Engineers Without Borders – The Tale of a Meeting

Last December, I was elected as Secretary of SLU’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders. As a new e-board member, I began meeting with the rest of our officers from the first or second week of the semester. To start the semester off as an organization, however we began with a full body meeting on February 2. The following week, as we were getting into the swing of things and our new e-board started to understand what was expected of us, I was put in charge of recording the committee meeting run by fellow freshman officers Shelly and Lauren. Unfortunately, the meeting did not attract near as much attention as we had hoped, and all eight attendees anticipated working in the project committee. As our new Project Coordinator, Lauren directed the meeting at the beginning, announcing that we had submitted our 501 form for review by EWB-National, but had little else those in attendance could work on, so Shelly took charge. Shelly is our new Fundraising Coordinator, and shares my very ambitious views of what the still young organization can be. After convincing those in attendance to stay for the fundraising committee meeting, Shelly worked to share what we had previously discussed as Marissa, a junior and our current president, and myself filled in some holes. A few ideas we came up with and worked to begin implementation on included canning at local businesses, requesting profit-shares from local restaurants, and sponsoring university sporting events. Logan, one of the members in attendance was very willing and excited to participate and help in any way possible, so we set him loose on calling any businesses possible. Two further projects that we began implementing were our Murder Mystery Dinner and Hit Squad presentation team, both revolving a bit more around the e-board than the other events. The dinner was to be open to faculty, students, professionals, and other guests in an attempt to raise both funds and awareness for our chapter with respect to individuals, while the Hit Squad was designed to be a professional presentation team aimed at visiting local engineering companies and sharing more detailed information in a much more formal setting.

 

Since first meeting with the committee, the Hit Squad has performed three times, each to a different company, finding aid in terms of experience, formal knowledge, and finances each time. The murder mystery dinner has been planned and executed, attracting around 25 guests, though that is a story for another time.

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Introduction to Parks College

NASA Patches

Welcome to Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology!

As a Mechanical Engineering Student at St. Louis University, I am enrolled in an Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Class. We are charged with recording some of our experience as we transition to studying at the university. As my classmates are familiar with, the patches portrayed above are displayed prominently in the halls of our Engineering building: McDonnell Douglass Hall. This semester, it makes me proud to share, our patches have been cared for wonderfully and any time one falls (anyone familiar with the display knows this is a common occurrence), they are replaced exactly where they came from!

Moving forward with my introduction, though, I will share that I will share across a long span of time all that you need to know! starting with a story in just a minute!

Media and Young Adults

To those still waiting on the months-late workout, it is coming, but I need to find time to type out explanations to the workouts: my computer wouldn’t connect to the internet for the last week or so that I was home for winter, then the semester quickly got away from me. I’m proud to report now that classes are mostly going well, and this weekend brought a successful performance of a murder mystery dinner I adapted and helped perform for our chapter of Engineers Without borders. Last week though, I had the chance to write a short report on one of my favorite songs – “No Such Thing” by John Mayer – and I felt it fell in line with some things I have shared here as it was a reflection piece on media and development for my Growth and Development class. Anyway, here it is:

John Mayer’s song, “No Such Thing” is written about the rejection of the streamlined lives we are taught to live as young adults looking to complete school and head into the “real world.” In it, he refers to how parents, teachers, and other adults constantly demand we “plot [life] out in black and white” and “stay inside the lines.” Unfortunately, life is not black and white. I first heard the song driving home after competing in the state track meet senior year, and found it ironic because of the way Mayer criticized the high school of his past, just as I had fought against my school and parents in an attempt to find my own way in a heavily regulated society based on the sculpted, time-based hierarchy of experience that contradicts the much more fluid nature of human comparison. Driving home, and moving on into the summer as I prepared for college, I took inspiration from the song and began to look forward once again to living my life at my own pace, and attempting to set an example for others, just as the final verse to the song suggests leading by an example of freedom.

Now you should all go listen to the song to see what I’m talking about!

Until Next Time
~Snots

Redefining the Classroom: An Expository Essay

BRRRIIIIINNNGGG!!! The tardy bell echoes through the hallways, filling the already packed classrooms with earsplitting noise. As one, the teachers react, mechanically fulfilling their morning routine. The drone of roll call fills the halls with an all consuming buzz as the students brace themselves for the day of lectures, tests, and mind-numbing worksheets. After years of experience, the students know just what to expect: the harsh squeal and pungent fumes of expo markers invade the senses as hands cramp and burn with fevered note-taking and eyes grow bleary from watching the clock slowly twirl its hands in an endless spiral toward the end of the day. If we are the students, we know the feeling of a day like this one: mechanical, monotonous, and seemingly without end. Chances are though, that at some point we have found interesting programs, classes, and hours, or even days, weeks, and years that have excited us and made us look forward to the regimen we call school. After all, the transfer of knowledge that defines the purpose of school needs not establish the tone of the institution that can be built on exploration, problem solving, and unity.

When most teens think of school, they picture a structure containing many rooms that seem to eat the soul out of any occupants as boring lectors force information down reluctant students’ throats. An overwhelming sense of an oppressive complacency in the classroom turns school into a common target of anger and hatred. School represents education and hard work to those that struggle to find motivation while dedicated scholars are bound to the low standards established by the overworked masses. Meanwhile, administrators and other educational leaders build upon this epidemic of disinterest by establishing classrooms and environments across the country that pack students in while ignoring their capabilities. The blend of these two groups leads to huge gaps in integrity as a small percentage of students strive to improve while the vast majority manages to scrape by on the labors of their peers.  As a result, the school opts to tear everyone down then build them back up as perfect intellectual clones, able to solve every problem in the textbook, yet completely incapable of applying their knowledge to life outside the poster-covered walls of the classroom. This completely defies the original intent of the educational institution! When the educational institution was first established, it was a special place that those with bright futures considered to be a special privilege. Even now, in underdeveloped nations, the ability to participate in a class is a very special thing and all those able to attend do so happily, despite any and all obstacles and sacrifices involved. It is essential that this excitement returns to the halls of US schools. The job of educators should be to draw students in and get them excited about both the school environment and its goal of shared knowledge. As students,this mission must be forwarded as we keep our differences, recognize our similarities, and celebrate the dynamics of the two. Together, the staff and students can establish a new balance: one that empowers scholars instead of subjecting them; one that promotes excitement, not complacency.

The good news is that there already exist multiple gleaming examples of efficient school systems, even within the very districts that employ other deplorable strategies. From a young age, I have been immersed in learning environments that emphasize problem solving and celebrate all aspects of learning, both as an individual and in a group setting. At the start, I attended the Center for Creative Learning (CCL) that replaced the normal classroom once a week. We spent our semesters learning in various, original areas, from archeology to robotics, from French culture to marine biotics. The classrooms contained small, advanced classes and passionate teachers that made full use of hands on, active learning strategies. As we worked to become experts in the areas we studied, the teachers employed field trips, guest speakers, the arts, and countless experimental labs. They were all at levels appropriate for elementary students and we were always lencouraged to apply any knowledge we retained in conjunction with a number of problem solving strategies to answer grand, real world problems. Moving on, the opportunity to attend CCL ended after 5th grade, but two distinct teachers remain active at a high school level, actively engaging students through whatever means possible. Mr. Rob Durham, a language arts teacher, received a place at the head of a creative writing class which he has since transformed into a group of published authors and avid bloggers, who seek writing and the arts as a form of both personal expression and public sharing. At the same time, Mr. Ed Bolton, a chemistry teacher, boasts exceptional classes on the grounds of attendance, performance, and energy. His students, including my own classes under him, have consistently outperformed others nationwide on tests, including the Advanced Placement college credit testing established by the college board. The key to his success is always pointed back to two things: the students’ enthusiasm and his own employment of problem solving strategies. His appreciation of students and the ability to connect obscure events to each other creates an exciting learning community that promotes the best growth I have ever seen. And it all comes back to connections and creativity. From CCL to creative writing to chemistry, unique areas of expertise can be found within each, and the creative problem solving strategies bring everything together with a bang of excitement applicable to everyone.

To conclude, it is only appropriate to request, and maybe even plea, that students and teachers everywhere work together to seek new strategies in learning. School is a place of learning, but knowledge cannot compare to the power of wisdom that teachers like Durham and Bolton promote. The nation needs to employ more problem solving strategies that incorporate all subjects and learning styles in order to appeal to not only the majority, but everyone in the classroom.

Convergence: An Edited Paragraph on a Photograph

It is said that every action has the potential to impact any and all objects, beings, and locations from that point forward. Likewise, nothing therefore exists that is not related to every other aspect of existence. A perfect picture of convergence myself, I stand in simple black and white–the unassuming coloration of an orchestral musician after a concert. The bowtie around my neck perfectly complements the wing-collared tux shirt. Upon a quick glance down, however, the shimmering black material of my running shorts makes a stark contrast. I’ve just recently left the stage after the year’s last performance, and the tux provided by the school has been returned to the closet where it came from. Waiting in the school commons, my freshly exposed legs have begun to stiffen in the cool air of the still warming season, despite having known greater cold on the countless runs surrounding the school. I start to look around, searching for any familiar face among the writhing mass of unfamiliar bodies. It is then that the familiar bitter taste creeps across my tongue as I face, once again, the still fresh wound left by the departure of two close friends almost a year prior. I force myself to look inside then move on, admitting their undeniable impact on me and hoping my own presence lingers even fractionally as strong before I shift to reflect on the day’s activities. Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics. The three sciences that start my daily adventure are seamlessly united in my mind. Cross country, orchestra, and drawing. A trio of extracurriculars round out the day as they bring in peaceful closure. From people to places to things, the variety in the world is overwhelming. But to me, they come together. For me, they converge within a single being.

Of Hearts and Houses

It’s what inside that counts. No place knows this better than the small dwelling beside Holy Infant Catholic Church, on Nancy Place. A cookie-cutter house erected long before my own story began, it has since been redesigned, repurposed, and refurbished. It now receives the ever-fluctuating, ever-fractured, always-faithful collection of students that gather for bi-weekly Youth Ministry. A step through the front door is a step into another dimension–one without worries or fatigue. It might have been two days since the last visit, or it may have been six weeks–Will and Tim are always there to offer a smile, a slap, and a warm embrace as the perfect welcome. Friends and families all join as one in the boisterous gathering room. FIFA glows silently in the corner amongst a cloud of enthralled fanatics while ping-pong clatters behind the overstuffed couch and the wall of merrily conversing spectators. It isn’t until Tim gives the official summon that things quiet down just as they’re starting to get dialed up. Rows of teens flood the door, filing into the dimly lit room, lightened only by the stage lights and the peaceful scene cast from the projector. A brief introduction leads into heartfelt speeches and discussions. Souls are laid bare as presenters inspire the masses and the recipients then pour out their own spirits’ wisdom. It all wraps up as leaders and followers join together, grasping firm and slack hands alike, to offer all they are in joyous praise that warms even the most insulated of hearts.

Convergence: A Paragraph on a Photograph

It is said that all things are interconnected. Every action has potential to impact any and all objects, beings, and locations from that point forward. Likewise, nothing therefore exists that is not related to every other aspect of existence. A perfect picture of convergence myself, I stand in simple black and white–the unassuming coloration of an orchestral musician. The bowtie around my neck perfectly complements the wing-collared tux shirt. Upon a quick glance down, however, the shimmering black material of my running shorts makes a stark contrast. I’ve just recently left the stage after the year’s last performance, and the tux provided by the school has been returned to the closet where it came from. My exposed legs have begun to stiffen in the cold air of the still warming season, despite having run themselves on every road within a ten mile radius of the high school campus. The writhing mass of unfamiliar bodies blocks my vision as I search for my friends. It is then that the familiar bitter taste creeps across my tongue as I face, once again, the still fresh wound left by the departure of two close friends almost a year prior. There is no choice but to look inside, admitting their undeniable impact on me, as I reflect on the day’s activities. Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics. The three sciences are seamlessly united in my mind. Cross country, orchestra, and drawing. A trio of extracurriculars round out the day. From people to places to things, there exists an overwhelming variety in the world. But to me, they come together. For me, they converge within a single being.