Jump-start to engineering
DV 1st to implement after-school ASU class

Corinne Frayer, Ahwatukee Foothills News
September 11, 2007

*Article reprinted with permission from the Ahwatukee Foothills News.*

On a late Tuesday afternoon, seven eager Desert Vista seniors sit pondering the answer to a question: do toilets flush clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere?

Desert Vista technology chair Dan Zavaleta and Arizona State University engineering professors Mark Henderson and Bob Hinks wait patiently to discuss the students’ hypotheses.

This year, Desert Vista became the first high school to host an after-school program in which students can get a head start on their college classes in the comfort and convenience of their own high school campus.

“These seven students are currently enrolled in ASU’s Engineering 101 class, and their credits go directly to ASU,” Zavaleta said. “Most of these students here should be ready to jump into the engineering program and actually be sophomores when they register at ASU.”

The program, originally spun from an idea of Desert Vista Principal Anna Battle, gives this year’s engineering-minded seniors not only almost one-on-one interaction with professors and teachers twice a week, but the opportunity to explore hands-on engineering.

“We did this one activity where we modeled how much energy we could produce out of a wind turbine,” senior Matthew Kolopanis, 17, said. “We got to use the wind tunnel.”

Kolopanis plans to major in physics at either ASU or the University of Chicago.

Zavaleta said students have the opportunity to optimize, build and design their own rockets and test them multiple times in the beginning of the semester. They will also be building computer-controlled robots later in the class.

“We had an hour and 45 minutes to build a rocket,” 17-year-old Kadra Alvaro said. “Our rocket totally won.”

Alvaro, who plans to major in optical engineering and minor in art, said it is the people in the class and the professors that have made her experience worth while.

“It challenges us to think differently,” Kolopanis said.

Although seven might be a small class size, Zavaleta said he feels positive that the program will grow next year. Students who are currently juniors at Desert Vista have inquired about the class, but were unable to enroll because they were not yet seniors, he said.

“The ultimate goal is to have a dual credit program,” Zavaleta said.

“We are actually developing an engineering class that we will implement next year that will get students started here, and then they can take the ASU class in the afternoon. ASU is really willing to work with us here.”

ASU Polytechnic Campus also offers the program for high school students to attend at the campus in Gilbert. Currently, students from Corona del Sol and McClintock high schools are enrolled in the program.

“ASU is outreaching college education in a big way,” Hinks said. “I think this is just one example of that which is undoubtedly going to grow.”

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