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Student Stories 

Hear from this teen about how much she appreciated the architecture course she took online in fall 2020. 

Building a Solid Foundation in Architectural Studies

Vasilisa Karp, Architectural Studies Student

A senior at Ballard High School in Seattle, Vasilisa Karp knows that high school is an important time for self-discovery. She explored genetics through summer courses and illustration through freelance work. Recently, as she started contemplating college majors and careers, she got curious about architecture and urban design.

“It seemed to fit everything that I really enjoy — sustainability, helping people, creating spaces that can be used by everyone,” said Vasilisa. “And also you get to draw, you get to design things.”

Her high school didn’t offer architecture courses, so Vasilisa’s counselor suggested she enroll in the UW youth course in architectural studies to explore her interest.

Trying Her Hand at Architecture

During her fall semester of senior year, for two evenings a week, Vasilisa joined 24 other high school students for the architectural studies class in a real-time, remote format.

Taught by two professional architects, this course is designed to be an introduction to the issues architects have to consider when creating buildings.

“[It made me realize] how certain decisions made by an architect can influence the people living and interacting in a space — like how a window in a room contributes to a person’s mood.”

In addition to learning architectural concepts and history, Vasilisa gained hands-on experience in architectural tools and techniques through design prompts.

For one project, she redesigned an outdoor space to better benefit its community. In another, she was tasked with recreating a building using card stock paper.

“It was a very helpful way of analyzing the space and understanding the different structures,” she said.

A Community of Budding Architects

A valuable part of the course experience was learning alongside peers from across the state and country who were also interested in architecture. After a design prompt, students would divide into breakout rooms to critique each other’s work.

“Everyone is super passionate about what they are doing,” said Vasilisa. “It created this really constructive, healthy atmosphere where everyone wants everyone else to succeed and do the best that they can do.”

Thanks to this course, Vasilisa is confident in her decision to pursue architecture in college.

“It has just been an amazing way to see if architecture is the right fit for me,” said Vasilisa.


Hear from this teen about how much she appreciated the coding course she took online in fall 2020. 

First Taste of Java

Michelle Hu, Coding in Java I Student

A high school junior who is leaning toward a career in STEM, Michelle Hu knew coding would be an important skill for her future.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t find the right class for her.

“The programs at my school weren't really geared toward the basics in coding,” said Michelle, a student at Bellevue High School. “I was worried about taking AP Computer Science when I had no previous coding experience."

So when she heard about the UW entry-level youth course Coding in Java I, she jumped in.

“It seemed like a good way for me to dip my toes into the world of computer science without having to be stressed or pressured,” said Michelle.

School by Day, Coding by Night

During her fall semester, two evenings a week, Michelle studied the fundamentals of Java with other high school students through a real-time, remote format. She learned how to work with objects, variables, loops, classes, arrays and lists.

“I would say that while the course is challenging, it's very engaging,” said Michelle. “I had a lot of fun solving problems and figuring out what to use these new skills for.”

Michelle even wrote her first program on her own.

“I wrote a program to draw a house — just a little square and then a triangle on top,” she said. “It wasn't anything complicated, but it was the first project that I managed to do by myself. I was like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’ I was really proud of myself.”

Part of the success of Coding in Java I was the low-pressure atmosphere that enabled Michelle to dive deep into a topic and practice new concepts without the worry of grades or a final exam.

“My instructor made the environment very open,” said Michelle. “He never made me feel afraid to ask questions.”

Coding in Her Future

Thanks to this course, Michelle is inspired to continue to learn how to code on her own.

“It gave me a lot of the resources and tools I can use to begin studying for the AP Computer Science exam,” said Michelle. “What I'll probably end up doing next is look at a couple of resources and practice problems and try to fill those gaps in my knowledge.”

Looking toward her future, Michelle feels like she has a foundation to build upon.

“I think this course will be really helpful because a lot of jobs in STEM fields require some knowledge of computer science,” she said.