Phoenix, AZ – James Shaffer is an accomplished ballet dancer and musician, and he’s well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming an electrical engineer and inventor – and he’s 18 years old.
James says his long-term goal is to invent a super-efficient and portable battery, “As an electrical engineer I want to create more sustainable energy. I want to figure out some ways to make flexible and versatile batteries in order to create a society that can have more accessible energy. Batteries right now are a little bit heavy, and I want to make batteries that are slimmer and that can be turned into stickers, or they can be created into any shapes that we can imagine. You could use the batteries in a biomedical aspect – you could probably stick one on top of a patient who has a pacemaker. Or, you could have something similar to a big stack of copy paper, but it would be batteries that we could stick on the back of our phones, or cars, or our televisions. Ultimately I would like to work for or with a company that will support my innovations such as Tesla, or another smaller company within the biomedical field.”
James was born in Fremont, California and raised in Phoenix from the age of two, and he graduated from the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, where ballet and music were a big part of his education. James is currently attending Glendale Community College, and plans to transfer to Arizona State University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering.
James says being immersed in the arts at a young age is paying off in college:
“I would say so, because in dance they really work you hard physically, and with all of the other school work on top of that, I went through mental and physical burnout at times. So, I learned how to work through the physical and mental hardships, which I feel strengthened me a lot. Also, the music really opened up a lot of different thinking techniques for me – because, in music you have to think creatively and mathematically. So, it’s really helped me out in my math classes and my engineering classes for creativity and mathematics.”
Transitioning from high school to college can pose a major struggle for some students, but James eased into college, “Three days after graduating from high school I started a six-week long bridge program at community college. It involved six-to-eight hour days where we had an engineering class for part of the day, and then we would work on other skills such as communication and leadership. That program helped make it an easier transition by helping me to understand more about college, and what I’m getting into.”
James offers some advice for middle and high school students considering their own college options, “As I entered high school I soon realized that community college would be a great option for me because, it’s affordable and it’s close. Also, I realized that all of the classrooms would be a lot smaller and more personable for me. So, the community college route has definitely worked out really well for me, because community college gives you to time to realize exactly what it is that you want to do for a career.”
James adds that his family has been very supportive of his educational pursuits, “My mother attended community college and she hasn’t graduated yet with her bachelor’s (degree), so we’re actually racing – and that’s been a really good support for me, is racing my mother to graduate. I don’t know how many students can say that. But, my father as well – he didn’t attend college and sometimes he wishes he did, but he’s doing really well on his own. He just says that college would have made his life a little bit easier and he’s been really supportive of my journey.”
James is among the hundreds of students who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, “College Success Arizona has definitely helped my success. Honestly I don’t know if I would have been able to afford college without this scholarship. It was the first scholarship that I’ve ever received and it’s definitely been the best that I have had so far. Also, with College Success Arizona I love having the resources that they provide, such as the workshops for career services to help me improve upon the skills that I already have.”
Scholars, such as James, also receive specialized mentoring services from a team of highly skilled “Success Advisers.” James offers high praise for his success adviser, Matt Sotelo, “Matt’s a super down-to-Earth guy and I love visiting his office because he’s always so welcoming and helpful. For example, not to long ago I asked him for some help in learning more about a program that will help me transfer from Glendale Community College to ASU, and he helped connect me with some employees at ASU, and now I’m signed up for the program.”