Cyber School Team from Commonwealth Connections Academy Wins First Place in Pennsylvania Real World Design Competition

-- Only Cyber School in the State-level Competition; Virtual School Students to Compete in Upcoming National Competition against Other State-Level Winners --


HARRISBURG (February 24, 2012) – A team of seven high school students from the cyber school, Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA), were awarded first place in the 2011–2012 Pennsylvania Real World Design Competition (RWDC) and will represent Pennsylvania and compete in the National Competition in April. This marks the second consecutive year a CCA team has taken first place honors at the state-level competition, the “Governor’s Cup.” Challenged to create an aerodynamic and energy efficient sports aircraft, the CCA team utilized engineering software to develop the winning blueprint, deemed viable in the real world.   As students of a cyber school, the team members met only virtually to engineer their prizewinning craft.

High school chemistry teacher and RWDC instructor, Ann Camp, was thrilled that CCA was able to enter three teams into the 2011–12 competition—the CCA Innovators, Blackhawks and Initiators—and that the Innovators were able to capture first out of a pool of 70 teams.

“I am continually amazed by our students’ ability to work cooperatively as part of a team,” said Camp. “As the only cyber school involved in the competition, CCA students have the added challenge of completing the project virtually. I am so impressed with their dedication and commitment to producing a high-quality project.”

The Innovators—Jacob Antonio Whipkey, Richard Ciora, Darnell Holmes, Athena Kao, Mikayla Nester, Devin Slaugenhaupt, and Courtney Thurston—are comprised of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from all areas of Pennsylvania. The team is led by Athena Kao, a junior CCA student who participated in the competition last year.

An annual and nationally recognized program, the Real World Design Competition (RWDC) is sponsored by a public-private partnership (including partners such as Cessna Aircraft and NASA Langley Research Center) with the goal of increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and providing students access to real world engineering experiences. This year, 40 different states held “Governor’s Cup Challenges.”

“I’m very proud of the CCA students for their hard work and dedication in this year’s Real World Design Challenge and would like to thank Ann [Camp] for her commitment to coaching the team and to STEM education,” said Dr. Maurice Flurie, CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy. “Educational activities like [the RWDC] help prepare our students for careers in the 21st century workplace.”

Since the students are located across the state, teams utilized interactive 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 a computer microphone. Additionally, the students communicated weekly with Camp and utilized a professional in the field to aid in troubleshooting.

“I’m very happy with the way our team performed in competition,” said Athena Kao, Innovators team leader. “The work was very interactive and collaborative, and it was great to see how it all came together in the end.”

The Innovators and the 40 other state-level winners will receive new project guidelines for the National Competition. Project submissions are due in late March, after which CCA students will travel to Washington D.C. to present before a panel on April 20–23.

Pennsylvania’s RWDC is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Pennsylvania’s Department of Education and the Pennsylvania STEM Initiative. Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) provides the students with free access to the Pro/ENGINEER software.

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 will serve students in 21 states via 22 virtual public schools. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, National 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 www.ConnectionsAcademy.com. Connections Academy and its parent company, Connections Education, are part of the global learning company Pearson (NYSE:PSO) www.Pearson.com.