Get to know Thayer High School student Cole West, a University of Missouri-bound senior who is currently taking Launch’s AP Physics course.
Access Launch: What is your favorite thing about AP Physics?
Cole West: What I like about AP Physics is the fact that you really get an understanding of the world around you. You don’t realize how everything is affected by physics and mathematics until you take a physics course, and AP Physics really gives you a deeper understanding of how everything works, at least to some extent.
Access: Could you have taken this course seated?
C.W.: No. Thayer does offer a Physics course, but it’s a rudimentary course, and it’s not available AP or dual credit. I wanted to take AP Physics strictly for the reason that I wanted the college credit, and because it was more advanced and more at my pace.
Access: Has your online learning experience been what you expected it to be?
C.W.: I was really surprised about how comprehensive Launch is. The teachers are surprisingly interactive, unlike other online courses I’ve taken at other schools. It just makes you feel like you’re actually in a class.
Access: Tell me a bit about the physics kit you received after enrolling in the course.
C.W.: You get an electrometer, tape, dual force sensors, a standard sensor that uses sonic pulses to track movement and velocity, various experiments, wiring kits and such. The reason why I really enjoy the kit is because, personally, I couldn’t afford any of that stuff! The kit is rather expensive, and I just love that I get the opportunity to have hands-on interaction with all of these things that help me get a better understanding of Physics.
Access: What do you plan to do after you graduate high school?
C.W.: My plan for after high school is to attend Mizzou. I have actually been admitted, and I’ll begin there this summer with summer courses. I would like to have my general education done in a year, and then after that I will begin pursuing my pre-doctoral degree in Physics, and then my graduate degree and doctorate in physics.
Access: What’s your dream job?
C.W.: I want to be a theoretical physicist—one who does maths to understand what, as of right now, we don’t. I want to be able to affect our understanding of how the universe works, and particle physics is all about that.
Access: Where would you work as a theoretical physicist?
C.W.: My dream place to work is the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. What I would do is analyze the data that experimental engineers and physicists take. I would work on mats and write papers about theories, such as the theory of the graviton—things like that. I’d be thinking about how to better conceptualize ideas. I’d be more of an idea man there.
Access: Do you interact often?
C.W.: Yes. I remember an occasion in which I had a question on a piece of homework that I was doing. I sent a message about 8 p.m., and I wasn’t expecting a response until the next day. But within in five minutes, my teacher sent a response. That’s where I think Launch differs from standard schooling, and that’s one of the reasons that I think Launch is so beneficial to have. It’s a level of connection, because the teachers really care.
Access: Do you watch any TV shows?
C.W.: I really like Game of Thrones. The story behind it is very comprehensive, and I’ve actually read the books, which are awesome as well. I watched this show called The Masked Singer on Hulu recently too.
Access: What about books—are you reading anything currently?
C.W.: I’m reading a psychology book called “Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking.” It’s about the sociology of humans in general, and it’s pretty interesting. I was reading a Dale Carnegie book about how to be a successful individual before this, and it was very comprehensive as well. It’s difficult for me to find a book that I read simply for pleasure—there’s usually some sort of what somebody would consider a benefit.
Access: What are your other hobbies?
C.W.: I read a lot of physics journals—I like to stay caught up with the field that I want to eventually go in to. I also read a lot of academic literature. I play video games, too—I am actually a dungeon master for Dungeons & Dragons, and I enjoy playing Skyrim. It’s fantasy, and it offers a certain level of disconnect to the real world—everyone needs that on occasion. Just some time for themselves—not necessarily a dissociation from reality, but a reprieve.
Access: Do you use any forms of social media?
C.W.: I have a Snapchat, a Twitter that I don’t use too often, an Instagram and a Facebook. Facebook or Twitter would probably be my favorite—I like Facebook because it’s more widely connected and a lot of my family is on there.
Access: Is there anything else you’d like to say about Launch?
C.W.: I advocate for it thoroughly, and very often. When students say, ‘I want to get into this class, but we don’t have it here,’ I tell them to ask if it’s offered with the Launch program. AP Physics wasn’t on the original roster list of classes we could take here in Thayer, but all you have to do is ask.