Mixing Art with Engineering, by Annie Zeng '16

I am an Olin College Class of 2015 student who chose to take a leave of absence for the Fall 2014 semester, which now means I'll probably graduate with the Class of '16. I arrived at Olin College in my first year, involved and actively invested in my education. Somewhere along the course of excitement about new projects and clubs, long nights spent working, gleeful over-exploring of subject matters, and critical thinking about the Olin culture and curriculum, something about my mentality changed.

I went through my junior year, feeling like I was simply skating. I still strove to produce quality work in my projects, but I no longer felt the active investment in my classes that I did as a First Year. For the first time in my college career, in a place that I had elected to put myself after high school, I was being passive about something I deeply cared about: my learning. At that time, I felt like I was no longer open to the mode of learning that Olin was presenting to me. It wasn't because the classes had necessarily changed in quality, but my interaction with the curriculum had altered. I felt like if I forced myself to go back to Olin then to power through my final year, I would not be able to learn as much in the same time period as if I placed myself in an entirely new environment. Therefore, for the sake of my active education, I chose to take a Leave of Absence (LOA).

To me, an LOA represented time that I could sneak away from these "nebulous" (thanks Slater!) college years to experience something different before I had to get thrown into the "young professional" life.  I wanted to do something that I would want to tell stories about. It was quite a whimsical thought to me--stolen time. Also, as an aspiring dancer, engineer, and artist who loved to travel, there was no shortage of things that I could focus on.

So where did I end up? Skill-wise, I went to work part-time as a Production and Robotics Engineering Intern at Artaic: Innovative Mosaics (http://www.artaic.com/) near the Seaport area of Boston. The company makes the digitally customizable mosaic medium more accessible to artists, designers, and architects through faster robotic production of mosaic murals. They also have a healthcare branch dedicated to applying their "pick and place" technology to pill packaging. Additionally, to develop a different facet of myself, I picked up metalworking. I'm exploring non-ferrous metalsmithing and pattern-welded knife making. I even found some cool people at a local dance studio to learn choreography with!

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 Artaic's mosaic assembling robot arm!

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This small, bronze vessel (not the teapot!) is one of three that I made for tea enjoyment.

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My in-process blade

Socially, I've established a lot of new networks in the Boston area. I love my co-workers at Artaic who brought in hair clippers on my last day (Halloween) and got a similar, short haircut as myself. I've had the luck of befriending some talented and aspiring bladesmiths who have shared with me their different interests and perspectives.

Personally, in my newly adopted city, I've learned to live slowly, taking long walks through the city during the beautiful autumnal season. I needed this time for my own personal growth, and I made the decision to take an LOA to accomplish just that. I'm not going to passively skate through any part of my life, least of all the parts that concern my own learning. If that means taking a different route sometimes, then let it be!

 I am excited to return to Olin in January 2015 to continue exploring my passions in engineering!

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Sunset from the kitchenette at Artaic

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Fall foliage suspended in a pond near Brookline

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The view of the skyline at nighttime from a jungle gym on Mission Hill

Posted in: A Different Path, Because I Wanted To