Blake Mrozek Video Post

What I would say I have envisioned for the Engineering Open House stand is related to what we’re calling our presentation: ‘A Walk Through Puerto Rico’. Because of this, I think the primary goal of our presentation should be to attempt to recreate our experiences minus the drives for anyone who checks out our presentation to see. I believe the best way to set it up would be to have a setup in the front, most likely a poster or something along those lines, to draw people’s attention, but then we have different screens of footage we captured on the GoPros and our phones during different parts of the trip, each being closely related, so we have one video for the horseback riding, hiking through the jungles/climbing the waterfalls, seeing all of the plantations and farms, and just driving across the island itself. This would allow us to at the very least attempt to show people who visit our booth what we did and the experiences we had while studying abroad, which would hopefully encourage them to look in to opportunities to study abroad and potentially do it themselves.


I just want to say I tried multiple times but my phone kept recording the video upside down, and I couldn’t find a way to rotate it. Here’s the link for the video

Blake Mrozek: Illinois vs. Puerto Rico

Having lived in Illinois all of my life, upon coming to Puerto Rico it was relatively easy to spot differences between the two, but the longer I have been here, the more and more I notice. The most apparent difference, in my opinion, would be the typical kind of plant and wildlife that is accessible to people. While in Illinois/Chicago, the nearest types of plant and wildlife are those found in a plain ecosystem, such as wheat and corn, along with deciduous trees and woodlands animals. However, in Puerto Rico, most of these are not present. There are far more tropical plants, such as plantain trees, coffee plants, and palm trees. While in Illinois, coconuts are only obtainable at supermarkets or specialty shops, you can literally walk down the beach and find coconuts that are ready to be opened. That would be unheard of in Illinois. Likewise, in Illinois forests you have the possibility of coming across many squirrels and small wildlife that is very uncommon in Puerto Rico. The types of animal life found at each place is quite different. There are hermit crabs, normal crabs, a surprisingly high number of stray cats, and many low hanging trees at beaches, while in Illinois, there are almost no trees with the ability of growing in the sand. For that matter, sand itself is difficult to come across in Illinois, seeing as there is only one river and a section of lake water to break down rocks and dirt to become sand, while in Puerto Rico, the entire island is surrounded by ocean (obviously) and water breaks down many things besides rocks, since there are many coral reefs about the island. The waves crashing upon the rocks are also far larger in Puerto Rico than they are along Lake Michigan, so the rocks and coral are broken down far faster than the rocks in Illinois are by the lake.

Another notable difference between the two locales is the topography and landscape. In Illinois, the landscape is primarily flat, and if there are hills, they are gently rolling and hardly notable. Speaking of, many of the counties in Illinois don’t even have names for their highest points since they are so easy to look over. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, there is an abundance of mountains and valleys, and even some marsh and desert-like areas. Granted, along the Mississippi River in Illinois there is some similar marshy land, the highest point visible anywhere near the river is actually a rock. In Puerto Rico, you can see rivers that travel from the tops of mountains down waterfalls and rushing streams, while in Illinois the Mississippi generally flows lazily, though there are occasional rapids. One of the coolest experiences I’ve had since coming to the island was at the ecolodge we stayed in one night, which was 5 minutes away from a waterfall/rapids area that was easy enough to climb, and had incredible fresh water pools that were stunning.

Another delightful difference between the Illinois and Puerto Rico is the food that the locals eat, both themselves and relative to each other. In Illinois, there is quite a bit of diversity statewide in terms of what the locals eat. While all over the state, almost everyone enjoys steaks and corn on and off the cob, in Chicago, there are many niche foods such as Italian Beef, Deep Dish Pizza, Breaded Steak Sandwiches, and Giardiniera that can only be found there. Puerto Rico, while quite different from Illinois, eats relatively similar things across the entirety of the island. Plantains play a huge role in the local cuisine, being in multiple items such as mofongo and tostones, whilst also being sliced and fried up quickly. The only item comparable to that in Illinois would be corn, and it’s not used in nearly as many ways. Furthermore, locals incorporate seafood into their cuisine far more extensively than Illinoisans, seeing as they are surrounded by fish, while they are not easily accessible to people in Illinois. IMG_3549waterfall

Blake Mrozek: How Puerto Rico Has Surprised Me

Puerto Rico has been a bit different than I expected. I knew coming in that the weather would be nice and tropical, and that the food would be a bit similar to latino foods. I also knew that agriculture would play a far smaller role in the everyday lives of most rural people than it does in Illinois, seeing as our home state has far more land that is viable for agricultural use when compared to Puerto Rico. What I didn’t expect was how heavily they use the plantain in their everyday lives. I had heard it was a staple, but I didn’t realize just how many ways it was possible to use the plantain. I had assumed it was like a banana, sweet and a bit pulpy, but it’s far easier to use them everyday when compared with bananas. For example, there are mofongos and tostones everywhere, and plantains are sometimes even shredded and used like hash browns of sorts in different kinds of meals. Because of the heavy demand for plantains, there are farms with substantial output potential. The farm we visited was far more vast than I had anticipated and had huge sections dedicated to both mangos and plantains. The processing plant we visited while at the farm was also quite sizable, and it was very interesting to see the processes that take place before the shipping of the fruits we eat. I hadn’t really thought about it in depth, so I expected the farmers to be picking fruits when they ripened, instead of weeks in advance, though that makes sense once considering the time it takes to ship the fruits.

Another thing that surprised me was the diversity of ecosystems that the island contains. During our multiple drives across practically the entire island, we saw multiple different ecosystems. When we first arrived, we got to visit El Yunque, one of the largest rainforests on the island, which was quite sizable, and had some impressive vertical drops, all in a tropical, densely forested area. It also had a couple hidden waterfalls deep in the jungle, and though there were some areas which were a bit touristy/well known, there were places very close to them where you couldn’t tell that people had been there at all. One picture I have was taken right next to La Mina Falls, one of the most visited locations in the entire rainforest, and yet the ecosystem looks practically untouched. An ecosystem we saw a good amount of but never interacted with was the more arid, desert-like area. There were huge swaths of desert area clearly visible as we drove across Puerto Rico, and it was clear that the land wasn’t particularly useful, as we saw fewer and fewer towns as we gradually transitioned from rainy to dry areas. Puerto Rico has also been significantly more mountainous than I expected. I knew it wasn’t going to be as flat as Illinois, seeing as our entire state has 10 hills, give or take a couple, but we have seen a good amount more mountains than I anticipated, and we ended up staying in an ecolodge near the top of one. They also take advantage of all the farmable land they have, as there was a coffee plantation that we visited up in the mountains, and we were also told that there were some plantain plantations in the mountains as well. It was interesting to see, considering that in Illinois, if land is remotely rocky or steep, practically nobody considers it farmable, from my experiences. The accessibility of the coral reefs off the island was also very cool, as the trip from our hotel to the coral reefs was under an hour, excluding the wait for our catamaran to disembark, and in Illinois, depending where you are, the trip from a mountain/hill to any substantial source of water is quite sizeable, and it’s difficult to find mountains to begin with. plantain row 20160105_120309

Blake Mrozek Test Post: Role in Group

I believe my role in this group is to brainstorm potential problems that may come our way over the course of this project, as well as come up with ways to solve said problems. One example of this is when we discussed building a runoff diorama/model for people to interact with. Upon discovering that it cost somewhere around $300, I, along with my group members, came up with the idea of 3D modeling a comparable product, with our time being spent instead of our limited budget.duomo