Rutgers senior assists students with video series
Brian Schendt, a School of Engineering senior, is not only a college student but also a mentor.
Schendt makes instructional videos about chemical engineering to help students on campus better understand these topics.
“It is again a truly humbling experience to be given the opportunity to do that and hopefully mentor the next class of chemical engineers,” he said.
During Schendt’s sophomore and junior, year he was a Resident Assistant (RA) at Barr Hall on Busch Campus.
“The transition from high school to college is pretty difficult for a lot of engineering students, not only socially, but academically as well,” Schendt said. “I realized there was a definite demand for academic services for first-year students that wasn't being met."
Schendt started giving review sessions in the first floor lobby for General Chemistry, Engineering Mechanics: Statics and Introduction to Computers for Engineers right before exams, he said. There were usually 30 to 40 people that attended these review sessions, Schendt said.
Most students did not go to the learning centers and he wanted to help first-year students be able to help themselves, he said.
“I wanted the message to reach more people, not just those who were living in Barr Hall,” Schendt said.
One of the first videos Schendt created was about fitting polynomial functions to data and dates back to 2014, he said.
“This was probably the most difficult topic in the introductory MATLAB course and I thought it was pretty useful outside of the class too,” he said.
Schendt received positive feedback on his first instructional video.
This past fall he started teaching Organic Chemistry as an instructor at The Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS) and saw there was a need to fill, he said.
“Organic Chemistry at Rutgers is very strange because it is hard to succeed without going to office hours with the (teaching instructors) and (teaching assistants) in the course,” Schendt said.
He thought it was unfair to force students to attend office hours because they are usually busy with jobs, research or do not have the time, he said.
“I though it would be much more convenient for these students if they could receive help from online videos,” Schendt said.
He received some help and guidance from the Head Teaching Assistant, Chirag Patel and started making videos to go with organic chemistry, he said.
His videos focus first on theory and starter examples. Then, he proposes past exam questions and tells viewers to pause the video and try to solve it on their own, he said. He then presents a solution.
Schendt has recently created two playlists for Fluid Dynamics and Heat and Mass Transfer as well as two junior-level chemical engineering courses, he said. He is currently a Learning Assistant for Kinetics, another junior-level chemical engineering course, and is working to create videos for students.
Schendt teaches two study groups a week. There are 18 students in each study group for a class with approximately 100 students.
“I would hope these videos have impacted students positively,” he said.
In general, there is a lot of anonymity that comes with the videos, Schendt said, because he is not a TI for organic chemistry, nor is he involved formally with the course in any way. But he is involved in the Rutgers School of Engineering in general.
“It’s a little weird to be buying a soda at Recharge-U in the Busch Student Center and the cashier starts telling me that he would have failed MATLAB without my videos,” Schendt said.
Science is like a "candle in the dark," he said.
“In science you will come across many people who try to keep that light for themselves … but if you’re going to devote the next four years of your life trying to understand it, then even if your candle doesn’t burn the brightest, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t want to share that light,” he said.
The highlight of Schendt last four years has been the people he met in and outside of the School of Engineering, Residence Life, Engineering Governing Council, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Governor's School, Cap and Skull and everywhere in between, he said.
“While Rutgers students love to complain about the school, myself included, it has given me so much,” Schendt said. "Never again will all your closest friends live within 15 minutes of you."
College also allows students not to be stuck in their comfort zone repeating the same actions seven hours a day, which is what he fears about joining the workforce, he said.
Schendt has been involved in the Engineering Governing Council for a while, mostly as a class representative. He served a few semesters on the finance committee, which allocates money to student organizations that fall within the School of Engineering, he said.
Samantha Bansil, a School of Engineering sophomore, has been using Schendt’s instructional videos since her first semester of her first year, she said.
He was her resident assistant during her first year in Barr Hall, she said.
Bansil said she watches his videos when trying to learn a new concept and to review before exams.
Even though he highlights the key points, Bansil said Schendt still leaves some of the work up to the student to completely grasp the content as an individual.
He provides a "read this on your own time" suggestion instead of holding the student's hand throughout the entire review, Bansil said.
“He is by far the best (resident assistant) I have heard of out there,” Bansil said. "His videos are very well-made."
He held reviews for his residents before their exams and when he was too busy to do so he told them to check out his videos, she said. His teaching methods are based on his own personal experience and struggles as a student taking these classes and from students that he speaks to.
“Brian has been a great resource because of all his connections due to his wide involvement throughout the university and beyond ... I'm happy to say that I am still friends with him today,” Bansil said.
Matthew Sze, a School of Engineering sophomore, uses Schendt’s videos whenever he has an upcoming exam.
“It was especially useful during my (first) year when I was getting used to the transition from high school to college,” he said.
Sze also met Schendt at Barr Hall, he said.
Students can find other videos online explaining chemical engineering, he said, but Schendt gears his videos to exams given out at Rutgers.
During his instructional videos, Schendt explains concepts clearly and does not hesitate to go in depth in topics so viewers have a greater understanding of the material, Sze said.
“I'd recommend (his videos to) anyone taking these courses at Rutgers,” he said.
Schendt has been through the courses himself and is able to explain the material from the viewpoint of a student taking the course, Sze said.
“I would describe his teaching methods as clear and concise because he is able to clear up the gray areas on the material that many students have trouble wrapping their heads around,” he said.
Schendt made his transition from high school to college a lot more manageable, Sze said.
“He always pushed us to go out of our comfort zone and taught us to not be afraid of falling sometimes,” Sze said.
Jessica Herring is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in English. She can be found on Twitter @Jesslindsey93.