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U of A student tackles 52 different ‘skillz’ in just 52 weeks

Stephen Robinson did what most wouldn’t dare to do: controlling and flipping an airplane without any training.

The fourth-year psychology student at the University of Alberta believes in “learning through doing” — a philosophy that has inspired him to learn a new skill every single week for a year.

His blog, titled “52Skillz,” captures these learning experiences in a mix of both video and writing.
Having accomplished 15 skills so far, Robinson has successfully rappelled down bridges, built an electric scooter, explored abandoned buildings in Detroit, and performed a barrel roll in a plane without any previous piloting experience.

Robinson got tired of watching people doing incredible things on social media, so he decided to challenge himself.

“There’s so many things that I’ve wanted to do, but I see these barriers that aren’t actually real,” he said. “So I just go and do it.”

Some things are much easier to achieve than people expect, he said, explaining how it only took him several phone calls and a few predictable rejections before he found a man willing to let him fly a plane.

Robinson soon found himself in the cockpit of a Romanian military plane used for training in Vietnam. He explained the plane had two joysticks, highlighting that he didn’t take-off or land the plane, but he took control when the plane was in flight and performed barrel rolls.

“I was at a zero skill level coming into it, but I just learned as I was doing it,” Robinson said.
After several years in university, Robinson said there’s only so much thinking one can do or theory to be learned, noting that experience is one of the best teachers.

“Make no excuses,” he said. “Just do it.”

When he started the blog in September 2014, Robinson said coming up with 52 skills to learn came easily to him. But the more difficult task is filtering between what people would want to see him learn, he said.

But, Robinson said he was surprised that the knowledge of his blog has allowed him to meet people who offered to teach him certain skills.

“I met a hypnotist a month ago and hopefully he will teach me how to hypnotize people soon,” he said.

“There are a lot of things that I want to do, but there’s also those people who approach me and want to teach me.”

Ultimately, Robinson hopes to inspire other people to challenge themselves and push their limits. He said it made him feel “so good” to see that a few of his friends started a similar blog.

“The blog is really about inspiring people to go out and do cool stuff, and providing them with the resources to show them that it can be done,” he said.

After utilizing the U of A’s eHUB space to develop his concept, he encouraged students who have an idea to start now while they are in university instead of putting it off until after graduation.

Being a student and managing his own start-up initiative requires keen time management and constant goal setting, he said.

“You have a lot more time in the day than you think you do,” Robinson said.

He said that he creates time for learning the skills through a combination of block scheduling, keeping and following a calendar, and prioritizing.

“I am the kind of person who is constantly working towards a goal,” he said. “My mindset is that you will make it happen if it really matters to you.”

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