Prior to the start of my sophomore year at UW, the COVID-19 pandemic had been raging for six months and the situation in the US didn't show many signs of improving. I had been living with my parents for that same amount of time, having been ripped away from my journey of becoming a self-sufficient adult at the end of Winter 2020 due to the pandemic. However, near the beginning of the quarter, I was able to secure a studio in the U District with the hopes of continuing said journey close to campus... you know, just in case instruction went back in person... someday.
My parents' home wasn't the best work environment, despite all the love that they sent my way every weekday, so I was hoping to use my time alone this quarter to perfect the grind. I thought that after the previous two quarters, I had mastered online school and time management and knew what I needed to do to succeed in tough STEM classes, as well as how to do it while being responsible for feeding myself, exercising adequately, maintaining social connections, keeping myself clean, and paying rent.
Life always finds a way to humble me.
• A A 210, the first in a series of three "engineering physics fundamentals" courses, dealing with statics (the physics of things that don't move)
• HONORS 220 C, Science and Engineering for Social Justice, a study of the relationships between science/engineering work and the societies that contribute to and benefit/suffer from said work
• MATH 324, vector calculus on steroids
• PHYS 122, the second quarter of weed-out calculus-based physics classes required for most STEM majors, this one being focused on electric and magnetic forces
life on the low
October 26, 2020
I've documented my varying successes and struggles with calculus classes at the UW on here before. After historically being at math and test-taking all the way through fall quarter of my freshman year here, I stumbled in winter quarter and recovered in the spring quarter. However, I had never experienced getting the lowest score in the class on an exam before... until the first midterm of my MATH 324 class came around.
Even though I had taken meticulous notes every single lecture and completed all the homework assignments in the first month of the class, I started the midterm incredibly confused and found myself unable to answer most of the questions to any degree. I had been starting to experience what would become a bout with anxiety that was larger in scale than what I'd overcome before (partly due to my mounting loneliness from being stuck in my studio alone 24/7), which made it hard for me to study at all before the exam, and studying past exams would have certainly helped me here. When grades for the exam came in a few days later, what I was beginning to think during the exam was cemented: I had done myself a disservice in my preparations, and I was truly in over my head with the class schedule that I had signed myself up for this quarter.
After receiving average scores on both the second midterm and the final for MATH 324, I passed the class with a decent grade, yet it was still my lowest grade at UW so far, even lower than my MATH 125 grade from Winter 2020. As of writing this, I'm still debating whether to turn my grade into an S. (Pretty ironically, without this class, my GPA for this quarter is over a 3.5.)
C's get degrees, right? I hold myself to a much higher standard than that, though. This entire quarter, I was thinking that Calc 4 shouldn't be where I finally falter, because I know that I will face much harder content in future quarters and I will need to pass those classes too, let alone do so with flying colors, or else I won't even graduate with a degree from UW. I know I'm more capable of success, but for that to happen, something has to change, and quick.
reconvening, with company
early November, 2020
Remember my friend who departed to LA in Summer 2020 that I FaceTimed on my birthday? No? Anyway, I had been planning to visit him since the day he left, but my migraine and panic issues that started in Spring 2020 ultimately got in the way. Roughly 4 months later, I finally got to visit him and another friend who had gone to live with him once it was clear that Zoom University was going to last beyond the summer.
If it weren't for the pandemic, I would've gone on a UW Alumni Association Career Trek to the Bay Area in March 2020 and visited a friend at Whitman College in April 2020, yet this was my first plane travel since July 2019. This was also my first experience traveling on a plane alone—not only without immediate or extended family, but also without any adult chaperones. Moreover, I paid for every single part of this trip by myself and took the necessary steps to make sure I neither caught COVID-19 nor spread it to anyone else, which was a successful endeavor. I'd longed for both true self-sufficiency and to travel without my parents ever since I entered the UW, and I finally got it in this trip.
Even if one of the few days was spent entirely looking at a screen due to online school, having my childhood friends cook for me at their own apartment made me realize how much I'd grown together with them.
content with content
November 23, 2020
A big part of the HONORS class I took this quarter was the group project, which involved developing a proposal for a policy, scientific study, or technological product to solve a social justice issue. At this point in the pandemic, Arwa Mokdad, Olivia Oomen and I were seeing an inequity in the ways that college students' mental health was being left essentially unaddressed by universities. This was already an issue before the pandemic, but it was (and still is, at the time of writing) exacerbating it with the continuation of online school and turbulent world event after turbulent world event. We decided to combine Arwa's research skills, Olivia's 3D modeling skills, and my UX prototyping skills to prototype Content, an app that acts as an automated calendar to help students plan their days out and balance their commitments with their health. We also created a model for Cue, a keychain fob with a light-up display and a vibration motor inside, which serves as a reminding attachment to Content.
thinking about design thinking
December 18, 2020
Beyond the team project, however, the Science and Engineering for Social Justice class helped me gain footing in what I want to do with my life—design for people whose lives I will never live. From learning about the racial and socioeconomic inequities in medicine and academia to discussing the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, this class helped me understand not only why things are the way they are, but also how to begin to use my white, male, educated voice to improve the way things are.
I'd gotten exposure to design thinking, the concept of a systematic way to design effective and equitable products for many different groups of people, in a two-year design/engineering class I took in high school. The term has stuck with me through every design project I've done since, especially since becoming involved as an officer and engineer in HuskyADAPT. When it came time to write the final paper in the class on a topic of my choosing, I chose to explore how a specific design thinking process could influence how we design consumer products for disabled people.