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

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

HARRISBURG, PA (February 5, 2013) – For the third 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 in April. Two other CCA teams placed third and fourth in the state.

This year’s competition challenged the students to design an unmanned arial vehicle (UAV) with engineering software and plan a mission to rescue a child lost in the Philmont Ranch in New Mexico. The teams were instructed to find the child in the least amount of time while also minimizing the total cost.

The winning team—The Innovators—is comprised of captain Athena Kao; team veterans Courtney Thurston, Devin Slaugenhaupt, Rick Ciora, and Jacob Antionio Whipkey; and newcomers Ian Cavanaugh and  Alexis Amelotte-Myers.

 “All three of our teams have very bright students,” said CCA’s RWDC coach and chemistry teacher Ann Camp. “The Innovators continue to win because they have learned to work so well as a team. They keep each other focused and were able to all stay on task throughout the entire competition. I’m extremely proud of the students’ dedication and motivation.”

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. The partners are focused on transforming STEM education in the United States by providing professional science and engineering and learning resources to students and teachers. This year, more than 40 different states participated.

“When you first look at the problem it seems almost impossible. So it’s extremely rewarding when a few months later all of your team members’ hard work comes together and you’re able to see the final product,” said Innovator member Courtney Thurston.  “It is a really difficult challenge, but I think the most difficult things that you do often teach you the most.”

Since the students live in different areas of the state, the teams each met virtually via CCA 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. While some may see this as an obstacle to success, Thurston thought it helped her team learn to communicate with each other more clearly. 

“Congratulations to the Innovators on their third consecutive win and to all of our students that participated this year,” said Dr. Reese Flurie, CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy. “STEM education is becoming more important than ever in our increasing technological world.  This competition and similar hands-on activities are a great way to get students excited about a career in engineering, math or the sciences.”

The Innovators and the other state-level winners will receive new project guidelines for the National Competition in the next few days. Project submissions are due on April 5, after which the students will travel to Washington D.C. to present before a panel of judges on April 19–21.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading, fully accredited 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. In the 2011–12 school year, Connections Academy supports schools in 22 states via 24 virtual public schools. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, National Connections Academy. Schools supported by Connections Academy offer 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)