago. This helped me to realize that while Columbus and other parts of the world currently may be lacking in green infrastructure, there is hope that in the future, cities can be as successful as Portland, Oregon.

  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?

This trip was really beneficial in that I could see how green infrastructure implementations functioned. It is one thing to read about the ways these systems work and another to actually see them. We were given a tour of some green infrastructure projects around Portland State University by a landscape architect from the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland. This tour was monumental in helping me to further understand why Portland is so successful in stormwater management. The experience also taught me that there are numerous ways to incorporate green infrastructure, as long as a city is innovative and inspired. Portland is more focused on environmental preservation than other cities and it shows.

The city planner we met with explained that green infrastructure is not always something that is man-made, for instance trees are a common example. One major difference between Columbus and Portland is that Portland has significantly more plants. The city is covered in greenery, even in the downtown areas. A tour guide explained that the city did not plant all of the trees, but instead let existing trees be. The planner told us that one of the easiest forms of green infrastructure to implement is trees and plants. She also explained that many people do not consider trees to be infrastructure and do not treat them as such, but that trees really are a valuable resource. One way of significantly improving the Columbus green infrastructure system would be to plant more trees and to let existing trees grow.

Meeting with the city planner and landscape architect certainly helped to give a different perspective on Portland. I think the planner was able to provide context towards the implementation of their stormwater systems as well as successes and challenges that the city has faced. The landscape architect allowed us to see many of the projects firsthand, such as a private green roof and multiple projects around the Portland State University Campus. He was able to explain the specific designs of each system, along with the pros and cons. Interaction with both of these local professionals allowed me to gain a better understanding of the difficulties and benefits that lie with implementing green infrastructure and stormwater systems.

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

This trip was directly applicable to my future career as a city planner in that I want to improve the ways cities function, with a focus on environmental sustainability. Traveling to Portland helped me to learn firsthand about my interests in green infrastructure and stormwater management.  Now I have a better concept of what the implementation process of these systems entails. This experience in Portland has been extremely valuable and has increased my knowledge, which will allow me to more successful in my future career.

Green infrastructure at Portland State University

A stormwater collection plaza at Portland State University

STEP Project Reflection

A Study of Green Infrastructure in Portland, Oregon

By: Taylor Brill

This summer I traveled to Portland, OR for my STEP Signature Project to study green infrastructure and stormwater management techniques. During my week there I was able to learn a lot that I did not know before about the politics, the installation, the management of green infrastructure and how they relate. Not only did this research help me within the field of City and Regional Planning but, I was able to grow and become more independent and resourceful in the process. The STEP program is all about the personal growth and development in our educational experience and I think that this project did just that. Planning a trip and a research project was quite a process from beginning to end but, looking back I do think that it helped me develop skills and learn things that I lacked before

Picture of Jaime and I (I’m on the left)

STEP Prompts

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.

For my STEP Signature Project I went to Portland, Oregon with my fellow classmate, Jaime Schmotzer, to study green infrastructure and stormwater management practices. For the duration of the trip we went on tour, interviewed professionals in the city and explored sites ourselves.

2.       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 STEP Signature Project helped me to better understand green infrastructure and what this can mean for a city. I also was able to develop personal skills that I had never considered this trip would foster. It was very interesting to see a city that was so green compared to midwestern cities like Columbus. Portland has worked a lot on incorporating tree canopy into their city development which is not only visually different but, for stormwater management practice as well. Before interviewing Mindy Brooks with the Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability I thought of green infrastructure as the constructed projects like bioswales and rain gardens incorporated into the city. I did not think of trees and streams as green infrastructure. She explained the importance to protect the natural stormwater features because they are essentially free and only require maintenance. This changed my view on what green infrastructure really is and that landscape feature that naturally exist like trees need to be protected and considered. This trip helped me to further my understanding of the environment and city development and how they are interrelated.

Before this project I had never planned or gone on a trip where I was responsible for the entirety of it. I had help from my classmate so, I wasn’t alone on the trip but, we both had never gone on a trip where it was just the two of us. It was a process with coordinating with the professionals that we wanted to meet with, finding a hotel and navigating public transit in a city we had never been before. I learned a lot about myself in this process. It was not as hard to get around as I expected. Portland is very walkable or there are many options for public transit that is easy to take. I noticed after the first day I was starting to learn the street names and could orient myself according to our hotel to tell which direction we had traveled in. If I had to go on another trip like this were I was one of two people responsible I think that I would be more confident in getting around without having a car. The STEP Project helped me to become a better more resourceful traveler

3.       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.  

A part of the project involved interviewing professionals in Portland. We met with Mindy Brooks from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in Portland and Casey Cunningham with the Bureau of Environmental Services. They both give two different accounts on the green infrastructure in Portland. Mindy was able to explain more of the policy side and Casey talked more about the installation and the technical side of green infrastructure. Through the interview with Mindy I was able to transform my view of green infrastructure from the man made constructed rain gardens and green roofs to the natural streams and tree cover. She discussed that both are just as effective in stormwater management but, people tend to take trees for granted.

When planning the trip, we decided to take a tour of Portland to help us get acquainted with the city. This help tremendously with knowing where things and areas in the city were. I was a bit nervous for the trip because I had never planned a trip like this before and I had never been to Portland either. I had no idea what to expect for how to get around and location of places in real time. Maps and research gave me a decent idea but things are always different when there. I felt more comfortable getting around after the tour and more confident in my ability to travel and plan.

The tours and interview also taught me some things about the history and development of Portland that I didn’t know before or think was relevant to my research on green infrastructure. It was interesting to hear this information about the history and how that has influenced growth and development in the city. Tying the historical context into my research helped to give me a holistic view of the city and to help understand that context is important no matter what aspect of the city I looked at.

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.  

Being able to take a trip and do research helped me grow as a person and as a future city planner. I was able to develop professional skills by coordinating with professionals. I learned how to evaluate projects in an unfamiliar environment as well. In my future career I think that it is important that I learn to network and research. There is a lot to learn from going to a city to research rather than sitting behind a computer and gathering information that way. I learned much more about the city that I could have never found or fully understood from reading articles and textbooks. I think that having valuable field experience will help me in the future in knowing what to do when it is required of me.

I want to grow as an individual and become more independent. This trip was a great way for me to get to travel to a new city and also plan a trip. Until I put myself in a situation that I could not rely on someone else to tell me what we were doing, I never knew my skills. I was able to orient myself pretty well with the city and learn areas quickly. On other trips I have been on I do not remember this happening. I think this goes back to me trusting myself and being responsible for knowing my route. I did have a fellow classmate there with me but, I wanted to make sure that I was accountable and did my part to plan the trip.

Portland State University Stormwater Planters

stormwater planter located in front of a hall