Dr. Mark Conner

Dr. Mark Conner

Founder & CEO

Mark is an engineer by training and a high school teacher by calling. After earning degrees in Mechanical Engineering from UAB (BS, 1991) and Duke University (MS, 1993 and PhD, 1996), he started his high school teaching career in the Birmingham, Alabama area. In 2003 Mark began developing a four-year engineering curriculum for The Engineering Academy at Hoover High School which was launched a year later. He continues to serve as the Director of The Engineering Academy at Hoover, where he has taught all four of the engineering courses that are the foundation of Catapult Engineering Academy. He also teaches Advanced Placement Calculus-based Physics (Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism). His high school experience is coupled with 10 years of teaching undergraduate engineering students as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UAB.

Mark has a passion for true learning, something he wishes was present during his many years as a full-time student. He desires to ignite the same hunger for learning in all of his students, which is what drives him as he directs all of the curriculum development and serves as the primary teacher for Catapult.

Tara Powell

Tara Powell

Chief Operating Officer

Tara began a corporate career in Software Development in the telecommunications industry. She earned a Computer Science and Math degree from Jacksonville State University. Her interest in interface design and human factors intrigued her and led to the completion of a certificate in Usability Engineering from Georgia Tech. She championed the development, practice and teaching of user centered design methods at Bellsouth Services.

Tara established the robotics and engineering club at her son’s high school and mentored students through BEST Robotics competitions and engineering outreach programs for elementary-aged students. She continued her love of teaching and mentoring as the director of an after-school engineering camp for 4th and 5th graders taught by high school students from The Engineering Academy at Hoover High School. Tara oversees the operations of Catapult, because she wants every student to have a vision for what they can achieve within the amazing world of engineering.

Gabrielle Gilmer

Gabrielle Gilmer

Director of Curriculum Support

Gabby is a student at Auburn University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and Exercise Science. She began preparing for her majors as a student at Hoover High School, where she excelled academically in The Engineering Academy and athletically through competitive soccer. As the Director of Curriculum Support, Gabby is now passing on what she learned in high school and is learning in college by working directly with students and teachers.

Cindy Bond

Cindy Bond

College Admissions Specialist

Cindy is the College and Career Specialist at Hoover High School, where she works with students to prepare them for the college application, selection and financial aid processes, as well as for NCAA eligibility and ACT/SAT/PSAT testing. Prior to working at Hoover, Cindy worked in admissions at the University of Montevallo where she served as the Associate Director of Admissions and as the Director of Orientation. She is an active member with the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling. She also has served on college counselor advisory boards for Auburn University, Samford University, University of Alabama, Mercer University, University of Montevallo, and University of Alabama at Huntsville. Cindy shares her understanding of the college admissions process and her extensive experience from working with thousands of students and their families through our blog.

DJ Strickland, PE

DJ Strickland, PE

Curriculum Strategist

DJ is a licensed Professional Engineer with a degree in Civil Engineering from Auburn University. He spent over seven years working as a consulting engineer and project manager for a private firm. His areas of expertise include hydraulic and hydrologic studies and design, flood mitigation, stream restoration design and landfill design. Prior to making the move from consulting engineer to full-time high school teacher in The Engineering Academy at Hoover High School, DJ worked extensively with teenagers as a volunteer with the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership Seminar and through church youth groups.

DJ’s own experiences as an undergraduate engineering student fuel his desire to see students succeed when they graduate high school. He draws on these experiences and what he learned as a consulting engineer to help shape Catapult’s engineering curriculum and ensure that it provides what students need to be successful.