A graduate student in digital literacy embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of ASU


November 29, 2021

Hayley Steiner has already started a business and is now laying the groundwork for another business.

“I already have so many business ideas in my head,” said Steiner, who graduated with a master’s degree in digital literacy from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering this fall.

Photo courtesy of Hayley Steiner
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“In fact, I have already created a company so far called The protein lab, which is a company that is all about finding ways to turn certain types of food into high protein foods.

Steiner describes the company on her Instagram account as a “one-woman-owned business” that “aims to find new solutions for high-protein nutritional meals.” For the Arizona-based company, it makes protein balls in different flavors and with large amounts of collagen, the main structural protein found in the body.

“With this company, I hope to open showcases in the future and possibly continue to introduce new products containing large amounts of protein,” Steiner said.

Steiner’s mind never rests when it comes to finding ways to help the world, and she already has a new idea for a future business.

“A lot of people buy clothes from clothing brands like Nike and adidas without even realizing that these companies are using technology that allows them to use plastics in their products,” she said. “There’s also another clothing company called Girlfriend Collective that uses plastic to create yarn that she then uses to create all of her workout products.

“My idea would not only be to use plastic, but to find a technology to be able to decompose all types of waste. Then with all the new textiles created from all the different types of waste, the textiles would be combined with other materials like wood or bamboo to make furniture. It would help solve a huge problem but also be a business that creates sustainable furniture. ”

With the help of ASU Venture Devils program, Steiner takes the first steps towards this new enterprise.

“I was accepted into this program and now have access to mentors which is a huge blessing,” she said. “This idea would take a long time to create, as research needs to be done to see if it’s even a possibility to break down all types of waste into new textiles.

“It would take prototypes to see if it is possible to use these textiles to create furniture. At the moment I am working with a mentor who has given me advice on how to start this research. ‘in the future I will be able to create a company that would be able to achieve this.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the area you majored in?

Reply: I studied graphic design in my undergraduate program and have always loved visualizations. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in 2016. I worked for a few years in the field, then I decided to make a big decision in my life. I decided to completely change my career and teach English abroad for a year. In 2018, I moved to Japan and was an English teacher in an after-school program. It was an amazing experience. At this point in my life, I had some experience with technology, but not a lot. I have always found interactive design so interesting and knew I wanted to give it a go. Not only for making designs for printing, but for designing interactive media and for technological purposes. It definitely hit me harder when I went to Team Lab Borderless Mori Digital Art Museum in Tokyo. In this museum they have huge installations with projections and some with motion capture. It was very interactive, and that’s also how I got inspired to find a graduate program where I could learn the skills for this type of design.

Question: What did you learn at ASU – in class or elsewhere – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I really enjoyed being in a graduate program where everyone seemed to collaborate. Being part of the digital culture master’s program was very interesting as there were not many students in the program. I was able to interact with most of the same students. It was really interesting to see everyone evolve and especially to receive feedback from them on my ideas. It showed me that we are all in the same boat when it comes to reaching our goals and gaining new knowledge. It has also been beneficial to see that everyone has been working on their goals for a while and nothing comes instantly.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

A: While I was doing my research to find a program, I realized that there weren’t many schools that offered a program that encompassed all the things I wanted to learn. Most design schools only offered specific courses. Universities only offered motion capture programs for filmmaking. I also knew that I didn’t want to specialize only in artificial intelligence. I was really hoping to have a new experience and to live somewhere other than Arizona. However, I remembered that some of my friends were in the digital literacy bachelor’s program when I was in undergrad. I reviewed the program and it turned out that ASU also offers a masters program for this one. It was then that I knew it would be the best choice for me to study at ASU again. The digital literacy program offered many study tracks, including motion capture, artificial intelligence, mobile development, software engineering, and more. This is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a program that could give me all of these skills and that’s what it did.

Question: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson during your time at ASU?

A: I have worked a lot alongside Pavan Turaga over the two and a half years I spent in the graduate program. They have really taught me, and probably other students as well, that it is much more important to show the skills that you have by the time you understand and to keep improving.

Question: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?

A: Whether you’re in your undergraduate or graduate program, I think it’s really important to try and gain as much knowledge as possible in the field you’re trying to get into. Really look for any opportunities to learn more skills. It means making connections not only with professors, but also with your peers. Sometimes your peers have so much to teach you. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers for advice and see if they will help you understand something better. There are so many people with different levels of knowledge. It’s never too late to see what you can gain by asking your peers to share with you.

Question: Where was your favorite place on campus, whether it was studying, meeting friends, or just thinking about life?

A: Both in my undergraduate and graduate programs, I really enjoyed going to Charlie’s Cafe.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

A: For now, I’m waiting to see how well the business I currently have is doing, but my plan is that if it takes a while to get off the ground, early next year I’ll get a employment as a software engineer. While many of the skills I learned in this program like motion capture and augmented and virtual reality are much more advanced than software engineering, I think it will be beneficial for me to start there. However, eventually I want to move into a career where I can use these skills as well.

Q: If someone gave you $ 40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: In fact, I’ve thought about it before if I started a successful nonprofit business that was only concerned with solving a problem. In the Phoenix area, there is an apartment complex that is only made up of shipping containers. I figured that if I ever had enough money to do it, I would like to find a way to buy as many empty shipping containers as possible and turn them into homeless centers. The homeless problem in America is so terrible, but there is also not enough space to house them all. These centers would also be provided with water and electricity and would also already be provided. Basically it would be like an Airbnb hotel or an extended stay. It would also include a kitchen. It would be amazing to be able to do it across the country. Not only does it help people, but it also solves another problem, that of waste. All empty shipping containers, if never reused, will usually end up in a landfill. It is a huge problem. It would therefore be my objective to be able to tackle two problems at the same time. There would of course be some problems trying to create this. For example, how could we transport all these sea containers to cities far from seaports? In addition, there should be a system to determine how long a family or individual could stay in these homeless centers. Additionally, we will need to figure out how we would deal with health and safety issues whenever the temporary homes reopen for new people to inhabit the space.



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