Olin’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) helps students leverage their educational experiences and participation in the Olin community to galvanize lifelong learning and community participation. The GCSP is a nationwide program organized by the National Academy of Engineering. This collection includes final reports and reflections from Olin’s GCSP participants.
If you spend most of your life as a robot, how do you become a human? Quite simple really. Between creating a language for a world in my books, founding a company, teaching classes, and learning Japanese sprinkled with anime—the trick is to find something you care about and let it drive you forward.
Engineering problems vary and can be approached through a number of different processes. Selecting the best process to fit the problem is a key part of making improvements and reaching the desired solution. This portfolio examines some of the various approaches available to an engineer and develops a framework for problem solving that draws inspiration from machine learning, design process, entrepreneurship, and many other fields. Using the best process to fit the task allows an engineer to make efficient and effective progress.
In my portfolio, I explore how physical artifacts can be used to create connections between people, environments, and ideas. In my time at Olin as a mechanical engineering student (graduating May 2015), I've been able to explore typical engineering objects as well as art which I used as a vehicle to establish the connections between the two. I've written this portfolio to find my voice and to explore where my identity, and to pave a way for what I can do next given my passion.
I tailored my college education to the areas of engineering, health, and medical anthropology. At Olin, I have achieved the greatest satisfaction, both academically and in my extracurricular activities, from understanding people’s needs and helping them accordingly. Whether using interdisciplinary teams to build tools to help people live better lives, trying to understand what motivates them, or working to spread knowledge, I directed my efforts towards the needs of people who could be helped by my work, and focused on ways to help directly or indirectly through classes, research, and extracurricular endeavors. My learning and personal growth at Olin has been key in my decision to pursue a clinical research career as an MD/PhD.
Engineering for people has been a constant piece in my academics, research, and extracurricular activities at Olin. While this does not address one Grand Challenge in particular, it is a mindset encapsulated within the “Joy of Living” Grand Challenge theme that embodies the way engineering will need to move in the future to address the biggest challenges we will uncover. Engineers will eventually be able to solve the Grand Challenges of today since technology will ever be advancing. My hope is that by taking a holistic approach to addressing the Grand Challenges by focusing on a theme instead of on a particular challenge, I can have a larger impact by showcasing (and proving the worth of and need for) human-centered engineering to the rest of the world.
Over my time at Olin College, I’ve learned to see through new perspectives for my own benefit and the benefit of others. This skill has helped in my engineering design work and in my everyday life. In order to solve problems and change the world, we must understand the problems from many perspectives. It’s easy to design for ourselves, but hard to design for others. Yet with that challenge comes reward.
When I define the words “engineer” and “entrepreneur,” and then compare myself against those definitions, often find in myself almost all of their attributes. Yet I don’t consider myself either of these. Why not? I wrote this portfolio to try to answer that question. In writing it, I found an organic feedback loop between my goals shaping my actions and my actions shaping my goals. While reflecting, I also found that the GCSP pillars of Service, Interdisciplinary Learning, Global Dimension, Entrepreneurship, and Research had woven themselves throughout. As of graduation, this progression has led to a strong identification with an engineering mindset and an international, security-based focus. Someday I may feel like an engineer, but for now I’m content to think like one, and to one day use the engineering toolset to make positive change in the world.
Coming to Olin I had a passion for making our modern lives more sustainable. While I had a specific focus, my pre-collegiate education did not provide me the proper opportunities to explore, develop and grow this passion. Right from the start I hit the ground running by co-founding REVO, a student led organization at Olin focused on building electric vehicles, and focusing my energies into learning all I could about electric vehicles. Thankfully the Olin curriculum did not encourage me to stay within this niche, and has led me to thoroughly investigate the subject of sustainability and what it means in various contexts.
My four years at Olin College have taught me the importance of engineering to help others. This portfolio highlights the work I've done designing for people in an engineering context. I've met new people, learned about their values, identified problems, and thought in depth about potential solutions to make a large impact on people's lives. In particular, this portfolio details my work in the K-12 space, both in creating products and in building curriculum and teaching students.
When I started at Olin four years ago, I had a vague inkling that I wanted to become an engineer in order to help make the world a better place in some way. I was generally passionate about serving my community however I could, and solving problems had always been fun and engaging for me. My experiences in engineering, entrepreneurship, and global service over these four years have helped me direct my energy and learning towards making a real difference in the lives of others through mathematics research, Habitat for Humanity activities, and more.
I entered college with a general interest in education and a taste for engineering; I had begun to merge the two by mentoring local FIRST LEGO League teams, but the potential for expanding the union was unclear. Through experiences at Olin – research, Engineering Discovery, and FIRST mentoring – I have found opportunities to continue outreach as a professional. New interests arose via entrepreneurial experiences, and I learned about my own learning through a rich study away experience. I have gained new insights into these areas because of the personalization of my own education and aim to create the same opportunities for others outside of Olin. The focused attention to learning style and holistic education were invaluable to me as a learner and as an engineer and teacher entering dynamic professional and educational landscapes. I seek to contribute to the advancement of personalized learning as a way of paying my debts while pursuing my interests and developing passion.
This portfolio discusses the author's experiences with entrepreneurship and sustainability in the context of the five areas of study specified by the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Special focus is placed upon her work with the startup HERObike and lessons learned through this and other entrepreneurship experiences.
When I was applying to colleges four and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to major in neural engineering. Inspired by a class in philosophy, I wanted to understand the basis of human thought, behavior, and consciousness at the most fundamental level possible. I wanted, specifically, to make a human brain from the bottom up by understanding human brain signaling. So when I came to Olin College, I took advantage of the Engineering: Concentrations major, which allows students to architect their own engineering-related majors with the help and approval of professors. Leveraging Olin's partnership with Brandies to take advanced neuroscience classes as well as the expertise of Olin's engineering professors, I designed my own interdisciplinary concentration in Neural Engineering.
For me, solving grand challenges is about making real progress and being open to new paradigms. The grand challenge of solar energy absolutely needs the support of research scientists in the lab, but in today’s society it also needs the support of governments, industry, and the public. As an engineer with a diverse background, I am confident that I will continue to contribute towards this challenge, both in creating the technology that can change the world, as well as helping cultures to embrace the new technology. The engineering grand challenges are truly that – grand challenges – and any focused effort, no matter how technical, helps move the world forward.
This project is themed around the author's desire to help others and how this has affected her experiences in the five educational areas required by the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Each experience is reflected upon and the major "lesson learned" from said experience is summarized.
This portfolio is a compilation of experiences related to the Grand Challenges area of Engineering Better Medicines. I spent six months working in India for a startup called Embrace Innovations to develop low cost infant warmers to help save millions on babies’ lives in developing area. With my interdisciplinary background from Olin in entrepreneurship, user-centric design, and mechanical engineering, I was able to apply myself in a global context and learn about the problems in the world that engineers like me can tackle and solve. In this set of reflections, I recount a summary of my experiences over the past four years at Olin and abroad that have shaped who I am as a person and an engineer today. In the process, I have had experiences that align well with the Grand Challenges Scholars Program goals, which include a long-term project, service learning, global awareness, entrepreneurship, and interdisciplinary learning. I hope you enjoy learning about the experiences that have enriched the past four years of my life!
In the winter of 2010, I created my own company in Nicaragua. I encouraged one of my cousins, then a first-year at Stanford, to join me as co-founder. With mutual interests in education, engineering, crafts, sports, science and sustainability and with a timeline that included only one summer, we decided to start a summer camp for middle schoolers. We decided that the theme of our summer camp would be sustainability, because it could be linked to our main interests and would encourage an environmentally conscious mindset for our campers, who we hope one day will turn out to be leaders in Nicaragua.
This project discusses the author's experiences with five areas of study determined by the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. It focuses on his work building a cassava processor for women in Ghana and his research on several sustainability projects.
This portfolio summarizes and reflects upon the author's experiences in the five areas noted by the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, with the theme of sustainability as motivation. Reflections focus on both the prescribed subject and the role of sustainable development in the experience noted.
Through this strategy I’ve been able to build my skills in many areas essential to the projects I’ve done in the past, and hope to do in the future. In fact, I’ve found that there is a subset of skills which essential to nearly all the projects I do. There is a rarely a challenge that cannot be more easily overcome with the help of a team, or your community, groups which must be engaged through the use of entrepreneurial skills and strategies. There is rarely a task which is not helped by the application of skills and knowledge learned from another subject, or from another perspective you may have gained while in a new place or situation. In this portfolio I summarize how I’ve built my skillset in each of these areas, and demonstrate how the pervasiveness of each area in all my projects both necessitates and facilitates my growth, through iteration and learning from new experiences.
This project focuses on the author's experiences in five subject areas defined by the Grand Challenge Scholars and the lessons she learned from each experience, focusing on her internship at the textbook rental startup Chegg. The author discusses the lesson, and how it changed her views on a topic, in detail as well as its expected effect on her future.
How is it possible for us to appropriately analyze our experiences and take useful action? My experiences over the past few years suggest that it’s crucial to study and act at the same time – a challenging, but truly fascinating union. From designing novel software interfaces that accelerate personal learning to prototyping a medical screening service in the gritty industrial complexes of Assam, India, I have decided that it is more damaging to delay action in favor of objective validation than it is to quickly note the reasoning and make a decision. Only after my teams had accomplished ambitious goals could we look back and identify the false assumptions, critical actions, and unseen hurdles on the convoluted paths to success. In failure, unless our goal was common enough to have been accomplished by several others, it was difficult to extract useful lessons. Although we could say how to avoid a specific type of failure, the ideas on how to achieve success were little more than speculation
Throughout Olin, I have slowly defined what engineering means to me and what I want to do with it. The broad impact of engineering that I started with has narrowed down to a desire to provide clean and sustainable water for the world. All in all, by virtue of Olin’s curriculum, I’ve been almost inadvertently on track to embracing and embodying Grand Challenges Scholarship from day one. Fueled by passion and a desire to improve lives, my classmates and I have pushed each other to understand the context of the world we live in, so that we may affect it with the utmost efficacy.
As a learner at Olin College, a citizen of India who sees the challenges of the developing world, and an engineering student who wants to address developing world issues with technology, I hope to be a grand challenges scholar throughout my life. The projects and experience I will describe in this portfolio provide a good foundation to explore the grand challenges in depth in the future. My exposure to the relationship between engineering, design and psychology included the Myndr project, a smartphone application for the elderly that have mild memory loss. Another project that allowed me to focus on a Grand Challenge, while integrate engineering and user experience design, was the Zimba project in Calcutta, India. Zimba is a water chlorinator that eliminates bacteria from tap water, making drinkable water for the poor.
This is my portfolio for the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. In this portfolio, I reflect on my experiences at Olin College within the following five areas: entrepreneurial experience, global awareness, interdisciplinary experience, service learning and a long term project addressing a Grand Challenge. These experiences have helped me develop the skills necessary to tackle the Grand Challenges of the 21st century. In particular, the Grand Challenge that I am committed to addressing is advancing personalized learning.
My Olin courses and projects are never without a greater meaning or message beyond their immediate context. Professors are quick to point out the importance of having a view greater than just your project. With any work it is critical to consider the bigger picture – the ecosystem that surrounds the immediate problem including the people it will impact, the environment it will impact and so on. My engineering coursework has allowed me to work on big problems – from helping soldiers on the ground in foreign countries to encouraging Olin students to be more active in their day to day lives. These big problems include the Grand Challenges that our world faces today. My work has had context far beyond the math, science, and other educational topics it embodied.
This project reflects upon the author's experiences in the five areas of study requested by the Grand Challenge Scholars program, specifically her research on bacterial metabolism. the focus is on how these experiences shaped her identity and goals.
This project reflects upon the author's experiences in the five areas of study prescribed by the Grand challenge Scholars Program, with a focus on his work developing educational materials for the olin.js web development course. Most reflections focus on electrical or computer engineering experiences in the context of an area of study.
The Grand Challenge Program has instilled five important areas of personal development within me, including awareness of global needs, interdisciplinary skills, entrepreneurial skills, service responsibility, and the idea that I am a global citizen. In what follows, I will describe in greater detail my journey through Olin that included these five areas and the ways in which I have grown personally and professionally.
I believe I have worked towards the Grand Challenge of advancing personalized learning. My efforts, which span teaching, research, and curriculum development, have helped address the need for changes in education that tailor instruction to the student in ways which promote engagement, foster collaboration, and maximize learning for everyone involved. I have chosen not to call out on the specific requirements of the GCSP because I believe many of my experiences fall into and between these categories. For example, my involvement with ModCon, an inherently interdisciplinary course, has included elements of entrepreneurial service learning. The sections which follow further explain the details of my experiences and work and how they apply to the challenges facing the world in the coming years.
This portfolio describes my work in the five areas required of Scholars by the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. I review my activities in those areas, their outcomes, and my growth as a result. I also reflect on the themes that unite my experiences.
At Olin, I have learned to explain that engineering is about technical problem-solving. Moreover, I whole-heartedly believe that as an engineer I bring together systems, technologies, design, and people in a way that addresses real problems. And I love doing so! I also believe that this type of technical problem-solving is an effective way to address the real problems faced by people living in developing nations – access to clean water, sanitation facilities, communication systems, infrastructure, as well as machinery and tools for agriculture and other income-generating activities. I entered engineering with the intention of participating in this kind of engineering in international development, and I have tried to use my time at Olin to prepare to work effectively in this context.
We can create tools for ourselves, and for our loved ones. Everyone has the power and access to solve problems. These are ideas that need reinforcing in our societies. I came to fully believe them during my undergraduate career in Mechanical Engineering at Olin College. My project is an exploration of adaptive and assistive design. I focus mostly on the development of sustainable, personalized adaptive equipment for people with disabilities in urban areas. The many phases of my exploration are documented on my Adaptive Design Study blog. The documentation covers everything from my visit to the Adaptive Design Association in Summer 2015 through my Olin Self Study in Spring 2016. The Adaptive Design Association (ADA) is a non-profit organization that creates adaptive devices for people who have disabilities with cheap, ubiquitous, sustainable materials. It was ADA that first caught my eye and drove me to explore. Their mission is to provide people with disabilities the adaptive equipment they need in every aspect of their lives, and to instigate the creation of adaptive design centers in as many communities as possible. I was able to learn from their social entrepreneurship; I witnessed first-hand their methods of teaching and spreading their creation techniques. ADA already has satellite locations all over the world, such Guatemala City, Toronto, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Brazil, Boston, Montreal, San Diego, Romania, and Holland. I am heavily considering creating a satellite location myself when I return home to Los Angeles. My mission will be to continue teaching how to use simple tools and materials to solve everyday problems. My documentation also covers my fortunate experience in volunteering for Perkins School for the Blind in their Assistive Devices Center. I spent a large amount of time learning from occupational therapists how to create adaptive devices from common sustainable materials, such as cardboard. While I was new to the occupational therapy world, I was able to draw on experiences in user oriented, critical, and mechanical design that I had gained at Olin College. The biggest challenge I faced in the adaptive design world was learning how to navigate interactions with those who have or work with those that have disabilities.
Despite the fact that I will graduate with a BS in “Mechanical Engineering” on my diploma in a week, I feel that I also enjoy many other aspects of the world. I have been figuring out how to tie them back into an engineering discipline, as well as examining how the label of “engineer” has affected my identity during the past four years. This portfolio highlights how broad a spectrum of activities I have been involved in during my time at Olin, including long term and global projects, working for a non-profit organization, examining my views on entrepreneurship, looking at how engineering and other disciplines interact, and, overall, judging how engineering can make a difference both in my life and the lives of others.
My Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) work has focused around the area of Joy of Living. As an engineer, my goal is to mitigate challenges in people’s lives wherever possible. This can be seen throughout my projects, especially the service learning ones. The projects “Retrieving Dropped Papers” and “Rising in the Morning” were to help an older adult living in her own home with daily challenges while “Hacking Prosthetics” was to help a local engineer born with one arm and frustrated with commercial prosthetics explore the space of designing upper arm prosthetics for both comfort and function. These projects were in the design-for-one space. On a larger scale, “Creating Test Apparatus” was helping design an affordable cassava grater for rural use in Ghana. While I did not have the chance to visit the locations in Ghana where the graters are being used, I was able to visit Tanzania as part of the International Design and Development Summit and talk to people from many African countries about how they use Cassava in many different ways. These smaller projects primed me perfectly to begin my senior capstone project; designing a “Multi-Modal Medical Imaging” system with four teammates. The best description of my role in the project was jack-of-all-trades. I worked in basically every disciple that was needed from mechanical engineering to electrical to material science to medical regulations and more. The Olin curriculum is designed to prepare us for this type of interdisciplinary work from the first semester. In the first semester we learn about mechanical design, programming, and circuits. The range expands from there. I’ve taken classes in material science, physics, mechatronics, design, entrepreneurship, anthropology, and machining to name a few. Entrepreneurship is an interesting subject at a school where things are always being created. For example, the Design-for-One projects I did, maybe they could be expanded and sold or maybe it’s possible to run a company that makes custom solutions. While I was doing research on the cassava grater, its real home is in a class called Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurship is a planned and crucial component. As part of my humanities credit, a classmate and I did an Independent Study in chainsaw carving. After our pieces were made, we were approached by two different people offering to purchase our work. It had not even crossed our minds that we were doing something people would want to buy, we were just doing it because we wanted to learn a new skill and have fun in the process. While the projects I have undertaken while at Olin are in very different spaces, they have a unifying theme: mitigate challenges for others. To see the projects mentioned and more, please visit their pages.
In my GCSP portfolio, I reflect upon the connections between teaching (my lifelong calling) and my major occupations at Olin College. I describe how five roughly chronological experiences – a year-long sabbatical from my engineering degree, an inspirational education course, a series of teaching opportunities, my position as a “Resident Resource”, and numerous management positions in community organizations at Olin – correspond to five functions I believe are vital facets of an effective teacher – role model, guide, educator, mentor, and leader. For each one, I clarify my motivations and describe elements of my methodology in order to construct a set of intentions for my eventual teaching practice. The process of synthesizing this portfolio required a significant amount of introspection and self-analysis, which I understand in retrospect involved taking great strides along the path of self-awareness and personal growth. This is a journey that only grows more and more relevant with time. This portfolio serves as a collection of my actions, beliefs, goals, and realizations prior to graduation. It is a comprehensive snapshot of my professional abilities and ambitions in my early twenties.
People are more likely to improve themselves, their communities and the world if the change is simpler, more desirable, cheaper and easier than the current option, and the activation energy to switch is low. We are creatures of habit. Society has inertia. Changing the world requires changing people’s minds and altering their behaviours. My conscience compels me to try to improve my environment. Over time, I have developed my philosophy for enacting change, and refined my approach. In each of the experiences I will describe below, I identified a behaviour in my peers worth adjusting, created a desirable and simple solution to alter their actions, and gave them the tools to enact change. The scope of these experiences may not be global, but in each, my actions attempted to cause people to improve themselves as individuals, ameliorate their community or have a lesser impact on the environment. Through these, I learned how to lay the foundation for a real behavioural change in my peers, I learned how to lay the foundation for real behavioural change in my peers. This mentality scales up for Grand Challenges. The Grand Challenges cannot be resolved with technology alone, or solely through social pressures, or by simply passing a bill. They cannot be solved by throwing money at them, nor by holding hands and wishing they would go away. Grand Challenges demand all of these things together -- and more: an interconnected ecosystem of scientific innovation, an enlightened social paradigm that welcomes the change, strong political will, ample economic resources and yes, a dash of optimism. With all these elements acting in concert, we can change our behaviours in meaningful ways and be able to achieve great things.
Had you asked me why I was attending college when I first came to Olin, I likely would have answered, “Because I want to be an engineer.” Taken at face value, this would seem a reasonable answer, but my inability to better justify such an important decision just highlights my perspective at the time that college was simply a necessary step in a path to do the kind of work I thought I was interested in. Doing things because I thought it was expected of me fairly well characterized my first few semesters at Olin, be it the classes I took or the activities I engaged in. After having spent 4 years at Olin, my perspective on my education has changed radically. Rather than trying to meet external pressure, I aim to do things because they interest me. This has enabled me to explore a much broader range of topics and draw connections between a variety of fields which I otherwise would not have been exposed to. Ultimately, choosing to tailor my educational experience has led to me being far more engaged in my learning and developing significantly as a learner. Given the impact of this on me while at Olin and how I expect it to impact me after Olin, I chose to focus my GCSP portfolio on Personalized Learning.
A a middle school student answering the question "what do you think you'll study at college?", I was quick to cross medicine off my list. I believe my exact words were "I don't want to do anything that involves poking people." My disinterest in medicine remained largely unchallenged until I interned at Boston Device Development, a small product development consultancy in Newton, MA. As a college junior looking to develop experience in mechanical design, BDD's focus on medical devices was just the context for my work. As that summer progressed, I began to realize that medical devices are fantastic design problems becauses of their engineering challenges, human factors, and business needs. The experience reaffirmed my decision not to become a surgeon, but made me reconsider the way I viewed medicine, how innovations come to market, and how many opportunities there are to make better products. Undoubtedly it was this experience that led me to work with DePuy Synthes Mitek Sports Medicine for my senior capstone project. Our year-long project was to identify gaps in DePuys' portfolio of devices, consider the market opportunities and unmet needs of surgeons, generate new device concepts, and ultimately build a functional proof-of-concept. Because of these experiences and my hope to work on similar projects after graduation, my GCSP portfolio will focus on "Engineering better medicines."
Psychologist Dan McAdams posed in a 1995 journal paper the question “what do we know when we know a person?” According to his research, there are multiple levels at which differences in personality may be described. One of them is the life story that we “[continue] to author and revise over time to make sense, for [ourselves] and others, of [our] own life in time.” (McAdams, 1995) For myself, that story takes shape somewhere around the time I’m 16 years old. I’m working in open source software communities. And I’m mistaken by one of my closest co-workers (who had not yet met me in person) for a teacher. My path since then has been shaped by a nontraditional educational institution: I’ve spent my time at Olin College of Engineering, a small school outside of Boston with the declared mission of transforming engineering education. At Olin, students engage in a largely problem-oriented, project-based curriculum and enjoy a significant amount of autonomy, allowing them to pursue their passions. These experiences have naturally shaped my relationship to my learning, which is exhibited in my narrative. As I’m about to graduate from Olin and leave this place that has made up so much of my life over the last four years behind, I want to reflect on my story in this portfolio.
The first twenty-five years or so of the modern successful American life has been fairly well defined by the country’s education system. Go to primary school. Get good grades. Go to college. Get good grades. Graduate with a degree in something you love. Find a good job. Make money. As a child, I was well-aware of this system. From an early age I fully intended to go to college and major in something lucrative, my thinking shaped by years of advice from parents who managed start-ups, real estate, and stocks. Well before high school I began searching for a dream, trying to decide what I should spend the rest of my life doing. I was smart. I was good at math and science. I was also good at art, theater, writing, philosophy, and other subjects that would leave me with a job that wouldn’t make the expense of college worthwhile. I also enjoyed playing Roller Coaster Tycoon. So I decided to become an engineer. Since I also grew up constantly being reminded about the virtues of running your own business, I also decided to go someplace where I could study business and entrepreneurship. This ultimately led me to Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, a new engineering school near Boston that was on a mission to integrate entrepreneurial thought and action throughout its curriculum.
My grand challenge at Olin was shaped in three main areas. Long-term research in the biology lab, interdisciplinary learning through many classes, but in particular User Oriented Collaborative Design, and participation in the campus organization Engineering Discovery. Doing research and participating in clubs in addition to classes helped me get to know others in different disciplines and learn more about their solutions to problems. Another large component of my learning involved giving and receiving feedback, both from people outside of the Olin community and within. This double dose of feedback allowed me and my teammates to better understand the problems were trying to solve. To get this feedback, many presentations were done, which gave me the confidence to stand up and present my methods and results with conviction and certainty. Many class projects were team oriented, which allowed me to learn how to work well with others. I also did work on my own with guidance in research. Doing both of these things taught me to work independently but always take others advice and criticism into account. Overall, I believe Olin provided me with an engineering education that will allow me to understand and effectively communicate with people in many disciplines with a variety of educational backgrounds.
What drew me to Olin was the emphasis on learning through projects and experiences. Up until sixth grade, this was how I learned. In fact, the motto of my elementary school was “joyous work,” and after going to a more conventional high school that emphasized grades and test scores, I sought to return to this approach to learning. Learning through doing was surprising, challenging, and valuable for my growth as a person. Experiences that stand out are the failure of a website I tried to start for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered(LGBT) students and perception-expanding experience of studying abroad in Japan. I came into these experiences not entirely prepared, but in the process I learned how much I did not know. Coming out of these experiences, I continue to learn using the skills I acquired.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve found pleasure in making things. Things that moved, things that flashed, things that buzzed, things that whirred all have excited me to no end. I remember one of my first “inventions” was a handheld fan powered by an old electric toothbrush motor and a 9v battery. At the time, I did not understand the interworkings of the motor I was using, nor the chemistry of the battery, nor even how the shape of the propeller allowed it to move air. I did, however, understand what each piece did, and I found great pleasure in putting the pieces together to make something new. As I moved from grade school to junior high to high school, my knowledge of how things work grew, and with it grew my desire to make more things. When learning about kinematics in physics, my friend and I decided to build small coilguns using the circuits of discarded disposable cameras to see if the equations of motion worked out. Along the way, I unintentionally learned a lot about electricity and magnetism, RC circuits, and what a high voltage discharge across skin can feel like. Projects like this led me to be one of the founding members and vice president of my high school’s engineering club. I recognized that I not only did enjoyed making devices and contraptions, but I absorbed knowledge much more readily when I could use it to make something physical. For this reason, my choice to attend Olin College was a no-brainer. Olin’s focus on project-based learning and application driven education resonated with what I enjoyed, how I knew I absorbed information, and how I liked to apply myself. Through the whirlwind that has been my time at Olin, I have had the pleasure of taking part in many experiences that speak to the five curricular components of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program: a Grand Challenge Project, an Interdisciplinary Experience, an Entrepreneurial Experience, Global Awareness, and Service Learning. In this portfolio, I will be focusing a handful of projects and experiences that highlight these components of the program.
During the summer leading up to my first year at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Alison Black, the Assistant Dean of Student Life, contacted all the incoming first-year students and requested that we each write a Statement of Interest that outlined what we wanted to accomplish when we got to Olin. My Statement of Interest outlined one dozen goals, eight of which are listed below: 1. Get Involved with leadership activities or student government 2. Help plan and organize school events 3. Volunteer with individuals with developmental disabilities 4. Work or volunteer with children 5. Take classes in business or management 6. Work on assistive technology 7. Have an internship ever summer (not always with the same company) 8. Get accepted into graduate school As I sat down to reflect on my Olin experience, I realized that much of it was summarized in the list above. I can honestly say that, with a few caveats, I reached and often exceeded all of the goals I outlined before I set foot on Olin’s Campus. In addition to reaching all of these goals, they all focused on a central theme: Engineering for Others. Below I break down the eight goals listed above and reflect on my experiences and how they all contributed to this central theme.
Before coming to Olin, I knew I wanted one thing with my education: I wanted to help people. I believe that empathy is a defining aspect of who I am, and I want to harness this part of me to make some sort of change (which is broad, I know). I wanted to use my time at Olin to develop and pursue my passions, or at least, discover what they are. Over my four years at Olin, I believe I have found those passions, which I can summarize into three main categories: healthcare, design, and education. The stories that define my Olin experience have characteristics of one (if not more) of these themes, which I believe will shape the way I help people after my college career. Olin has given me the tools to make a difference in these categories, which these stories capture.