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Tech-savvy students: Dickinson recognized at national TSA competition

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Members of Dickinson's junior high and high school Technology Student Association chapters recently stood on stage to receive the accolades from 5,000 participants in the National TSA competition.

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"It was life-changing," said Katrina Johnson, an incoming freshman at Dickinson High School. "I've never had so much fun and yet it was a competition."

The 2012 TSA conference was June 21 to June 25 at Nashville, Tenn. Those winning awards were:

r Lisa Yang and Morgan Petersen, Dickinson High School, placed second in structural engineering.

r Yang placed eighth in the dragster races.

r Devin Steiner, as an eighth grader at Hagen Junior High, placed ninth in tech bowl and 10th in electrical applications.

r Steiner and Katrina Johnson, another Hagen eighth-grader, placed ninth in problem-solving.

Also attending were Liz Pavlicek, Paige Yon, Hagen Jr. High, and Luke Ensign and Liz Adsero, DHS. They qualified to participate at nationals because they had placed first in the state competition.

Hagen TSA Advisor Ervin Van Veldhuizen said the conference was an opportunity to learn what other chapters are doing and what it takes to be a national winner.

"They were really checking out the different displays," he said. "They had excellent behavior -- they made sure they were on events on time. It was a real fun trip."

He was also impressed with the individual accomplishments of the students.

"It was the first time we've had someone from Hagen, or even from North Dakota who placed in tech bowl," Van Veldhuizen said. "It's based his overall knowledge.

The students held fundraisers to help pay for the expenses, but it was still prohibitive for several of the state qualifiers to attend, Van Veldhuizen said.

"It takes an extreme amount of time and effort on their part to achieve at the levels they're achieving," added Susan Haider, who is the high school TSA advisor.

Yang and Petersen were assigned to build a tower 14 inches tall within two hours. It took them 1 hour 10 minutes to finish.

"They basically put weight on it until it failed," Yang said.

"We kind of set up our strategy before State even," Peterson said. "We built practice towers together and learned how each person works. Lisa was faster at building the sides of the towers and I was better at sanding it."

Steiner studied a 450-page electrical applications book, reading it three times before the electrical competition.

For the problem-solving competition, Steiner and Johnson were directed to build a catapult. They used items such as pop cycle sticks, springs, tape and lots of glue. They demonstrated the catapult's strength by launching paper balls. One of their balls went 32 feet.

The national winners have different career goals in mind. Yang is looking at aerospace engineering, while Steiner considers electrical engineering.

Peterson is looking at a career in microbiology while Johnson considers computer engineering.

Petersen is headed to Dickinson State University in the fall. The other national-award winners have set their sights on TSA goals for the coming year.

Yang wants to improve on the flight competition, while Johnson practices for the speech competitions and Steiner does vex robotics.

Despite the students' age differences, the conference fostered bonds of friendship.

"We suffered together, stayed up to 5 a.m. together and won together," Yang said.

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