Alex Kohler STEP Reflection

Alex Kohler

STEP Reflection



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


      1. The goal of this project was to design and build an indoor aeroponic garden. The main crux of the process involved doing this as cheaply and simply as possible, in order to allow any individual(s) to repeat this process themselves.


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


      1. A lot has changed for me in the last year; I have a better understanding of my worldview and the things that are most important to me. I have learned that most people are good people, and that all you need to do to understand this is engage with them. I have spent lots of time in the last year engaging with people and ideas I would have simply written off before. For example, a pro-life person. A couple of years ago, if I would have interacted with this person it would have been very surface level and hostile. Now I’m confident enough in my own experiences and values that interacting with this kind of person does not need to be hostile. In fact, through engaging with people I disagree with on certain issues, I have found that we probably agree on a lot of things, we have simply reached different conclusions that are often not completely thought out! Finding common ground and common facts is crucial in conversation, and if you make an honest attempt you will almost always be able to do this.


  • 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?


      1. The main event that led to this transformation was an incident I was involved in during class last year. A hypothetical discussion was taking place about the need (or lack thereof) for government in our lives. I made a comment about how government ensures protection of its citizens, and another student commented (in what I perceived to be a hostile manner) that it is easy for me to say this as a white male. As someone who considers themselves to be “woke” in terms of politics, I was taken aback. Why was this seemingly obvious conclusion I had reached so aggravating to this student? In part, it was because we had not established common ground and facts before these comments.
      2. I understand the privilege I have as a white male, and that other identities in this country are not as well protected as me. I, however, was talking in the abstract, while the other student was more focused on the current reality.  I do not believe this other student and I would disagree on very much of our worldview, we were simply arguing with a different basis and scope. If we would have dug deeper and found common ground, I am sure we would have been able to work out our differences. If put in a similar situation today, I will react more calmly than I did then, and instead of being instantly offended, try to understand where the other person is coming from and establish some kind of common ground.
      3. I have also begun to consume new kinds of media in the past year, specifically a lot of media that I disagree with, such as the Daily Wire and some radical feminist media on YouTube. Hearing these different perspectives allows me to question my perspective and how I got there. In some instances, this strengthens my position, in others it makes me question and perhaps completely change my position. Challenging myself in this way has made me a much more accepting person and also a more versatile conversator. This has resulted in more confidence in myself, especially in social situations and at work.


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


      1. This change has been crucial for my life. Being able to at least be civil with others can seem impossible when looking at the world through the lens of social media, which is where the majority of conversation is now happening, especially for young people such as myself. Long form discussion, face to face, is a much healthier way to communicate than social media. Furthermore, when establishing common ground/ facts in these conversations, the ease with which agreements can be found in most instances has been pleasantly surprising. This has made be a much happier person; it feels good to get along with different kinds of people!


  • I understand that much of the transformation I have just discussed is not directly related to my STEP project, so I will now give a recap of my project and what I learned.


    1. My STEP project had a timeline of one year, an amount of time that seems to me to be both relatively long and short. At its inception last Spring, I had very little knowledge about aeroponic gardening and no experience in building or maintaining a garden. Over the course of the year I built and tested three distinct designs, each one better than the last in my opinion. However, I was never able to implement a cheap and easy to assemble drainage/ water recycling system for any of the designs, which means nothing was grown in the garden. I failed.
    2. Failure is a tough pill to swallow, which is why I’m not going to do it! The good thing about all the work I have completed on the garden is that it is cheap and easy to assemble; even if Ohio State decides to take all of the work I have done, I will be able to easily recreate what I have built and try again in the future when I’m not consumed with school and work. Failure is just an invitation to try again!
    3. This can be applied to conversations, like the ones discussed in answers 2 through 4. Just because a conversation with a person goes poorly does not mean the next one cannot be productive, and just because I find one person with a particular view to be hostile does not mean they will always be hostile, or that conversations with others who hold a similar view have to be hostile. We can always try again with a fresh set of eyes and ears.

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