Top 10 Study Habits

As a current junior studying Civil Engineering, I have found the following to be the top 10 study habits all students should have to succeed at IIT.

  1. Go to class

Professors did not get the title professor just because they thought it would sound cool.  They generally have at least one doctorate’s degree related to what they are teaching.  Even the most boring lecture professors can give one great example and help you learn the material better than you could on your own.  As an engineering student, I study very difficult material that has already been mastered by my professors, meaning that it is silly for me to not go to lecture and listen to their approach of the subject.  I enjoy most of my classes at IIT because the professors are passionate about what they teach.

  1. Read the book

When a textbook is assigned to a class, the professor is usually the one who picks the book and it relates to how they plan to teach the class.  Depending on how your professor lectures is how you should approach reading the book.  How you decide to read the book is up to you, but use it. While it is ideal to read every chapter of all of your textbooks, it is nearly impossible to do that.  Skimming is okay too and has helped me just the same!

  1. Take notes and review them

A perk of going to class is that you can write down side comments your professor makes about an example or concept (or the funny things they tend to say too). While good to write these things down, it is meaningless if you do not go back a review it. I have gotten into the habit of reviewing my notes for a few minutes before each lecture.  This helps me understand where we left off and what I should be expecting for the current lecture.

  1. Have a planner

IIT’s Office of Campus Life helps with this by handing out free planners at the beginning of the semester, but make sure you fill it out! A planner is great for due dates, but the way I use it is to plan when I will do the work.  There are numerous ways to organize your planner to accomplish this, but my way is to write my classes on the side and draw a line across the weekdays.  This way, even though I may not have an assignment due until Wednesday, I can plan to work on it on Monday and Tuesday. This helps me realize that my day on Monday and Tuesday is not empty and that there is work to be done. Succeeding in college is more about time management than being smart in my opinion.

  1. Ask questions

During my first year of school I was terrified to ask questions, fearing that the professor or my classmates would think I was stupid.  However, I quickly realized that asking questions is a part of learning and college is about learning, not a competition of who is already the smartest person there.  I have turned into the student who will ask a seemingly dumb question but have the professor respond in praise of “good question” instead.  If you already knew all the answers, you wouldn’t be a student.

  1. Find a study group

Within my department, I have found a group of about 10 students that I regularly do homework with.  We have become close friends who care about each other’s academic performance. Having this group has helped me to focus, distress, and learn material more efficiently.  Naturally, some of us are stronger in some classes than others, meaning we help out those who are struggling in our strong areas for their help in other areas in return.  As I mentioned before, engineering problems are difficult and solving them is like following a tangled map of equations with no compass.  Your study group is your compass and a funny tour guide all in one.

  1. Take active study breaks

Instead of browsing a social media site on my study breaks, I have found that some sort of physical activity is better and allows me to return to studying more focused.  For example, in the warmer months, I will go outside with a friend from my study group and toss a Frisbee or football for ten minutes.  If I am stuck inside, I will have a silly dance party to 2 or 3 songs, obnoxious singing encouraged.  I always feel much better after doing something active and it rids my mind of any grogginess.

  1. Drink more water, not coffee

I have pulled quite a few late nights studying and working on projects in my 3 years and from experience I have decided on a coffee water ratio of 1:2.  This means for every one cup of coffee, I will drink 2 cups of water before I can have another cup of coffee.  This helps me from feeling shaky or over caffeinated in general.  Both of those feelings are distracting to me and this ratio had allowed me to feel better and still power through a late night.

  1. Learn how you study best

For me, I need to read the book and take notes, then try example problems with a book open and notes spread out everywhere.  For other students, my study space may look too chaotic and impossible to focus in.  Learn how to set up your study space to match your learning style.  Creating a plan for how to study for a certain exam can make a difference.

  1. Sleep

I will not promise that you will get a full 8 hours every night, but a good amount most nights will make a huge difference.  To make sure I am maximizing my sleep, I tracked my REM cycles for a few months and now use that to determine how much sleep I need to feel refreshed.  To do this, I used an app on my smart phone that calculated the efficiency of my sleep every night.  I learned that going through 2 REM cycles, or about 3 hours, was enough for me to sleep as efficiently as I do on a night where I got a full 8 hours.

Part of the Study Crew in action! CAE’s for life!!


Leslie Lyons, 3rd year Civil Engineer

Love To Dance Collective: A Short History

LTD is a fairly young student organization on campus, only two years old this semester – and it is also a prime example of how feasible it is to start a student organization at IIT. We have auditions each semester, as well as an Open Class, where any student can come and take a break from their studies, get a small workout and learn some choreography!

We have already had auditions for this semester and have since been preparing for our first performance with Wesley Lo, a first year biomedical student, as the lead choreographer. This semester we are also VERY excited about the new multipurpose room in Keating Sports Center, with a barre, mirrors and harlequin floor; perfect for our rehearsals.

I spent my first semester at IIT focusing on school – but I really did miss dancing. In high school, dance was about 20 hours of my week, and it has always been an important outlet for me. Towards the end of my first semester here at IIT, I became friends with Sydney Hardwick and was very excited when she told me about her idea for starting another dance group on campus. A short time after, LTD was approved by SGA (Student Government Association), and we started to work hard to make LTD known on campus.

LTD feels like a family to me, and I am so happy to be a part of it. I have met and made friends with other dancers, gained leadership and choreography experience, and had a blast performing and working with a diverse group of students who share my love of dance.

If you have any questions about LTD or would like to be added to our mailing list for information about auditions and upcoming events – please contact us at We hope to see you at our next performance!

Check out our YouTube page to see some of our past performances.

Lindsey Rice

Third-Year Architectural Engineering Student

Vice President of LTD

IMG_4582 LTD_logo LTD2013 unnamed

Scripting. In Architecture?

Four weeks marks the day. I had to learn how to script. As a second year Architecture student I found this quite challenging, but all I wanted was to make my 3D mental picture come alive in Unity just like the professors had enticed us with as they introduced what should be the finished product in four weeks time. It was tough, and took lots of time outside of class working with a very patient Design Communications professor to accomplish animating certain objects in this Unity simulation of the MTCC. We were working in groups, which made it much more practical to get things done and delivered on time.

The goal of the project was to model part (or all) of the MTCC (you could manipulate the layout of the building if you wanted) in Rhinoceros (a 3D modeling program) to the highest relevant level of detail, which you would then export into Unity (a game development program and powerful rendering engine). Once in Unity, you would have to set up lights, cameras, a skybox, and assets (for example: scripts), in order to make the MTCC come to life. Some took it a step further and actually made miniature games to play!blgg

This past week we all sat in lower east core of S.R. Crown Hall and took turns projecting our “video games” onto the large projector screen, awaiting review from our professors and one sit in judge. It was a great experience, all reviews went well and there were quite a few laughs exchanged!

Taylor Thompson, Architecture

Innovation At Its Finest

Here at IIT, there are many opportunities for students and faculty alike to innovate. The first example that comes to mind is the Idea Shop, a prototyping lab that has two different types of laser printers, a laser cutter, CNC milling machines, a vacuum former, 3D scanners, as well as various more traditional shop tools. Getting started in there is as easy as walking in and asking the shop manager, John Welin, to show you around to get started. If you’ve ever heard of the X-cube, sold in shops around the country now, that was an invention prototyped in the Idea Shop.

Another chance to step up and make something new are the IPROs that are part of the degree plan of every IIT student. An interview with an IIT alumnae who now works for ComEd (the largest electric utility company in Illinois) as a hiring manager shed some light on the role IPROs play in looking for jobs and internships. Paraphrasing, this former IIT student stated that IPROs are one of the things employers look at most when hiring IIT students, as IPROs are essentially semester-long projects to solve real-world problems presented by academia and companies alike. It isn’t uncommon to be working on an IPRO sponsored by a company and then be offered a job or internship at the company if you produce good results in your project. Some students and faculty have even turned their results from IPROs into their own start-up companies!

It’s safe to say that if every opportunity to innovate on campus were shared, this post would be way too long. Therefore, I’ll end on this note: IIT has begun its plans to make a new innovation center, the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovationn and Tech Entrepreneurship, which will host the Idea Shop, IPROs, and its Entrepreneurship programs all in one place. The building is anticipated to open its doors in 2017!

Written by Adam Denchfield, Applied Physicsideashop_main_550x350 ipro_main_550x350

What’s the Deal with IIT Potato?

Maybe you’ve seen this:

iit potato comments 2

Or comments like these:

iit potato comments

Or this:

potato definition

Or even this:

iit potato comments 3Maybe you feel out of the loop, like you missed an important meeting where potatoes became more significant than other root vegetables. Maybe you’re confused about how all this potato business even started.

For the sake of the IIT community, I decided to ask the creator (remaining anonymous to keep incoming students guessing) how IIT Potato came to be:

cam iit potato

It may not make a lot of sense. But what at IIT really does? We are a student body like none other. We love the internet. We love having fun. We love inside jokes. Most importantly, we love potatoes.

Like IITPotato? Make it official! Click here to like the Facebook page.

iit potato header

14 Bridgeport Spots That Every IIT Student Has to Visit

map of bport

Some but not all of my favorite spots in Bridgeport. 80% sure there will be a part 2.

1. Rocky’s Sports Bar and Grill

There are no sure things in life… except that every IIT student ends up at Rocky’s at least once during their college career. Whether it’s for a Blackhawks game, a friend’s 21st birthday celebration, or a tip-matching night for an IIT student org, Rocky’s is always a great time.

2. Maxwell Street Depot

It’s also guaranteed that you will eat at Maxwell Street (affectionately called “Ghetto Dog”) after midnight at some point as an IIT student. Open 24/7, Maxwell Street has been serving hot dogs, burgers, and polishes to generations of IIT party people.

3. Jackalope Coffee and Tea

If you’re looking for an off campus study spot, Jackalope is the place to go. A+ coffee, sandwiches, and donuts, free wifi, and cool art to look at while you’re procrastinating on your lab report.

4. Cermak Produce

Cermak is the best grocery store ever. Cheaper than Jewel, great produce and meat selection, and a lot of Mexican and Chinese products.

5. Unique Thrift

IIT students love thrifting and Unique at 31st street has got the goods for cheap! My best finds: two vintage Coach purses and a rabbit fur coat. My goofiest finds: an all jean jumpsuit and a porcelain bust of an old man. Every Monday is 50% off!

6. Buffalo Wings and Rings

Wings and Rings is Bridgeport’s version of Buffalo Wild Wings. A popular spot for watching sports during the week and maxing out on delicious meat dishes with your buddies.

7. Ferro’s

Ferro’s has the best Italian beef and Italian ice. Pretty much all there is to know. Visit at the beginning of the school year because it’s closed during the winter.

8. US Cellular Field

What other schools are in walking distance to an MLB stadium? Be on the lookout for free/discounted tickets from IIT’s Office of Campus Life.

9. Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar

This is the place to take your out of town friends to show them how cool your life in Chicago is. A liquor store in the front, and a bar with a patio in the back, Maria’s has a great vibe and a huge drink selection. I hate the term hipster, but Maria’s is a hipster mecca.

10. Augustine’s Authentic Spiritual Goods

Augustine’s is one of my favorite occult stores in Chicago. Spiritual items abound: candles, incense, literature, herbs, oils, charms… you name it, you’ll probably find it.

11. Bridgeport Coffee Company

Bridgeport Coffee is another IIT favorite. Not only is it a great place to study, but the quality of their coffee is amazing. They sell bags of coffee too!

12. Zaytune’s

Best Mediterranean food. Done.

13. Carbon Live Fire Grill

I heard the other day that Carbon was ranked to have the best Mexican food in the city (a huge thing to say about a Mexican restaurant in Chicago). I don’t know if that’s true, but Carbon is definitely my favorite restaurant in Bridgeport. The best thing about Carbon: they deliver to campus.

14. Co-Prosperity Sphere

Co-Prosperity Sphere is way more than just a gallery. It’s basically a giant room that hosts events, live music, and art exhibits. The space can be rented out, so if you want to throw the greatest party ever, look no further.



Emily Warman

3rd year CS Undergrad

How College is Different From High School (as experienced by an IIT student)

As a high school student in the suburbs of Atlanta, I knew college would be a different experience. I thought I knew what to expect, but I have been so surprised by what’s actually different.

1. You are never in a car.

Like many suburban teens, much of my time outside of school was spent in cars of all sizes and conditions. My high school had over 800 parking spaces for 1300 juniors and seniors and there was still a lottery to get a spot. We drove everywhere—to downtown Atlanta, to hiking trails, to concerts, even to friends’ houses a block away.

In Chicago, months will go by without sitting in a heated front seat. You will bike, walk, board, rollerblade, even Segway more than you drive if you live on campus without a car. The CTA will become your best friend (train approaching in 1 minute as you’re walking up to the platform) and worst enemy (doors closing as you’re walking up to the platform).

2. You can go out every night of the week… but you won’t want to.

I remember begging my mom to let me go to weeknight concerts downtown (always failed) and sneaking out of my house just to walk around the block with friends on a school night. I was so excited to move out of the house and finally get to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to!

Lol… I did whatever I wanted and it was awful. Imagine eating only your favorite junk food for a week. Day 1: Best day of your life. Day 7: begging for broccoli. Replace junk food with going out and broccoli with sleep and suddenly, the party paradox makes sense. Once the initial allure of no parents, no rules wore off, I found a better balance between sleeping, school, and going out.

3. Studying becomes a lot more fun

When I studied in high school, I always worked alone. I often finished my homework during class or my lunch hour. My friends weren’t in the same classes as me and many of them weren’t really into school.

At IIT, the way I studied changed. Everyone I met was excited about school and into their major. Most students take the same intro classes (like Chem, Physics, and Calc), so it’s easy to work with your friends. Goofing off in the library between homework problems and ordering late night pizza before a big exam are some of my favorite memories of freshman year.

4. Class isn’t easier or harder… just different.

High school is difficult in a dotting your I’s and crossing your t’s kind of way. Your classes require you to turn in many small assignments complete and on time. Some people are great at this. Some people are not. My high school career was filled with educational debauchery (highlights include answering A for 25 out of 25 questions on a spanish quiz, memorizing the entire Bill of Rights at lunch, and writing a 5 page paper titled “George Washington is a Baller”). Although I miss these exploits, I am glad that there are fewer assignments in college so you actually have the effort available to take school more seriously.

College is difficult in a more conventional sense. The classes tackle big subject matter, but your brain is ready for it after 12 years of education. The biggest difference for me was that doing all of my homework and studying the day before the exams sometimes isn’t enough to master the material. Tests are almost never multiple choice, so you really have to know what’s up.

5. The people you meet are so different from you, but you have so much in common with them.

In high school, my social side and intellectual side were separate. My friends and I talked about everything but school. I didn’t even talk to my parents about school. When I asked my mom for a check for 5 AP exams at the end of my senior year, she replied, “I didn’t know you were taking any!”

At IIT, we are all from different backgrounds, but we have STEM education in common. You can tell corny math jokes and people will get them. Your friends will be able to talk with you about the work of at least 1 famous architect (even the engineers know Mies). Don’t get people here started about anything related to computers.

Being smart is cool at IIT, because smart people get to work at cool companies like Google and GE and NASA. The people I’ve met at IIT not only allow me to express 100% of my being, but also encourage me to be the smartest and hardest working version of myself.

^ I think this difference is my favorite one.


Emily Warman, 3rd Year CS Undergrad

On Being Female at IIT

I never thought that I would study engineering. I can actually remember telling friends in high school that engineering would be the last thing I would major in. Fast forward two years later and here I am, studying mechanical engineering at Illinois Tech.

I also never thought that I would have more than the obvious to say about being female. I never felt that gender made a difference in the friends that I had, the decisions I made, or the decisions other people made about me. I only began to think about gender when I began my engineering degree at IIT.

As you may know, IIT’s student body is roughly 70% male and 30% female. Guys hear this and worry about finding cute girls. Girls hear this and get excited to have their choice of guys. Maybe others think differently when they encounter a skewed gender balance like this, but those thoughts are what first came to my mind.

What I’ve learned as an IIT student is that gender is much more than a biological binary only relevant to your love life. Although gender equality has been legally ensured for over 40 years, women are still dealing with a fading legacy of discrimination. We are not barred from pursuing anything, but we often are not exposed to fields (tech particularly) with fewer women.

Because IIT is a tech school, the women here go against the grain. I know that by the time I get to my last year here, there will be very few girls left in my mechanical classes. I haven’t had any female teachers for major classes. I really hope that the company I work for after graduation has female engineers on the team. As my education and career continue, I am more and more likely to be the only woman in the room. It takes a little extra strength and courage to be the odd (wo)man out, but I’ve never felt alone thus far.

For this, I have IIT to thank. The women who study here are smart, studious, and unafraid of following their passions. There are so many female student leaders on campus. Our SGA president has been female for as long as most can remember. The executive boards of most student organizations have a majority of female members. Our three sororities on campus are very active in Greek Council, the governing body of Greek life at IIT. Our female student athletes kick butt on and off the field. If you meet a girl from IIT, it’s likely that she’s doing big things. It’s easy to make friends with girls here; we’re always excited to talk to new girls and we want you to be our lab partner. We all have school in common, a strong connection that leads to lasting friendships.

One of my favorite organizations on campus is the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). They have bi-weekly meetings to talk about leadership and engineering with other women. It’s a supportive environment, a great place to meet girls with similar interests, and a lot of fun. If you’re a national member, there’s a national conference that you can attend yearly. It’s a great place to network with other female students and women in industry. SWE also posts career opportunities for women in engineering and computer science on their website.

I do think about being female as an IIT student, more than I ever have before. However, as a woman pursuing a career in engineering (a 20% female field), I think that IIT is giving me so much. I am building strong friendships with women I have a lot in common with. I’m finding ways to feel supported by connecting with girls outside of my classes. I see my female classmates scoring amazing jobs and internships in tech and then excelling on the job. I feel focused here and I feel like everyone, staff or student, male or female, wants me to succeed. If anything, being female at IIT is empowering, fun, and a positive experience.


So to anyone who is concerned about the gender ratio at IIT:

Girls—There’s less of us, but you’re making an amazing choice for your future. You will never feel alone here.

Girl-Seekers—There may not be quantity, but there’s definitely quality. How many people can say that their girlfriend is beautiful, sweet… and an engineer? If you’re still worried: It’s Chicago! If you can’t find who you’re looking for somewhere in this city, you may not find her anywhere.

Things That I Didn’t Know About IIT (that everyone should)

1. So many energy projects


Assembling the Wind Turbine by Stuart Field

Seriously, so many. IIT operates three advanced wind turbines for research purposes. There’s a Smart Electric Vehicle Charging Station on campus with nine electric vehicle charging stations. IIT’s Galvin Center and the US Department of Energy developed the first functional smart microgrid in the country through a $13 million partnership—and it’s on our campus. The university also sponsors a ton of research on clean coal technologies and electric vehicles.


IIT’s WISER Facilities

IIT’s commitment to energy is making a huge impact locally and globally. The school just received a $3 million dollar grant from the USDA to implement microgrid technology at the University of the British Virgin Islands. IIT leads a similar project in Korea. The university also works with the City of Chicago to expand the use of solar power in the city.


Check out:


2. Tech Park

You could think of Tech Park as a farm for technology companies. Startup ventures rent state-of-the art labs and office space in IIT buildings. The startups eventually blossom into companies that employ hundreds of people (and they love hiring IIT students and grads). Tech Park currently hosts around two dozen companies and has helped to launch 30 startups since its inception.


One of the many research facilities in Tech Park

Check out:


3. We’re a part of the NCAA Division III


Newly turfed Stuart Field– check out that skyline in the background!

IIT transitioned from the NAIA to NCAA Division III in 2012. The D3 jump has led (and will lead) to a lot of facility improvements and the addition of new sports teams. This year, we added a women’s lacrosse team and updated Stuart Field to turf.


4. Greek Life

Yes, IIT has Greek life! Chapters on campus include Alpha Sigma Alpha, Alpha Sigma Phi, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Phi Delta, Omega Delta, Pi Kappa Phi, Phi Kappa Sigma, Triangle, and Zeta Pi Omega—3 sororities and 6 fraternities. IIT is the only university in Chicago with sorority houses, deftly circumventing a Chicago brothel law preventing too many women from living under one roof. Something especially unique about IIT’s Greek life: all houses surround a big, grassy quad on campus, which creates a special sense of community between the chapters.


A map of the quad, located just south of the MTCC


The brothers of Pi Kappa Phi hanging out on the porch during the first warm day of 2014

Greek Week

Greek Week is one of those great things about IIT that you don’t hear about on a campus tour. During one week at the end of each spring semester, all 10 Greek chapters at IIT compete in daily competitions that test athletic prowess, brainpower, creativity, and teamwork. The diverse line-up of events gives everyone an opportunity to contribute to their chapter’s success.

The community takes Greek Week pretty seriously. Each chapter chooses a theme for the week and dresses up in costume for most of the events. Chapters also make impressive banners of their theme for the front of their houses. Banners are often huge projects that sometimes involve laser cutting, lighting elements, and carpentry. (Would you expect anything else from engineering and architecture students?) The events are scored by faculty and student judges and a winner is determined at the end of the week.


The proximity of the houses makes Greek Week especially fun. Unlike most schools that have Greek rows off campus, all of IIT’s houses surround a big, grassy quad at the heart of campus. Because everyone is so close together, events are highly attended and the festivities often continue after their official end. The quad is alive all week; music is always playing out of huge speakers that houses bring outside. People toss Frisbees and footballs, enjoying the warm weather and company.


Greek Week is kind of like that show “Who’s Line is it Anyways?” Although there’s a winner at the end of the week, the points don’t really matter. The best part of Greek Week is that it’s an excuse to get together. It’s a great time to meet people, celebrate your chapter, be silly, and just have fun.