VARDEN – The Western Wayne Technology Student Association (TSA) recently participated in a national conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, near Washington, D.C.
TSA is a national organization that allows students to be engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is open to students in middle and high school who take technology education courses.
TSA includes over 211,000 middle and high school students in 2,000 schools, spanning 48 states.
There are more than 64 different competitions students participate in. They are based on concepts and principles from projects students complete during the school year.
Topics range from agriculture and biotechnology, construction renovation, video game design, dragster design, engineering design, flight endurance, music production, structural engineering and medical technology issues.
David Rupp, advisor for the middle school TSA, was attending California University of Pennsylvania for teaching. TSA regionals were being held at the school and he was asked to be a judge.
“I saw the students competing and heard about scholarships that can be earned by participating in TSA,” he said. “In the Northeastern part of the state, there aren't as many schools in TSA compared to the rest of the state.
“I wanted to help the kids succeed in college.”
Rupp helped get the TSA program started at Western Wayne along with Brian Landry, the high school TSA advisor.
The program has existed at Western Wayne for four years.
“TSA helps students earn scholarships to universities across the United States,” said Rupp. “Over the last three years our district has seen around $700,000 in scholarships.
“Students come back and tell us how the program has helped them in college.”
Rupp said students research their topic of interest and learn about it. They then look into what it takes to create a project and what they need for it to succeed.
“They have to have a portfolio, display board and videos,” he stated.
Rupp added one of the biggest lessons students learn from TSA is that failure is ok.
“They try their hardest,” he said. “They may fail, but they learn from that and move on from it.
“They worker harder to reach their goals. It's amazing to watch what they accomplish and how they develop.”
He also said TSA helps not only in college, but in life as well. Students learn leadership skills and teamwork.
“There are a wide area of subjects available in TSA,” Rupp said. “It helps students figure out what type of career path they want to follow. It helps them understand the real world and the bigger picture that there is a lot they can take interest in.”
He added he hopes the program helps students get into the program and school they want.
Rupp said Western Wayne has more females in TSA than males.
“One of the biggest calls for women is in the STEM fields,” he said. “Each year we normally have 60 percent females and 40 percent males.”
Rupp added when students see their peers succeed with TSA it makes them want to do more and be more successful.
At nationals, if students are picked to be semi-finalists, they get interviewed by the judges and answer questions about their project.
Western Wayne's Middle School TSA entered around 30 projects at regionals and 13 made it all the way to nationals.
“Last year we were one of the top 10 highest scoring middle schools at nationals,” Rupp said.
There were 6,829 students who qualified to compete at the national conference this year.
The Western Wayne Middle School favored well at the national competition.
There were three semi-finalists and four finalists.
• Spencer Smith-second place for electrical application.
• Grace Alvarez, Devon Merritt, Kaitlyn Juhasz and Morgan Wagner-fourth place for agriculture and biotechnology design.
• Amanda Kornutiak and Vaeda Pontosky-sixth place for structural model and ninth place for technical design.
• Amanda Kornutiak, Claire Pfaeffle, Maya Black and Rachel Butler for go green manufacturing.
• Claire Pfaeffle, Maya Black and Rachel Butler for leadership strategies.
• Amanda Kornutiak for career prep.
In order for schools to take part in TSA conferences it takes approximately $50,000 each year.
With budget cuts in state funding for education, it's becoming harder for schools to help pay the way for students to attend.
“We used to take 70 students from the middle school and 70 students from the high school,” Rupp said. “We've cut down to 30 from each school.”
At Western Wayne, TSA holds fundraisers to help with the cost so students can still participate.
“I know the school district wants to help, but they can't with budget cuts,” Rupp said. “TSA is a great experience for students, but the cost is a lot to take them.”
They started hosting student fun nights that include activities like badminton, dodgeball and basketball tournaments, minute to win it games and a movie. There is even food and ice cream involved.
“They're our main fundraisers to help with costs,” Rupp stated.
To make nationals this year, it cost around $19,000. The school also received around $7,000 from local businesses that helped with the cost.
“We greatly appreciate the support of the local businesses and thank them for their donations,” Rupp said. “We wouldn't have been able to go otherwise.”
The Wayne County Community Foundation also gave them a $4,000 donation that was used for robotics. It allowed the Vex Robotics team to compete at the national level.
He added going forward they're going to have to raise all of the costs themselves “for the next few years” due to cuts in the budget.
“We already started working on fundraisers for next year,” Rupp said. “I hope the local businesses continue to help. It's a great program. I hope we are able to continue TSA and help give Western Wayne students an advantage when applying for schools around the United States.”
For more information on TSA visit www.tsaweb.org. For more on the Western Wayne TSA program friend Western Wayne TSA Parents Association on Facebook.