The Rule of Three

By Claire Golden

It’s no secret to anybody who knows me, even in passing, that I don’t like change. Whether it’s something big like moving, or something small like not having Thai food for dinner as planned, change feels disruptive and sudden to me. This is exacerbated by severe anxiety, which is notoriously triggered by disruptions to routine.

However, change is unavoidable, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a change for the better. If I hadn’t come to Portland State University, I never would have seen Little Cow Pigeon. (Yes, I will take any opportunity to use a picture of Little Cow Pigeon.) If I hadn’t started working at my new job, I never would have met my fiancé. Starting therapy was terrifying, but it changed my life for the better. Life doesn’t stay the same forever, whether or not you want it to, so I’ve had to learn coping mechanisms. One of the most useful techniques is what I call the Rule of Three.

I developed this rule during college, when I had to change classes every term. It was difficult getting used to a new classroom, subject and teacher every ten weeks when it felt like I had just gotten used to the last term. However, I always ended up settling in and feeling more comfortable…it just took me a couple of weeks. So I learned to give it three weeks before deciding the class was a lost cause.

Sometimes the change is smaller — a restaurant I was planning on going to for lunch is unexpectedly closed. This used to ruin my day. But there’s always an alternative, and sometimes that ends up being just as good as the original plan. I learned to pause and take three minutes to process my disappointment and consider the new options. That’s usually all it takes to I feel a lot better about things.

Same thing if someone asks me out of the blue if I want to go on an outing with them — say, a hike in the park or a trip to a food cart. My initial reaction is always to say “no.” I started wondering why that was, because I’m not a negative person. In fact, I’m generally rather optimistic. I figured out it was my anxiety getting in the way, because anxiety does not like spontaneity. Now I ask the person to give me a few minutes to think about it. More often than not, after I have three minutes to consider the question, I end up wanting to go out after all.

What if the change is massive? I moved twice during my childhood — I’m originally from Michigan — before moving to Ohio and then to Oregon. Those were huge changes. In this case, the rule of three had to be three months. That was how long it took me to adjust to my new home, city, neighborhood and friends. 

The Rule of Three has worked well for me when it comes to adjusting to change. Perhaps it will be useful for you, as well, if you also struggle with new things. I’m always trying to remember that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It might be scary at first, but more often than not, it’s a change for the better. And that gives me the courage to power through.

PSU’s computer science students get real-world experience in technical support

PSU’s CAT program teaches all facets of IT infrastructure in a professional environment

The CAT (Computer Action Team) is a hands-on, IT training program for student volunteers. PSU’s University Communications spoke to the CAT’s Department Manager, Brittaney Califf, and Communications Student, Brian Koehler to find out more about the opportunities CAT provides for students. Interview edited for clarity and length.

Q: What does the CAT do and what does being part of the team entail?

Brian Koehler: The CAT (Computer Action Team) provides IT support throughout the Maseeh College of Engineering (MCECS). With a primary focus on instructional needs, we support many large-scale computer labs (both college-wide and departmental), remotely accessible computer/session servers, various remotely accessible services as well as the server and physical network infrastructure that binds it all together. Where possible, the CAT is also able to leverage its infrastructure to support research and special projects in the college.

The second purpose of the team is to provide an invaluable resource to all students of Portland State University, regardless if they are students of MCECS or not. We provide IT training and skills via our brain dump program to students as well as Help Desk Work experience in an IT environment.

Brittaney Califf: We do everything here! We have our own admin side, our own user services, all the way to the end to our own surplussing of equipment and recycling, so we run the gamut.

Can you tell us more about the Braindump program?

BK: The Braindump program is the major part of being in the CAT. Every student who joins the CAT is expected to participate in this program. It is a weekly 3-4 hour class that is taught by one of our full-time employees or a student leader that has to do with IT. In return for this free class, we ask that students volunteer 3-4 hours per week working on our front desk helping MCECS students and faculty with their IT issues. Students then can put what they learned in the Braindump class in action while on the front desk.

BC: The program is only offered once a year, in the fall. The next brain dump batch will be starting Oct. 8 for this year and we only take one set per year because it’s really like an 18-month program — one batch ends up teaching the next batch. They get a broad range of skills to be at the front desk. Probably within 3 months, they’re on the front desk and by 6 or 8 months in, they’re alone on the front desk, helping people. The best way to learn around here is just to help other people.

What kind of skills are developed in working for the CAT?

BK: Students in the CAT can learn almost every facet of IT infrastructure in a professional environment. Some of these systems include Windows, Linux, printers, website development, and networking. We also have teams that specialize in technical and wiki writing to record and document all of the Computer Action Team’s training and systems, as well as student leadership roles and a communication team.

BC: If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great place to find out what you enjoy: You can do the purchasing, administrative, and business end or you can join a networking team. You can do hardware, software, development, web administration and we have a video team. We have a huge variety of opportunities where people can mess around and find what they love. People really find their niche here.

What kind of jobs can experience with the CAT lead to?

BK: Many students have found jobs via connections they made at the CAT with Nike, Intel, and other local companies. Our weekly Braindump classes will teach students everything about IT in a professional setting as well as give them hard skills they can use in their day-to-day technology use. They will walk away with one year of IT help desk experience if they complete the Braindump program. They also have the chance to work closely with our full-time employees and get even more directed training in any systems of their choice.

How many people are currently involved in the CAT?

BK:  The CAT is run by Janaka Jayawardena, who set up the idea of the Braindump program and student volunteer program almost 30 years ago, and is assisted by Brittaney. The team consists of 8 FTE (that includes a director and department administrator), 7-10 student workers, and an army of volunteer trainees. Technical support for each platform (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc.) has a full-time lead who, in turn, is surrounded by a team that may include full-time employees, student workers, and student volunteers.

BC: There are fewer student workers right now due to current constraints, but the volunteer crowd consists of about 43 people right now.

How has the CAT been operating differently during the pandemic?

BK: The Computer Action Team was one of the driving forces to getting many MCECS systems pandemic-ready; the students and full-time employees worked daily to get all of the labs set up virtually and get the professors and employees of MCECS running.
 To do this, we had our students in the technical writing team update and improve our website to have the latest information and user guides to getting set up for remote labs.


BC: The Braindump program has also been all online for the first time ever — this is our first remote batch of students. Skills are being transposed into online help, whereas students would usually walk over to a lab and help somebody. Phone calls are usually a big thing for us and those are not happening; they’re being transposed into voicemails and students are then returning the calls. It’s a little weird but no less active. People are not needing less help, they’re just needing different help.

What should students interested in joining the CAT know? 

BK: Again, we only enroll students once a year in October; it is the only chance they get to join the Braindump program and become a part of the CAT. They can learn more at our website and they can follow our social media accounts to get a heads up on next year’s orientation.

BC: We take people from all across campus. You don’t have to be studying Engineering, we’ve had folks from Geology, English, Physics — all over the place. We’ve taken folks who don’t know how to turn a computer on! You really do learn from the ground up, if you need to, and it starts wherever you are.


Visit the CAT website

Email: Catsocialmedia@cat.pdx.edu 

Follow the CAT on social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

PSU student-founded Turner Automotive converts gas-fueled cars to hydrogen-combustion

Blake Turner got the idea for Turner Automotive got the idea for his business from working on a Chemistry class term project, but the idea wasn’t fully developed until later when he participated in Invent Oregon, a PSU-led competition for college students to address imperative problems.
Photo by Patric Simon

What if the solution to a more sustainable car is to install a hydrogen engine conversion kit instead of replacing the entire car?

For student-entrepreneur Blake Turner, converting existing gasoline-fueled cars to zero-carbon hydrogen-combustion vehicles using a conversion kit is the solution to a more affordable and sustainable car.

Turner is the founder of Turner Automotive, a business that focuses on converting existing gasoline-fueled cars to hydrogen-combustion. Turner says he got the idea for his business from working on a Chemistry class term project, but the idea wasn’t fully developed until later when he participated in Invent Oregon, a PSU-led competition for college students to address imperative problems.

Here’s how Turner explains Turner Automotive: “Our conversion kit can convert a gasoline engine to hydrogen without modifying any existing components. The idea is that converting a car is much more affordable, convenient and sustainable than building new cars. The affordability comes from the fact that it’s a small conversion kit, rather than a whole new car, and the convenience is that you can go back to burning gasoline at any time, allowing for a gradual transition that does not exist at the moment.”

Turner Automotive was built with the help of PSU’s Cube Program. The Cube is a four-month-long program that helps students turn their prototypes into reality, preparing them for launch by the end of the program. Currently, Turner Automotive is developing its Hydrogen Engine Conversion Kit.

“While COVID-19 has put a serious stop to our ability to work with our mentors, I hope to come out of this pandemic driving a fully converted car! We have explored various business strategies and how we plan to distribute our kit,” Turner said.

We asked Blake about his business and experience at PSU.

“The Cube has been invaluable as a resource for funding, access to mentors, and most importantly access to other student entrepreneurs.”

BLAKE TURNER

How did The Cube program help you?

The Cube has been invaluable as a resource for funding, access to mentors, and most importantly access to other student entrepreneurs. This environment of collaboration has helped give us new ideas and strategies that we would not have been able to come up with otherwise.

What is some advice you can offer to other student entrepreneurs?

Just say ‘yes’. I had a hard time trying new opportunities and going outside my comfort zone. I would doubt myself, and just stick with what I knew. But when I first agreed to participate in Invent Oregon, it changed my life…In the two and a half years I have been with the cube, I have had experiences I never would have dreamed of.

What’s next?

As we continue to refine our technology, we intend to raise more non-dilutive funding through other competitions to fund a Beta test of our Conversion Kits. This Beta Program will convert ten volunteer cars to give us long-term usage info, as well as valuable user feedback to refine our kits. After the Beta Test, we will convert a small fleet of vehicles. We have talked with PSU about converting the PSU facilities fleet, but this is still in its early stages. After the first fleet conversion, we plan on selling to individual consumers to scale up production before targeting larger fleet operators.

Turner planned to graduate in 2022, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put that on hold for now. In the meantime, he is working out his education plan. After graduating Turner said he plans to take his business as far as he can. “Outside of my business, I plan on pursuing a career in communications, specifically technical communications, ideally representing an engineering team and communicating their projects to other sectors,” Turner explained.

Visit the Cube webpage to learn more, or find out more about Turner Automotive.

— Autumn Barber


This is one a series of profiles about students in the Cube program, a four-month intensive course that is designed to prepare student entrepreneurs for launch and go-to-market for their companies.

Portland State student-led company aims to make homeownership more achievable

Student entrepreneur Jesse Harding (above) and fellow MBA student Jacob Taddy created Couch to make it easier for people to invest in a home either as a group or in a partnership: “Think of it as TurboTax for shared home buying.”
Photo by Patric Simon

Buying a home is the quintessential American Dream. Couch is the evolution of a simple idea to make homeownership more achievable for partners or groups of individuals.

The idea for Couch was developed by MBA students Jesse Harding and Jacob Taddy, evolving from Taddy’s MBA Pioneering Innovation team in 2018. Together, they created Couch, a business that makes it easier for people to invest in a home either as a group or in a partnership.

Here’s how Harding explains Couch: “Couch uses its system of service and educational resources to create a holistic ecosystem that supports buying partners in being more competitive and reducing risk in the venture by helping prepare them for co-owning and management of their property. Think of it as TurboTax for shared home buying.”

Couch was created through the help of PSU’s Cube Program. The Cube is a four-month-long program that helps students turn their prototypes into reality, preparing them for launch by the end of the program. Currently, Couch is in development.

Harding describes Couch’s business this way: “We are focused on improving homeownership access and affordability by making buying and then owning a home with others easier. We take a proactive approach, streamlining the organization, decision making and administrative aspects of buying that is further complicated when you don’t fit within the conventional box of buying with a spouse or as an individual.”

We asked Jesse about his business and experience at PSU.

“Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. They may not always be readily apparent. Always ask.”

JESSE HARDING

How did The Cube program help you?

The Cube provided a dynamic community of innovative thinkers that I could learn from. The ability to share insights and resources made my concept stronger. I also really benefited from the informal accountability that emerged from our group dynamic. Juan, Himalaya, and Xuan [the Cube’s staff] were always there, gently pushing and supporting me along the way.

What is some advice you can offer to other student entrepreneurs?

Take advantage of the resources that are available to you. They may not always be readily apparent. Always ask. Don’t be afraid to seek assistance in whatever form you need it. You’d be surprised how willing faculty and advisors are to support you.

What’s next?

Oh geez! A lot. Of course, we’re looking for funding. We’re still focused on the build-out of our IP (Title Selector, Partnership Agreement Builder, etc.). You can never have too much market validation. So, I’m working on a couple of Study Cases and using lean surveys to that effect.

Harding graduated in June 2020 with an MBA and a graduate certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

“Moving forward, I’m focused on positions where I can merge storytelling and strategy. That could be public or private so long as the net benefit of the work is that it grows community. Ideally, within the next ten years you’ll see me helping to lead the charge behind a high-impact social innovation/social enterprise,” Harding said.

Visit the Cube webpage to learn more.

— Autumn Barber


This is one a series of profiles about students in the Cube program, a four-month intensive course that is designed to prepare student entrepreneurs for launch and go-to-market for their companies.

Portland State student starts company that makes GMO-free, sustainable sandwich cookies

German Ochoa is one of the founders of Woppa! The company makes GMO-free sandwich cookies, with a focus on sustainability and inclusion.
Photo by Patric Simon

Looking for a sweet treat? Look no further than Woppa! alfajores. Created by four founders, Woppa! is a business that creates GMO-free alfajores sandwich cookies that come in a variety of flavors.

One of the four founders of Woppa! is innovator and student-entrepreneur German Ochoa. Ochoa is a senior at Portland State University majoring in Global Supply Chain Management.

Ochoa’s business model is focused on sustainability and inclusion while sharing delicious alfajores with the world, which are sandwich cookies found in countries like Spain and Argentina. After a year of research and development, Ochoa found that the only way to stand out from the competition was to create a sustainable product “that can genuinely represent and inspire those who follow their dream.”

Woppa! was created with the help of PSU’s Cube Program. The Cube is a four-month-long program that helps students turn their prototypes into reality, preparing them for launch by the end of the program. Currently, Woppa! is in the process of completing its production line and looking to expand to a second facility.

We asked German about his business and experience at PSU.

“The uncertainty can be your best or worst ally, but you gotta trust yourself so things can turn out for the best.”

GERMAN OCHOA

How did The Cube program help you?

The Cube has made great connections for me in the food industry and advising on a few essential steps to execute my next phases, whether it is preparing financial opportunities down the row or ensuring my company’s IP (intellectual property).

What is some advice you can offer to other student entrepreneurs?

The uncertainty can be your best or worst ally, but you gotta trust yourself so things can turn out for the best. That is why you are called an entrepreneur, take the risk because no one will do it for you.

What’s next?

Next is to open a second facility here in Portland to ensure a lean process that would allow me to grow in different regions.

Ochoa anticipates graduating in the fall and plans to finish two of his certificates in Food and Beverage and Social Innovation at PSU. In terms of his business Ochoa said he plans to “expand more in the food industry and find more opportunities where my knowledge can serve others.”

Visit the Cube webpage to learn more, or find out more about Woppa! alfajores.

— Autumn Barber


This is one a series of profiles about students in the Cube program, a four-month intensive course that is designed to prepare student entrepreneurs for launch and go-to-market for their companies.

Starting Line Advice

by Beth Royston

Somehow, almost four years of college have passed. I’m about to graduate in the spring. I was recently thinking back on my entire college experience and how the pandemic changed so many expectations I held about how it would go. I thought about what had gone the way I’d expected, and what hadn’t at all. For anyone that might be about to embark on their own college journey, I’ve compiled my tips on staying afloat into a list, with the hopes that it might help soothe your worries about what those next four (or more!) years will look like.

Figure out your own rules

College is vastly different from high school in a lot of amazing ways. You’re much more on your own, which is really freeing — but can also be really intimidating. To succeed, it really helped me to nail down exactly how I liked to study, how early in the morning I could bear to go to class, and when and where I liked doing my homework. Those provided parameters for scheduling classes and figuring out when I was going to get things done. Abiding by my own rules made it a lot easier to feel productive. Personally, I became a better student because I could actually take classes I was interested in, and also because I was allowed to make more decisions about how I wanted to learn.

Stay flexible.

I’m happy to say that I generally don’t have any regrets in life, except doing some pretty cringey things in middle school. But seriously, staying flexible has helped me ride the highs and lows of college life. I’m type A to the point that I have the next ten years of my life generally figured out. However, life has a funny way of not going the way you plan it to, and this includes college. Hello, pandemic! While it’s okay to mourn changed plans and grieve missed opportunities, the best thing you can do is make the best of what you have. Keep to your goals, but be open to how you get to the end changing, as long as you get there. 

Try new things.

I’m a naturally extroverted person, but it was still nerve-wracking to do some of the things I did that were outside of my comfort zone. Even if I didn’t end up liking that club or left the event early, I still could say I tried it! I made some great connections and hilarious memories by just being open if something seemed even remotely interesting to me.

Talk to your advisor early and often.

I talk to my advisor at least once a term. It helped me feel comforted that I was on track to graduate. I would seriously recommend checking in with your advisor at least once a term, and early — before it’s too late and you can’t get in to ask them your registration questions. They are also usually able to connect you to resources on campus that you may need, and give some career advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advocate for yourself. This also extends to asking for help when you need it. There are so many resources on campus to help you succeed, take advantage of them! 

My college experience was definitely not what I thought it would be. To be transparent, there were a lot of things that I wished I could try that I never got to, and being sick nearly all junior year made me feel like I was missing out on a lot. And then, of course, the pandemic caused my entire senior year to be online, and I felt like I was missing out on even more. I was looking forward to so much, and have been grieving that loss. However, I couldn’t control any of that. I remember the happy memories I made in college — the friends I met, the food I ate, the countless hours spent at the farmer’s market with my partner. I do count myself lucky because I want to attend Portland State for graduate school, and that will be three more years at the campus I love so much. Above all, I’m a very different student now than I was in high school, and I feel like I succeeded by advocating for myself and staying flexible throughout these years. I hope that these tips help if you’re just about to start Portland State, or elsewhere — and welcome to college.

A Juggling Act

by Beth Royston

It’s important to have a good work-life balance. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, many people’s lives are crossing over into one another, the lines and boundaries blurring together. For myself and other students, it’s a constant struggle to stay on top of everything and maintain those boundaries. I work remotely right now, so many parts of my day take place in the same room. I work at my desk, log onto my classes at my desk and relax at my desk. It can also be a struggle to define your day with online classes. Since you can do the work at any time of day, everything bleeds into each other.

However, I’ve had some success keeping my day defined with Google Calendar. I used to rely on a physical planner because I liked having something to hold and write in, but I have permanently switched over to an online one! You can’t beat how portable an online calendar is, as well as mess-free to edit. My favorite feature is definitely the ability to have your task list right next to you when using Google Calendar on the computer. I also appreciate that you can create different calendars for different aspects of your life (and color-code them). For instance, I have a work calendar, a homework calendar and a personal calendar. I can toggle my homework calendar on and off to see due dates for assignments and remove it if it’s causing too much clutter. It’s also helped me to schedule my day, if I know I have a bunch of things to get done but no particular time to do it. This has helped me feel like there’s some semblance of normal during this time, and I’d absolutely recommend it for anyone wanting to get organized. You can also use Google Calendar on your phone if you need to check things on the go. 

It’s also helped me to make some clearer boundaries for my work-life balance. Obviously, it will never be back to normal until I’m commuting again, but I’ve tried to create boundaries where I can. If I’m done with work and classes for the day, I try not to allow myself to drift into homework mode when I have some time to myself. Focusing on homework during a specific time helps me stay productive. Obviously, something different works for everyone, and doing homework here and there throughout the day might work better for you. However you’re getting through trying to live a normal life when things are decidedly not-normal, I wish you the best.

Springtime in PDX

By Maya Young

It’s that time of the term again. Finals are right around the corner, assignment deadlines are looming, and the time slot to complete all of these tasks is decreasing with each passing day. Now here we are, nine weeks into winter term with only two more to go. For some of us, myself included, these upcoming weeks bring in an odd combination of stress and excitement as we look forward to the completion of a term but worry about the process getting there. To take some much-needed rest and decompress before spring term, here are some fun examples of what I like to do in Portland as it gets warmer.

1. Try new food

Portland is well-known for its food carts, and with so many to choose from, it is very easy to get out there and try new things. For me, I love some of the local food carts on-campus including Poompui Thai, Portland Gyro, and La Casita. 

2. Go to the Portland Markets

Portland has a large community dedicated to homemade goods, crafted products, and locally sourced ingredients. Two of my favorite markets are the Portland Farmers Market at PSU and the Portland Saturday Market down at the waterfront. For foodies who want to try new cuisines and get freshly grown ingredients, the farmers market is the place for you! The market at the waterfront is an excellent spot to listen to music, try new foods, and explore works from many local artists.

3. Take a hike

Portland has so many scenic hikes that are worth going on, and some are very close to campus! Take a trip to Council Crest, Washington Park, and even hike up to the Pittock Mansion. It’s great to take advantage of the nice Portland weather to explore what the city and surrounding areas have to offer.

Having a Pet in College

By Maya Young

In my initial years at PSU, I lived in the Ondine Residence Hall. With newfound independence of living “alone” (or rather with a roommate and not with my parents), I wanted to get a pet to keep me company. One of the major difficulties as an out-of-state student, however, is having to travel more to go home and visit family. Because of this, my parents advised me against getting a pet as I frequently took the bus to go home over long weekends. As this is my last year, I decided over the summer to finally get a pet; a little 10-week-old kitten named Bella. I have not regretted this decision and love her so much, but there are many considerations that should be taken before getting an animal.

For those who are interested, consider both your current and future housing status. The PSU dorms do not allow animals unless they are emotional support or service animals. Additionally, many other off-campus housing options do not permit pets either. This is a major consideration, as getting an animal may dictate your ability to rent in both the present and the future. 

Another factor in making this decision is the financial implications. Having a pet is very rewarding but can be very expensive. In my case, I adopted a kitten and had to pay for numerous shots and treatments that are necessary for them. In addition, it was quite pricey to pay for the essential items including a litter box, litter, food, toys, and more. 

Finally, do you have time for the pet? In my early years at PSU, I certainly did not. Pets, especially in their early years, require a lot of playtime and attention. This is definitely a major consideration as you do not want your pet to feel neglected.

While there is a lot to consider, having an emotional support animal has been very beneficial to me in my last year at school. Do what is best for you and your future animal.