The Culmination

Well, here we are. At the finish line of the semester; but I’ll be crossing with bittersweet excitement. Hell, I listened to Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve three times on my last day to work. We have created our own little lives out here, like a separate identity. I walked around Entrepix for the last time, ensuring to say goodbye to each person. I walked by my completed project, sitting on the production floor. I stopped when I saw it; doing a cool internship project was the reason I wanted to work for Entrepix, it was even the reason I came to Arizona. Somehow until that moment, I never realized that the most memorable parts of my experience out here were because of people I’ve met.

I came to Arizona for a resume builder, and because I was tired of the daily grind. Well the daily grind sure was taken care of, and I have a few new lines on my resume. Great. But what I truly gained in Arizona cannot be measured in GPA points, money, or objects of any kind. It’s feeling unsure walking into a new internship, and the satisfaction of a ‘good job’ handshake walking out. It’s having nervous jitters driving a rental car to Las Vegas, and the calm of deep 3AM conversation driving through endless desert. It’s the pain of climbing every mountain possible, and the self-gratification of standing on the top. It’s the uncertainty of leaving a cozy college campus for a semester of who-knows-what, and the relief of it being the right choice. It’s hopes, fears, and all the other abstract nouns mashed into a blob we like call the human experience. And whether you’re in Wilkes-Barre, Mesa, or anywhere, you’re living it one minute at a time.

So yes, I’m going to miss being in Arizona. I’m going to miss my co-workers, the other students, the Mexican food, the scenery, the hotel staff, and living with 10 of Wilkes’ crazier students, but life is longer than one semester. And with what I truly learned out in Arizona, I’m excited to go home because the adventure continues, the landscape just changes. See you all soon!

~Danny Lykens

 

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P.S. moral of the story: Collect experiences over things. Make friendships over money. And live dangerously; just don’t die.

Grander adventures

We’re down to the last two weeks. From work, to our adventures, everything has been getting crazier. As the time crunch is on, we realize that the vacation semester will soon end. The problems at work have more pressure, but the solutions have become more rewarding. Key parts had been lost due to extenuating circumstances, but we recovered. Now the projects are close to completion, and we are feeling positive. I’m going to be sad when the projects are over though; I have had such a great time with the people at Entrepix, and I do not want to go.

As for adventures, we have not been downsizing. Recently, I rented a car for 24 hours, but did not plan our day trip until I had the keys. Over breakfast, Ryan mentioned Las Vegas was a short 5½ hours away. After rallying the troops, Doug and Polzella were on board with Ryan and me. We fit a more proper definition “day trip”, as the trip took a quite literal 24 hours. I’d love to write more, but that would break the golden rule of sin city; what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

My favorite part of the craziest day trip ever? Illogically, the drive. Getting to know people is easer in a coffee fueled conversation at 3AM trapped in a car. Ryan asked the question, “What happens when we leave? Do we go back to not knowing each other?” It sounded like a quote directly out of The Breakfast Club. I simply responded, “I hope not.” Vegas was a shallow, glimmering city of image and lust; except for us, we had real good times.

The ridiculousness continuous, as we got to experience the realest beauty I’ve ever seen; the Grand Canyon. I wonder how long it took the Mayans to dig it. Everyone in the program piled into a 15-passenger van, and off we went. We got to the canyon in time to see the sunset. Now I’ve said before that pictures don’t do true beauty justice, but this is the first time my own eyes clearly could not portray an accurate image to by brain. My own eyes made it look fake; like it was a painting draped across the horizon. Nothing compared, nothing. We walked down into it a negligible amount, enough to escape the crowds. There we watched the sun set.

The next day we hiked along the rim. The Colorado River looked like a stream from the top, an impossibly far way down. I could have spent weeks there, hiking down and exploring. I’ll be back, that is certain.

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Suggestions for future SiMesa-ers

After being here for almost 4 months, I have experienced quite a bit. For all the future SiMesa-ers, I have put together a list of suggestions that have helped me have the time of my life.

  1. Carpool out

Don’t get me wrong; the public transportation is great out here. I use it a lot, for cheap. But, there are places that public transportation does not go. For instance, Sedona is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Millions of years of history can be seen in a single rock. The reason I was able to go; Doug drove out. Without that 1996 Saturn, I wouldn’t have seen Sedona, I wouldn’t have hiked the Superstition Mountains, and I wouldn’t have boated on Lake Saguaro. The city is great, but the beauty of Arizona lies outside city borders.

  1. Work out housing early

I almost didn’t go because of housing issues in Wilkes-Barre. This was a suggestion from the school itself. If you want to go to Mesa, be careful about your housing your junior year. I almost had to pay double rent. Everyone’s situation is different though; the only easy solution is for those living on campus. If you live off campus, you may need to find a sublet your apartment.

  1. Keep an open mind, try to get out and try new things

Be willing to try new things. I have had such a great time just doing everything I can. Rarely I regret something I’ve done. I only regret what I haven’t done; the opportunities I’ve missed. If you go to Mesa, or anywhere for that matter, don’t just sit around. Get outside; visit everywhere you can. I bought a bicycle to help me explore more; it was worth every cent. We’ve tried to climb all the mountains seen from the city. To quote the 1999 film, Fight Club “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” So if you’re spending it looking up Fight Club quotes locked away alone in your room, you’re doing it wrong.

  1. Don’t be scared

Every single person on this trip almost backed out at one point or another. If you can make it out here, do it. Don’t hesitate. After being here, I can’t believe I ever thought about backing out. Will you miss home at times? Yes. But regret won’t be on your mind. You have the choice to be part of the genesis of Wilkes’ branch in Mesa, or you could spend another semester at home, running through the motions. Looking back, I think the second one scares me more.

 

PS. Also, learn how to pronounce Spanish words. The Mexican food down here is great, but during the first few weeks, ordering is horrifically embarrassing.

Sometimes ‘work’ and ‘fun’ can be the same word

Wait, I get paid for this?!?

After weeks of careful planning, designing, and ordering, we finally got to start getting our hands dirty at work again. Alex and I have been working on designing test rigs for machine components at our internship. We have been doing a good chunk of work on making part lists, detailed drawings, and other related documents. Designing was fun, making simulations on the computer and such, but being an active force in making the plans a reality was a great change of pace. I haven’t had this much fun since LEGO. (Which oddly wasn’t that long ago)

Our parts came in, we printed out our drawings we made, and went to work. We unpacked all the parts and organized them like child would presents. Then, we were gone from the world. It was a flurry of tools and bolts as our industrial erector sets slowly took form. A day later, the frames were complete, and we were embarrassingly giddy, but too excited to care. There is a certain joy behind getting so enthralled with something to the point where time no longer feels relevant. It’s only my project and me. When I stop though; I find it hard to believe that work could be so much fun. I’ve always thought that part of happiness lies in doing what you love.  It’s starting to look like I was right.

All our parts nicely organised

All our parts nicely organised

My assembled frame

My assembled frame

Alex's assembled frame

Alex’s assembled frame

 

 

New Heights

As it seems right now, according to my account, the SiMesa program is just a semester of adventuring. Surprisingly enough, the students in Mesa still have classes to attend, which at times highly enjoyable. Our one class is taught by an adjunct that is currently the quality site manager at Boeing. His class is in quality management. Being once a week at night for 3 hours makes it long, but the class is anything but boring. The class is interactive and breaks into groups on a regular basis. It’s not just the teaching style though; the material is also part of what makes it enjoyable. Understanding how a business instills quality in its products has more details than I ever imagined. It’s not a super technical class, but not all the most important classes are.

The rest of our classes are taught on a weekender schedule, where a few of the weekends during the semester have a hefty class load. Even in the shiny new school building, an eight-hour class takes a significant toll on my coffee supply. The overly competitive foosball breaks really help break the monotony. Also, the school is right near my new favorite Mexican restaurant, so lunch breaks are an easy choice. The weekend classes are going well though, and they haven’t taken too much from our adventuring. We still manage to squeeze in something fun, whether it be a boat ride, going to downtown Phoenix, or climbing mountains.

After class the one weekend, we had some extra time. So we went up to lake Saguaro and rented a boat with Dr. Ridley. Four Peaks Mountain seemed so close to the lake. Maybe we’ll hike there eventually. It was a beautiful day to travel far along the Salt River. Some how, the rock structures out here never get old. We took the time to explore a random cave on the riverbank. After a short climb, we had a beautiful view of the area. I guess our weekend plans for class were more exciting than I thought.

We also hiked another mountain near Mesa, this time a bit bigger. The Superstition Mountains made our last hike seem like nothing. This time, we had a net elevation of 2800 feet rather than 1200, and hit a final elevation of 5100 feet. I’ve said this statement to the point that it has become cliché, but words and pictures simply do not do this justice. I’m honestly not sure if my perception of reality even does it justice. We’re reaching new heights out here, and not just on the weekends.

The thrills of class

The thrills of class

Foosball break!

Foosball break!

A fun weekend trip on the boat

A fun weekend trip on the boat

The lake/river and Four Peaks in the background

The lake/river and Four Peaks in the background

Cave Party!

Cave Party!

On top of Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains

On top of Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains

A view from the top of Flatiron

A view from the top of Flatiron

 

Wouldn't suggest this to those who are scared of heights

Wouldn’t suggest this to those who are scared of heights

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can so much happen in such a short time?

It is amazing how quickly a month rolls by, yet it feels like I’ve lived here forever. At work, Alex and I finished our first project, but what amazes me more is how quickly I started to know the people I work with. My first project really helped with that, it required working with the people in the clean room, the facilities people, the stock room, management, and more. It was a relatively simple project, but involved many people.

Time to excite the nerds and bore everyone else; its technical detail time! In the clean room at Entrepix, there are machines that need a chemical (Ammonium Hydroxide) to clean the wafers. The original setup had a separate supply to each machine, but the small tanks were starting to contaminate the supply. Our project was the solution, to install a bulk supply in a Teflon container that would not contaminate the chemical. Of course, lines for the chemical needed to be run around the clean room, a warning system when low needed to be put in place, and ventilation for filling the bulk container needed to be installed.

In the process of designing and implementing this system, we made friends with the other employees. Alex and I now go out to lunch almost every day with a group of people at work. We have heard many interesting stories through lunch breaks. Much of the conversation is usual chitchat, but sometimes we get into some serious stuff, from history of the company, to crazy life experiences. Also, the Mexican food here is great.

I also saw the value of being flexible recently. I never realized how much I would depend on what I learned in my integrative media classes at an engineering internship. Making a working system is fine and dandy, but making diagrams to explain proper use is a whole other battle. I’ve used Adobe Illustrator (an artsy program) as much as AutoCAD (a not-so-artsy program). My tool collection at work contains both my Multimeter and my DSLR camera. I’ve even been given a little side project; I need to videotape machines in the clean room and edit the video to send out to people. Who knew people are only as good as their presentation?

With the month at a close, we decided to go on a road trip. Sedona is a 2-hour drive from Mesa; the first time we have been out of the city since our arrival. The landscape out here is surreal. Pictures can’t to it justice, I’m not even sure if my 20/20 vision does it justice. I think I need superhuman depth perception to truly appreciate the landscape. With the entire city at an elevation of 4500 feet, we were almost 2000 feet above our camelback mountain adventure. At the bottom of Sedona.

We had a quick lunch of rattlesnake and cactus (they’re apparently food) and then took a jeep up the mountain. Our driver was a German lady with a heavy accent. None of us were prepared for what we were about to see. The view got more and more unbelievable as we went up the mountain. To see millions of years of history in layers of rocks alone made our time seem so small, and put things into perspective. Maybe I’ll add Geology to my list of majors. Our driver had stories of the ancient civilizations that used to live on the mountains. It was so much to take in all at once. We got to the top, and I took my camera out. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, but what I saw with my eyes is speechless.

I’d call this one of the greatest months of my life, except life is long, and I’m optimistic.

The finished project at work.

The finished project at work.

What it looks like driving into Sedona.

What it looks like driving into Sedona.

A matrix of 18 million colored squares your mind perceives as the top of Sedona. I wish it even came close to the real thing. A clear day would have been nice too.

A matrix of 18 million colored squares your mind perceives as the top of Sedona. I wish it even came close to the real thing. A clear day would have been nice too.

The group at the top. We'll be going back.

The group at the top. We’ll be going back.

Skate Gang

As Wilkes University’s resident crazy scooterer, it’s only logical that I would bring my Razor scooter with me to Mesa. Well as it turns out, I’ve gotten much more use out of it than I expected. The first day we were there, Doug bought rollerblades; everyone laughed at him. That is until they realized I brought my scooter; now they laughed at both of us. But without transportation readily available, Doug and I could get around faster than anyone else. That is, until Alex bought a long board. And until Sara bought rollerblades. And until Brandon bought a long board. With Mesa being so flat, each one of us ended up getting our own ‘skate-equipped’ device. We looked like a mismatched, overgrown version of the 90’s cartoon, Rocket Power. I’m sure shouting cliché 90’s words while riding didn’t help my case.

After a week of riding, we were basically pro’s. So logically, we decided to go to the skate park. Aside from being three to seven years older than everyone there, we were also terrible. Of course, that didn’t keep us from trying. Doug fell the hardest, as he tried to get the most air. I was challenged to a game of “Scoot”, though I’m not entirely sure what that entails. Sara casually watched from the side. We all escaped without any broken bones; the only thing injured our pride. Well, Doug’s hands were pretty bad too.

Now Joe, Brandon, and Ryan have longboards; Poe has a scooter; and we all have a few bruises. Skate park runs are becoming more common. Going to school is more fun; there is some strange satisfaction in filling the corner of the room with skateboards, scooters and rollerblades when we go to class. Who knew being so childish could be so much fun.

Me on my scooter at the skate park

Me on my scooter at the skate park

Doug getting big air on his blades

Doug getting big air on his blades

Planer on his longboard

Planer on his longboard