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STEP Expo showcases second-year student achievement

Students explain their projects at the STEP Expo 

Armani Hrobowski traveled to Ghana to build a solar powered cell phone charging station from scratch. The third-year electrical engineer is one of dozens of students who showed off similar achievements Tuesday at the STEP Expo at The Ohio State University.

Hrobowski and his fellow third-year peers filled an auditorium at the Ohio Union to highlight projects tied to the Second-year Transformational Experience Program. His engineering classes helped him take the solar kiosk idea from design to prototype to working model.

After testing a prototype in Columbus, Hrobowski went to Ghana after Christmas to build it. That meant shopping in local markets to find tools and parts and then getting it to work in a real-world setting.“It was just an amazing experience to get this knowledge in the classroom,” he said. “I built a solar system. That’s so cool.”

As part of the STEP program, students are tasked with completing a project and can earn a fellowship of up to $2,000 to fund their effort. It could be an internship, writing a book or helping rural communities charge cell phones. The projects often help the students learn leadership skills and serve their community.

Anna Lee, a third year mechanical engineering major, studied in France for six weeks last summer. She lived with a host family and took classes to complete a minor in French.

“This was the first time I really immersed myself in French culture. My French host mother spoke very little English,” Lee said. “My French language skills greatly improved in six weeks.”

These projects are not done in a vacuum. Students are paired with a faculty mentor to help them prepare their STEP projects and push them to get beyond their comfort zone.Lee will work as an intern for Whirlpool this summer and hopes to work for a manufacturing company that has international connections. She believes her study abroad helped to prepare her for such a position.

Approximately 2,500 students and 135 faculty members participate in the STEP program. They work in cohorts of 20 students per teacher.

Linda Martin, director of the STEP program, said the faculty mentors work with the students to make sure the projects have a life-long impact for the student. Martin said many of these student-mentor relationships continue after graduation.

“They develop not just a mentor but a friend,” Martin said.

Having completed the STEP program, Hrobowski said he would recommend it to other students.

“It’s such a great opportunity to learn so much about themselves, learn about their major and go make a difference in the world,” Hrobowski said.