William Shaver is a 9th grade homeschool student who lives in Virginia. He took CEA 100 during the 2014-2015 school year. William and his mom, Sonya, shared the following information with us in an interview on May 13, 2015. William modeled a bicycle in SolidWorks — shown above — for his Reverse Engineering assignment in CEA 100.
Catapult: What led you to take a high school engineering course?
William: I’ve always been interested in engineering, physics, robotics – STEM stuff. This is an interesting subject and I wanted to learn more.
Catapult: How did you find out about Catapult?
Sonya: A homeschool forum called Well Trained Mind had a posting that mentioned it, and I followed the link.
Catapult: What was your motivation for exploring Catapult Engineering Academy, and what information was helpful in deciding to register for the Catapult course?
Sonya: He has always been interested in physics and engineering. He’s been involved in robotics since he was 8. I was most motivated by the information in the Catapult brochure about not having the skills or getting exposed to what engineering really is. I was surprised, but it makes sense that students drop out or change their major because they don’t know what engineering is really about or are unprepared and find the work too hard. So it is important that he is doing things that engineers really do, learning real skills. This is not hypothetical or just theoretical; he is gaining real skills. I love the idea of better preparing students and giving them the skills that they need to be successful.
Catapult: What were your favorite things about Catapult Engineering Academy?
William: Modeling the physical systems and making the assemblies in SolidWorks.
Catapult: How have you used the course material outside the course?
William: I plan to use the modeling for designing in future robotics competitions.
Catapult: How is this course different/better than other online courses?
William: The class set-up with the screencasts, the material that was there to reference and the pacing guide made this class better than other online courses.
Sonya: I loved how well organized the course is and how well Catapult utilizes Canvas. Another strong area is that quizzes were not graded, but learning the material in order to actually use it is most important. I also loved how accessible the Teaching Assistants were. I was skeptical at first that just watching videos was enough, but he understood and could do the work. If he had questions, though, the TAs were quick to respond. The easy access to a live person is important.
Catapult: How did you find the level of rigor?
William: It is good. Maybe you could improve the consistency – some things were easier and some harder, but overall it is a good level and not impossible.
Sonya: It is grade-level appropriate and the amount of work and workload is perfect. The pacing guide was most helpful to not get behind, but he could also use it to work ahead.
William: It is best to not get too far ahead.
Sonya: Keeping up the Engineering Memorandum* every two weeks helped keep him organized, and that added writing component is so important for engineering.
William: The Engineering Memorandum helped me take better notes as I was going, so it made the process easier.
Sonya: Very valuable.
(*Students are required to submit an Engineering Memorandum every two weeks that details the work that they have completed and the concepts that they have learned during the previous two-week period.)
Catapult: What was the most challenging aspect of the program?
William: At first the Engineering Memorandum was very time consuming to compile and summarize what I’ve done.
Sonya: The Engineering Memorandum was a good challenge.
Catapult: What are the strengths/weaknesses of the program?
Sonya: The strengths include the interaction and interpersonal relationship with the TAs. Other courses do not include that teacher component. They were easy to access and ready to explain. The Canvas platform was well organized and flexible, allowing the student to work at their own pace. The only weakness would be no interaction with other students; it’s not necessary but would be neat if added.
William: A strength is how the quizzes are set up to help make sure I understood the material. I liked the Engineering Memorandum; it helped me take better notes, understand the work and stay organized. One weakness was some of the modeling assignments with instructions for each step rather than doing more independent work.
Catapult: When you signed up for courses, what more information would you want to know?
Sonya: It would be helpful to know about how the class would be structured so we can plan other courses.
Catapult: How can we make Catapult Engineering Academy better?
Sonya: Maybe the first class could have a component to teach about each type of engineering so the student can determine which engineering interests them the most. Some colleges have ABET certification for some, but not all of their engineering programs so knowing the area of engineering a student is interested in would help them figure out where to go. A group project would be a great idea. Maybe live teaching would be a good option. We’ve taken courses through WebEx. A community project locally for a senior design project would also be good.
I hope you do not lose the interaction/personal component as Catapult grows. This relationship could lead to the possibility of using TAs for college recommendations.
Catapult: How likely are you to recommend Catapult EA courses?
William: Highly likely!
Sonya: 100% likely, this is such a great opportunity.
(Pictured: A screenshot of William’s Reverse Engineering Project – a complete Bicycle – done in SolidWorks)