Dickinson students place in top 10 at national competition

Participants demonstrate their knowledge of TSA and concepts addressed in the technology content standards by completing a written, objective test; semifinalist teams participate in question/response, head-to-head team competition.

Susan Heider, left, Gus Zettel, Alyssa Heider and Ian Graves.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — More than 250,000 junior and high school students from across the country competed for an opportunity to reach the big show in Dallas. Among the students who reached the pinnacle of the annual competition focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, only the very best would be recognized.

Dickinson High School would be among the top 10 in the nation, placing fifth.

The Technology Student Association's national Technology Bowl is the culminating event for the extracurricular club where student members who share a passion for STEM can set themselves apart from the rest. The club equips students with the leadership and critical thinking skills necessary to tackle everything from the mundane to the most challenging issues facing the modern world.

“Through TSA competitive events, instructors challenge students to solve real-world problems through project-based learning and reflective experiences,” the organization’s website states. “This rigorous process supplements and complements classroom objectives by asking students to critically evaluate all aspects of their thought processes — from design, to communication, to execution.”

DHS Tech bowl
Gus Zettel, Ian Graves and AJ Ash compete in the TSA Technology Bowl in Dallas.
Contributed / Susan Haider

Haider recently retired from DHS as a technology teacher and continues to serve as the school’s TSA Advisor. She said Dickinson Middle School no longer has a TSA chapter but she hopes to see that change. Her daughter Alyssa graduated from DHS this year and served as TSA’s national vice president. After watching her siblings compete she decided it was something she wanted to do as well.


“She’s my mom so I’ve been to every national conference since I was six months old,” Alyssa said. “I just thought it looked really cool and like something that I wanted to do.”

She clarified that TSA does more than just STEM activities.

“It’s technically a STEM organization, but you can really tailor it to your needs. For example, Gus does a lot of speaking events,” she said.

Gus Zettel, an incoming DHS senior and state level TSA President, outlined the topics for his extemporaneous speaking contest and explained how the leadership skills he’s honed gave him a leg up. He placed seventh in the nation.

“So my first question they gave me was about the metric system versus the imperial system. And then the second one was interesting. It was, ‘What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a chapter officer?’ Which is an interesting question, because I have given advice to someone who wants to be an officer. So I essentially repeated what I've already done,” Zettel said.

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He added that his primary activity in TSA is video game design.

“I actually don't have a whole lot of time to play video games during the school year, because I'm busy making them for TSA, on top of the other events I do plus schoolwork,” he said.

These students are also learning philanthropy. Haider said her DHS chapter students won a Silver Award for their Spirit of Service project in which they raised $580 to support the American Cancer Society. She said it’s rewarding to watch them grow while developing tight-knit bonds of mentorship.


“For me, it’s almost like your children are going off to college because you’ve become so close to all of them,” she said. “You get to know them just like a coach would get to know their basketball players.”

Haider noted that she even had one student who interned at NASA and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Most of them choose careers or avenues that have been basically tied to the things that they learned in TSA,” she said. “It seems like it really fuels their interest and they learn how to manage projects, because that's really what it is... Then they have to do it collaboratively, typically. So it makes it even better because they learn how to work with other students and other people.”

Alyssa Haider
Recent DHS graduate Alyssa Haider is TSA's national vice president.
Contributed / Susan Haider

Ian Graves and AJ Ash are also TSA members and 2022 DHS graduates. They will be roommates at the University of North Dakota this fall with plans to study engineering.

“Mrs. Haider probably had the biggest impact throughout my high school career,” Graves said. “She knew what she was talking about, at least most of the time. If not, she played it off really well.”

Alyssa Haider is enrolled to study neuroscience and pre-medicine at the University of South Dakota, with ambitions to become a neurologist.

“I work in an assisted living facility right now. So I get to see the effects conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's have on people's lives,” she said. “It's something that's really interesting to me that I'd like to pursue in the future.”

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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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