Evaluating Productivity & Making for Meaningful Study

I’ve never been one to exercise the most consistent study habits. I don’t create calendars reminding me to keep to a particular schedule. I don’t have any “tried and true” methods, and I don’t always follow the same set of “rules” every time I sit down to engage in productive study. My plan of action varies by my course load, schedule and more often than not, my level of motivation.

With that in mind, this week I sat down to evaluate my own study methods and productivity. I wanted to assess whether my present habits have truly been serving me well: whether what I’ve been doing has been genuinely meaningful, intentional and deliberate. 

I started by combing the internet for suggestions, methods of study and anything supported by solid research. Then throughout the week, I gave them a trial run and an evaluation.

Leitner System

The Leitner System is a way of using flashcards to their most effective benefit. While going through your stack, those terms you correctly remembered get pushed to the backburner, and the ones you’re presently struggling with stay at the forefront of all those cards. That way, you can focus on your “backburner” terms maybe once a week or every other day, while your “struggle” terms stay in your daily rotation.

I tried this method with a set of cards I’ve currently been running through for memory on Quizlet. I broke my set of cards into “daily” and “every other day” sets. I found that spending less time on what I already knew made for so much less of a “mind jumble” when flipping through my cards. It makes sense: If you’re already entirely comfortable with a few terms, why needlessly confuse yourself by throwing them in the mix with the ones that stump you extensively?

Fenymen Notebook Method

The Fenymen notebook method is characterized by deliberately writing down concepts and ideas you may be confused by, and then thoughtfully writing down ways that these concepts can be explained to someone younger or who knows less about it. 

I applied this to my current math homework. As I worked through problems online, I wrote down key concepts, terms and ideas that simply weren’t clicking for me. While I was carefully considering my approach for gathering solutions, I wrote down my steps and spoke them aloud. Being able to make that thoughtful connection between reciting and handwriting my thought-process not only simplified my understanding, but it also made me feel more motivated to continue working through other areas of struggle.

In the realm of productivity, I followed a few suggestions to help amplify my success. 

Cut Down on Multitasking

I am a sucker for notifications. I can be typing a research paper, reading a book or passage, or watching a video for a course. Whatever it may be, as soon as a message from the group chat lights up my screen, I’m immediately sidetracked. Telling myself it’ll be just a quick check turns into aimless scrolling through all of socials, and somehow I end up watching cat TikToks until I’ve completely neglected the task at hand. 

This week, I spent a few of my study sessions with my phone flipped upside down, completely blocking out any cell phone distractions. I found that I was much more productive and got more accomplished in a faster period of time, giving me more time later to be able to reply to the group chat at my heart’s content (or watch the same cat TikTok five times in a row to laugh all over again).

Music Types

I also changed up the type of music I listen to while working. I cannot work without music for the life of me; it’s a necessity. Studies have shown that “busy” and loud music can detract from the task at hand and emphasize the music as opposed to the task. I limited my listening to only soft, instrumental music and found that it acted as more of a pleasant background as opposed to my main focus.

This week, I was able to learn more about my own productivity (or lack thereof) and found a few tricks to help make my study sessions more tolerable and motivating. Give some of these a try and evolve your own understanding of studying and productivity.

A Lesson In Accidental Minimalism

If there is one thing my first semester of college has taught me, it’s the valuable lesson of “less is more.” 

I first came to campus bright-eyed and seemingly unprepared, and I noticed it right away. From having hardly enough clothes hangers to finding myself frustrated by the presence of things I didn’t see myself needing, I knew from very early on that I would have to evaluate what was worth having in my tiny slice of northeast Ohio campus life and what wasn’t. 

The first item of business I set about accomplishing was a complete dorm overhaul. I cleaned and carefully placed every little possession and by the time I was finished, I was exhausted by the amount of time I had put into my organization and purging of items only for it to feel so fruitless just a few days of college mess later. That’s what drove me to the “less is more” mentality. Because even after all my efforts, I still found myself holding onto less of what I needed and more of what I wanted, rather than finding a healthy balance between both.

In about a week’s time, I got an aloe plant. I paid essentially a penny to print photos of my dearest friends to string up. And I filled a box full of extra supplies, clothes and room items that didn’t feel necessary anymore. It took me almost the entire semester to really process my understanding of minimalism; when I began with my overhaul and reorganization steps, I didn’t view what I was doing as “minimalism” in the slightest. The difference between the individual I was at the start of the semester versus at the close was made obvious by my change in mentality and outlook.

When I have read about “minimalism,” it is described as being intentional, deliberate and done out of passion and on purpose. Quite oppositely, I’d say coming to college made me an accidental minimalist. 

When people picture the textbook definition and the foundations of minimalism, I’d assume they envision stark white walls and barely anything at all. For me, that understanding has changed, as I have come to find that minimalism is the personal satisfaction in knowing that while I may not have a dorm stocked with millions of pillows, decor, an overflowing wardrobe and items intended for single use, what I do have is exactly what I need. Nothing more, nothing less.

I found comfort through the ups and downs of my first semester of college in the people who helped me understand that material items don’t carry nearly as much weight or sentimental value as do your choices, your deliberateness and your feelings during times of togetherness or solitude.

“Fewer” really can mean more: fewer belongings, fewer worries and a closer circle made up of the people and ideas that hold the greatest amount of weight in your heart.

Follow Emma on her minimalist journey here.

Illustration courtesy of The Burr’s illustration team.

Responding to a Daunting College Inquiry

Words by Lillianna DiFini

Every student has been asked the same daunting question before, regardless of whether they are an incoming college freshman or a third-year student coming back home to visit family members on a holiday break. It seems as if everyone probes this question to all college students, regardless of their relation to the person asking. Strangers, friends, family members and even professors all inquire about this same exact question. 

This particular question, for some, is quite easy to respond to with a clear-cut answer that they planned for years leading up to their college career. However, for others, this particular topic of discussion brings upon feelings of anxiety and a rush of thoughts surrounding their future and whether or not they will ever be able to choose the correct pathway for themselves. “What is your major?”

Throughout my senior year of high school, not only was everyone curious where their peers chose to go to college, but everyone wanted to know what their classmates would be studying. Especially during the few months leading up to move-in day, I was constantly asked “What is your major?” by seemingly every individual I talked to. From my perspective, this question was very difficult to answer. However, I am here to tell you that there are plenty of other students who are in the same exact place.

From my personal experience, I was not an incoming college student who knew exactly what they wanted to study for the next four years. However, there are a few helpful tips I can provide to students who are in this same place and who may be struggling to decide what major to choose. These tips helped me significantly in decreasing the number of major options that did not pertain to my personal interests. Ultimately, this led me to choose a major that I am extremely interested in and love. 

Narrowing down your interests is the first step in determining a major that you would be interested in and would be beneficial to your own personality. In my experience, I knew I wanted to work around people and avoid desk jobs. Taking your interests and passions into consideration is a great way to rule out any majors that do not fit your specific personality. 

Another great tip for students who are confused about choosing a major would be to take a look into your own personality. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Do you prefer to work face-to-face with others, or would you rather communicate over a screen? Assessing your own personality will help you narrow down potential majors that will lead to careers that match your own personal traits. 

However, if this seems a bit too daunting, it is always a great idea to take a look into completing online personality quizzes. I know this sounds exactly like what a high school teacher would say, but there are several personality tests online that also recommend careers that fit your personality. These tests will give you an idea of careers that fit your own personality traits that you may never have thought of before. 

Although choosing a college major may seem like a life sentence, there are several ways to switch majors and choose a pathway that you truly love. After following these tips, students who are confused about what major to choose will be more in tune with their own interests, ultimately leading them to be several steps closer to finding a major that fits themselves the best! 

Don’t be afraid to get involved on campus

By: Cheyenne Petitpas

Flashback to late August: It’s only been a few days since I started living on campus. I was an intimidated freshman who was nervous yet excited to start getting involved at Kent State.

Like most new students, I visited every table I could at the Kickoff festival and signed up for far too many organizations I knew I’d never attend. I gave my email to multiple tables for one of two reasons: to get free stuff, or because I had genuine interest in the organization. I didn’t go to any of them for a while, mainly because I was nervous to go alone and didn’t make any friends on campus yet.

I eventually met a friend through a modeling/promotion gig. Basically, someone asked for volunteers to take pictures in company merchandise and only two of us who responded. The other girl brought a friend along, and I began talking to her friend over lunch. We discovered we had a lot in common. I brought up how there were so many clubs I wanted to go to, but I could never force myself to actually go. She said she felt the same way, and we discovered there was one club we both wanted to try out. She had been going for a while with her friends and invited me to tag along.

The club was More Than A Body, which is a club that focuses on supporting and comforting those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment. More Than A Body was high on my list of clubs I wanted to join, so I was stoked that I was finally going.

The meeting I went to was during the peak of the Kavanaugh case, so obviously we talked about the case and how, unfortunately, a lot of victims are blamed and justice isn’t served the way it should be. We did an activity called blackout poetry, which is where you take a section of text, highlight certain words to create a new text and color out the rest of the words. We did this with articles about the case, with printed speeches that Kavanaugh delivered, articles about Trump discussing the topic, and articles discussing other men who have committed the same crimes.

It felt powerful to cross out words of a negative text to create something more empowering and just. To turn something negative into something positive always leaves people feeling uplifted and happy. It was amazing to feel the vibe in the meeting shift as people created their poetry.

At the end, we went around and shared what we had created. Hearing some of other’s poems, I was amazed at not only their artistry regarding the wording, but how drastically they changed the tone of the text. Leaving the meeting, I felt validated and supported. I learned I was not nearly as alone as I felt I was.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to attend More Than A Body again due to classes and work, but I still highly recommend the meetings to my friends. I never thought that being with others that share my experiences would be beneficial to me, being a very shy and closed off person, but it was empowering and felt good.

The ‘best years of your life’ can actually be the loneliest

Today’s college students are struggling to navigate loneliness — high expectations, social media could be why

Words by Valerie Royzman

Last fall, Lauren Woodbury waited outside the lecture hall for “Introduction to Statistics” to start. The professor was running a few minutes behind. Synchronously, students, many of them freshmen, rubbed tired eyes, yawned, directed attention back to the glowing companions in hand.

As the professor unlocked the heavy, gray double doors, Woodbury shuffled into the crowded classroom of Generation Z robots where everyone was a stranger.

“And all of the sudden, I was overcome with emotion,” says Woodbury, a Kent State sophomore studying psychology. “This big moment of ‘Is it all worth it?’”

She quickly ditched the class and wound up in the bathroom, where the frustration welling up in her wide blue eyes turned to aggressive crying. She trembled, but she managed to pull herself together enough to call her boyfriend. Jared, a University of Akron student, stayed on the line with her for three hours. He wanted to reassure her she didn’t have to brave this flood of feelings on her own.

Woodbury says she had a mental breakdown that day.

She also says this was the moment she realized she was incredibly lonely.

Woodbury, surrounded by people, felt alone.

Across the country, college students — freshmen, especially — feel this same sense of isolation, says Nance Roy, the chief clinical officer of the JED Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to protect the mental health of teenagers and young adults.

“You’re thrust into an environment where you typically don’t know anyone. … Now you’re in a place that’s completely foreign to you,” Roy says. “You don’t have a ready-made group; you don’t have the support on a daily basis that you were comfortable and surrounded yourself with for 18 years.”

A nationwide survey from the health insurer Cigna in May reported loneliness is reaching “epidemic levels in America” — and young people are among the hardest hit.

According to the 2018 study — which surveyed 20,000 online across the country— nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. Based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which ranges from 20 to 80, those who score 43 and above are considered lonely, and the average score in America is 44.

Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, “is the loneliest generation” and scored 48.3, the survey found. Millennials follow this trend, though not to the same extent, and they scored 45.3. Baby Boomers, ages 54 to 72, and the Greatest Generation, age 72 and above, scored lower — 42.4 and 38.6, respectively.

Roy says loneliness, which she defines as an emotion and not a mental illness or condition, strikes individuals in this age group particularly hard because they’re stumbling through a transitional period. She wasn’t involved in the Cigna study.

“What most college students hear before they go off to college is, ‘Oh, these are going to be the best years of your life,’ and, in fact, that’s a pretty unrealistic picture, and you have unrealistic expectations,” she says. “You don’t have 100 friends as soon as you step on campus.”

When this realization settles in, Roy thinks students begin to feel like something could be wrong with them. And so, the loneliness unfolds.

Alexander Colbow, a psychologist for Psychological Services at Kent State, echoed these sentiments. He says loneliness “regularly comes up in the counseling office.”

“Any major transition that people experience in their lives can make them a little bit more vulnerable … especially when they’re moving and being uprooted from their social networks that they had,” Colbow says.

Woodbury says her assumptions of college didn’t match the reality.

“I couldn’t really find anyone who wanted to do anything, ever,” she says. “And last year, I didn’t have a car with me either, so I was like, ‘I’m stuck on this campus doing nothing.’ There was a lot of times that I would just come back to my room and cry.”

This realization arrived too late for Woodbury, who says the “magnitude of difference” from high school to college escalated her loneliness.

“In high school, there were a lot of things just thrown into your lap,” she says. “In college, those opportunities are still there, but you kind of have to look for them and take the initiative and realize, like, ‘I’m not just going to be handed things anymore.’”

Ericka Schneiderman, a Kent State junior studying conflict management, says she normally doesn’t have much trouble starting up conversations with strangers. When she fails to prioritize her social life and spends extended periods of time on her own, though, she feels her loneliest.

Schneiderman recalls a period when even a companion didn’t help. She says her ex-boyfriend was even more introverted than her, and they spent the bulk of their time shoulder to shoulder, not interacting with many others.

They were lonely together.

Today, Schneiderman gushes she’s happily dating someone new. Like Woodbury, her relationship is easing her loneliness. But still, when Schneiderman’s boyfriend graduates at the end of the semester, she knows this all-too-familiar monster will creep into her life again.

“He says he’ll still make time to see me, but I know how difficult adult life can get,” she says. “And there I’ll be, feeling like no one cares, that if I disappeared tomorrow, who would really notice?”

Although loneliness isn’t new, how it’s affecting today’s college students — a culture in a committed relationship with its cell phones — could be.

Roy says college students are attached to technology, and the colossal amount of time they spend with it may have repercussions. Friends post their “best selves” to social media — glamorous grins and red Solo Cups in hand — and if students are refreshing their Instagram feeds repeatedly, they begin to feel bad about their decisions to stay in their dorm rooms or home for the night.

“If I’m seeing that 24/7 or I’m glued to my screen and tracking what everybody else is doing all the time, it can certainly exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation,” she says. “Even though, somewhere in the back of your mind, you know it can’t be as good as it looks — even still, it has an impact.”

In a July 2017 study, American Journal of Preventive Medicine researchers found young adults who frequently turned to social media “seem to feel more socially isolated than their counterparts.”

Roy and Colbow agree social media use alone isn’t the culprit of loneliness, but because young people rely on it so heavily, they may be having trouble navigating their loneliness.

Even though her friends would say she “gets along well with others” and “is such an entertainer,” Schneiderman says this is only one version of herself that she shows the world. The other spends her time alone, locked in her room.

“Netflix and Hulu and movies and music are my main companions,” she says. “It’s not that I don’t like going out — I do. I just don’t feel motivated enough.”

Students occasionally post to Kent State’s class pages on Facebook with messages like, “SOS in need of friends to hang with” and “Looking to make some new friends. Drop your Snapchat snapcode below.”

Woodbury hasn’t tried this. She says she doesn’t think her social media use is detrimental because she didn’t have “super strong connections” with people back home in Cincinnati, so she doesn’t feel jealousy, guilt or loneliness when she sees them online.

“I actually, since graduating, haven’t talked to anyone I graduated with. … I never really felt that distance, I guess, because there wasn’t really anybody from home that I was missing,” she says.

Face-to-face interaction has changed Woodbury’s outlook as a sophomore. For her own sake, she stepped into a busier life. With a full course schedule, an internship at Akron Children’s Hospital and involvement in two psychology clubs, she feels less lonely.

“It’s just realizing that you really need to make an effort yourself  to look out there and figure out what’s fun to you. … When you find those things, that’s when you’re going to find those people that have the same likes, the same dislikes as you,” she says.

Colbow says because loneliness stems from a variety of things, solutions are case by case and depend on the student’s identity — the LGBTQ community, first-generation students, international students and others have differing situations — and what concerns they’re dealing with.

“Some of it is exploring the thoughts you have about yourself or the fears that come up when interacting with people if somebody is isolated,” he says.

Besides digging for the root cause of that student’s loneliness, Colbow recommends seeking new social interaction, which could mean joining clubs and study groups on campus, participating in residence hall activities, volunteering or sports.

“And then also kind of exploring what makes it hard to take those risks or share about something you’re struggling with or putting yourself out there in some way and saying ‘hi’ to somebody new and developing those deeper connections with people,” he says.

Woodbury says conversations with her residence hall assistant, who agreed her expectations of college were too extravagant, led her to realize her loneliness was normal. When she made more of an effort to stop toting around her loneliness, things slowly improved.

On the first day of class in the spring of her freshman year, she checked with the girl beside her to be sure she was in the right music class. That conversation, Woodbury says, led her to her best friend.

Woodbury says counseling at the Counseling Center in White Hall helped remedy her loneliness. She attended sessions in the fall and spring of freshman year out of fear her loneliness would grow too heavy for her to carry.

Roy says loneliness is not necessarily a precursor to anxiety or depression, common among college students.

“I do think that when folks are isolated for long periods of time and are lonely for an extended period of time that it certainly can be helpful to get some support, whether that be your counseling center or your family or clergy, if that’s who you go to,” she says.

Roy urges students to take note of when their loneliness — what she calls the “single biggest struggle for first-year students” — develops into “staying lonely for three years.”

Though Woodbury feels better this semester, she suspects loneliness will wrap its eerily familiar arms around her again, especially during stress-filled weeks or on weekends when fewer students are roaming campus.

This time, though, Woodbury says she isn’t so afraid.

“It’s definitely survivable,” Woodbury says. “You kind of have to have an ‘aha’ moment to get yourself out of it. You have to know that it’s not a switch that once you’re out of it, you’re going to stay out of it. You’re going to have moments — and that’s OK.”

At the start of this fall, Woodbury’s phone rang. On the other end was the secretary from the Counseling Center, who asked if she was interested in sessions this semester — asked if her loneliness was overwhelming her.

“No,” Lauren says, smiling into the phone. “I’ll reach out if I feel the need to, but so far, I’m definitely not in the same place as I was last year.”

Then she hung up.

Giving up

Words by Kathryn Monsewicz 

Have you ever wanted to give up on something? Be it the first time your toddler toes touched the water and you were scared to swim, or you’ve listened to your professor ramble on enough you don’t think the notes are worth it anymore. Maybe you gave up on your boyfriend of six months because things didn’t “click” anymore, or you consider that promotion at work to be way out of your league.

I’ve given up before. Whether it was ballet class, karate, baton twirling, playing the piano, playing the violin, trying to score higher than a B in geometry class; bottom line, it is human to want to give up when things get tough or when you don’t “feel” it anymore. That’s what I was told, at least.

“If you don’t feel it, don’t do it,” Brian says. Brian is a local musician who comes into the grocery store I work at every day to buy cheap cans of Honey Brown booze and occasionally some discount, $4.99 cigarettes. He’s 51 years old, has been playing music since age 16, writes the music and leads the guitar for his band and refuses to play anything other than his own pieces.

I’ve never before been told to give up, that it was okay if you didn’t think you were able to accomplish something because you could just give up. But there’s a second meaning to what Brian says. Sure, if something doesn’t settle right with your abilities, then giving up is an option. But giving up so you can foster the skills in what you’re truly good at is not quite giving up.

Rewind to my first week in microeconomics class: opportunity costs, when you give up one opportunity for another.

This opportunity cost to Brian, his playing only original work instead of practicing the pieces of the music masters before him, was his decision. He abandoned his music theory class in school, snatched up a recording contract, but seems to be stuck shoveling snow in the winter and buying cheap booze and stale cigarettes every day of the week.

He believes that if you don’t feel it in your gut, if you don’t love and cherish the work you are doing, then give up on it and make room for what you do love. Sure, he shovels snow or mows lawns as a season-specified job, but that is not his career. Music is his career as much as writing is mine. My job is customer service at a grocery store, but my career is built by the keyboard keys I’m tap-tap-tapping on right now.

Imagine for a minute the life you want for yourself. What future are you thinking about? Are you in love with your spouse, your family, your career? Do all these things make you feel happy? They should. And if they don’t, there’s a sign that maybe somewhere along the way you should have given up. You should have given up the idea for the ideal.

Healthy lifestyle leads to improved college experience

Words by Hallie Saculla

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Amidst a rigorous academic schedule, students may not acknowledge the importance of taking care of themselves. From exercising frequently to maintaining a balanced diet, prioritizing one’s health is vital for success.

“I think it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college for both my health and my sanity,” says Kelsie Lichtenstein, a senior majoring in fashion merchandising. “When I eat healthy meals, I feel more awake and able to pay attention in class. When I work out regularly, I give myself an after class routine and having a routine stops me from being lazy when it comes to studying.”

Chelsey Ludwiczak, a local registered and licensed dietitian, suggests establishing a routinely diet hearty of whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables to provide sustainable energy. If one frequently consumes high carbohydrate, sugary items, it may hinder success as those foods rapidly spike blood sugar, inclining one to feel sluggish soon after.

Maintaining a healthy diet is important throughout all stages of life, but can be of particular importance during one’s young adult life and college years.

“Whether students are purchasing their own groceries or making menu decisions in a cafeteria on a university food plan, they are making an informed, independent choice that becomes habitual over time,” Ludwiczak says. “If a student independently develops positive eating habits and opts for more nutrient dense food, this may set the foundation for subsequent years while aging into their adult life.”

Making the right diet choices also increases energy; however, this can only be done through a comprehensive healthy diet.

“If you were to consume candy bars and soda all day, an addition of one cup of green tea is not going to give you the energy it may be associated with,” Ludwiczak says.

The human body requires “fuel” to operate properly and provide energy. Ludwiczak suggests eating three complete, balanced meals with one to two protein-rich snacks in between to help feel focused. Limit condensed sweets, such as cookies, cakes and pies, as they offer little to no nutritional benefit.

Ludwiczak recommends planning meals ahead to prevent eating fast food. Additionally, having prepared foods to eat on the go, such as hard boiled eggs, low-fat cheese sticks or apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter, will dismiss making poor diet decisions when hungry.

“The five to ten minutes of preparing your meals in advance will offer you a notable benefit of knowing what is in your dish and how it was prepared: something you have limited knowledge and control of when purchasing your meals from outside sources,” Ludwiczak says.

Eating clean is only one step to maintain a healthy lifestyle in college. Sticking to an exercise routine can transform one’s body, whether it is to lose weight or tone muscles, provide substantial energy or ease stress and anxiety.

Personal trainer and Kent State alumna Alyssa Rich suggests students do whatever it takes to make working out an active part of one’s life. By doing this, working out will become more habitual over time.

“It can be tough to schedule time to exercise for busy students, but it’s important to schedule time for regular workouts,” Rich says. “There are many benefits students can gain from working out besides the obvious physical aspect such as stress relief, improved mood and improved immunity.”

By releasing endorphins, hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system that improve one’s mood, exercising can also relieve stress, lessen the sensation of pain and provide energy. Rich believes that exercise is the most underused remedy to combat stress and anxiety.

While Rich recommends working out three days a week for at least 45 minutes, she says that any activity is better than nothing. Everybody has different preferences, and Rich suggests to find what you enjoy, whether it be Zumba, yoga, weight training or running outside, learn as much as you can about it and stick to a steady routine of activity.

This advice holds truth for Lichtenstein who embraces aerial yoga regularly.

“I get addicted to my workouts, so they become part of my life,” Lichtenstein says. “Keeping a fitness schedule can really help to both keep you in shape and to give you something to do other than Netflix and school. Fitness should never feel like a strain on your life.”

If a student can’t make it to the gym or participate in group classes, Rich recommends doing exercises such as the ones demonstrated here. She also suggests having a pair of hand weights close by to keep muscles active.

For more information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, contact your local health care provider or Kent State’s DeWeese Health Center.

Hallie Saculla is the fitness and recreation reporter for The Burr.

Create, invent and learn

Words by Ashton Vogelhuber
Photos by Sam Karam

Jeff Jones, the outreach program officer, used a laser cutter to create a sign with the Spark Innovation logo.

The Spark Innovation Studio teaches students how to use industrial equipment.

Kent State’s Spark Innovation Studio trains students, faculty and staff to use industrial printing and cutting equipment.

Spark, located in Room 191-192 in the Schwartz Center, features a makerspace and a project studio space.

Kristy Bores, a senior majoring in computer engineering technology and a student consultant, refers to the makerspace with the equipment as a “clean space.” She thinks of the project studio as more of a “dirty space” for the messier activities.

“We’ve had students do concrete molds,” Bores says. “One group was brewing a type of kombucha that’s used to make a plastic.”

According to makerspaces.com, a makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools.

Makerspaces are also known as fablabs, hackerspaces or techshops. These spaces can contain high-end technology, such as 3-D printers, or simple technology like Legos and art supplies.

Spark offers a variety of tech to use. The studio has two 3-D printers, a vinyl and laser cutter, a garment printer and a CNC router (a computer-controlled cutting machine).

The Flashforge Dreamer 3-D printer creates 3-D models from a plastic material and the Form 2 3-D printer produces 3-D models from a liquid resin material.

The TITAN 2 vinyl cutter generates graphics, logos and more from vinyl materials. The Full Spectrum P-Series 45w laser cutter cuts and etches different woods and plastics.

Using a cartridge-based ink system, the Viper2 garment printer is used for direct-to-garment printing. The X-Carve CNC router carves in fine detail and complex curves in wood, plastic, metal and other materials.

“Students that want to use some of the equipment have to go through three different levels of badging,” Bores says.

He says the first level of badging allows access to sharp tools in the studio. The second level will grant access to power tools like drills and soldering guns. Each of these levels can be passed in 10-15 minutes.

“Once they’ve achieved those levels of badging, they can be badged on each machine individually,” Bores says.

To do this, documentation is read over and a walk-through with a student consultant is needed.

Jeff Jones, the outreach program officer, or a student consultant is available to answer questions during studio hours.

Jones plans to set up workshops in upcoming months to get more people into the studio and instruct them on how to use the equipment.

He says about 40 students use the space per month. The Spark of Innovation Studio is used most during times of big projects or when students are taught to use the machines. Jones says he enjoys interacting with the students to help them learn how to utilize these machines.

“Come in and check out our facilities,” Jones says. “Let’s see what type of problems we can solve together.”

Spark is open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ashton Vogelhuber is the technology reporter for The Burr.

Thanksgiving Soul Food: What it means to be thankful

Managing editor Heather Inglis defines a word and brings herself to tears in the process of writing it down.

Words by Heather Inglis

My mother and I circa Christmas 2012.

My mom often tells me I’m ungrateful.

No matter what’s going on in my spastic life, I always tend to focus on my bad luck. Yes, I know I shouldn’t do that. It’s not until I’m in the middle of a full-blown panic attack that my mother hears my outrage, and her response is always the same:

“Did you wake up today? Do you have a roof over your head? Are you getting an education? Yes? OK, well, I think you’re doing just fine. Be grateful.”

“But my personal gains are shit, mother!” I think as I physically feel my mental stability caving in around me. I’m 21 years old, on the verge of graduation with no concrete plans for my immediate future, embarrassingly single and, most days, a little down and out. Fighting unhappiness comes naturally to me at this point in my short life.

And it’s not just me, either. I notice thought processes like this with others around me. Some millennials like the idea of instant gratification. In other words, everything needs to happen for us right this second, and if our goals don’t pan out a certain way, we think the world is ending. Don’t believe me? Check with Bucknell University.

So, what do we do with this mindset around Thanksgiving? No, we don’t stuff the turkey with it because this holiday is more than just food, parades and football. This is the one holiday that everyone supposed to think about what they’re thankful to have in their lives. Yes, even those of us who think we have it rough are supposed to be thankful for something.

With graduation a short time away, I’ve been thinking more about the big picture of my life. In hindsight, I have a lot of things going for me despite what I’m dying to achieve. On that note, maybe my mother is once again using the wrong terminology to describe things. I shouldn’t be grateful for all these, if you will, inherent things—I should be thankful.

Being thankful is more than just verbally expressing how much something impacts you or your life; it’s feeling that gratitude in your heart. It’s feeling an overwhelming joy for that impact through every nerve. It’s realizing how great life is and coming damn close to tears because of that fact.

I’m so thankful for my life that it probably should be embarrassing. I’m lucky enough to have the best, most supportive parents in the entire world. We might not always agree, but I’d be nothing without them, literally and figuratively. I’m also surrounded by many amazing friends who have stuck by my side through my highest and lowest times. I’ve experienced over-the-moon love and the worst heartbreaks imaginable, not to mention excitement, surprise and that feeling of butterflies when meeting someone special. I have a warm bed to go home to, easy access to food and water and live in a free land.

As if I didn’t have enough to be thankful for, I’m very thankful to be me. I live a life some people dream of and have quirks and talents no one can ever take away from me no matter what. For that I am especially thankful.

So take this Thanksgiving to look past the seemingly “bad hand” life has dealt and think about how amazing life actually is. Embrace that gratitude with your heart and soul, and be utterly thankful. A wise young girl named Marcie once said her good friend Charlie Brown, “Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.”

So, what are you thankful for?

Sweaty and Awkward

Words by Kiana Duncan

I’ll never forget the words I heard on the last day of my freshman year.

My good friend Nikhil was pushing the last of his boxes out of Stopher on a cart and said “Well, the last day is exactly like the first day—sweaty and awkward.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Photo by Matthew Merchant |

Welcome Weekend is madness. It can be your equivalent of Wonderland if you’re like me and from small town nowhere. However, it is also stressful, sweaty and awkward. Making friends isn’t easy when you’re spending your weekend being herded into buildings you’ve never heard of (Where is Moulton Hall again?) But fear not! If you didn’t spend your first week doing karaoke at Quaker Steak or drunkenly raving in a random frat house, listen to me:

1. That is perfectly OK.
2. Take a deep breath.
3. You still got this.

It’s totally OK not to hit it off with anyone your first week. Just because you’re not into late-night movies or 500-person bingo doesn’t mean your social life is doomed. It just means you haven’t found your niche yet. Of course, if you went to every single one of these events, you go Glen Coco! That’s awesome. But if you haven’t, here’s why it’s all right:

1. Not everyone is into your stereotypical Welcome Weekend events.
2. This is a huge campus. You haven’t met everyone.
3. You still have the whole year.

There’s so much pressure to look and act like you’re having a good time that sometimes you don’t feel normal for admitting you’re uncomfortable. However, you may still need to exit your comfort zone a little bit. If going up to a random person isn’t your style, take a shot at it. It can be something as little as “Dude, that is an awesome ‘Doctor Who’ shirt!” (No lie, I have done this before.) No one is going to be mad you’re making conversation with them. I’ll even let you all in on a secret: Psst… See those other freshmen out there in the wild? They’re just as scared of you as you are of them.

If you’re a born-to-be sorority girl, then go for it. But if you passed a volleyball team or improv club at BlastOff! that the voice in your head screamed for you to check out, there’s no harm in doing so. Challenging and bettering yourself is what college is all about, even if it comes with some red-faced moments here and there. You have to believe you are a fierce lion-hearted Beyoncé with Pterodactyl talons. You can do whatever you want because college means that you turn awesome this year.

The cold, hard truth is this: College isn’t high school. Whatever personality or reputation you had in high school can’t follow you here. The scary part is that each day you are in control of who you want to be. Every word, action and motive forms you from here on out. This is also a blessing in disguise, though. No one here thinks you’re a loser when you eat alone and no one thinks you’re weird because you choose to join a certain club or dye your hair purple. Rock that mantra “you do you.”

Want to ask a frosh question but too scared to even ask Google? No worries! Submit HERE for my advice column of the week.