Hampton Feature

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Back To The Future:  Hampton High School's TSA Chapter

Copyright Hampton Magazine, Hampton Township School District, Pennsylvania. Reprinted with permission.

By David G. Young


Way back when America was largely an agrarian culture, public education consisted mainly of the “Three R’s.” For decades reading, writing, and arithmetic – and hopefully spelling-- seemed to define the principal skills our students needed in order to function in society. Today, however, in our complex post-industrial world the concept of the “Three R’s” seems to barely provide a foundation for student learning needs. Today’s students have to be able to navigate complicated modern technology, as well as to understand the role that technology plays in modern society. Fortunately, Hampton Township Schoool District (Pennsylvania) increasingly provides its students with technology integrated into the curriculum. As an extra-curricular, Hampton High School’s Technology Student Association (TSA) provides members with opportunities to enhance their technical skills through hands-on experimentation and competition.


The mission of TSA is to “…foster personal growth, leadership, and opportunities in technology,

innovation, design, and engineering.  Its members apply and integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts through co-curricular activities, competitive events and related programs.”

The motto is “Learning to live in a technical world.”  Indeed, living in a technical world is a challenge that most Americans face every day.  The rate of change has accelerated in our society, making it ever harder to keep up. That’s why TSA provides such a valuable opportunity to enrich and expand our students’ learning beyond the classroom.  But the focus on technology education in our society isn’t just a 21st century phenomenon. 


Not Your Father’s Shop Class

Few Americans in the 1950s would have envisioned a future that included personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, and numerous forms of new media. But they did understand it when

American technology appeared to be eclipsed in 1957. In October of that year the Soviets launched the world’s first satellite into Earth’s orbit. Sputnik both fascinated and frightened Americans and the event sparked a national dialogue about how and why America had fallen so far behind the Russians technologically. The launch of Sputnik galvanized Americans and led directly to the space program and our moon landing in 1969. As JFK said in 1961, when he called for a national commitment to space exploration, “Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the back wash of the coming age of space.”


One of the spin-off effects of that initiative was a renewed focus on math and science instruction, along with a broadening of post-secondary educational opportunities through scholarships and initiatives such as the community college system.  Prior to these efforts, the primary form of technology education found in most high schools was “shop” class.  Since the turn of the last century most high school curricula included mandatory courses in “manual arts” and “industrial arts” to teach the basics of mechanics and technology. But, over the past 30 years industrial arts programs have expanded beyond the basics to embrace computers, communications, visual technologies, robotics, automotive technologies and related subject areas. This expansion surely reflects the growing role that technology plays in our society. TSA has been one of the leading advocates of  “hands on” technical education for the past 30 years. National TSA began as the American Industrial Arts Student Association in 1958.  As the scope and focus of this organization continued to evolve through the mid-1980s, the name was eventually changed in 1988 to the Technology Student Association. Today there are TSA chapters in 47 states that presently include over 150,000 middle and high school students who are enrolled in technology education courses. As a “co-curricular program” TSA expands the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics beyond the classroom and allows students to team up and tackle hands-on projects involving a multitude of technologies. They can also engage in competitive events, and attend conferences on the state and national levels. TSA also provides students with leadership opportunities.  In many ways TSA’s competitions and conferences are reminiscent of the local, state and nationals science fairs that became popular in the 1950s, especially following Sputnik. But today’s TSA competitions embrace a much broader range of subjects that those old science fairs.


Hands-On Learning

Hampton’s TSA is sponsored by three faculty members:  Vince Kuzniewski, John Musulin, and Mary Lou Ellena Wygonik.  The club began in 2005 through the efforts of student Heather Seitz, who was a junior at the time. TSA was open to all students involved in technical classes, regardless of their grade point average.  Student members in the Association all have a chance to exercise their creativity and problem-solving skills, no matter what their technological interests.  “TSA has come a long way in three short years,” says Vince Kuzniewski. “We started with around 15 kids in 2005 and now we’re up to 47 active members. It’s been a very successful program and the students’ enthusiasm for it seems to grow year after year.”Vince Kuzniewski is Hampton High School’s technology education teacher. He teaches classes in wood shop, architecture, video production, visual communications and construction systems.

In addition to TSA Vince also advises the robotics club and the video club. And, as “Mr. K” explains, TSA is a perfect adjunct to classroom instruction because it presents the students with real world situations and gives them an opportunity to solve those problems using a structured set of parameters and clear guidelines.


“The sense of accomplishment that our students feel when they complete their projects, and particularly when they compete with their projects successfully, is very gratifying to watch.” Advisor John Musulin teaches Automotive Technology, Metal Technology and Intro to Transportation. He has been a TSA adviser for three years and specifically supervises the students’ CO2 racecar projects. In addition he chaperones TSA students on trips to competitions and conferences and also coaches the robotics team for the “Battlebots” competition. Mary Lou Ellena-Wygonik has been a TSA co-sponsor for the past two years. A former English and speech teacher, she is currently the high school’s Enrichment Facilitator. Ironically, she also considers herself to be the most unlikely candidate to be a ”technology” advisor, referring to herself instead as “technologically challenged,” at times. But TSA competitions actually bring together a convergence of skills, including speaking, writing, and interpersonal communication, as well as math and science.  “I have definitely seen the impact TSA has had in helping individual students to improve their communication abilities, as well as their technical skills,” she says. But, make no mistake about it… the central focus of TSA is on helping students to expand their  knowledge and skills in a very wide variety of technical disciplines. Just a sampling of the areas

in which students may compete demonstrates an almost bewildering variety:

• Agriculture and Biotechnology Design - Students conduct research on a contemporary agriculture or biotechnology problem of their choosing, document their research, and create a display.

• Animatronics - Students demonstrate knowledge of mechanical and control systems by designing, fabricating, and controlling an animatronics device that will communicate, entertain, inform, demonstrate and/or illustrate a topic, idea, subject or concept.

• Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Architecture with Animation - Students create representations, such as foundation and/or floor plans, and/or elevation drawings, and/or details of architectural ornamentation or cabinetry. Students may be expected to animate a presentation of their entry.

• Construction Systems - Students complete a written test on general construction systems knowledge. Semifinalist teams demonstrate their knowledge by solving a construction systems problem that is announced on site.

• Cyberspace Pursuit - Students are required to design, create and launch a website that features the school’s technology education program, the TSA chapter, and the chapter’s ability to research topics pertaining to technology. Pre-conference semifinalists participate in an on-site oral examination/interview.

• Desktop Publishing - Students develop a notebook that includes a tri-fold pamphlet, a three-column newsletter, and a poster. All participants (not just semifinalists) then work to solve an on-site problem that demonstrates their abilities to use the computer to design, edit, and print materials for publication.

• Dragster Design - Students design, produce working drawings for, and build a CO2-powered dragster.

• Fashion Design - Students research, develop, and create garment designs, garment mock-ups, and portfolios that reflect the current year’s published theme. Semifinalists participate in an on-site event in which they present their potential garment designs to judges on a TSA runway.

• Film - Students develop a film that focuses on a subject of their choice from one or more of the following areas: the arts, social studies, science, or technology. Possible subjects include but are not limited to social study documentaries, nature films, advertisements, comedies, or dramas. Sound mayaccompany the film/video.

• Imaging Technology - Students capture images and process photographic prints for display that depict the current year’s published theme. Semifinalists participate in an on-site event in which they record digital images and utilize multimedia software to prepare a storyboard/outline and media presentation of newsworthy TSA conference activities and events.

• Music Production - Students produce a musical piece that is designed to be played during the national TSA conference opening or closing general sessions.

• Promotional Graphics - Students develop and present a graphic design that can be used as a TSA recruitment tool and that includes the theme for the next year’s conference.

• Structural Engineering - Students work as part of a team, on site with supplied materials, to build a model of a structure that is destructively tested to determine design efficiency.


Additional competitive categories include: Architecture, Career Comparisons, CAD Engineering with Animation, Debating Technological Issues, Electronic Game Design, Electronic Research and Experimentation, Engineering Design, Essays on Technology, Extemporaneous Presentation, Flight Endurance, Future Technology Teacher, Manufacturing Prototype, Medical Technology, On Demand Video, Prepared Presentation, Radio Controlled Transportation, Scientific and Technical Visualization, System Control Technology, Technical Sketching and Application, Technology Bowl, Technology Dare, Technology Problem Solving, and Transportation Modeling.


Technology and Creativity

It’s impossible not to be impressed with the range, diversity, and complexity of projects that TSA members can tackle. And when we consider the range of problems currently facing our nation

and the world, it’s reassuring to think that our high school students possess the vision and enthusiasm to take on extraordinarily difficult challenges. It gives one hope for the future.  To gain a greater sense of the type of projects that Hampton’s TSA members are undertaking I had an opportunity to speak with some of the students prior to a recent after-school meeting of the club. I wanted to find out why they found TSA to be so engaging and fulfilling.  Ben Kepner is a senior with a special interest in video production.  Over the last several years he has been successful in producing winning videos for TSA competitions. To produce a typical video (which is really a type of short movie or documentary) Ben has to exercise a very wide variety of skill sets, including writing, planning, recording and editing. Any one of his five-minute films could take up to 40 hours to complete over the course of several months. Right now Ben is engaged in preparing a new video for the State TSA Spring conference, which is scheduled for April. He says, “My TSA experience has proven to be very helpful. Having challenges to meet outside my normal classes really helps to extend my learning.” Jennifer Arnold is a senior with an interest in desktop publishing. She’s also taken advantage of TSA opportunities for leadership development and has been elected to the Pennsylvania TSA as secretary. That gave her an opportunity to attend the TSA sponsored leadership conference at Bucknell University last fall.

Her position also requires her to participate in planning for the upcoming state conference this

April.  “I was originally invited by some friends to join the TSA,”she says. “It’s been a great

experience and one of the things I’ve also learned is that my TSA membership may help to open

doors for me, both now and in the future. I think when college officials, or even prospective

employers, learn that I’ve been a member of TSA that becomes a positive mark on my record.”

Freshman Michael Koehler is a new member of TSA and his main interests are in aeronautics,

control systems, and mechanical engineering. He may also have a bright future as a technology

educator, at least based on a project that he undertook this past summer.  Michael entered a national contest called the 3M Young Scientist Challenge and submitted a project based on Bernoulli’s principle. He made a two-minute video that explains how air rushing across the top of airplane wings produces lift. His project achieved top 10 national recognition out of 17,000 entries that were submitted.  He points out, “Technology can be very challenging to learn but it’s important to remember that we need technology because it could make life easier for everyone.” 


Sophomore Katherine Chen joined TSA last year after her teacher, Mr. K, caught her doodling in class one day. “Mr. K. suggested that I consider joining TSA and even jokingly threatened me with detention if I didn’t at least come to a meeting,” she says, laughing.  Katherine didn’t initially think that TSA would match her interests. She enjoys science and math but her principal interest is art. As it turns out she discovered that there are several categories of competition for projects using artistic skills, including promotional designs, logos, and publications. Last year she created a TSA logo and her design took first place in regional competitions and second place in state competitions.  According to Katherine, “TSA turned out to be a great experience for me. We had just switched schools and I really didn’t know very many students. I made a lot of friends in TSA and I was able to work on many interesting projects. What’s interesting about TSA is that it’s a very competitive environment but we all help each other out. There’s a lot of teamwork and that makes it even more fun.”  Alex Watts is a senior with a general interest in engineering technology, robotics, and solar cars. In addition to his membership in TSA, Alex is also the president of the Robotics Club. During his membership in TSA Alex has been involved in creating an electronic gladiator that is designed to serve as a museum docent. He and fellow TSA members Jeff Acquaviva and George Uehling are presently working on developing a robot “mannequin” that can play three songs on the piano.  “I find TSA to be a very good way to learn about technologies as well as a way to apply our skills and learning,” he says. “I wish all my classes could be like TSA!” Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects about TSA is the degree to which the club encourages teamwork and group problem solving among members.  This is certainly true about many of the projects that student members prepare for state and national competitions.  However, over the past several years TSA students have also teamed up to help local organizations solve specific technological problems. Back in 2005, for example, a group of Hampton’s TSA members met with representatives from Maya Design Inc., a Pittsburgh-based corporation. MAYA needed help redesigning their organization’s intranet site, which is a private network that exists solely for the use of employees. The TSA project group divided themselves into a design team and an entertainment team to address the problem. They decided that an entertainment section would be a great addition to the site. The design team came up with a new layout for the site, and in time all the necessary information was added and the project was completed.  Despite two other school groups working with MAYA to complete a similar task, Hampton’s TSA club was the only group to succeed in their mission. Hampton received high accolades for this project. In 2007 they worked once again with Maya to revamp the website further.  TSA members have also considered similar projects from other local organizations, including American Eagle and the Hampton Alliance for Educational Excellence. At present they are also working with representatives from Geyer Printing on a

marketing project.


Facing the Future

As the 21st century is beginning to really gather steam it’s becoming increasingly clear that technology is going to be critical to America’s future growth. At present it’s probably safe to say that America has a substantial edge on most other nations when it comes to the development and implementation of new technologies. But how long can we remain number one? Both China and India are rapidly rising to challenge us in the development of new technologies. Japan and other countries along the Pacific rim have already established strong presences, both in technology and in manufacturing prowess. If America is going to continue to be competitive then we have to make technology education a big priority.

Fortunately, organizations like the Technology Student Association help to provide our children with an opportunity to apply hands-on solutions to difficult challenges. In the end, it’s not just a matter of expanding technology… it’s a matter of preserving the American spirit!