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Riley – Canberra, Australia

From around 2002 until around 2010 I break danced everyday. It taught me discipline, a deeper love for music, and brought happiness. Early March in 2010 I saw a twirler practising in my local park. Curious of what he was doing I went over & asked. He handed me a staff and taught me figure eights and throws for next two hours, and immediately that same happiness came out. Staff didn't seem to come as naturally so I was back and forth between dance and staff for the next 3 years, but as I Read More

Shanan – Perth, Western Australia

During highschool I was always sort of the floater, never quite fitting into one particular friend circle. I wasn't smart enough to fit into the smart group, musical/arty enough for that side, and not really nerdy enough either. I was in year 10 when I first knew I had severe depression. Seven years on I still have it, but it's now as much a part of me as anything else, and it's slowly getting better. This is because once I left highschool and all that drama behind, and went straight into Read More


Planning the poi trial.

In between investigating the cultural roots and implications of poi spinning (read: embarrassing myself at various Māori events and in front of various Māori people), I am also planning a poi trial to investigate the effects of poi on physical and cognitive ability (read: embarrassing myself in front of scientists). If you're dying to know the nitty gritty, my full research methodologies paper and literature review are yours for the reading. If not, here's a summary (if you're not Read More


The Kapa Haka class.

I had been introduced to professor Sharples once before, to request permission to sit in on his Kapa Haka class about Māori culture. The introduction began with professor Sharples staring sternly and intently through my eyes and into my soul for an abnormally long amount of time, was followed by an uncomfortable laughter, and concluded with a brief "you can sit in on my class." I thought about and journaled about this moment obsessively for the next few days...how did he do that? Look straight Read More

  • Kate Riegle van West
  • Apr 16,2015
  • Comments Off on Learning to make Māori poi, except for that last step.

Learning to make Māori poi, except for that last step.

They always say the grass is greener on the other side, I just never realized by "other side" they literally meant the other side...of the world. The grass is very green in New Zealand. And the sky very blue. And the people very friendly. And the PhD in poi spinning off to a very good start. After a month of settling in, pondering why I brought so many useless things and not enough socks, and asking people to repeat whatever they just said to me (sometimes I'm really not sure they speak English Read More

  • Kate Riegle van West
  • Nov 24,2014
  • Comments Off on And then I moved to New Zealand. To get a PhD. In poi spinning.

And then I moved to New Zealand. To get a PhD. In poi spinning.

I realized one day, as my sister and I casually discussed the future of our lives, that there was a deadline for this vague idea I'd had for years about going back to school. And that deadline was based on something completely meaningless to me, yet very important to the process...the GRE. You have no idea what I went through to get my slightly less than mediocre score on the GRE. Nothing about that test makes sense to my creative, slightly dyslexic brain. Discovering that my test scores would Read More

hackathon presentation

The Hackathon (part 2)

I woke up that morning energized and perhaps slightly disillusioned...we were sure to win! No one else had such an innovative idea that could reach so many populations. I arrived at the hackathon to find my collaborators in a similarly lighthearted mood. We eagerly solidified our presentation, divided up who was going to say what, and practiced it in front of anyone who was willing to listen. And then, to settle our nervous energy, we spun poi. While the rest of the room was buried in last Read More

hackathon groupspin

The Hackathon (part 1)

As I peered into Hack/Reduce for the first time, I was transported back to my junior high lunch room. Where would I sit amongst the rows of long tables? What if no one wants to sit by me? What if no one likes the Orbitar? What if...I don't want any of this free stuff ? I had hardly entered the room when a lady behind a table, wearing a Berklee College of Music hackathon t-shirt, was smothering me in hackathon merchandise. "Actually, I don't really need any of that..." She looked dejected, and Read More


The business men.

As I made my way to the HULT International Business School, backpack brimming with Orbitar goodness, movie-like images of business meetings started to permeate my thoughts. Men in sharp suits, gathered around an abnormally long and modern table, shaking their heads and grunting...no no, don't stereotype! Enter with a fresh mind and no expectations, I told myself. And so I did, straight through the glass doors and into a lobby of granite benches and tiny ponds, where Norbert came to fetch me Read More

  • Kate Riegle van West
  • Nov 20,2013
  • Comments Off on Post TED talk patience, prospects, and perseverance.

Post TED talk patience, prospects, and perseverance.

After my brief meltdown upon exiting the TED stage (and many encouraging words from those that happened to be trapped backstage with me while it happened), I headed out to meet what I had imagined to be an onslaught of excited people who had just seen my talk...and had tons of money to eagerly throw at me. As I cruised down the crowded hallways I could hardly move a few feet before a "good job!" or a "I loved your talk" shot out at me. I graciously accepted the compliments, one after another, Read More