UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER NEWS



Students in Focus: Increasing mobility for the blind
People with vision impairments face a perpetual problem: maneuvering through a world filled with obstacles and hazards. Meet Good Vibrations, a team of CU Boulder electrical engineering students who created Pulse, a product that will increase mobility for the blind. Five engineering students who are developing Pulse, an advanced sensory system for the blind The blind navigate the world in different ways, but each has drawbacks and limitations. Guide dogs can’t communicate what type of obstacle the user is facing, only that there is one. This can lead to confusion if the user's normal route to the grocery store is being blocked by construction. Another example is the white cane, which allows users to identify obstacles, but only on the ground, leaving them vulnerable to low-hanging objects. The brainchild of Grant White, the idea for Pulse came about while he was watching the TV show Covert Affairs, in which a blind character used a handheld laser device instead of a cane. “About three years later I had to come up with a research proposal for a writing class,” White said. “I thought that device would make a good proposal. When my team was choosing a project for our senior design lab, I suggested my project. Since I had already done a lot of research and had an initial design, our team decided to do it.”  Pulse uses optical sensors combined with image recognition that identifies objects and obstacles in real time and informs the user of the specific type and distance. It is also more precise about an object’s angle to the user. The result is increased mobility for the blind. Pulse crowdfunding Visit the crowdfunding page to help Good Vibrations design and build this advanced sensory system. Make a Donation The five team members have the expertise in analog design, signal processing and software development to develop this advanced sensory system for the blind and to share the product with the world. White has consulted with people with visual impairments to learn what features were most important. “They all said that, whether they used a cane or guide dog, they want to know what exactly they were avoiding,” White said. “The part that makes this project beneficial and unique is the combination of object detection and image recognition that will give the visually impaired almost as much information about their surroundings as sight.” After collecting and analyzing data, the team will design the system of optical sensors, microprocessor and vibrating belt to use minimum power. The entire system will be light and comfortable to wear.  To support the development of Pulse, the team has launched a crowdfunding campaign. For more information, go to the Pulse crowdfunding webpage. front-homepage Students in Focus, Innovation, Campus Community


Students in Focus: Developing a tool to increase mobility for the blind
People with vision impairments face a perpetual problem: maneuvering through a world filled with obstacles and hazards. Meet Good Vibrations, a team of CU Boulder electrical engineering students who created Pulse, a product that will increase mobility for the blind. Five engineering students who are developing Pulse, an advanced sensory system for the blind The blind navigate the world in different ways, but each has drawbacks and limitations. Guide dogs can’t communicate what type of obstacle the user is facing, only that there is one. This can lead to confusion if the user's normal route to the grocery store is being blocked by construction. Another example is the white cane, which allows users to identify obstacles, but only on the ground, leaving them vulnerable to low-hanging objects. The brainchild of Grant White, the idea for Pulse came about while he was watching the TV show Covert Affairs, in which a blind character used a handheld laser device instead of a cane. “About three years later I had to come up with a research proposal for a writing class,” White said. “I thought that device would make a good proposal. When my team was choosing a project for our senior design lab, I suggested my project. Since I had already done a lot of research and had an initial design, our team decided to do it.”  Pulse uses optical sensors combined with image recognition that identifies objects and obstacles in real time and informs the user of the specific type and distance. It is also more precise about an object’s angle to the user. The result is increased mobility for the blind. Pulse crowdfunding Visit the crowdfunding page to help Good Vibrations design and build this advanced sensory system. Make a Donation The five team members have the expertise in analog design, signal processing and software development to develop this advanced sensory system for the blind and to share the product with the world. White has consulted with people with visual impairments to learn what features were most important. “They all said that, whether they used a cane or guide dog, they want to know what exactly they were avoiding,” White said. “The part that makes this project beneficial and unique is the combination of object detection and image recognition that will give the visually impaired almost as much information about their surroundings as sight.” After collecting and analyzing data, the team will design the system of optical sensors, microprocessor and vibrating belt to use minimum power. The entire system will be light and comfortable to wear.  To support the development of Pulse, the team has launched a crowdfunding campaign. For more information, go to the Pulse crowdfunding webpage. front-homepage Students in Focus, Innovation, Campus Community


Students in Focus: Empowering early childhood development
Students in Focus


Students in Focus: Affordable prosthetic system could help amputees worldwide
Few people figure out how they want to change the world in middle school. But in eighth grade, Peter “Max” Armstrong did just that. As part of a robotics project, his teacher prompted him to solve a problem in medicine. He talked to a family friend, a double amputee and prosthetist and learned the most expensive and time-consuming part of a prosthetic limb is the socket, which connects to the residual limb. Since then, Armstrong has worked for years—mostly on his own—to create an alternative. “It's something that can have a huge impact on people around the world, and can really improve their daily lives,” said Armstrong, now a third-year student in CU Boulder’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. About two million Americans are amputees, and many—even those with health insurance—have trouble affording prosthetics. Typically, the cost of the prosthetic socket ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 but can cost as much as $20,000 for more difficult fittings. The fitting process requires multiple trips to the prosthetist over two weeks to a couple months. In developing countries, a majority of amputees lack access to prosthetics. In Armstrong’s system, the prosthetist selects the best fitting socket from a series of pre-manufactured plastic shells of varying sizes. Then, the inside of the shell is filled with an expanding foam that helps form a precise fit. This socket can be produced in just 30 minutes and costs about $200. Armstrong’s successfully tested the system with three below-knee amputees so far. In his garage, he tested different materials and designs to create an affordable and quickly-fitted socket. He patented Go Prosthetics three years ago, a system that drastically reduces the time and cost associated with fitting a prosthetic. “I'm getting to the end of the design process and realizing that I've come out with a project that has a pretty good potential to change the way that amputees are able to move,” said Armstrong. This year, Armstrong’s project is a finalist in National Geographic “Chasing Genius” challenge, and, if he’s chosen as one of four winners, he’ll get $25,000 to further his mission. He is hoping the grant would help fund a larger clinical trial to get more feedback on the system. Although the fitting is inexpensive compared to traditional prosthetics, it’s still hard for him to pay for it on his own. “What I'm trying to do is just make things easier for people who have already had more difficulties than most people normally experience,” said Armstrong. “I think that if I’m able to get this into the final stages and bring it to market, I can really improve things for a lot of people who really weren’t able to walk or weren’t able to live their daily lives.” Supporters can cast votes for Armstrong’s project through Friday, Sept. 15. front-homepage Students in Focus


Students in Focus: Chasing the moon at 100,000 feet
Students in Focus


Students in Focus: Senior advises first-years to ease into clubs, groups
CU Boulder senior Cat Archer outside of her sorority house When undergraduate Cat Archer came to CU Boulder, she knew that finding activities she could be passionate about would be as important in college as it had been in high school. Coming from out of state, Archer also knew she needed to take time to get settled and feel confident in her new location so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Rather than joining an organization or trying a new activity right away, Archer, from Davis, California, decided to focus on making friends first in order to find her place on campus during her first semester. Now a senior in environmental studies with minors in geography, business and biology, Archer is confident that was best decision for her.   “Coming from out of state was a big change,” she said. “I’d lived in the same house and the same hometown my whole life. I had a great first year, but it was definitely stressful for me at times. I didn’t think I was a leader, but after I got involved in my own way, I realized I could do well in anything.” In high school, Archer was active with student government, sports and numerous group activities. By the start of spring semester her freshman year, she missed being involved in group activities. That’s when she knew she was ready to branch out. Archer found the answer of where to start at the Center for Student Involvement (CSI). She joined the CSI advisory board where she learned about the many possibilities available and is now the chair of the advisory board. CSI is a service department of CU Boulder’s student government in the Division of Student Affairs. It connects students with experiences that promote their success and personal growth, as well as a vibrant campus community. The more than 450 organizations range from art and social justice to environmental protection and athletic competition. Archer joined other clubs, including the Delta Gamma sorority, which she said made CU feel more like home. In the process, she discovered she was stronger than she realized. “In high school, I loved being involved in student groups and working toward a larger goal,” she said. “It was good I waited a semester, because I didn’t want to get overwhelmed. By spring I was ready to get involved again.” Archer’s advice to students is to get involved at their own pace. To learn what’s available, she suggests checking out the CSI website and attending the Be Involved Fair, which will be held 2 to 6 p.m., Aug. 30 on Norlin Quad. The annual fair showcases opportunities for students to get involved on and off campus. Archer’s long-term goal is to pursue a career in wildlife conservation and help protect natural habitats and open spaces. “Freshman year can get a little crazy, so don’t feel like you have to get involved right away,” she said. “It can be hard to get started at first, but once you take that first step and get involved in something, you’ll hear about more opportunities and it snowballs from there. Be yourself, pursue what you enjoy and you’ll definitely find your place. That’s how you build a community on campus.” Students in Focus


Students in Focus: Biking bad
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Students in Focus: Balancing voice training with football
Students in Focus


Student finds success with online auto parts business
front-homepage Students


Engineering student finds success with online auto parts business
Students


Student inspires next generation of engineers
front-homepage Students


Gomez-Burgos inspires next generation of engineers
Students


Luminous Science: Lending artistic form to scientific function
Students


Beyond Boulder: Undergraduate’s independent film merges hip hop and the wilderness
This summer, Ani Yahzid is embarking on an independent film project with a goal of encouraging young people to get outdoors. Assisting the CU Boulder undergraduate with his project is hip hop musician Namaste.  The Exposure Film Project: When Hip Hop Meets the Outdoors will be filmed in the wilderness of Olympic National Park. With little wilderness experience, Namaste will be exposed to the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest. The three short films comprising the project will feature alpine, rainforest and coastal environments and Namaste’s authentic reaction to each.  “We live in time when more and more children are disconnected from nature,” Yahzid said. “I want to use hip hop as a way to connect them with the outdoors. This film project brings together my love of hip hop and my love of the outdoors, which have not always gone together, but which I have been finding ways to combine that are fun and empowering.” Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the business and ecology and evolutionary biology major, is a photographer, filmmaker and musician. Growing up, Yahzid’s main cultural influence was hip hop recording artist Lil’ Wayne. Whatever Lil’ Wayne did, from skateboarding to hip hop music, Yahzid did too. His connection to the outdoors was limited to watching National Geographic documentaries on TV. Yahzid was 6 when he began attending a Boys & Girls Club. When the Sierra Club hosted Saturday hiking excursions into the North Georgia Mountains for Boys & Girls Club participants, Yahzid went along. One hiking trip in particular stands out for Yahzid, when the Sierra Club sponsored a three-day camping trip and gave each child a point-and-shoot camera to keep. As an urban child with few outdoor opportunities available to him, those experiences were his passage to the world of nature. Through the lens of his camera, Yahzid’s love of nature grew. “On one trip, we hiked to the top of a mountain and there was snow on top,” he said. “That was a big deal to me. And I was always hoping to see a black bear. Those small experiences added up and pushed my passion for the outdoors forward.” When he was 13, Yahzid was accepted into a boarding school in Colorado Springs. Immersing himself in Colorado’s outdoor activities, he upgraded his point-and-shoot to a DSLR camera, taking upwards of 300 photos a day. On trips back home to Georgia, Yahzid noticed the difference between his friends in Colorado and those in Atlanta who had no access to the outdoors. Wanting to share his experiences and try to influence city dwellers to get outdoors, Yahzid came up with the idea to collaborate with Atlanta-based Namaste in a way that might appeal to millennials. Yahzid hopes his film project not only will engage young people with the outdoors, but also will increase support for protecting natural parks and other places throughout the country. While Yahzid had been taking photographs for a number of years, he hadn’t used the video function on his camera until last fall. He has since made several films on topics including social problems, climate change and relationships. “What I am pushing to capture is authentic emotion,” he said. “To connect on an emotional level with the audience. No script. The emotional response that being outdoors evokes is the spirit of adventure. It fuels creativity. Seeing that there is more out there beyond what you grew up with.” Learn more about Yahzid’s film project with on his TySounds website.  front-homepage Students


Pushing Boundaries: Specdrum rings let you turn any color, any surface into sound
As a drummer, Steven Dourmashkin was always tapping out drum beats with his fingers whenever and wherever he could find a flat surface. Harnessing that energy, he developed Specdrums, app-connected rings users wear on their fingers that turn colors into sounds. Specdrums can be connected to mobile devices to make music. Using the app, you assign musical notes and sounds to specific colors. When you tap the ring on the color, it plays the designated sound. “The original goal was to make something I could use to drum anywhere,” Dourmashkin said. “It’s a fun way to learn about notes and rhythm. It’s for anyone who wants to make music anywhere.” Steven Dourmashkin and Jack FitzGerrell play Specdrums Dourmashkin started Specdrums while an undergraduate at Cornell University and went through Cornell’s eLab business accelerator. Since coming to CU Boulder to earn a graduate degree in aerospace engineering, he’s perfecting the innovative product with CU Boulder teammates, a junior majoring in marketing and technology, arts and media; and Jenna Palensky, a doctoral student in ethnomusicology. The three of them came together last semester. Dourmashkin had put up fliers asking for marketing help and that’s how he met FitzGerrell. Palensky and Dourmashkin met at a meeting held at the College of Music’s entrepreneurship center. Palensky’s role with the team is to ensure musical consistency and improve Specdrums’ educational potential. To connect a Specdrums ring to a mobile device, open the app and tap the ring close to the phone. Many rings can be connected to the app at once. Users can add sounds to any colors by tapping on colors—magazine pictures, photographs, sticky notes, even clothes. Any sound can be connected to any color, or you can cycle through sounds whenever the ring detects a new color. Specdrums can reliably play up to 36 colors at once. Specdrums has a large database of sounds, from hand drums and piano keys to guitar chords and animal sounds. Users can also record their own sounds. The beats, melodies and vocals that music-makers can play with the rings can be looped into a short musical piece, named Sloops, which can be saved and shared with others. Palensky and another colleague are starting a nonprofit music school where they will pilot a SpecDrums youth ensemble. “When I met Steven, he talked about this device he made, Palensky said. “I thought it was the coolest thing and wanted to be a part of it.” Making music accessible to all ages is the goal of Specdrums. Dourmashkin is planning to develop additional Specdrums music products, including Specdrums drumsticks and a foot pedal that allows users to tap colored surfaces with their feet. The colorful handcrafted rings made from silicone and 3D-printed molds are being beta tested. Dourmashkin and his team are planning a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for manufacturing and future product development. For more information, visit the Specrums website. front-homepage Students


Class of 2017: Tumbling toward a bright future
Ozell Williams may be walking at this spring’s graduation ceremony, but he tumbled his way there. The senior communication major—known around campus and on YouTube for his undeniable acrobatic talent—grew up in Chicago before making his way to Boulder. He began doing flips on his mother’s couch and on old mattresses left in alleys, which led him into some trouble but also helped him meet a mentor, referred to by Williams as Ms. Jackson. She pushed him to take tumbling seriously, which inspired Williams to use his tumbling abilities to push himself in a positive direction while working to inspire and encourage others in the community. Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify  Connect with fellow Forever Buffs Williams made his way to CU Boulder in 2010, and his tumbling became a highlight for fans at basketball and football games. The following year, he founded Mile High Tumblers 5280, where he coaches young athletes while offering mentorship programs and opportunities for kids from low-income families. At the same time, Williams pursued a bachelor’s degree in communication. The skills he learned as a communication major helped him in his professional pursuit to spread a positive message for young athletes, as well as in his everyday life, he said. During his time at CU, Williams amassed a long list of achievements, both as an athlete, a student and a community member. "I’ve been travelin’ doing stuff with the Nuggets, being a part of the amazing spirit program here," he said. "I’ve been on America’s Got Talent since I’ve been here, as well as I broke the record for the most number of back handsprings, so I’m a Guinness Book of World Record holder." After graduation, Williams will continue his mission to help young athletes at Mile High Tumblers 5280, while also taking on a new role as the head cheer coach at East High School in Denver. He hopes to leave behind a legacy at CU that will inspire future students and athletes and show them dedication is key in achieving what you're passionate about. "I wanted to be able to do something and leave a mark," he said. Read the full story on the CMCI website. Students


Class of 2017: Advocating for health equity
Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify  Connect with fellow Forever Buffs When Kaylee Ortega came to CU Boulder from Denver's Abraham Lincoln High School, it was a bit of a culture shock. She struggled at first to find her place—like so many students do. But the 22-year-old found her way to various student organizations and met people who shared her interests in social justice, healthcare and women’s issues. She sought out mentors, hands-on experiences and research. She worked hard and stood out to her professors. Because of this, Ortega graduates with honors, a double major in ethnic studies and integrative physiology, a Jacob Van Ek Award and a public health certificate. She will begin work toward a master’s degree in public health at CU Anschutz in the fall. "Initially, I had a very hard-headed mindset of becoming a doctor," Ortega said. "I wanted to be the first doctor in my family. I wanted to witness a woman of color who was a doctor." But a few ethnic studies courses with an emphasis on social justice and spending her junior year abroad in Costa Rica caused her to course correct. "I always like science and that part of me is still there, but my niche is really focused on the connection between science and advocacy." Working with underrepresented populations also comes from Ortega’s family background. Her parents were born in Puebla, Mexico, and came to the United States in search of a better life not only for themselves but for their children. Ortega learned at an early age that getting an education was a privilege she wanted to take advantage of, especially since her parents had only received a grade school education. Ortega’s two older sisters were great role models: Both received bachelor’s degrees and proved to Ortega it was possible. Embracing research as an undergrad Ortega dove into her studies, winning a competitive Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program grant to do a thesis on the impact of microaggressions on the mental health of Latinx college students. Her thesis idea impressed ethnic studies Professor Joanne Belknap. "I truly believe that this honors [thesis] will be a publishable article given the growing number of Latina/o college students, the increasing acknowledgement and concern regarding the retention of college students of color, and the quest to identify and address the phenomenon of racial microaggressions," Belknap wrote in a letter nominating Ortega for the Van Ek award. With the help of mentors like Belknap, Ortega took advantage of opportunities that helped her succeed. Before she even came to campus she received support wading through the complexity of college applications from the Denver Scholarship Foundation. Once here, she joined AVID, a nationwide program designed to provide extra academic support for first-generation college-bound high school students who show promise in their academic careers. She also participated in TriO Student Support Services on campus. She joined UMAS y MEChA de CU Boulder. M.E.Ch.A. was started nationwide in the late 1960s to unite various Chicana/Chicano student organizations. She became involved with Pi Lambda Chi, an organization whose mission is to create a strong sisterhood and education support network for women on college campuses through an emphasis in teaching Latino culture and history. She interned at the Women’s Resource Center. Ortega’s path of growth and learning will continue in perhaps unexpected ways; but her goals—as outlined in her Van Ek application—are clear. "As part of a marginalized community myself I plan to use the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to share with others back home and assist community members towards the common goals of health equity." Students


Class of 2017: Improving bilingual education
As a teacher in El Paso, Texas, Adriana Alvarez saw pursuing a PhD as nearly impossible, until one fateful day when a professor from the University of Texas at El Paso asked to visit and observe her classroom.  The professor Rey Reyes, a CU Boulder graduate, was impressed. He encouraged Alvarez to consider doctoral studies and left a post-it note on her desk with contact information for his PhD advisor, Kathy Escamilla, CU Boulder professor of education. Alvarez held the note in hand, stunned. Throughout her studies as an undergraduate and master's student in bilingual education, she had studied and was inspired by the work of Escamilla. She said, "I knew I had to try." Now, as a PhD student in the CU Boulder School of Education, Alvarez continues to add to the work of mentors like Escamilla. Her research has been focused on working with Mexican immigrant families and their children, promoting biliteracy and challenging the injustices faced by emerging bilingual students. Alvarez grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, with close ties to the U.S.-Mexico border. Her family moved to El Paso when she was 11. As an emerging bilingual student and recent immigrant, she often felt isolated in school where students were reprimanded for speaking Spanish and encountered lower expectations and sometimes unkind attitudes. "Although it was a difficult experience and process, I am convinced it has also become the motivation that drives my strong commitment to improve bilingual education programs and the educational experiences of linguistically and culturally diverse students," she explained. "I became a bilingual teacher in El Paso to help emerging bilingual students see that their bilingualism is a wonderful characteristic that should be fostered and maintained." Next year, Alvarez will join the University of Texas Austin as assistant professor of bilingual and bicultural education. First as a teacher and now as a researcher and instructor, she looks forward to continuing to pay it forward. "I feel a strong responsibility to help students like me find pathways to lead them to well deserved opportunities." Read the full story on the School of Education website. StudentsAdriana Alvarez pictured on the CU Boulder campus with her mother. Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify  Connect with fellow Forever Buffs  


Class of 2017: Favorite memories and advice
Graduating CU Boulder students share some of their favorite moments from their time on campus, and offer advice to returning students. Students


Class of 2017: From Buff to Cowboy
When Chidobe Awuzie arrived in Boulder as a University of Colorado freshman in 2013, he had a goal and a dream. As far as his family was concerned, the goal—a college degree—was non-negotiable. The dream—a chance to play in the National Football League—was up to him. In typical Awuzie fashion, he not only achieved both, but did so in outstanding fashion. Last December, Awuzie earned his degree from the Leeds School of Business, reaching the goal in three and a half years. In April, Awuzie became the 60th overall pick in the NFL Draft when the Dallas Cowboys made him their second-round selection. To those who know him well, neither came as a surprise. CU's Director of Football Academics Katie Bason noted, "Chido is a representation of being [both] a student and an athlete first. That is amazing because it's very, very difficult to do. Most guys at some point find themselves prioritizing one over the other. Chido didn't do that. That's what made him really, really special." According to Complete College America, fewer than 20 percent of college students at public universities in America earn their degree in four years. The fact Awuzie did it in three and a half years while playing Division I football is a testament to his work ethic and discipline. Awuzie admits it didn't come easily. He says the atmosphere in the business school helped him succeed in the classroom in the same manner that good coaches helped him succeed on the field. "When you start taking upper-division classes, you get teachers who know you and care about you and know your story," Awuzie said. "It gives you extra motivation to not let them down. I was able to have great teachers who cared about me and great classmates who took me in and helped me figure it out." So just how important is that degree to Awuzie? The Dallas Morning News has reported he is expected to miss a day of his first professional football camp to walk in his graduation ceremony and pick up that diploma. "I try to stay humble when it comes to accomplishments and achievements," Awuzie added. "But this is one thing I can really say I was able to tackle and did it without any expectations of doing it. I was able to set a goal early and accomplish it, so I really feel proud of this accomplishment more than anything else, honestly." Read the full story on the CU Buffs website. Students Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify  Connect with fellow Forever Buffs


Class of 2017: Hacker, farmer, technologist, designer
Danny Rankin is a farmer, designer, artist, instructor, musician, hacker, coder, craftsman, husband, veteran and visionary. And this spring, he adds Master of Science in technology, media and society from CU Boulder’s ATLAS Institute to his credentials. Rankin will be extending his ATLAS stay, teaching several classes in the fall as an adjunct instructor as well as continuing to mentor students in the institute’s Blow Things Up (BTU) Lab. He’s just not ready to leave, he says. "BTU is made up of people who don’t like to fit into one box," he says. "They are self-motivated people who like to make things all the time; and I, too, put myself in that category." Rankin first became involved with the BTU laboratory as an undergraduate student and immediately fell in love with hacking and building circuits and doing weird projects with electronics. Here, Rankin was encouraged to pursue his personal interests, and he explored his passions. A farmer himself, he wanted to help farmers and ranchers gain control over how they used agricultural technology, without having to worry about being sued by intellectual property owners for modifying the technology. As an undergraduate, he developed agricultural sensors that detect soil temperature and moisture, giving farmers real-time data about their land. More recently he invented a mobile chicken house that follows grazing cow herds and a room-sized, working model of the Internet that transmits ping pong balls around the BTU Lab. "Having a space where you work on your own interests rather than a class project was fundamental," he says. "I would have never pictured myself doing this kind of research, but the ATLAS community made it happen." In the future he hopes to work in creative fabrication design. "I want to custom build for anyone who has weird ideas that they want to turn into reality," he says. "I really just like hands-on work. That makes me super happy." Read the full story on the ATLAS Institute website. Students Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify


Class of 2017: Storytelling with computer science
Meridith Richter’s journey from creative writing, to computer science, to the ATLAS Institute’s Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) program was one of self-discovery. Four years ago, she would never have guessed her first job out of college would be teaching 10- to 15-year-old girls how to write JavaScript and make videos to promote social movements, but in a few weeks she heads to the University of Washington in Seattle to do just that.  Richter, who expected to study creative writing or film, was first introduced to the world of computer programming midway through her freshman year at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, when a friend asked her to take an intro programming class with her. Richter expected to study creative writing or film, but midway through her freshman year, a friend asked her to take an intro programming class with her. She says she did it on a whim, "I always thought programming was out of my league, or that it wasn’t going to give me the creative outlet I craved. I learned quickly, however, that with code I could absolutely be creative. It was so satisfying to actually make something, and make it work, instead of just talking or writing about it." The next year Richter transferred to CU Boulder as a computer science major, taking film and music technology classes along with a computer science curriculum.  But one day it hit her: "I could not see myself as a software engineer inside a cubicle surrounded by dudes in other cubicles. I felt like quitting." Then, the BS-TAM major was announced. Not only could she apply computer science to art, digital media, music and live performance, but she gained technical skills in web design, physical computing, digital audio and film production. "TAM provided the web design, film graphic design and programming skills to tell stories that are important to me across a variety of dynamic media. I gained the technical and practical skills to build a fire, and the environment provided the creative spark to ignite it. Instead of choosing between interests, I was able to take a variety of classes which fueled all of them." Read the full story on the ATLAS Institute website. Students Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify


Class of 2017: Jill of all trades
Nadya Hill is a vocalist, violinist, visual artist and full-stack Javascript web developer. The Denver native graduates with a master’s degree in voice performance; and after turns in opera classics Die Fledermaus, The Magic Flute, L'incoronazione di Poppea and Così fan tutte, she’s looking forward to going out on a slightly different note. Music is in Hill’s blood: Her father is principal timpanist for the Colorado Symphony, her mother is a violinist and her brother Colin is a junior jazz drum major at CU. Hill started playing violin as a child and, since then, music has been intertwined with everything in her life. "It’s hard to say exactly why music is so important, because for me, it’s just necessary and omnipresent. It’s as much of a need to me as eating, breathing or sleeping." Fast forward to her time at CU Boulder: Hill has had roles in five operas, and anyone who’s watched her perform can plainly see passion shining through her skill and engaging stage presence. So, with all that natural musical talent going for her, why computer programming? "After my first year of grad school, I was overwhelmed by the possibility that I might not be able to support myself as a musician. So I started teaching myself to code; then I took a 10-week intensive course in Boulder . . . The world of professional musicians is notoriously financially unpredictable, so there’s something comforting in knowing that while I have the skills to be a professional performer, I can also always know where my next meal is coming from." Plus, in coding, Hill has found yet another creative outlet. "Coding is definitely an art form in itself," she says. "To make a successful website, it has to be fun, easy to navigate, and personalized for each individual business, which ends up feeling like solving puzzles all day." As her time in Boulder draws to a close, the Jill of All Trades hopes to put her many skills to use wherever her path leads her next. And she’ll look fondly on the lessons she learned and friends she made at the College of Music. Read the full story on the College of Music website. Students Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify


Class of 2017: A poet, an activist, a leader
Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify To say that Toluwanimi Obiwole has kept herself busy for the past four years while at CU Boulder is an understatement. Between being named Denver’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate, redirecting her academic path, authoring two chapbooks and participating in organizations across campus, she has filled her college experience to the brim. This month, Obiwole celebrates another milestone. She joins the class of 2017 and, together, they will officially move their tassels from right to left to signify their college commencement. In 2013, Obiwole came to CU Boulder not fully knowing the path of self-discovery that awaited her. Born in Nigeria and raised in Denver, she made the short move to Boulder where she initially enrolled as an architectural engineering student due to practicality. However, having written poetry since she was young, Obiwole felt a gentle tug to take a different educational path. "I caught myself being pulled towards the arts and humanities," she said. "I realized my gift would be better used in a different field." After switching into CU Boulder’s Ethnic Studies program, Obiwole began building upon her natural potential and passion. With the switch, she also found community by getting involved in campus organizations. In fact, finding community was her favorite experience at CU Boulder. "I loved bonding with the people in the African Students’ Association and the Black Student Alliance. When I first joined them, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I’ve found people who identify with me.' I was able to branch out and find community here that I could identify with, which really enriched my experience here." Embracing ‘authentic self-expression’ The concept of exploring one’s self-identity is a critical part of the college experience for many students, and Obiwole found this to be a core concept she adopted into her poetry. Having built her name and reputation in the Denver poetry and art scene, Obiwole used each opportunity to give voice to a notion central to her experience: authentic self-expression. "Mostly I advocate for visibility and being able to understand other people’s stories. Often underrepresented communities feel pressured to be a certain way in order to survive and navigate society, but I advocate for being true to yourself as a form of social change." Obiwole not only drives social change through her art but has simultaneously gained professional experience and attention with her art and poetry. As a previous participant in Minor Disturbance, she now serves on the organization’s advisory board, as well as co-executive director of Denver-based Slam NUBA. Her positive influence has been recognized by the university, as she was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Inclusion Award from the Department of Women and Gender Studies. As for future plans, Obiwole is determined to continue advocating for social change as she writes, teaches, collaborates with artists in Denver and slams (poetry, that is). With plans to move to Baltimore by the end of the year, Obiwole intends to apply to graduate school to obtain her doctorate in ethnic studies and become a professor so she can continue to positively impact people on their individual journeys to self-discovery.  Students


Class of 2017: Embracing collaboration
It's a question college athletes hear on a regular basis: "How do you manage to find the time to balance schoolwork and Division I athletics?" For Maddie DeWinter, a defender on the NCAA tournament-bound Colorado lacrosse team, the answer is simple. "If I have a bad day at school, get a bad test grade, when I come to practice, I don't have to worry about it . . . I get this three- or four-hour break where I don't have to focus on school." Conversely, DeWinter says, academics can offer a similar respite from the rigors of participating in Division I athletics.  It would be hard to argue with DeWinter's formula. The senior from Parker, Colorado, is set to graduate with a degree in chemical and biological engineering and a grade-point average north of 3.9. She also was recently honored with CU's senior female Scholar-Athlete Award. When DeWinter arrived with CU's first recruiting class, she was a starter as a freshman. By her sophomore year, when more recruits joined the team, she played in 18 games but had just six starts. As a junior, she appeared in just nine games, and this year she has appeared in just five games. DeWinters says the transition has been one of the hardest things she's had to deal with in her time at CU, but true to form, she has made something good out of a difficult situation.  "It's provided one of the biggest lessons I've learned athletically," she notes. "Being behind the scenes and putting in the legwork so the team is elevated translates very well into engineering," she said. "Having that drive, not giving up and continuing to work at it—it's taught me a lot. I've learned that teamwork can produce great results and you don't have to be in the spotlight to be part of that success. It's a lesson I will take with me long after I'm done playing lacrosse." When the season finally comes to an end, DeWinter will begin working for Elion Labs, a Louisville-based analytical research company. A year from now, she hopes to begin pursuit of her MD-PhD degree. But her time at CU—in the classroom, on the field and in the lab—will always be part of her foundation. Read the full story on the CU Buffs website. Students Read more stories about the class of 2017 Everything you need to know for graduation day Be part of the campus conversation on Storify