North Kitsap students get technical about their futures

POULSBO — A group of dedicated local high school students aren't letting the summer break put their learning on hiatus.

Seven students from North Kitsap and five from Kingston High recently spent five days in Denver at the Technology Student Association's national conference. The group delved into technical activities ranging from fashion design to engineering and film making and came home with a handful of awards for their efforts.

"This is one of those things that gives kids the chance to do some projects and show what they can do," Kingston TSA advisor David Leinweber said of the national competition.

North Kitsap's Amber Hoak, who will study bioengineering at the University of Washington next fall, earned a TSA Gold Leadership Achievement award and a TSA Technology Society award for her work with volunteer programs and technology classes, in addition to being the treasurer for the Washington state TSA conference. Hoak said, despite the competitive nature of the conference, participants at the national event remained businesslike and respectful — characteristics the TSA tries to instill in students.

"It was competitive, but everyone was pretty friendly," she said. "You have to admire that people have put in a lot of work to get there."

In addition to the two awards, Hoak and her sister Julia took sixth place in fashion design for creating a prom dress and man's suit.

North Kitsap students Tyler Gregg and Tabor Reedy beat out more than 100 entrants in the film division to win fourth place with a comedic short about film making. Gregg said he joined the TSA two years ago to help him get a leg up in the technology industry.

"The name drew me in. I knew I wanted to have a career in technology," Gregg said. "It's really cool to be able to make things that you know are your own and that you know people don't do the same way. It's very rewarding."

Kingston High also sent two contestants to the winner's circle. Nathan Hirsch and Sam Fox placed 10th in the technology problem solving unit by building a MacGuyver-like contraption out of a rubber band, propeller, styrofoam and other junk-drawer items that transported a ball bearing from one end of a string to another.

North Kitsap seniors Jeremy Dyer and Andrew Curtis placed eighth in electronic research and experimentation by designing and building a computer-controlled laser show. Kingston students Kimo Mackey, Sam Shoemaker and Shannon McCalib, along with North Kitsap student Josh Thornell, also participated in the national competition, but did not crack the top 10 in their respective categories.

Though both schools require students to take certain classes before joining the TSA club, most of the TSA-related work is extra-curricular and done of the students' own initiative.

"Other than the little Ohm's law, motors and electro-magnetism unit in our class, I do not teach any of those skills," North Kitsap TSA advisor Eric Nieland wrote in an email to parents. "So, the research, preparation, practice and hard work can be primarily attributed to your students."

The TSA is a career and technical service organization (CTSO) for students interested in occupations that involve engineering, design and technical skills. Other popular CTSOs revolve around different career fields and include the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Business Professionals of America (BPA).

"This is an organization that's surrounding that whole technical field that's developed around computers. The FFA raises pigs, we do this," Leinweber said.

In addition to the engineering and design ventures, TSA students take part in programs that teach them how to succeed at managing people and projects.

"Colleges are looking for that well-rounded individual," Leinweber said. "Part of the goal of the club is to get (students) to be rubbing shoulders with folks in the business industry, and a portion of it is leadership training."

In order to get to the national competition, students often must win first place in their category in the state competitions, which take place each spring.

"The big push there (at the state competition) is to help students understand how the big national conference works," Nieland said.

While the Washington state competition is not as heavily attended as state conferences on the east coast, the national TSA competition is a large function, attended this year by more than 4,500 students. As such, there are about 40 types of events to choose from, so students can experiment with various skill sets that interest them.

"It gives you the opportunity to do things you can't do in school," Gregg said. "I might see something next year that has nothing to do with film or animation. You just never know."

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