While most 16-year-olds are focused on getting their driver’s licenses and other high school rites of passage, Nick Samborski spent the days before his spring break figuring out how to build a solar panel battery charger.
It was all part of a day’s work for Samborski, a rising senior at J.P. Knapp Early College High School. Samborski is one 24 juniors at the high school currently working on simultaneously earning a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree in Applied Sciences for computer engineering from College of The Albemarle.
Since 2009, the Currituck County high school has had an educational partnership with COA that allows students to earn their high school diplomas and an associate’s degree in their chosen field of study. Previously, the partnership allowed the high school students the opportunity to earn either an Associate’s Degree in Arts or an Associate’s Degree in Science, but this year the program was expanded and students were given the opportunity to choose from four different associate’s degree programs. Christine Kasten, a guidance counselor at J.P. Knapp, said now students can also earn Associate’s Degrees in Applied Sciences or an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts.
“I think the students are really excited that they have the access to those courses and have the ability to dive in earlier,” Kasten said, referring to the J.P. Knapp students seeking their associate degrees. “I think we’re growing enormously. Our upcoming freshman class is at 85 students and that’s bigger than last year.”
Since beginning the coursework for his degree, Samborski has learned the skills necessary to install, service and maintain computers, networks and computer-controlled equipment. The curriculum includes lots of math, physics and electronics, and the classes haven’t been easy.
“It’s been hard work, but it’s been worth it,” Samborski said, adding that he hopes to eventually land a job in computer programming or design.
COA’s courses, he added, have been helpful in preparing him for his future career and have given him an idea of what he will be facing in his chosen profession.
Kerry Krauss, assistant professor of computer systems and electronics engineering technology and coordinator of the program, used to teach some of COA’s computer engineering technology classes at local high schools until this school year.
Beginning this year, Krauss’ high school students come to COA’s Elizabeth City campus. Krauss said students in his off-campus high school classes last year didn’t turn their labs in on time and often failed to write up their lab results.
“The kids were still in a high school environment and they acted like it,” Krauss said. “It was not a college learning environment, so all of the classes are taught at campus sites now. It basically is a benefit for the students in that they find they have to do things the way the industry standards require.”
Samborski is one of two J.P. Knapp juniors in Krauss’ Troubleshooting course, a computer engineering technology class. In that class, Krauss said these younger students are learning about more than just the coursework.
“It’s not just about learning the technology, but they are adapting to a college environment,” Krauss said. “Very few of these students do not have an adjustment. I’m proud of both of them. They are very bright students, they are not just mediocre students.”
After returning from his spring break a few months ago, Samborski and his lab partner had to take down their solar panel battery charger and set it up in the classroom to find out how much solar energy their batteries had collected.
“We came back and saw how long it powered a 60W light bulb,” Samborski said. “From the charge it had left, it probably had three or four hours it could have gone. It was a great project and we learned how we can derive so much power from the sun and so easily.”
Although the Troubleshooting class is required for Samborski’s degree, it was an essential course that provided him with a broad base of knowledge that he knows will be useful in the future.
“It’s given me more knowledge of how to troubleshoot electronics and taught me how electronics work,” he said. “It’s just a good, basic knowledge and I’ll be able to use it in almost any sort of career field I go into in the computer world.”