CAPS students share experiences in outside program

Jordan Huesers, Sara Naatz, Co-editor, Co-editor

Hunter Browning: Engineering Design and Development

Instead of fueling cars with gasoline, he strived to find a method to use water as a fuel source. To do this, he needed to not only remove the hydrogen from the water, but do so in an efficient manner. He designed a system that can run off the existing electrical power source in a car, so that the creation of hydrogen can take place on board, as needed.
He now has seven patents on the technology he designed and is the CEO of two companies.
Senior Hunter Browning participates in the Career for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program, which has allowed him to focus on this project.
This year, he is in an independent study class, Engineering Design and Development. The class encourages students to develop a product and patent it.
His current business, Blis Resonance, will sell technology and the rights to the apparatus he designed. The company, however, is currently in pre-commercialization phase. Hunter, along with a small group of businessmen, are working through government regulations.
“It started as a project and then got really real, and then turned into a company,” he said. “It’s really fun to walk out of meetings with people who are pretty successful in business and then be like ‘Oh, I’m 18.’ That’s pretty fun to get to do a lot of this at a relatively young age compared to most of those guys.”
CAPS Computer Integrated Manufacturing Instructor David Clark said Hunter’s success comes from separating the hydrogen as a part of the process within the vehicle, as opposed to separating the hydrogen and creating a fuel cell.
“If he breaks through with the hydrogen fuel cell, that’s just a huge thing that could revamp a lot of what we are challenged with with energy,” he said. “He’s very interested in many different aspects of science and technology. You can just tell from how he approaches things. He’s cost conscience; he’s market conscience. So as a business person, I think he is going to be very successful.”
Hunter said the first few meetings he attended made him somewhat nervous, but the CAPS program aided him in overcoming that.
“CAPS does a really good job of throwing you into situations like that, that you get over it pretty quick,” he said. “I actually used to be terrified of public speaking, and now I have a presentation somewhere probably once a week, at least.”
Hunter’s mom, Tia Browning, said the CAPS program gave Hunter an environment where he could bring together his talents and interests he already had for engineering.
“There was nothing like that available when my husband and I were in high school,” she said. “So, we knew right away that Hunter, being a very self-motivated person, that he would do very well in an environment like CAPS. We were on board from the beginning.”
Hunter typically works 90 to 100 hours a week through the CAPS program. Hunter said, through this experience, he realized all the potential outside the high school world.
“I don’t necessarily have the highest GPA, and academically, in the regular high school world, I’m not by any means extremely successful, but CAPS really lets you use the skills you are good at and apply them to real life,” he said. “It’s a place where I can actually do something with that, and it’s become a pretty amazing experience thus far because this company is turning into what I’m actually going to do after I graduate.”
Tia now acts as a mentor at CAPS through her company, Earth Expressions. She said CAPS teaches kids an ample number of professional skills vital in the business world such as communicating properly via email or learning the proper behavior in a business meeting.
“There’s a lot of kids who have an aptitude towards, say, science and math, so maybe they are leaning towards engineering, and a program like CAPS actually lets them find, in fact, if they can really bring it all together and apply it in the real work environment,” she said.
Hunter plans to attend the University of Kansas to study electromagnetic physics next year. He chose KU because he plans to work out of an office at CAPS. He will be focusing on his second company, Scope Innovation, which sells patents. Students from the program can come into his company and learn to sell off their patents.
“I’ve had so much fun doing it,” he said. “I want everybody else to get to experience that, too. I will be at KU, so I can be nice and close to the office.”
Hunter said the entire CAPS faculty is passionate about making sure students have the best shot at succeeding. He said all teachers have supported him.
“The best thing about CAPS is you go there and anything you want to try, they’re behind you, and they will give you the resources you need to do it,” he said. “And if you fail, you are still an 18-year-old high school student, so there’s no real repercussions. If you succeed, like in my case and many others, whatever you’ve done becomes completely real world. It basically just gives you a safety net where you can try and you can imagine with zero consequence.”


Ryan Burrow: Foundations of Medicine

Senior Ryan Burrow takes the Foundations of Medicine class through the CAPS program. He decided to enroll because of his interest in pursuing a career in the medical field.
“It’s a lot more specific learning, which I like because it’s something I chose to do and something I want to learn about — not like math and science,” he said. “It’s easier to sit through the class, even though it’s longer, and learn about all that stuff.”
In the class, Burrow, along with his classmates, performed a heart transplant with a cow. They put a heart valve into the cow and sewed it in.
“We do a lot of cool stuff there,” he said. “We do site visits, things in the class that are really cool.”
Burrow said CAPS provides more of a business atmosphere for students than high school.
“All the teachers give you more freedom,” he said. “If you have problems getting there or you’re going to be late, you can just text them and let them know what the deal is. Everybody is dressed up. Everybody is there to learn and actually get something out of it instead of like at school where everybody is just slacking around.
Burrow said his experience through the CAPS program allowed him to discover he no longer wants to pursue a medical career.
“‘I’ve learned there’s a lot of stuff about medicine, and I don’t know if I can do it,” he said. “It is just a lot to learn. It’s really hard.”
Grand DeFonso: Global Marketing and Economics
Senior Grant DeFonso is currently taking the Global Marketing and Economics class through the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program.
When DeFonso was a junior, he went on a tour of the CAPS facility.
“I wasn’t really diggin’ it at first,” he said. “I just wasn’t really into it. But I knew I had to do something that was cool or outstanding, and I couldn’t just take a regular senior schedule full of team sports and weights. I had to do something important.”
Though he originally had little desire to take the CAPS block, he said hearing from students involved in the program changed his mind.
“I know CAPS has a history of its students being involved in real-life work scenarios and the projects they do are very involving,” DeFonso said. “It’s made me more outspoken, more organized and just more professional.”
He currently works with Sterling in his second semester in the Global Marketing and Economics strand of CAPS.
“We’re putting on an event at the Sprint Winter Gardens. It’s pretty much an event recognizing students in CAPS who have shown excellence in their studies and also in the CAPS business programs,” DeFonso said. “It’s a charity event for the Blue Valley Ed Foundation and this year we also chose the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City. Twenty percent of the funds we raise will go to them, 10 percent will be cut for basic administration, and the rest will go to CAPS.”
DeFonso said CAPS has prepared him for his future career in business.
“It’s made me more outspoken, more organized and just more professional,” he said. “It just makes me feel ready for the real world. I think it’s just a life-changing experience. If I hadn’t done CAPS, I wouldn’t have found the connections in the workplace and in the Blue Valley School District among students.”

Matt Aiello: iMedia

It starts with an idea. He then searches for the perfect music to begin his creation.
When he arrives at the CAPS building with his idea, he constructs a detailed storyboard before he begins to film.
Next, he searches for the actors and actresses, as well as the perfect setting to match his vision of the final product.
He then commences filming, in which each scene is carefully shot with consistency.
At last, he reaches the long and detailed process of editing.
He carefully sews each scene together, considering the input of teachers and friends along the way. He adds effects and touch-ups, and finally his film is finished.
Senior Matt Aiello developed a passion for videos when he discovered YouTube in the eighth grade.
After watching countless video game montages, he began to purchase his own editing software to try it out for himself.
“When I started watching YouTube videos, I saw how the responses to the videos allowed a lot of people to connect with them,” he said. “I think it’s cool to be able to connect with people through video.”
Aiello quickly became more interested in other types of film.
He joined Tiger TV to experiment with the broadcast side of video and to further explore his interests behind the camera.
“Broadcast helped me learn the business aspect and deadlines,” he said. “It helped me learn how to get things done.”
Aiello created State football montages with senior Parker Lewis and worked on Tiger TV’s Overtime.
But as his interest in film grew, he decided to try out a semester in the CAPS iMedia program, where he could focus more on his individual videos.
“We try to make sure the students have the opportunity to create their own individual talent in filmmaking,” filmmaking teacher Gina Njegovan said. “The idea is for them to stretch and experiment and take risks and try new things. This is the time to do that.”
Njegovan said the three-period block allows CAPS students to develop their ideas more than normal high school class periods.
“You can’t do anything in video in 50 minutes,” she said. “You can get more work done, and you’re not interrupted. You get that train of thought and you get focused, and then all of a sudden time is up. Any time you’re working on a project that’s very self-directed and you’re meeting deadlines, you need a chunk of time as opposed to short spurts of time.”
Aiello decided to continue studying film at the CAPS facility.
Because this is his third semester in CAPS filmmaking, Aiello now works as an intern for Digital Sports Ventures.
His most recent project included creating video for a Michigan State basketball player.
“At CAPS, you’re able to get that real-world experience,” he said. “Half the time at CAPS, I spend at an internship making sports videos or highlight videos for colleges. It’s nice being able to communicate with businesses and learn how to handle myself.”
Njegovan said CAPS students work with business partners to gain experience, and the students learn from being critiqued by their clients.
“You have a different perspective when you are creating something for yourself for peers to watch as opposed to creating something along the guidelines of a client,” she said. “You have to put aside what you think it should be and do what someone else thinks you should do.”
Though CAPS provides this business aspect of learning, Njegovan said students are also encouraged to pursue their own interests in film.
She said Aiello shows the most interest in documentary filmmaking, and he excels in narratives and story-telling.
“Matt has his own style,” she said. “During his three semesters in my class, he has distinctly developed a style that he likes, although he does take risks. He definitely is looking at a deeper side of human nature. His films are very reflective. He is looking at some very deep subject areas that he’s thinking about.”
Aiello said he hopes to continue to work with film in college and possibly as a career because it is the best way for him to express his opinions and views on what happens around him.
“I mainly do it to express myself,” he said. “I’m not very open about how I feel, and the best way to do it, for me, is through film. That’s the biggest thing — getting my point across. My main goal in the videos is to make people question things.”

Stephanie Shull: Law and Public Safety
Senior Stephanie Shull participates in the Law and Public Safety class through the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program.
Shull enrolled in the class because she hopes to become a lawyer in the future.
“CAPS exposes you to a more professional environment and gives you a lot of opportunities to make a lot of connections with people that can help you in your future,” she said.
Shull said the program exposes high school students to a professional atmosphere.
“You’re in charge of telling your CAPS instructor if you’re going to be late or can’t make it to class,” she said. “[You] learn to send professional emails or how to conduct yourself professionally in interviews.”
In her class, Shull has seen court trials, worked with the Olathe Police Department and participated in shooting stimulations.
“It’s definitely helped me decide this is something I want to do,” she said. “But it’s also made me realize I need to actually start looking into my future because there is a lot I don’t know about what I was supposedly interested in. It’s something I have to start taking into consideration.