Why do You Write?

Why do I write?

I write to find understanding

From myself and others
For myself and others
Both now and forever

I write to seek knowledge

Opposite of fear
Teaching myself
Then sharing with peers

I write to show emotion

Life’s common thread
Pour out my own
Help others instead

I write for the peace

Calm my own soul
Share all life’s secrets
Strengthen us all

I write to find understanding

Both within and without
Until eternity ends
Beginning right now

Why do you write?

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.

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

1stWorkout Routine: Abs

As promised in my last post (If you missed it, check here for my stab at an entertaining intro), here is the first routine in my three-part thousand-rep workout. This one caters to the abdominal muscles, and was established as my first workout. Performing it once to twice a week during off-seasons early on in high school kept me prepared to return to the demanding daily routine of the track and cross country teams. We’ll begin with the workout (And cool-down), then I’ll share my personal recommendations, and end with clarifications as to what each exercise includes. Find some time during your day today to follow through with the routine and I will post the next one tomorrow.

THE WORKOUT

50 Crunches
50 Side Crunches (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Leg Raises
50 Can Openers (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Lemon Squeezers
50 Russian Twists (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 (25) Bell Ringers
50 Penguins (Each Side)
50 Crunches

50 Crunches
50 Bicycles (Each Side)
50 Crunches

THE COOL-DOWN

Hold Each stretch 20-40 seconds, or until Relaxed

Seal/ Cobra
Child’s Pose (plus rotations)
Bridge (Optional)

Additional Stretches as you see fit

RECOMMENDATIONS

For Those Looking to: Expand Upon an Athletic Lifestyle

Depending on your typical training, current condition, and dedication, you may be able to complete the full workout on your first attempt. Do not be deceived about the length of the workout: it takes me around 20-25 minutes to complete when I’m at peak fitness and put my head to it. It is far better to start slow and find you can do better next time than to over-expend yourself and leave yourself sore for the next few days. Take a few moments between each exercise to compose yourself, and up to a minute between sets to rest. If you are unsure about completing the full routine, try beginning with 25-30 reps of each exercise and repeating the entire thing for the remaining 20-25 of as many exercises as possible.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Healthy (Active) Lifestyle

Jumping straight into the full routine is likely to leave you drained and sore, but within a few weeks you may be ready to attempt it. Try starting with 30-40 reps of each exercise and make sure to take as much rest as you need. You should feel tired and mildly sore at the end, but not so spent that it hurts to move. Be sure to pace yourself and if you realize halfway through that you’ve been doing too many reps, cut back or stop when you feel you’ve reached your limit. Don’t be afraid to split any sets into smaller parts, completing 10-15 reps of an exercise at a time, resting for a few seconds, then completing the set.

For Those Looking to: Improve a Neutral (Inactive) Lifestyle

You might not consider yourself unfit, but your body may need some convincing that working out is a normal and healthy thing. Beginning with 20-30 reps of each exercise, with 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise, and 30-90 seconds between sets is a gentle option to get used to how each should feel. If there are any exercises that hurt because of reduced flexibility, temporarily replace it with a corresponding one from another set and work on stretching the affected area before and after any workout. Splitting a set into smaller pieces is not a problem if it feels more natural to complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per exercise.

For Those Looking to: Take Back Control of their Health

Attempt each exercise, striving for as many reps as possible, noting any difficult positions. Do not be afraid to take things in small bites or to put off a particularly difficult exercise.

THE EXERCISES EXPLAINED

Crunches

Mildly different from the classic “curl-up,” these are designed to be fast, with an emphasis on power, speed, and cardio. Both legs should be raised, with knees bent and feet off the ground (I find crossing my ankles to be most comfortable). Hands should be placed with 2 or 3 fingers behind the ears. DO NOT clasp hands behind the head or neck, as that changes what muscles are being used and tends to injure the neck. The upper body (chest and head) should move straight up and down, not curling in toward the knees. In cases where this is too difficult, standard curl-ups may be substituted as a more strength-based exercise.

Side Crunches

Performed in a similar way to standard crunches (as far as the upper body motion is concerned), the only difference is that the legs should remain on the ground, with knees flopped over to one side, then the other. Range of motion will decrease and it may be much harder to lift your body than standard crunches. Do the best you can. It will get better as you get used to the position.

Leg Raises

Lay on your back, legs fully extended. Slowly raise your legs until they sit at an angle 45 degrees from the ground (this should take around 4 seconds). Slowly lower your legs in the same time it took to raise them, until they are as close to the ground as possible, without touching. In the interest of keeping sets balanced, raising the legs may be counted as one rep, while lowering them may be counted as a second (effectively halving the quantity you need to complete, though we still consider it 50 reps due to the difficulty and in the interest of claiming the 1,000 rep title)

Can Openers

(AKA Cross Crunches) Lay on your back, one foot flat on the ground, so that the knee is bent. Rest the other ankle on the knee so that your second knee is pointed out to your side. Placing the finger tips of your arm opposite the second, raised, leg, raise that arm to meet the opposite (second) knee. The shoulder on the side of the raised leg should remain as close to the ground as possible.

Lemon Squeezers

(AKA Row the Boat OR V-Crunch) Balance on your butt, so that both your legs and back are elevated off the ground (bend your knees if necessary, but keep your feet off the ground). Reach your arms out toward your toes, without touching your arms to your legs. Pull your knees to your chest, then let them return, stretching your legs out and leaning back. Repeat, tucking your knees to your chest, then straitening your legs and back, nearly parallel to the ground.

Russian Twists

Starting in the same balanced position as for the lemon squeezers, pull your arms in closer to your chest. Rotate your body back and forth (quickly), reaching down with your arms to lightly tap the ground on either side of you with both hands together.

Bell Ringers

Another hard, two part exercise like the leg raises, this one is a bit faster. Lay on your back, knees curled up into your chest. Plant your hands on the ground near your hips and raise your legs and lower back to point straight up (Rep 1). Curl your legs back down and straighten them again, this time pointing so that your body is nearly straight (you want your legs close to the ground, but not quite touching) (Rep 2). Curl your legs back in and begin again, raising them up, curling them down, firing them out, and curling them back in. This should be quick.

Penguins

A simple exercise to follow the difficult Bell Ringers, this requires placing your feet flat on the ground, while you lie on your back, so that when you reach for your feet with your hands your heels are just out of reach. Raise your upper body just off the ground and waddle back and forth, lightly tapping one heel after the other. If it is too easy, move your feet out further, if it is too hard, move them in closer.

Bicycles

A classic, performed laying on your back. Raise your legs off the ground and place your fingers behind your ears. Alternate tapping either elbow to opposite knee, while the other leg straightens out. This should be done quickly, but not so fast that you run out of breath.

Seal/ Cobra Stretch

Lie on your stomach and plant the palms of your hands on the ground. Keeping your hips on the ground, raise your upper body and arc your back. You should feel a stretch across the surface, especially near the top of, your abs.

Child’s Pose

From a kneeling position, lean forward, keeping your butt on your heels so that your body lies across your legs and your arms reach out in front of you. Reach far enough that you feel a stretch across your sides. In order to stretch one side better, followed by the other, move both of your hands together, as far to one side as you can, then back to the other side.

Bridge Stretch

The classic Child gymnast’s feat, stand on your feet and your hands so that your back faces the ground and your hips are thrust into the air. This is a very efficient stretch if you can manage to get in position for it.

College Update No. 2 (Workout Edition)

I know, I didn’t label my first post as such, but it ended up catering mainly to updates since beginning college. I couldn’t agree more that it’s been way too long since I’ve taken the chance to express myself in writing like this (even though I know you’re all still dumbstruck by how seamlessly I came back to writing for last week’s post). It feels good to take time and reflect purposefully. It feels good to take time out to share what I view as my own personal “wisdom” and take my stab at making the world a better place. Life is full of moments to learn from, and a wise man knows to learn from them, while a wiser man can learn from the mistakes of others. Here is my chance to make each and every one of you reading this a wiser person.

I mentioned in my last post the common struggle of adapting to college academics. Behind academics (and maybe doing your own Landry), one of the most recognized transitions is that in which a college student takes control of their own health. From the dining halls, to the gyms, to the absence of a nagging health-nut of a mother, there are so many opportunities for diets and workout routines to go haywire. Add the increased stress from moving to a new home and finding yourself in a schedule that is so busy, yet has no structure, and it’s no wonder that so many freshmen find themselves changing so much physically. To let you in on a little secret: the freshman fifteen IS real! But at the same time, it doesn’t always mean weight is gained! I know way too many classmates, friends, even my sister, who have gone away to school, only to find the pounds drip out of their bodies like water from a cracked bucket.

For those of you that know me personally, I’m not the first person you’d think of when New Years comes around and you expect everyone to start dieting. I don’t really have an extra pound to drop. Running like I did in high school will do that to a person. Needless to say, the abrupt halt to my intensive training changed my body. As you may have guessed, my changes were not stereotypical. My appetite raged strong for about 4 months after my last meet. I ran the odd weekday practice with the high school team over summer. I knew to expect fluctuations in my weight, starting with the loss of muscle, then subtle addition of, dare I say it, fat. The scale still hasn’t stopped dropping. I’ve lost almost a fifth of my body weight: 25 pounds of leg and abdominal muscle earned over four years and countless hours on the roads and in the woods. I let my life get ahead of me, despite all the preparation and experience. I’ve taken long leaves from running due to injuries and sickness. I’ve developed ways to stay in shape. I neglected them. Now is the time to get back on track.

For any college student. For any retired or vacationing athlete. For any individual with too little time to make it to the gym, yet who still wants to feel active and regulate their bodies. (Am I starting to sound enough like a commercial?) I have the routine to help! Designed around the runner’s off season goals of maintained cardio and increased strength, I created a three part regimen to focus on three separate areas of the body. Successfully tested over numerous harsh winters, the Thousand Rep workouts take only 20 minutes to complete and promises to bring the dormant athlete out of hibernation in each and every participant! Three lineups, each for a different day, focus on your core, your cardio, and your four main appendages. No equipment is needed, and the guide is completely free! All that is required is that you stick around to find the routine of the day, here on the Snot’n’Nayls (intermittent) Health Blog! Find the list, find half an hour of free time in your day, and prepare to be amazed! (Workouts are a guide, not a specialized plan for you individually, please begin at your own pace and realize that while these exercises may work for some, they may lead to pain and/or discomfort if performed incorrectly or without proper warm up and cool down. Always be sure to stretch down after any workout and be advised, these plans have no backing from medical staff or physical trainers). Now, for all those looking to get in shape, build muscle mass, and/or cut down on excess weight, get ready for the first round of opportunity! Our first workout will be released in just a few short hours!

Changes!

“New Year, New Me:” New Year’s Resolutions are once again showing up around every corner as people everywhere start looking to make a change in their lives. I, however, am facing different changes. Some areas are moving forward as I chart new territory every day, while others seem to be reverting to old dreams and desires.

I have my first college semester under my belt. This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed that in writing, but it still hits hard. Break is starting to draw out, yet I still feel some of the weight of school riding my shoulders. Being a member of St. Louis University’s Engineering Program, I never expected the journey to be simple or easy, but so very little could have prepared me for the turmoil of my first few months “out on my own.” I moved into a dorm room infested with mold and in the months it took to cleanse it and settle into the routine of class, work, tutoring, and sleep I found so many events thrown at me that I lost count. To sum it up, I spent a grand total of two weekends in the dorm over the course of the entire semester between weddings, funerals, retreats, dances, and family excitement.

A few words of advice to those looking to the end of high school and the start of college in a few months, don’t underestimate anything. Life has a tendency to blindside the unprepared, especially if they are unwilling to admit their mistakes. I couldn’t tell you how many times I was told to expect to do more work in college than high school. I always wrote it off like i did the warnings about high school when I was in middle school because no one could describe the change other than by warning about all the extra work. I’m here to finally give an explanation about why more work is needed. In high school, your teachers were paid to teach you. In college, your professors are often hired to research, while teaching comes as an extra requirement. As such, professors (as a general rule) are not near as concerned about their students as teachers in high school, and they are there to legitimately test you, not to ensure your understanding and preparedness. The gap between what is taught and what is tested is so much greater in college, and the homework is designed to facilitate that gap, but it is important to realize that going in. Having taken many similar classes to those on my schedule this past semester, I felt thoroughly prepared and expected to be bored in classes I had already “passed.” I certainly was bored, but to say that I was as prepared as I thought would be a vast lie. The BIGGEST DIFFERENCE was in the testing: far fewer exams were given, and those that were present were TIMED. I’ve never struggled with testing anxiety in any form (I’ve always looked forward to tests and quizzes!) but without the experience from homework, the crammed tests became overwhelming and it became difficult to complete what would have been simple had I been given the time I was used to receiving to process and derive formulas and processes that I was familiar with, but not used to applying quickly.

Finally, for those of you who have stuck around to see me return after so many months away from the blog, and even further, those who have stuck with this long post: one of the larger changes I’m facing. (No, this does not involve my girlfriend or slow separation from family, those are planned steps, that are expected and calculated, not changes that alter my plans.) I’M GOING TO BE A TEACHER!!! Ever since third grade, math and science have been my deepest passions and I have had no plan to do anything but find myself in the field, practicing engineering, architecture, or some other STEM related career. Recent years, however, have found me tutoring peers and other students with greater and greater frequency and my own observations of successes and failures within greater education have inspired me to pursue my recent dream of seeking out employment as a high school teacher (and hopefully administrator with enough time). I plan to complete my Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering, then follow through with a Masters in Secondary Education. Who knows? I might find my way back to Rockwood with its Project Lead the Way program. Until then, I’m up for some adventuring! I’ll keep you updated.

~Stephen (Snots) Naylor

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.