Pre-College Programs

May 15, 2017

The Online Student Experience

Brown’s Pre-College Summer Programs offer courses that can bring you to campus and abroad. But if commitments keep you closer to home, you still have options. Brown’s Pre-College Online Courses bring right to your fingertips a rigorous, active learning experience in many of the same subjects covered by Brown’s other summer programs. Courses involve more than just logging screen time: they’re an opportunity to interact with engaged instructors and students, take part in hands-on learning activities, and be challenged by college-level coursework, all while learning on a flexible weekly schedule.

But don’t take our word for it. Here, two students who took Indrek Külaot’s course on “Renewable Energy Engineering: Wind and Solar Power” in recent years spoke with us about what they thought about the online course, what they learned, and how the course benefitted them academically and beyond.

Cameron Harris Taylor

A sophomore at Junius H. Rose High School in Greenville, North Carolina, Cameron will attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math starting next year for his junior and senior year of high school.

Why did you choose the Brown Pre-College Online program?

I wanted to learn about Brown and I had other activities planned for the summer so the online schedule worked best for me.

Why did you chose Dr. Külaots' course on renewable energy?

I had recently developed an interest in the subject and I was looking for a course that went in-depth about photovoltaics and the machinery surrounding wind power. The course description matched those interests exactly.

What was your favorite part?

The projects. It was intriguing to take the concepts we were learning and apply them to actual situations such as making a design for completely converting a country of our choice to renewable energy. In one experiment, we were assigned the task of making an anemometer with straws and cups. We used our new anemometers to measure wind speeds at various locations. There’s very little wind in Greenville, so I searched in several places until my anemometer spun at the top of an overpass. After we submitted our results, we discussed oneeach another’s findings.

What surprised you most?

I was surprised by how diverse our class was. There were students from all over the United States as well as around the world. I was also impressed by how the seemingly simple experiments Dr. Külaots had us do helped me understand larger concepts.

How much interaction did you have with Dr. Külaots and the other students?

Even with the online format, there was ample contact between other students and meI as well as with Dr. Külaots. We peer-edited projects, which exposed me to many different approaches and ideas. Dr. Külaots also responded instantly to all my emails. Whenever I struggled with a concept, Dr. Küulaots was quick to video conference with me, -- sometimes the same day, -- and he always answered my questions thoroughly.

How do you feel the course benefitted you academically?

I felt more prepared for competitions like the Science Olympiad. Taking part in this event, I was able to apply concepts from the course to make a wind turbine. I also coached a middle-school team in the Science Olympiad, and through the knowledge I gained from the course, I helped that team take second in their wind power event.

Do you feel the online course benefitted you in any way beyond academics?

It motivated me to subscribe to online renewable energy magazines to learn more about the subject. I was also was invited to tour a solar farm with my local Congressman after he heard about my interest in renewable energy.

Oliver Allen

Pictured here with Dr. Külaots on a recent visit to the Brown campus. Oliver is a junior at Chatham High School in Chatham, New York.

Why did you choose the Brown Pre-College Online program?

I was looking around for programs I could do online as I have a job and couldn't afford to be away for several weeks, and Brown's online engineering courses caught my eye.

What surprised you most about Dr. Külaots' course?

How both challenging and fun it was. I also was surprised by how much help and guidance I received from Dr. Külaots. He was available for any and all questions. That's what made the course so extraordinary: I could email Dr. Külaots with questions -- I had a lot of them! -- and he always replied with very thorough answers. I never felt lost or confused, and if I did, I knew he would help me understand. I was initially nervous about class, about asking dumb questions. I have to say that Dr. Külaots is one of the friendliest and kindest teachers I've ever had. It really felt like he cared about his students and about renewable energy.

What was your favorite part?

I really liked that it was such a challenging class, that I was asked to think beyond what I am accustomed to and strive to do better. It felt like a college course with a high bar and gave me a taste of what will be required of me in college classes.

What did you take away from the course?

That renewable energy is close to replacing fossil fuels and that all that's needed is the will to make it so. For our final project, we had to calculate how much it would cost to convert all of a given state or country to solar and wind power and different types of solar panels. Calculating the conversion took a lot of math but it also made me look at my state, how we use energy, and how much we use. That was eye-opening.