Ideas fly at the regional conference of the Pa. Technology Student Association. By Jon Rutter, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Bengochea lobbed his model airplane toward the gymnasium rafters, hoping for maximum time aloft.
Meanwhile, some of the McCaskey High student's peers from other schools harnessed compressed CO2 to blast balsa wood dragsters down a tabletop track.
Still other kids competing in a technology and engineering program Saturday at Conestoga Valley Middle School built robotic airplane seats out of Legos.
They gave technology-related speeches to judges.
They designed websites in timed events.
And that was just for starters at the annual regional conference of the Pennsylvania Technology Student Association.
"Like shop [class] on steroids" is how Tyler Kicera, a Tait Towers designer helping to stage the dragster competition, described the kinetic scene.
"It's sensory overload," acknowledged Christopher Miller, a CV Middle School technology and engineering teacher and TSA Region 2 conference director.
Young left brains ran wild.
And right brains.
TSA gauges numbers and logic knowledge and creativity, Miller said.
Judges give great weight to leadership and real-world problem-solving skills that can be used across disciplines.
The ultimate finish line is the TSA nationals in June, in Orlando, Fla.
This weekend's victors (see posting on LancasterOnline.com) advance first to the state conference, April 17-20 at Seven Springs Resort.
"Which everyone wants to do," said Kicera, a 2003 Manheim Township High School graduate and former TSA award winner, "because it's like a three-day vacation from school."
On Saturday, about 305 middle school and high school students from Lancaster and Lebanon counties competed in more than 60 contests in animatronics, architecture, biotechnology, construction, engineering, video/photo and transportation modeling.
Some architecture technology students made small scale adaptations of houses using designs from vintage do-it-yourself Sears kits (pre-World War II cost for the homes, $652).
TSA's enduring industrial arts background was beautifully manifest in the furniture projects.
"I built a coffee table and a Shaker table," said Derek Plaisted, a CV senior in his first, and last, TSA appearance. "I really liked them" and thought other people might, too.
Three of Plaisted's underclassmen companions from the school, Brandon Frey, Jeremy Martin and Ethan Finger, described inventing a "green" compactor for aluminum cans.
"The purpose is to crush the cans so you can save space in recycling containers," said Frey, whose team made states last year.
Some kids competed simultaneously in separate contests.
Requirements for their projects were written in stone, giving a taste of work-a-day world demands.
A third of the dragsters were disqualified for flunking design criteria.
Aeronautics contest kids were docked if they didn't follow directions for making scale drawings of their rubber band planes.
"Really," said Chuck Hurdleston, a retired military helicopter pilot judging one of the flying events, "it's an attention to detail thing."
TSA is a motivator for kids and a kind of incubator for innovative thinking, according to CV parents Tracy and Andy Cutler.
"I'm fascinated," said Tracy Cutler, whose 12-year-old daughter, Anna, and 14-year-old son, Ben –– a TSA national competitor in past years –– were competing Saturday.
"What it does is reinforce success in a different way," she said. "They have deadlines. These are the rules. Deliver the product."
Jim Bengochea, the McCaskey model airplane pilot, did just that.
"I finished up last night" with construction of the plane, said Jim, who plans to go into graphics rather than aeronautics.
"If you have a creative mind you can do anything," he said.n