Cultural Immersion

When I was in high school, I was blessed with the ability to go to England and France for 2 weeks with my French Class. We spent out time in the northern portion of France, such as ST. Malo and Normandy. Seeing how these fishing port cities functioned was fascinating, as were the northern accents, which were much more difficult for me to understand when compared to the Canadian and Southern accents we had listened to. The food, architecture, and art were all great. The people were better then the stereotypes play them up to be.

I believe that being culturally aware is critical in today’s world in the work place. Being aware of customs is critical to forming relationships in a job or office. In addition, being culturally aware will help me adapt quicker to new situations and be more accepting of others.

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Mentoring Others

Our blog post asks us to “Describe a time when I met with a professional in my field or an NIU Alumni… How did they help you?” Sure, I could talk about the people I have talked to or how they have helped me. However, I feel like it would be better to talk about the times I have helped others. Is that not what we should really be doing? Trying to make other people’s lives better instead of focusing on ourselves?

If we stick with purely academic/professional help that I have provided at NIU, there are countless instances I can recall. As a Residential Assistant (RA) on campus, I have helped students plan their lives. I have helped some pick classes for upcoming semesters, given them advice on what to do when they have a problem in a class or studying, and helped some apply for internships and study abroad experiences. For those poor souls who have chosen to enter the world of Computer Science, such as myself, I am able to provide input for them on what they can do to better prepare themselves outside of the classroom. I have helped them understand some of the more difficult topics in their classes, as well as providing them additional resources to learn more than they could in a classroom. This is part of what a mentor should be. Someone who is willing to help their students through the rough patches, but still push them to challenge themselves and aid their never-ending adventure in academia.

On the other-hand, there is also emotional and mental support that a mentor can provide. Yes, it can be comforting to have someone ease some anxieties we have in academics by answering our questions, but true mentors can be friends we confide in. Some of my residents will confide their deepest and darkest thoughts in me. Some of them may be seeking comfort, others seeking advice on how they can help themselves, and others just wanting a listening ear. If the mentor cannot support their students, they should still be able to help their students find the support they need.

Thank you to those of you who are this to me.

Community Engagement as a Community Adviser – Spring 2016

For the last seven months, I’ve been working as a community adviser (CA) for the university. This is similar to the residential assistant (RA) position many other universities have. However, the CA position is focused towards five pillars of making successful students. These pillars touch on academic success, cultural inclusion, making healthy choices, managing personal relationships, and community engagement. My job is to facilitate all of these aspects and create programs for the students to grow in each of these fields. Through this job, I feel that I have influenced each of these student’s lives, even if only a little bit, by guiding them through their journey here at NIU. We’ve done more grueling activities such as study tables and time management activities, but also more fun activities that require quick thinking, quick decision making, and team experience to make work. I’ve decided that I’d like to continue doing this for my duration at NIU so that I can continue to influence students and hopefully make their time at NIU more enjoyable and manageable.

The Summer Draws to a Close

I want to start by thanking the McKearns for this wonderful opportunity. I was able to learn a lot from this Summer and grow closer with my peers. I worked on furthering my research and have a better grasp on the Oculus and Leap SDKs. We picked up some good skills with resume building and a sense of volunteerism from our time with Camp Power. I’m glad I was given this opportunity and look forward to the next three years.

McKearn Trip to St. Louis

Our trip to St. Louis this last weekend was fun. I’m glad we finally got to meet the John and Cassandra McKearn. Honestly, the most crucial aspect of this trip was probably getting to interact with both the McKearns and Joe Matty. The other things we did during the excursion were interesting, but outside of my personal interest fields. It’s great to know some of the things that the McKearns put their energy into, and it’s great that someone out there is doing not for profit plant research. However, lacking interest in going into business or the biological sciences as a profession paired with the cold I caught right before the trip made for a very long couple of days. It was a good experience, none the less, and I’m glad we were able to do it.

Because of the McKearns’ work with not for profits, I want to go back to being involved with the Boy Scouts of America. They are truly responsible for making me into the leader I am today and I’d like to help other’s find their way through the program. I’m thankful that the McKearns were able to put aside the time to meet with us and that Joe Matty set up the Alumni events during this trip.

McKearn Summer 2015 Introduction

I’ve been asked to continue blogging about my research, but the programs have changed. Instead of continuing my previous work through Research Rookies, I am now proud to say that I am work on it through the McKearn Fellowship. For those that are new to following this, I am Tripp Weiner, a 2nd year undergraduate at NIU. I’m majoring in Computational Software (Computer Science) and Computational Mathematics. I am continuing my work in Virtual Realities as a means for education with Michael Papka, my mentor for the last year. This Summer, I’m focusing on the preparations for testing the system in the upcoming year and some small improvements upon the virtual world.

To summarize the work that is already complete, the world utilizes the Oculus Rift and Leap Motion to allow for a highly immersive and interactive platform. This world focuses on aiding people in the learning of mechanical physics. Through much pain, we have force vectors working inside the world that allow for a clear visualization of how forces are interacting on an object. There are currently a couple sample games that we have designed to allow for a basic introduction to the system, but this Summer, I’d like to expand the examples.

This Summer, I plan on adding some functions to the hands, such as grabbing objects with a script opposed to through the collision engine to allow for more precise actions, a menu option for manipulation of the world inside the world, and few others. I’d also like to add a few examples to specific realms of physics, such as pulleys, angular momentum, and others if time permits. In addition, I will be working on IRB paperwork so that I can test the system in the upcoming year.

This first week I’ve gotten more done than I planned. Albeit, it’s not quite how I envisioned it, but that seems to be a fluke of the Leap Motion opposed to anything I have control over. I have the hands locking onto objects to pick them up and manipulate them, but the system seems to be a bit finicky since the Leap won’t perfectly track the user’s hands. There seems to also be a couple flaws in my program and I’m working on kneading them out.

Hopefully, I can get everything I want done this Summer, but this is my only concern so far. This will be a constant concern until everything is done or the Summer is over. However I am pretty at ease as a whole. I’m not sure if an individual is making this experience enjoyable for me since I love this project and have dreamed about it for the last couple years.

Best of luck to the other McKearn Cohorts, past, present, and future!

2014-2015 Final Blog

Creating the poster for NCUR and URAD was pretty straight forward. It was odd summarizing a years worth of work into just a handful of sentences. However, I enjoyed seeing the condensed version of my research since it has allowed me to see where to go with it. For both events, I was most excited to share what I’ve been doing with others and finding out where they could see the project going. Overall, I was pretty confident with the whole thing and look forward to doing it again. This summer, I will be continuing my research and development of the system and presenting it at NIU in the fall.

This last year as a Research Rookie has been immensely helpful. I’ve picked up good research habits, learned more about my field, and been able to network with a bunch of amazing people. I’m not sure if my view of Computer Science has changed from this experience, but my drive to learn and create more inside the field is stronger than ever. My mentor has been a great help, providing me with sources to learn more and guidance on where I should take this.

As stated earlier, I plan on continuing my project this summer and hopefully through my next three years at NIU. This summer, I want to expand the teaching capability of the system by creating and testing more lab scenarios. While I am interested in other aspects of Computer Science apart from Virtual Reality, I think that I will be doing those projects on my own and not as academic research. I have one or two other small projects that I want to spend my free time this summer working on.

Thanks to the Research Rookie team for a great year!