DHS Tech Student Association makes semi-finals at nationals

Five of Dickinson High School's Technology Student Association team made it to semi-finals at the national competition in Washington, D.C. Carter Billman (far left) and Griffin Obrigewitch (far right) made the top 20 for their structural engineering project. Austin Haider, John Dvorak and Carissa Dalen (middle) made it to the top 12 for their music production project. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Fifteen Dickinson High School students in the school's Technology Student Association made it to the national competition in Washington, D.C. Five of them made it to the semi-finals.

TSA has middle school and high school chapters and grades 5-12 compete in a variety of science, technology, engineering and math based events.

The music production team, consisting of Austin Haider, John Dvorak and Carissa Dalen, made it to the top 12 for their song "Reaching for the Sky."

"We used different recording technologies. A lot of it was live instruments like lead guitar and keyboard and then you had different technologies for drums and bass. We basically just had to come up with a chorus, a bridge, like it was a full-on song, and it had to be 3 minutes or less," Dalen said.

Dvorak, who has been playing guitar for about 9 years, played guitar live for the track, most of which was recorded after school at Dalen's house.


"At my house, we had a grand piano and a keyboard, and (John) just brought his guitars and amps and recording stuff over, and we recorded it there then added some photos and edited it. Then (we) burned it to a CD and took it to state (competition) in Bismarck,” Dalen said.

In addition to the song, they had to put together a portfolio, for which Austin Haider documented the steps to make the song, why it was made and their inspiration for it.

"It was mostly old 80s classic rock music, a bit of Ted Nugent because John here is obsessed. It was basically like an old 80s rock song. It wasn’t anything contemporary," Dalen said.

Dalen said her group wasn't surprised to make it to nationals.

“We kind of knew ahead of time, because John and Austin have past experience with it. This year was my first year. Basically, a lot of people there, their portfolios — Austin was very good at putting the portfolio together. As far as our song goes, we were one of the only groups that used live recording instruments instead of just technology on the computer. That kind of boosted our confidence,” she said.

The structural engineering duo, Carter Billman and Griffin Obrigewitch, made it to the top 20 for their trestle bridge design.

"They give you prompts and like real-world ideas. The idea was we had a river and then a canyon, and the bridge had to span between the two sides and have space in between for … river boat tours, so there had to be a certain space between the vertical supports," Obrigewitch said.

They built two bridges for competition, a tower for state and a smaller bridge on-site for nationals.


"They had to build one and test it prior," said adviser Susan Haider. "Then they had to take one to state to be tested … They had to take one along to nationals, and that one was stress tested (there). If that made the top finalists, then they had to build on site, so they actually had to build on site as well."

They were a bit surprised to make it to nationals.

"We were a little bit surprised, because there was actually two groups from Dickinson for structural engineering at state, and they were pretty good, too. I think we just barely beat them," Billman said.

Their adviser said she is very proud of them for making it so far.

"When they go to nationals … it’s pretty competitive," she said. "There’s like 8,500 students at national competition, so everything is very competitive. Once they make it to -- after they qualify to go to nationals and they place at state, it becomes very competitive at the national level. There are a lot of schools that are complete tech schools from the east coast. To have made it where they did, I’m very proud of them because they’re competing against a lot of schools where that’s all they do all day long."

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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