Making a Difference: Stephen Parsons
Engineering the Future
I feel quite prepared—just as well as anyone else, if not better—to use the resources I have in order to learn better. I don’t think I would have had that without taking KET’s AP Physics.
Stephen Parsons – Engineering student
Online courses from KET, including Honors and AP® Physics, are providing an academic option not otherwise available to many students—and giving those students a real leg up on their studies.
Stephen Parsons may not be on a mission to change the world. But it’s pretty obvious that he wants to make an impact on at least a little corner of it. An engineering student, he’s already thinking about biomedical engineering with an eye to making a difference in the lives of people far from home.
“I’d like to design biomedical devices, prosthetics, or medical equipment or even some nano technology-related things,” said the quiet yet earnest freshman at the University of Kentucky. “But I’m personally more interested in more of the Third World, ‘cheaper’ side of it, as opposed to cutting-edge research. I’m interested in developing stuff that would be more accessible.”
Trace the genesis of these big dreams by taking a look at the interests he’s had throughout his life: from a Lego-obsessed little boy who later built a rowboat with his dad to a high-achieving teen who devoured every advanced class offered at Lexington’s Bryan Station High School.
And when there were no more advanced classes for him to take, Parsons turned to KET to provide him with an Advanced Placement Physics course that earned him not only college credit but the highest grade possible on its standardized test.
“I have always liked physics. I took Advanced Physics my junior year and my friend Satchel (Fowler) and I were both interested in AP Physics,” Parsons said from Ingels Hall, a dorm housing mainly engineering students at UK. (Fowler is now a physics major at Transylvania.)
“But my high school didn’t offer it, so we found KET’s online course. I loved the class.”
A focused student, who also excels on the violin and challenged himself in cross-country running, Parsons particularly appreciated the control KET’s physics course permitted him.
“I like everything to be organized so that I can work at my own pace but know what I need to get done ahead of time,” he said. “This class, of any I have ever taken, was the most suited to that style of learning.”
Key to the course designed by KET’s master teacher Chuck Duncan—who has taught Physics via satellite and now the Internet since the inception of KET’s distance learning courses in 1989—are its virtual physics labs.
Here, students can perform laboratory experiments with virtual equipment that behaves just as real instruments do, with some very attractive benefits.
“I liked it a lot; for one thing, it was very nice not to have to set up and then take apart the lab,” Parsons said. “That might have been the best part—it always seems to take just as long, if not longer, than doing what you’ve set out to do.
“And it’s always there,” he continued. “You can save it and leave and nobody’s going to mess with it. And you get to use what might be expensive equipment in real life, so there’s access to some instruments that schools may not have access to.”
As an example, Parsons points to the lab on light refraction, an experiment that would normally be impossible under the conditions in most high schools.
In addition to providing him with coursework that he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to take, Parsons says that KET’s distance learning AP Physics course provided him with benefits beyond the physics instruction.
“I can already tell it has helped and has been applicable to other classes,” Parsons said during his second week at UK.
“I am taking Calculus III and it’s rather difficult. But I feel quite prepared—just as well as anyone else, if not better—to use the resources I have in order to learn better. I don’t think I would have had that without taking KET’s AP Physics.”