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Digital culture graduating student embodies ASU’s entrepreneurial spirit

November 29, 2021

Hayley Steiner has already built one business and is now laying the groundwork for another.

“I have a lot of business ideas already being considered,” said Steiner, who graduated this fall with a master’s degree in digital culture from the College of Arts, Media and Engineering.
Photo courtesy of Hailee Steiner
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“I have already started one company so far called protein lab, a company whose sole purpose is to find ways to turn certain types of foods into foods rich in protein.”

Steiner describes the company on her Instagram account as a “one woman-owned company” that “aims to find new solutions for high-protein diets.” For the Arizona-based business, they make protein balls in various flavors and with high amounts of collagen, the primary structural protein found in the body.

“With this company, I hope to open storefronts in the future and eventually continue to introduce new products with high amounts of protein,” Steiner said.

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

“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 plastic in their products,” she said. “There is also another clothing company called Girlfriend Collective that uses plastic to create a thread that they then use to create all of their workout products.

“My idea would not only be to use plastic, but to find a technology that is able to break up all kinds of trash. And then with all the new textiles created from all different kinds of trash, the textiles will be combined with other materials like wood or bamboo to make furniture. This will help in A big problem solver but also a company that makes sustainable furniture.”

with help from ASU Venture Devils On the show, Steiner takes the first steps toward this new venture.

“I was accepted into this program and now have access to mentors, which is a huge blessing,” she said. “It will take a very long time to create this idea, as research is needed to see if this is a possibility to break down all kinds of trash into new textiles.

“Prototyping will be needed to see if these textiles can be used to make furniture. Currently, I am working with one teacher who has given me advice on how to start this research. I hope that in the future I will be able to set up a company that will be able to achieve that.”

A question: What was the “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study your field?

Answer: I studied graphic design in my undergraduate program and have always loved fantasies. I graduated with BA in 2016. I worked for a few years in this field and then decided to make a huge life decision. I decided to completely change my profession and teach English abroad for a year. In 2018, I moved to Japan and was an English teacher in an after school programme. It was a great experience. At this point in my life, I had some experience with technology but not much. I’ve always found interactive design very interesting and knew I wanted to get into it. Not just to make designs for print, but to design for interactive media and for technology purposes. It hit me even more when I went to the 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 this is also what inspired me to find a postgraduate program where I can gain skills for this type of design.

s: What did you learn while at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

a: I really enjoyed being in the graduate program as everyone seemed to collaborate. Joining the Master of Digital Culture was very interesting because there weren’t many students in the programme. I was able to interact with mostly the same students. It was really interesting to see each individual’s development, and especially to receive feedback from them about my ideas. It showed me that we are all in this together when it comes to achieving our goals and gaining new knowledge. It was also helpful to see that everyone has been working on their goals for a while and nothing comes right away.

s: Why did you choose Arizona State University?

a: As I was doing my research to find a program, I realized that there weren’t many schools offering a program that included all the things I wanted to learn. Most design schools only offer specific courses. Universities only offered motion capture programs that were intended to make films. I also knew that I didn’t want to specialize in AI only. I was really hoping to get a new experience and live somewhere other than Arizona. However, I remembered that some of my friends were in the Bachelor of Digital Culture program when I was a college student. I looked into the program, and I ended up saying that ASU was also offering a master’s program as well. That’s when I knew it would be the best option for me to study at ASU again. The Digital Culture program offered several study paths, 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 it definitely did.

s: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while you were at ASU?

a: I have worked alongside Pavan Toraga a lot in my two and a half years in my graduate programme. They have really taught me, and possibly other students as well, that it is very important to demonstrate the skills you have at the moment that you understand and keep improving.

s: What’s your best advice for those still in school?

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

s: What is your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends, or just think about life?

a: In both my undergraduate and graduate programs, I have definitely enjoyed going to Café Charlie.

s: What are your plans after graduation?

a: Right now I’m waiting to see how well the business I currently have is, but my plan is that if it takes some time to boot, early next year I’ll get a job as a software engineer. While a lot of the skills I learned in this program, like motion capture and augmented and virtual reality, are more advanced than software engineering, I feel it would be beneficial for me to start there. However, I would like to get into a career where I can use these skills as well.

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

a: I’ve already thought about this before if you started a nonprofit that was successful and was only aimed at solving a problem. In the Phoenix area, there is an apartment complex made only of shipping containers. I thought that if I had enough money to do this, I’d find a way to buy as many empty shipping containers as possible and turn them into centers for the homeless. The cause of the homeless in America is very appalling, but there is not enough space to house them all. Water and electricity will also be provided in these centers and will be already furnished. Basically, it will be like Airbnb or a long-term stay hotel. It will include a kitchen as well. It would be amazing to be able to do this across the country. Not only does this help people, but it also solves another problem, which is trash. All empty shipping containers, if not used again, usually end up in landfill. This is a huge issue. So my goal would be to be able to address two issues at once. There will be some problems trying to create this of course. For example, how can we move all these shipping containers to cities that are not near seaports? Also, there should be a system for knowing how long a family or individual can stay in these homeless centers. In addition, we will have to figure out how to take care of hygiene and safety issues each time the temporary homes are opened again for new people to reside in.

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