Commonwealth Connections Academy Wins First Place in Pennsylvania Real World Design Challenge for Fourth Straight Year

--Virtual school students move on to compete in national competition against other state winners--

HARRISBURG, PA (April 29, 2014)  For the fourth consecutive year, a team of high school students from the cyber school Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA) were awarded first place in the Pennsylvania Real World Design Competition (RWDC) and will represent Pennsylvania by competing in the National Competition next fall. Another CCA team placed second in the state.

This year’s engineering challenge was to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could detect and then identify damage done to a farmer’s crop by the European corn borer (i.e. worm).  After designing the vehicle, the students developed a mission plan on how to most effectively fly over an Iowa corn farm and detect damage.  The final step was to develop a five-year, sustainable business plan detailing the cost of the UAV process to the farmer and how much he would gain from using their service.

“I have seen over the years how dedicated the students are to these challenges, so I can’t say that I’m surprised that both teams did so well,” said the teams’ coach Ann Camp.  “However, this year’s challenge spanned a longer time than previous years, and I was very proud of the students for staying so focused until the end.”

The winning team—The Innovators—is comprised of Captain Courtney Thurston and team members Clare Patterson, Rick Ciora, Devin Slaugenhaupt, Jacob Antonio Whipkey and Ian Cavanaugh.

The Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition run by a public-private partnership with the goal of sustainably increasing the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. This year, more than 29 different states and territories participated.

“I think my time spent on the challenges will help me in the future,” said senior Rick Ciora, who wants to be a chemical engineer. “You get a better understanding of how a real project would work and that things are always changing.  Deadlines and requirements will change quickly and you have to be able to adapt to that.”

Since the students live in different areas of the state, the teams each met virtually via LiveLesson® sessions—a virtual classroom environment where students can chat with each other, share ideas on the screen and speak in real-time through microphones.

“Congratulations again to both our hardworking CCA teams and their coach Ann Camp for her dedication,” said Commonwealth Connections Academy’s CEO Reese Flurie. “Competitions like this are not only crucial due to the importance of the STEM fields, but also because they prepare students for the workforce.  We design our education at Commonwealth Connections Academy so students will not only do well on tests, but so they can do well in life, and the skills of critical thinking and teamwork learned through this Challenge are invaluable.”

The Innovators and the other state-level winners recently received project guidelines for the National Competition.  The competition will be in fall 2014 in Washington, DC

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual schooling for students in grades K through 12. Through tuition-free public schools, and full-time and part-time private school programs, Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, with the freedom and flexibility to experience our online learning community from anywhere. The combination of certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. Among the schools supported by Connections in the 2013–14 school year are 25 Connections Academy virtual (online) public schools that operate in 23 states. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, International Connections Academy. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some public school programs do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800–382–6010 or visit Connections Academy and its parent company, Connections Education, are part of the global learning company Pearson (NYSE:PSO).