We’ve been learning recently in physics about waves and optics, about light. Light acts as both a set of waves coordinating with each other in a symphony of constructive interference and as a set of distinct, unique particles all moving toward the same ultimate end.
I think humans are a lot like photons, a part of us just wants to go with the flow while another part of us clings to our individuality. We all work best when we interact with each other constructively, and by synchronizing with each other, we can attain new heights we could never dream of reaching on our own. Yet our lovely symphony of coherent energies would be impossible if each individual did not bring their own unique little package of energy into the broader spectrum.
Light can be changed by the medium it is in; a person may send red light through a medium and end up with blue light, or white light into a prism and see an array of colors exit. Light is bent when it is fired through a tiny slit and converted from a massive transverse wave into an ever-expanding semi-circular ripple.
In the same way, people struggle in some environments and thrive in others. The type of students who thrive at Mines are disciplined, intelligent, and creative. In fact, this is the type of students who thrive anywhere. The ability to apply basic principles to more complex situations is an invaluable skill to have whether you are designing a bicycle dynamo at Mines or riding your bicycle through the African desert. Mines teaches you how to think and reason, and reminds you that sometimes the most intense movements of waves originate where a tiny opening allows just a bit of the mighty passion to break through with full force in all directions.
Some materials reflect light, and others speed it up or slow it down or bend it in a different direction. Sometimes, we may feel like we are sprinting towards our goals only to be impeded by a viscous (yes, that says viscous, not vicious) environment that we can’t seem to trudge through. In times like this, we need to work even harder to get through the muck knowing that we will run free again on the other side of the glass. Sometimes, we discover that we have been traveling in the wrong direction and a good look in the mirror will send us bouncing back on the path we belong. Sometimes, we may be bent and broken by the world around us, but still shining brightly when projected upon the right canvas.
Through every situation life fires at us, we must always remember our identity and our purpose and never lose track of that little spark of energy that the world would be at a loss for without us.
Light is the brightest when all of its colors are present. Too much green light and you lose the sharpness of the red; too much red and you lose the simplicity of the green.
Life, like light (or any physics problem really…), needs to be a balanced equation. Hard work is good for the soul, and so is a stroll along the creek at sunset. Tolerance is important, but not at the cost of compromising core values. Left brains function best when they have strong right brains to complement them. Laughter is just as therapeutic as tears, and suffering loses its bitterness when it is embraced with a sweet smile in the heart.
So you see, Mines has taught me about a lot more than just physics. It has been a wonderful year at Mines, and I hope I have been able to shed a bit of light on life as an engineering student. I hope that anyone looking into engineering thinks seriously about coming to Mines for the supportive atmosphere and the intense academics. Most importantly, I hope that all of you reading this bring your light into the darkness around you, whether that be as an engineer, a doctor, an architect, a lawyer, a teacher, an artist, or a firefighter. You have the (current * voltage) to make a difference in the lives of those around you, and I hope you seize the opportunity to share your (1/2 mass*velocity^2) with our world in desperate need of it.
Wow, is it April already????
With only about one month of school left to go, its starting to sink in that freshman year is almost over. It’s a bit bittersweet, and yet I think this summer will provide a well-needed break. I got hired to help out with a couple summer camps, and I am looking forward to my last summer to have this kind of a job before career-related jobs start coming up. It was nice getting to go home over spring break and see my family—I never realize how much I miss them until I get to spend some good quality time with them! But then again, I never realize how much I miss my friends until I have to spend a week away from them! Luckily enough, one of my really good friends, Jodi, stayed the night at my house over break and we were able to go shopping go to Jumpstreet and make banana pancakes and stay up really late and everything else girls do at sleepovers.
For another welcome break, campus is gearing up for E-Days, which will take place starting on Thursday of this week. E-Days, or Engineering Days, is a celebration of all the hard work we put in at Mines with some down time and fun. Mines students know how to work hard and have an incredible sense of discipline, but we also know how to gear down and relax when we need to. There are all sorts of awesome engineering competitions, like a trebuchet-building competition, a soap-box derby, and my personal favorite: the cardboard boat race down clear creek. It will be fun to see what innovative and exciting designs these astute students come up with! There is also a concert with AWOL Nation, a comedian, a fireworks show, casino night, and lots of other events. I think I’m looking forward more than anything just to the fact that we have school off on Friday and very little homework this week!
But of course, that means this past week was extra-challenging. I had a sub-system analysis due on Monday in EPICS with an oral presentation and SolidWorks drawings. My subsystem in our dynamo was the case/attachment mechanism. Each person had to take their subsystem and come up with a design for it, including operations, assembly, dimensions, cost/benefit analysis, and a bibliography. This was what I came up with:
On top of that, I had a 7 page Chem Lab report due on Tuesday, Physics homework due on Tuesday, a chemistry test Tuesday night, and a difficult differential-equations test after the chem. Test on Tuesday night. The good news is that all of these projects were long-term assignments, so I had plenty of time to get ahead on them before the big week. Nevertheless, last week was a bit hectic, especially because it was Holy Week so there were extra activities at church and through Focus, and I went home for Easter with my family. It was great getting to see them on Easter as well as during Spring Break. One of my good friends and I walked over 13 miles up to beautiful Mother Cabrini Shrine to celebrate Good Friday for the services up there. We had some great conversations, and it was gorgeous (like most places near Golden!) Saturday afternoon, Jodi came over to my dorm room and with Deanna we got ready for Easter Vigil mass together—she is so good at doing hair! It was a great weekend getting to celebrate with friends and family, and my friend Ryker became Catholic on Saturday night so we had a celebration afterwards. It was a great end to a tough week!
Looking forward to filling you in on the events of E-Days and my final reflections on the year in early may J
Snow, Snow everywhere! It’s been a beautiful month here in Golden, and packed with adventure. We have gotten two major snowfalls in the last couple weeks, totaling to about a foot of good ol’ crystallized solid H2O. Ironically, I climbed Lookout Mountain a couple weeks ago in 60 degree weather to look out over the sunny city. Last week, I scaled South Table mountain a couple times with some friends, and the view of Golden looked more like this:
Beautiful isn’t it? The best part of Colorado is the diversity of the seasons, and Golden captures the beauty of Colorado very well. There is something wonderful in nature within 10 miles in any direction. East: Lookout Mountain; West, Table Mountain; North: Clear Creek Canyon; South, Red Rocks and Bear Creek Lake state park… and that doesn’t include Green Mountain, Deer Creek Canyon, Waterton Canyon, and the less-famous-but-even-more-awesome sites in Colorado. My friends and I are getting real excited for some cliff jumping this spring up at St. Mary’s Glacier—we weren’t quite bold enough to brave the cold for the polar plunge. Several people from my dorm went, though, and jumped in a frozen lake to raise money for the Colorado Special Olympics. They were pampered afterwards with warm clothes, hot chocolate, and plenty of free stuff. Bummer I missed it!
Still, I have had very little time to be bored this last month. February always seems a little shorter than the other months (imagine that!) but with so much to do! This last week, I edited a 14-page project plan for my EPICS team, and then we got all dressed up for our oral presentation on Monday. Our bicycle dynamo is coming along quite nicely, and we a pretty sweet logo:
More details to come. Besides just the project, we also had a sketching exam due on Wednesday, where we had to sketch and dimension a part according to engineering standards. There is a lot of work in that class, but it’s cool to connect the material we’re learning in other classes back to the real world and remember why we’re here in the first place. On top of that, I had a physics test on Tuesday and a chemistry test on Thursday. Needless to say, it’s been quite the week of studying! Not every week is like this, though, and we still find ways to make studying fun. Deanna (my roommate) and I have been enjoying taking bets on who can finish a practice set the fastest and most accurate. If nothing else, it’s a great way to replenish our diminishing supply of Expo markers.
It’s also crazy how fast this year is passing…one more week and then it’s spring break; two and a half weeks to E-days, and then just three weeks to dead week and finals! It’s a bit weird to look at how much I have grown and changed throughout this year and to watch my friends grow up with me. It’s that time in our lives when we are just beginning to discover that we have the world at our fingertips, and we really can make our dreams a reality. It’s that time when we are learning what it means to be human and how that impacts our relationships. And at Mines, it’s that time when we are beginning to grasp that every cell in our bodies is perfectly designed to synchronize with the chemicals in our food, the velocity of our cars, and the light waves of the stars. It’s that time when we wake up every morning excited about the adventure of being alive.
Now here’s a polar bear:
Well hello again! It’s been a while…Glad to see you all survived the end of the world on Dec 21. That always makes for a good day.
And a good new semester at that! I am feeling much less stressed this semester. After a lot of thinking and few pro/con lists, I decided to let go of track/cross country. I have so many good memories from this year and from high school, but I just didn’t have enough time to do my homework (well), get to practice, stay involved in FOCUS, connect with people in my classes, eat, travel with the team, take a stroll along the creek now and then, and still get more than five hours of sleep at night. I am also taking four less credit hours than I was last semester. (I didn’t really plan that, but I couldn’t fit another class in with track without going over the 19-hour limit, and track was worth one credit, so that puts me at 14.5, a little lighter than I had hoped, but still quite sufficient!) I am still plenty busy to keep out of trouble, just without a lot of the stress. I think one of the most important (and most difficult!) things I have learned this year is that I can’t do everything and still do it well, and that success lies in doing simple tasks well rather than attempting something I’m not capable of.
As far as dorm life goes, Deanna and I couldn’t be happier this semester!
We have discovered a wonderfully simple recipe for popcorn: simply place the kernels in a paper lunch bag and microwave for 2:30 or so and voila! Cheap dorm-room bliss! In fact, I’m eating some right now J We have also started doing cozy dorm yoga seshes after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perhaps by the end of the semester we will be able to test our knowledge of torque with a head stand or two! Our RA, Tori, is a sweetheart (but I have yet to meet an RA here I don’t like) and arranged a painting night for our floor at Art on the Brix in downtown Golden. Each resident painted a pre-outlined ceramic tile with whatever colors she wanted, and we all came together to make a marvelous picture which will be hanging in the Residence Life office later this semester!
And then there’s Zonkerface. I’m not really quite sure where Deanna and I came up with the name, but Zonkerface is a little beaver-like creature who makes strange noises in our furnace and eats our pencils and socks (and occasionally our homework…). Both of us gave each other a Zonkerface toy for Christmas, and now stuffed Zonkerface and chocolate Zonkerface are happily sitting next to each other on our microwave next to our popcorn and Chem goggles.
Aren’t they adorable?
This semester, I’m taking Physics II, Chemistry II, Differential Equations, and EPICS (Engineering Processes Introductory Course Sequence) I. I’m really looking forward to EPICS with Dr. Knecht. For that class, we come up with an idea for an engineering project, create sketches and business plans, analyze costs, double-check the subsystems, and finish with a presentation to our clients who could put our product on the market. Our group has chosen to create a bicycle generator that uses the motion of the wheels to generate enough electricity to charge a laptop or cell phone. My group works really well together and it should be fun to see what we come up with! Here is a one-point perspective sketch I did for the class.
I also got hired as a teaching assistant for Physics I, which helps me review some key concepts while doing something I love: helping others with their homework. It’s definitely been a great choice so far.
FOCUS continues to thrive as well, with over 30 student leaders this semester. These people live with so much joy, and I can’t believe the kind of role models that surrounding me. They are always there with a hug and an encouraging word when you’re stressed, and plenty of laughter every other time. We meet up every evening in the lobby of one of the dorms to offer some night prayers and share stories from our days. This always provides a much-needed break from physics, and we often hang out afterwards to finish our homework together.
And of course I can’t leave you without something witty as a little reward for actually reading this far!
Bust out the gummy bears, Ramen, and Red Bull…it’s time to study for finals! Just kidding, I haven’t eaten any of those yet this semester (although my new favorite method of textbook reading is to put a Reese’s Puff on every paragraph, and then when I read that paragraph I get to EAT THE REESE’S PUFF!…sorry, that was an important side note). I expect the 3rd floor of Morgan Hall to shut down next week while everyone is studying for finals. Seriously. Mines kids know how to study. But we also enjoy learning about Newtonian mechanics and quantum physics and line integrals, so studying is how we have fun anyway…most days.
And on the days when we’re not studying, we’re going for chilly jogs along the creek. Our cross country team earned ourselves a 5-day trip to Joplin, MO to compete in the RMAC D-II National Cross Country meet. Women took 8th, and Men took 2nd…in the nation. After such a fun and successful season, I think we were all ready for a bit of a break before hitting the winter training for track. Nevertheless, after resting exceptionally hard last week, we are beginning to build our mileage base back up for track. I’m excited to see how well the team can do after more hard work next semester.
I’m also remembering the importance of scheduling in time to stare at the TV when it isn’t on, to watch the sunset on Kafadar, to read a good book, to pray silently, or just to put on some good Pandora and draw a picture. It’s easy to get caught in the college lifestyle of living off of no sleep, maximizing study and social time, and trying to do everything well. While this is an important stage of life to go through, it’s also necessary to take time to remember who you are and why you are here in the first place. Mines kids are unique because we have a passion for all we do, and we are disciplined enough to make our dreams a reality. Being smart will give you great advantages in the school and career worlds, but being able to think and dream will give you even greater advantages in life itself. Whether you run a meeting, run a marathon, run an acid titration, or run for president, run it well.
Note to self: Pumpkins in dorm rooms are NOT a good idea. I got to go home a couple weeks ago and carve a cute pumpkin with a Hawaiian girl face on it, and of course I had to add it to my collection of dorm decorations! Unfortunately, the next morning, I woke up to discover a ½ inch layer of mold in it…and by 6 pm that night it was looking rather droopy…needless to say, the microwave and fridge got a good scrubdown and the pumpkin ended up in the dumpster VERY shortly after that. I will miss that pumpkin, but I also have lots of other happenings to distract me from my loss.
Cross country season is beginning to wind down, and with regionals on Saturday, we will be following the “Train hard, rest hard” regimen…mostly the resting hard part this week. It seems like this season flew by, but I think my body is ready for a rest. Our runs along the creek path in Golden have been getting a bit chilly, but the beauty is phenomenal. Golden really is turning golden with leaves, or at least it was until we got our first real snow last week! A friend and I made snow angels by our dorms, and I have to take a moment to appreciate the 12 foot tower of snowballs sitting on Kafadar Commons. The stuff engineers do in their free time…
That is, of course, when we have free time! At Mines, there is not really any such thing as “I’m done with all my homework,” just “I’ve done enough homework to have a thorough grasp of the material and get a decent grade” and “I’ve done so much homework my brain is fried and I can’t do any more until tomorrow.” The good news is there are lots of smart cookies here that will help you with whatever you need help with, and I managed to average a 93 on my first round of tests. Plus, you get to feel super smart when you type a problem into your calculator using nothing but variables and it takes up 4 lines…and the answer is right! Ah, the sweet physics buzz…far better than any other types of buzzes they catch on *other* campuses.
But besides just doing physics, people at Mines really do know how to have fun. Several of my friends and I are going to be the characters from Clue for Halloween (I got Mrs. White if you were wondering). So far, the best costume I saw was a group of girls from my dorm who dressed as the Minions in Despicable Me by wearing yellow shirts and chemistry goggles. But Halloween is Wendesday, so we shall see!
Most importantly, I feel like I am finally getting a hold of myself and my time so that I can take care of what really matters in life. I got to go downtown and serve a meal to the homeless and bake some pumpkin bread for a fundraising bake sale, and helping people with physics helps me remember that “we cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love” (Mother Teresa). Bishop Conley is celebrating his last mass in Denver at Mines today, so the FOCUS group is really excited. It’s reassuring to know that I have such a strong support group who demonstrate how to lead a life well lived.
But in the meantime, I’m off to go enjoy some cereal for dinner.
May the mass*acceleration vector be with you!
Well, it’s been about a month since I started college, and I’ve already: watched someone solve a 5x5 Rubik’s cube, stayed up late crying because I had so much homework, gotten into the ultra-hip study parties on campus, gone a full day without having to open a door for myself, and watched The Big Bang Theory for 2 hours straight. Welcome to Mines.
It’s true what they say: Mines is tough. It’s definitely a bit of a shocker when you come from a high school where you were the smartest kid in the class into a college where every kid was the smartest kid in the class. Everyone warned me about how challenging Mines is, but I have to admit it still caught me a bit off guard when I couldn’t get a single problem of the physics homework without going in for help. With that being said, though, everyone here is in the same boat, and they all understand what you’re going through. It’s not looked down upon to go in for help, and in fact every successful student I’ve talked to has done so at one point or another. This is really nice because you can open up to new challenges that push you to become the best you can be, and you can tell everyone here really wants you to succeed. People actually go to study groups, and the third floor of Morgan hall shuts down completely from 6:30-9 the day before an exam just because everyone is studying so hard. Everyone is so disciplined, and you can’t help but go along with them. So really, the tough classes just keep you from getting lazy or bored.
And if the academics aren’t enough to keep you from getting bored, there’s plenty of clubs and organizations to keep you busy. As a varsity cross country runner for Mines, I do find a lot of my time taken up by practices, meets, and team dinners, but I love the sport so it’s all worth it in the end. Everyone on the team understands the workload and is willing to help each other out. Nothing bonds you better than running 7 miles together every day … except maybe a covalent bond J I’ve also found a lot of friends in the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) who share my beliefs and values and just like to have fun. We’ve gone on night hikes, had movie nights, thrown surprise parties, and studied physics together. I go to ballroom dancing club a couple nights a week, which is pretty much the only place on campus there is a 1:1 male/female ratio. At Mines, there is a group for anything you might be interested in—everything from “the Slackers” slack-lining group to the Linux Users Club. Yes, there is a Linux Users Club. Welcome to Mines.
All of the organizations were out on campus one day for the Celebration of Mines. This was a great opportunity to sign up for professional organizations like the American Society of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers, to get free water bottles and caramel apples, to sign up for all the clubs you want to join, and to just get information on things you’re interested in. I found out that our Engineers Without Borders group sends 8 students per semester down to Nicaragua to build a bridge for impoverished communities … for free (to the students)! Also, there is a foreign exchange program that sends students all over the world for no more than the normal cost of tuition. I am looking into getting myself to Germany next year. No matter what you want to do, there is a place for you at Mines. Everyone understands your stupid chemistry jokes (and laughs at them), everyone is overwhelmed, but everyone gets each other through it. So far, my experience has definitely been worth it.
And one more thing: absolute zero is the Coolest. Thing. Ever.
We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.