AE siblings sheltering, studying in place
When University of Illinois aerospace engineering siblings Noel and Scott Brindise came back to campus after winter break, they never expected they’d be back home again so soon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are completing their spring semester courses sheltering in place at their family home in Deer Park, Illinois.
Noel graduated in May 2019 with a double major: a BA in Germanic studies and a BS in aerospace engineering. She returned to U of I this past fall to begin graduate school, working with aerospace engineering Associate Professor Cedric Langbort. Along with her graduate level courses, she is researching explainable artificial intelligence for aerospace systems and is a teaching assistant for AE353.
Fortunately, the siblings get along well together. Being in the same department at Illinois means they have some interests in common and if their family photobook is any indication, they’ve shared a lot of activities since childhood.
When they were on the Urbana-Champaign campus, they lived separately and had different circles of friends and activities. Now that they are under the same roof at home, they share more downtime. In fact, one afternoon, they created a short video to illustrate what life was like for them.
The video is available on Youtube at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3A7e37MLfew.
Noel Brindise said during the first week of online-only spring classes, she found herself focusing more on her responsibilities as TA of AE353 than her own schoolwork. “I think it might be because I actually am helping other people as a TA, and helping other people with school feels like a higher calling right now. Possibly silly, but nonetheless,” she said.
Noel and Scott answered a few questions about how they’re making the best of this challenging spring and the sudden, dramatic changes it brought.
What were some of your thoughts/feelings when it first became a reality that you wouldn’t be coming back to campus after the break?
Noel: I wasn’t very surprised. I’d already been advising my friends to bring home extra clothes for spring break and empty their fridges before we heard definitively that we wouldn’t be coming back. I tried to see positives, and this has become a pretty unique opportunity to spend real time with my family. Between internships and school (and growing up), I probably never would have been home this long again, so it’s nice to get back in touch with them. I might be unusual in that I’ve always loved visiting home.
Scott: I felt frustration that I won’t be able to see a bunch of my friends for a long time. I was also worried that some of my classes were going to be a lot more difficult.
How have those thoughts/feelings changed since classes resumed online?
Noel: Classes resuming has been pretty nice, actually. I have a solid routine, and I’ve always thrived on school. Zoom has also offered my classmates and students an interesting outlet for self-expression in the form of ‘unique’ virtual backgrounds. One unnamed individual managed to get an entire movie to play as their Zoom profile picture. That is innovation at Illinois.
Scott: I’d say it’s about what I expected. I can say that having online lectures gives me a lot more schedule flexibility.
Noel: We’re friends! Even better, we both have a propensity for getting intensely interested in things, and are good at listening to each other ramble. In that regard, it’s a gift to the world that we have each other; we can just ramble between the two of us, thus sparing everyone else.
Scott: It’s pretty chill. We’re pretty good friends. As for Noel saying we can spare everyone else from our rambling, I’d say that’s only partially true (smiley face.)
How has this experience changed your relationship?
Noel: I don’t think it’s changed it much. I wouldn’t be surprised if our relationship is exactly the same 50 years from now.
Scott: We now live 20 feet apart instead of a half mile apart, so that’s nice.
What has been most helpful to you during this transition to everything online?
Noel: Hobbies. I am worried about the world, and I take the situation very seriously, but I also have this inexplicably good attitude. I am having a great time practicing cello, learning French, and reading between classwork. Hobbies get me away from the computer, which is really important for my concentration.
Scott: I’ve also been using hobbies to keep my sanity. I’ve been working on developing a strategy game for about a year now, and hopefully we’ll be able to start playing it soon. It’s a good way to interact with my friends through an online means. A few friends have been helping me smooth out the gameplay and the technical details.
What has been your biggest challenge academically in this new situation?
Noel: Planning out my work. My day got pretty restructured. Also, trying to be a good, effective TA. I want to keep supporting my students and it’s strange not to be able to just walk down the hall in Talbot to Aerolab and talk to them.
Scott: Probably the biggest challenge from me is the new testing format for some classes.
What have your instructors done to make this transition easier?
Noel: Being flexible. They’ve all been understanding and responsive. They know the situation is in flux and have been trying to take some stress off of us.
Scott: There are nice accommodations for some of my classes, which is really helpful, particularly my class with Professor Putnam. For AE202, the exam is now open-note, and we have a full 24 hours to do it.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Noel: I love it when people share things on Facebook and Snapchat, etc.! I want them to keep tell them that their lives are not suddenly too boring or mundane to share and to keep sharing what they’re up to because I want to know.
Scott: It’s pretty great that I don’t have to cook dinner!