Team Recs – Passion Projects and DIYs!

In each edition of The Connection, we crowdsource recommendations from our team, everything from hikes and dog parks, to road trip destinations and restaurants. This edition, we’re sharing our latest undertakings: passion projects and DIYs!


Recommended by: Wenxuan Meng, Structural Staff Engineer

Why I love it: Nothing makes a hardcore engineer happier than a few trips to Home Depot! A garage filled with boxes of tools, studs, and planks is my happy place. The fun with woodworking is that there can be unforeseen problems to solve along the way (like overcut and shrinkage for wood projects), but after working through it, the end result can be beautiful enough to hang on your wall!

Pro Tip: Save some money, time, and effort by planning ahead with a few sketches before you head to the store for materials. Also be sure to save the scrap wood for your next project. It’s a much better way to recycle!

Image: Wenxuan’s latest masterpiece.


Recommended by: Molly Gentry, Administration Assistant

Why I love it: Crocheting is relaxing, and I like the satisfaction I get from making something with my hands. The beauty of crocheting is that you can crochet pretty much anything out of just about any material. I’ve made rugs out of recycled clothes, shopping totes from strips of old plastic grocery bags, lampshades, clothes, you name it. I once crocheted 100 mini succulent “stuffed animals” for a friend’s wedding!

Pro Tip: Keep your hands and stitches loose, and when you’re a beginner, choose a simple project, relatively thick yarn, and a large hook.

Image: The infamous crochet cacti.


Recommended by: Reed Harvey, Senior Structural Technician

Why I love it: I love being able to turn items from my garden into something new. Through home canning, I’m able to create totally unique flavors that you can’t buy in the store. And in those growing seasons when Mother Nature provides an abundance, canning is a great way to ensure that no fruits or veggies go to waste. Plus, you can enjoy preserves all year– yum!

Pro Tip: If you can grow it and eat it, you can preserve it.

Image: Reed’s Early Laxton Plum Jam.

Trip Planning

Recommended by: Nancy Gupta, Civil Project Assistant

Why I love it: I love planning trips because it allows me to combine my love for travel with my knack for organization. I started planning trips as soon as my parents gave me permission to travel (with groups of five, safety first!). I’m currently taking ten friends to nature’s gem – Alaska (David Attenborough style.) I’ve tried to accommodate for optimal Northern Lights viewing, but since they’re so unpredictable, I booked a window of five days (fingers crossed!). The trip will also include Chena Hot Springs, the train to Fairbanks to see Denali’s tallest peak, some safe night hikes to spot Aurora Borealis, and a few open mic nights in Fairbanks. I’m so excited!

Pro Tip: Teamwork makes the dream work: divide the biggest and smallest tasks among passionate people. And don’t be shy about asking for suggestions. Flight crews, hotel staff, local restaurant owners, and Airbnb/VRBO hosts, all have great local knowledge.

Aurora Borealis tracking sites, here and here.