COVID and Me: Serna '21 (2/2)

This is Part 2 of Serna's story. Missed Part 1? Read it here:

Rambling aside, despite the fact that I’ve dug myself into a hole, classes have been pretty reasonable. One of my classes dropped its quizzes, another changed weekly homeworks into shorter in-class assignments, one of them did its best to deal with the fact that it just started, others canceled some days and gave us more time on projects, and my independent study shifted our meetings by one week. 

I was worried that going to classes would add strain to all of the worry I was carrying, but it was so nice to see familiar faces. Everyone has been really supportive of each other (everyone being students and faculty).

Additionally, tutoring and other support systems didn’t go away. I still meet with my tutors (who have mastered Zoom whiteboard) and I still am a course assistant (CA) as well. Advisors, Adva (Olin's Assistant Dean of Student Affairs), the Office of Admission & Financial Aid, and the Title IX office are all up and running still along with the R2s (Resident Resources...kind of like Resident Advisors at another college) and PAs (Peer Advocates).

One of the big questions that has sorta been answered was “What’s going to happen to the fabrication-heavy classes?” I work as a CA for MechProto (Introduction to Mechanical Prototyping), a course where students build kinematic sculptures. How were students supposed to finish the semester (which was really helped by the fact that we had already spent half of it on campus)?? 

Well, we still had SolidWorks, which I was worried about helping students with through Zoom. It seemed so unreasonable, but ignoring the significant lag from using the VPN to access the network, Zoom screen sharing being laggy, and screen sharing adding additional time delays, it’s been nice to be able to access someone’s SolidWorks while both of us are looking at it (reasonably and not uncomfortably close to each other). The demos for this first sculpture went really well (even if you don’t account for COVID-19). But there were some challenges. 

The biggest academic challenges aside from being able to focus and do it, has been for classes with team projects. Some of the MechProto teams had students in 3-5 different time zones across the world. That coupled with not being able to work on the CAD (Computer-aided design) at the same time or in front of each other, cost the teams. More frustrating was that instead of teams being able to fabricate and put their sculpture together, they only got to CAD it. 

To make up for that, for the second sculpture (which got rid of the team component but encouraged students to pair together) is now being “fabricated” with Legos that were sent to most students (where we could ship) including Lego Technic Kits, a base plate, and a budget to order more Legos. Specifically, we are using Lego Technic Kits as they come with gears and pulleys, mechanical components that students would normally get exposure to in this class. Students are still expected to make a CAD model, but now they get to see how it would (or wouldn’t) work with gravity and friction involved (sorry not sorry SolidWorks).

Hopefully, this entire thing makes some sorta sense and gives you a picture of what Olin has been like during this time or at least for one class. Olin has been important to me during this time. Not just as a thing to do, but also by providing me a community of people who care for each other. I’d also like to point out that I’m still “hanging” out with my friends on Zoom. So like, although COVID-19 has been uncomfortable to say the least, finishing this semester through it has been reasonable.