Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The STEM Guys Portfolio

Christopher, Kurt, Nate, and Nolan

Commons Campaign Proposal

As STEM majors, we hear with striking regularity that there is a shortage of people willing to go into our fields. This is our exigence. The work done in the STEM field is important to society; infrastructure, medicine, energy production, the economy, food production, defense, and nearly everything else rests on the shoulders of scientists, engineers, the technology they produce, and the mathematicians behind their work. Humanity needs more people in the STEM field, and the sooner the workload can be matched by the workforce, the better.

We need to convince more people to go into STEM fields. Our target audience is the youth. Adults have generally decided where to go with their lives, whereas children often have yet to discover their passions. Children are also in a better position to receive the education necessary to enter a STEM field. Thus, their minds are both open to suggestion and more receptive to our rhetoric. The issue, however, is that there is a stigma against being a “nerd.” Regardless of how much science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are taught in the classroom, STEM still remains stagnant under the stereotype of being overwhelmingly boring. Students will continue to think that these fields are not worth the work unless they are shown how interesting said fields can be. It is our objective to convince the youth, our audience, that STEM careers are interesting and “cool.”

Understanding the exigence and having decided upon the best audience, we can begin to look at the constraints and opportunities afforded to us. The first, perhaps largest, constraint we must cope with is an issue of scale. Our project has to be small enough and short enough to manage in a semester without neglecting our own responsibilities. This audience also poses some difficulty. An argument predicated on the utilitarian significance of past acts like the Green Revolution and the propensity of similar acts occurring in the future would put our young audience to sleep. Our response has to garner the attention of our audience. We have a “burden of proof” to overcome; our target audience is those who do not already agree with us. The presumption that STEM is boring must be overcome if we are to respond to the exigence.

We can achieve our objective despite our constraints. We have access to the communications media (i.e. the internet) that we need to deliver our rhetoric to our audience. The media we plan to use is easily tailored to the short attention spans of our audience; the video format will keep the audience engaged and allow for a better reception of our message. In addition, previous experience has given us material to work with and draw from. We have projects from previous academic courses or childhood hobbies that can lend themselves well as “cool” demonstrations.

Given our constraints and opportunities, it occurs to us that a small youtube series would be a fitting response to the exigence. It won’t be so time consuming or resource-intensive as to prevent us from finishing on time or cause us to fail other courses. Youtube, as a site, is frequented by our audience, making them easy to reach with our message. Generally, videos allow us to be both entertaining and informative, giving us access to the majority of our intended audience, and being feasible under the constraints we have. A Facebook page that houses our series will help attract attention and will create a sense of continuity between the videos. It is also relatively easy for our audience to share our digital creations if we use this format. Thus, our work will reach a larger group of people and be more memorable, best promoting STEM education amongst youth.

Actualizing our project, we will employ the rhetorical canons as guidelines. After analyzing our exigence and sifting through our opportunities and constraints, we find creative and engaging videos to be our most rhetorically inventive method of delivery. Videos enable us to arrange our message in a way that will be memorable to our audience. We will ensure our project is memorable by creating awesome videos and doing awesome stuff. Catchphrases, witty punmanship, epic portmanteaus, oh-so-ubiquitous jump cuts, and much more will all go together to make our youtube series one you can never forget. By delivering the Youtube videos through a Facebook page, we ensure that the project’s results aren’t lost in a sea of noise after the class ends.

We will collaborate on every video, but most responsibilities, such as who will bring what supplies, perform which roles, etc. will have to delegated for individual videos. Certain tasks, such as playing characters and filming, will fall consistently on whomever we find to be the best at it, but others, such as who sets up the props and who handles whatever paperwork may need done, will be delegated as-needed. This will allow direct involvement by all of the group members, while ensuring no single person is forced to complete the project alone.

We intend to produce a new set of videos every two weeks starting today, 10/14. At the latest, the first videos will be posted by 10/28, the second by 11/11, the third by 11/25, and the final videos by 12/9. This leaves us with four days between our intended completion date and the final day of class. Given the amount of time and effort we are going to be putting into this project and the positive response we hope to elicit, we assert that this project deserves a maximum scale of fifty points.


Over the last few months, we have been able to meet the goals we set forth in the proposal. The aforementioned constraints did prove problematic alongside others that we did not and could not have foreseen. It was indeed difficult to find the right size for the videos; we settled upon making each video 1 to 2 minutes in length to alleviated an insurmountable workload while maintaining the amount of content needed to attain our ends. A particularly difficult constraint was illness (mostly Nolan’s). If any given crew member became sick, particularly with a disease that made speaking difficult, filming ground to a halt. With the cold and flu season in full swing this fall, it became a challenge to film when all members of the crew were healthy enough to be presentable. We were also forced into a rather steep video editing learning curve. Collectively, we had little previous experience and no access to software superior to Windows Movie Maker. This editor became a challenge in itself; it could not read the High-Definition video files produced by our camera. We were forced to convert them to a simpler format, one by one, before editing. Once the videos were edited, we sent a sample to the professor per request and posted to YouTube upon approval. We found that filming one video at a time and posting incrementally was actually more difficult than filming, editing, and posting in bulk. Ultimately, we posted two batches of videos: the first encompassed our videos on science, math, and eachs’ respective careers; the second consisted of engineering, technology, and their careers.

Were we to attempt this project again, we would approach the brainstorming phase differently. Over the course of the semester, we used the strategy of generating copia and picking from the best ideas possible. This took much more time than expected, and we did not upload until some time after we originally planned. We ought to have cut the brainstorming short; most of the ideas we kept were generated early one. We would also make an investment in a more intuitive, less obnoxious piece of editing software. This would have improved the editing process, allowing us more interesting edits and cuts as well as expediting the editing sessions from an hour per minute of posted video to much less. Unfortunately, the unforeseen constraints cut into the time needed to market the videos. As well, we should have made a more concrete plan to get the videos out to our audience.

We did make work easier for ourselves by delegating roles in the group. This is an aspect of our work that we would most certainly repeat. Nate and Nolan edited the videos; Kurt was in charge of the group’s “The Stem Guys” Facebook page, and Chris handled and operated all equipment related to shooting. All group members participated in shooting and co-wrote the videos’ scripts. With this cooperation, we were able to meet our goals and create what we believe to be a successful project, despite our foreseen and unforeseen constraints.

Check out this facebook page or this youtube channel to see our final product.

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