Engineering Program 'Catapults' Teens to College Success

By: Christina Southern on May 16, 2016 1:35:43 PM
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TekLinks provides online academy with free cloud servers


High school students who complete the Catapult Engineering Academy program are often superstars in the collegiate classroom. Albeit, superstars who are sometimes accused of cheating.

“Ten or more students have been accused of cheating on coding because the programs they wrote were so far ahead of what the professor taught,” says Gabby Gilmer, director of Curriculum Support at Catapult.

Many of the students have noted “breaking the scale” in their physics or intro engineering classes. “They get a 100 on an exam, but the class average was a 47,” says Gabby. “Their professors will refuse to scale the test because of the one 100 made by our alum.”

Catapult Engineering Academy is an online college-prep high school engineering curriculum developed by engineers. Specifically, Mark Conner of Birmingham, who is the founding CEO.

Mark ConnerHis vision in 2014 was to create a program that provides parents, teachers, and administrators across the country with tools to offer college-level engineering courses to high school students in private, public, and homeschooling environments.

Today, the one-of-a-kind online program serves about 85 students with the help of cloud servers provided at no cost by TekLinks Inc., an IT company headquartered in Birmingham. “Having this kind of support allows us to make our program more affordable to students. We pass the savings on to them,” says Mark.

TekLinks, which supports clients throughout the U.S., is built upon three core purposes: Love Our Team, Delight Our Customers, and Serve Our Community. “We can’t think of a better way to help our community than by investing in the future of young people,” says David Powell, Vice President of Strategic Development. “As a technology company, TekLinks is interested in advancing the education of students in science, technology, engineering, and math. Talent shortages in those fields are something that all companies wrestle with, and we are pleased to be able to help develop STEM education with students right here in our community and throughout the U.S.”

Catapult’s roots can be traced to Birmingham’s Hoover High School when Mark, who was a science teacher, was asked in 2004 to create an engineering curriculum for a new program. In light of his own difficult first couple of years in collegiate classrooms, Mark knew a college-prep curriculum was the right direction.

Ten years after creating the Hoover program, he established the private online company Catapult Engineering Academy so that students across the country could also have an edge with college engineering coursework.

“To be an engineer, you really have to make it through the gauntlet,” says Mark. “Our goal is to mirror the first two years of the undergraduate school, which is where so many drop out. A lack of exposure overwhelms the students, and that’s what we aim to eliminate.”

One way in which Mark’s engineering curriculum prepares teens for the college classroom is by incorporating a variety of communication skills. Students learn how to speak in formal and informal settings, write technical papers, and prepare engaging presentations.

“These added skills give our students an edge. As they enter college, there’s a level of confidence that is significantly different from their peers,” says Mark.

Learn more about bringing Catapult Engineering Academy to your school next year at or on Twitter.

WHO IS TEKLINKS? A national leader in cloud computing, managed services, engineering services, and value-added resale. We’re a team of expert techies and business professionals who are passionate about building valuable relationships and getting things done right. We work together, work smart, and play hard. Simply put: We make IT work for business.

Topics: Industry News, C Spire News

CONSIDER IT MANAGED. C Spire Business is the nation’s first full-stack managed solutions provider, capable of offering advanced connectivity, cloud, software, hardware, communications, professional services, cybersecurity, business continuity, and technology support in a single, seamless IT solution portfolio. The result is smarter. Faster. More secure. From desktop to data center, we meet you wherever you are and take on your biggest technology challenges.