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Students sharpen skills at tech fair
South, Central lead way in TSA
Forsyth Central High students fared well during the Technology Student Association conference. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

It may be called the Technology Student Association, but the organization’s State Leadership Conference ran the gamut of events.

There were more than 40 different competitions, ranging from digital video production and desktop publishing to electrical application and systems control technology.

And Forsyth County’s high schools fared quite well, placing in the top three for many events.

David Johnson, engineering teacher at Forsyth Central High, said he was proud of his students, who started the school’s chapter this year.

“They didn’t know what TSA was. They just looked at me with a blank look,” said Johnson of introducing the event to his students.

“So to go to the state conference and win seven top-10 finishes and two third-place trophies, I was ecstatic to say the least.”

North Forsyth High doesn’t have a TSA team this year, but Johnson said he hopes a chapter will start there in the coming year.

Among the three other local high schools, Lambert student Dugan Walker placed fourth in the essays in technology category, while a team from West Forsyth took third in the Technology Bowl.

But it was South Forsyth that posted perhaps the strongest local showing, with seven first-place finishes, two seconds and three thirds. It also placed third for the Outstanding Chapter Award.

“I was shocked,” said South engineering instructor Nick Crowder, who also earned the Tommy Pitchford Inspirational Teacher Award at the event with fellow advisers Jim Chamberlain and James O’Connor.

“I don’t go into things like this with any expectations … I just want the kids to be well prepared and to try hard,” he said. “If you compete well, you follow the rules and you tried, that’s all you can do.

“We gave ourselves the best shot we could. But I was extremely surprised with how many first-place finishes we got. And they just kept coming, and I kept being more and more shocked.”

Crowder said he used the competition to push students outside their comfort zone. Even if they failed, they still learned a new skill.

But they didn’t fail — even the group of technology students he signed up for the fashion category.

“We didn’t have anybody sign up for fashion this year,” Crowder said. “So some students who were already going I said, ‘I signed you up for fashion. They had to make a first responder uniform … and it was great.”

For the project, Crowder said the students had interview their school resources officer. They talked to him about what he did and didn’t like.

“One of their mothers had a sewing machine, so they had to learn how to sew,” Crowder said. “And they came in third in the state. It’s funny because they didn’t do as well as that in their primary events.”

Even for the students who didn’t place, just getting to experience and learn about the variety of careers and opportunities lends itself to improving their goals and confidence, which translates into their regular coursework, Johnson said.

“I have seen it really transform students from being a mediocre student, kind of bumping along to a  high-achieving, outstanding student getting scholarships by their senior year and having a clear plan about what they want to do with their lives,” Johnson said.

“It is focused primarily on leadership and skills that are needed in the workplace, particularly the soft skills — teamwork, professional dress, professional behavior, ethics and accountability.”