For as long as I can remember, I’ve found pleasure in making things. Things that moved, things that flashed, things that buzzed, things that whirred all have excited me to no end. I remember one of my first “inventions” was a handheld fan powered by an old electric toothbrush motor and a 9v battery. At the time, I did not understand the interworkings of the motor I was using, nor the chemistry of the battery, nor even how the shape of the propeller allowed it to move air. I did, however, understand what each piece did, and I found great pleasure in putting the pieces together to make something new.
As I moved from grade school to junior high to high school, my knowledge of how things work grew, and with it grew my desire to make more things. When learning about kinematics in physics, my friend and I decided to build small coilguns using the circuits of discarded disposable cameras to see if the equations of motion worked out. Along the way, I unintentionally learned a lot about electricity and magnetism, RC circuits, and what a high voltage discharge across skin can feel like. Projects like this led me to be one of the founding members and vice president of my high school’s engineering club. I recognized that I not only did enjoyed making devices and contraptions, but I absorbed knowledge much more readily when I could use it to make something physical. For this reason, my choice to attend Olin College was a no-brainer. Olin’s focus on project-based learning and application driven education resonated with what I enjoyed, how I knew I absorbed information, and how I liked to apply myself. Through the whirlwind that has been my time at Olin, I have had the pleasure of taking part in many experiences that speak to the five curricular components of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program: a Grand Challenge Project, an Interdisciplinary Experience, an Entrepreneurial Experience, Global Awareness, and Service Learning. In this portfolio, I will be focusing a handful of projects and experiences that highlight these components of the program.
Hughes, Silas, "The Wright Path" (2014). 2014 Grand Challenge Scholars Program. 5.