Brian Copes

Thompson High School
United States


Unusually for a teacher, Brian hated school for the most part as a child, which in his case consisted of an uninspiring and traditional educational environment. At a crossroads, he recalled his technology teachers’ belief in him and decided to pursue a career in education, hoping he could inspire some to learn. Brian has consistently expected high standards from his students and this is turn has led them to achieve beyond their own expectations. In many cases, he also acts as the only male role model some students have.

Brian’s distinctive approach is project-based learning, which inculcates important STEM skills while integrating this knowledge with design that helps benefit others in the community. His students have actually designed inexpensive vehicles for assembly using ordinary hand tools in remote world locations. These projects have won them the Basic Utility Vehicle competition in various categories over consecutive years. Another hugely successful project was the design and manufacture of less-expensive prosthetic limbs which students then fitted to patients in parts of the world such as Honduras. This is particularly important because 80% of all amputees live in developing countries. Brian’s students have also worked in the University of Alabama Engineering department, where they have had a hand in building cryogenic freezers used on the International Space Station.

Brian has received the 2015 Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and was named 2014 Environmental Teacher of the Year, along with many other awards over the years. With the prize funds, Brian would seek to establish ‘Sister School’ partnerships with other schools around the world, and develop the products his students design to go into production.







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