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Manatee County middle and high schools earn 29 'Best in State' awards at TSA conference

The DoubleTree by Hilton at Universal Orlando and surrounding hotels saw a sea of blue dress shirts and red ties last week, as the Florida TSA (Technology Student Association) State Conference took place from Wednesday, February 21st through Saturday, February 24th.

Photo: Lee Middle TSA Chapter participates in an outdoor event at FL TSA Conference.

Students, grades 6th through 12th from across Florida, gathered to compete in more than 80 events, and to test their knowledge and leadership skills.

During the opening ceremony, Manatee County took center stage with three out of five TSA State Officers leading the way from our community, including FL TSA President Keirstin Hecht from Palmetto High School, Secretary Nicholas Sevarino from Southeast High School, and Sergeant at Arms Mason Englesberg from Lakewood Ranch High School.

There were more than 2,000 students, volunteers, and advisors in attendance for the Scooby Doo-themed event.

Over the next several days, students would learn lessons in time management, troubleshooting and organization.

Photo: Dragster was open to viewing in the hotel ballroom, unlike many other judged events which were closed to viewing.

Work on the projects and skills has been underway since August 2023, but what matters most is the scheduled presentation for each event. Projects also included deadlines and interviews.

Teams traveled with bins filled with extra parts for their robotics or solar cars, used hotel printers to make last-minute changes to their portfolios, and took on many other last-minute tasks with hopes of impressing the judges.

Photo: A student from Johnson K-8 learns more about manufacturing careers during FL TSA Conference.

There was little downtime for young engineers, but each day brought a new opportunity for future growth.

One day, manufacturers and STEM-related companies setup displays for students to peruse.

Photo: TSA students speaking to a college representative from FAMU in Tallahassee. 

Another day, representatives from colleges such as FAMU, FSU, UF and USF answered questions for students interested in pursuing a post-secondary education with their institution. Representatives from military branches were there, too.

We caught up with Southeast High School teacher and TSA advisor, Amanda Clark. She was signing copies of her two published textbooks about digital photography and video production.

The conference culminated on Saturday evening with a massive awards ceremony that resulted in many cheers and school chants.

Many events served as a qualifier for the national convention taking place at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando this June.

According to Christy Clark, who works with Manatee County’s ACT (Adult, Career and Technical Education) Department, officials with the National TSA project close to 10,000 people will be attending Nationals this year.

The Pirates won the TSA Florida State Championship with eight first place wins. Their technology teacher, Thomas Leahy, is a first-year advisor for Braden River High School.

Manatee County high schools dominated several events, earning more top five spots than any other district statewide. Those events include Computer-Aided Design (3rd, 4th and 5th places), Dragster Design (1st through 5th places), Flight Endurance (2nd, 4th and 5th places), Technology Bowl (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th places).

Photo: BRHS TSA Advisor Thomas Leahy speaking to students.

Here's the breakdown of the high school awards:

  • 16 first place awards
  • 16 second place awards
  • 11 third place awards

Braden River High School:

First place – Animatronics, Data Science and Analytics, Digital Video Production, Photographic Technology, Promotional Design, Structural Design and Engineering, Video Game Design, Webmaster

Second place – Chapter Team, Flight Endurance, Manufacturing Prototype, Senior Solar Sprint, Software Development, System Control Technology, Technology Bowl

Third place – Children’s Stories, Computer-Aided Design (Engineering-Callum W.), Dragster Design, Prepared Presentation, Technology Problem-Solving

Fourth place - Computer-Aided Design (Engineering-Matthew M.), Fashion Design and Technology, Virtual Reality Visualization

Fifth place – Board Game Design, Extemporaneous Speech, On Demand Video


Lakewood Ranch High School:

Second place – Structural Design and Engineering, Webmaster

Third place – Debating Technological Issues, Forensic Science

Fourth place – Prepared Presentation

Fifth place – Essays on Technology, System Control Technology, Technology Bowl


Southeast High School:

First place – Audio Podcasting, Computer-Aided Design (Architecture), Dragster Design, Engineering Design, Technology Problem-Solving

Second place – Architectural Design, Drone Challenge, Future Technology and Engineering Teacher, Geospatial Technology, Promotional Design, Transportation Modeling

Third place – Digital Video Production, Extemporaneous Speech, On Demand Video, Technology Bowl

Fourth place – Flight Endurance (Michelle R.), Manufacturing Prototype, Photographic Technology

Fifth place – Biotechnology Design, Computer-Aided Design, Dragster Design, Flight Endurance (Diana M.)

Photo: Palmetto High teacher Brian Kendzior behind the Dragster controls at FL TSA Conference.

Palmetto High School:

First place – Debating Technological Issues, Forensic Science, Technology Bowl

Second place – Dragster Design (Sadie G.)

Fourth place – Dragster Design (Benjamin B.)

Photo: Johnson K-8 TSA Chapter at FL TSA Conference.

Manatee County middle schools dominated several events, earning more top five spots than any other district statewide. Those events include Biotechnology (2nd, 4th and 5th places), Chapter Team (3rd, 4th and 5th places), Challenging Technology Issues (3rd, 4th and 5th places), Coding (3rd, 4th and 5th places), Cybersecurity (1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th places), Flight (1st, 2nd and 3rd places), Leadership Strategies (1st, 4th and 5th places), Problem Solving (1st, 2nd and 4th places), Tech Bowl (1st, 3rd and 5th places), Technical Design (1st, 2nd, and 5th places), Website Design (1st, 3rd and 4th places) and VEX IQ (1st through 4th places).

Here's the breakdown of the middle school awards:

  • 13 first place awards
  • 17 second place awards
  • 15 third place awards

Braden River Middle School:

First place – Leadership Strategies, Tech Bowl

Second place – Biotechnology, Board Game Design, Cybersecurity

Fourth place – Coding, Problem-Solving, Promotional Marketing

Fifth place - Mechanical Engineering, Medical Technology Issues, STEM Animation


Buffalo Creek Middle School:

Third place – Video Game Design

Fourth place - Data Science and Analytics, Website Design

Fifth place - Chapter Team, Technical Design

Photo: Haile Middle TSA Chapter at FL TSA Conference.

Haile Middle School:

First place – Flight, Forensic Technology, Microcontroller Design, Structural Engineering

Second place – Children’s Stories, Technical Design

Third place – Medical Technology Issues

Fifth place – Community Service Video, Cybersecurity

Photo: An 8th grader from Johnson K-8 celebrates a first place win for Cybersecurity.

Johnson K-8 School of International Studies:

First place – Cybersecurity

Fifth place – Leadership Strategies


King Middle School:

Fifth place - Challenging Technology Issues

Photo: Dr. Mona Jain Middle TSA Chapter at FL TSA Conference.

Mona Jain Middle School:

First place - VEX IQ (Jose B.L., Jaxon C., Jackson H., Carl S.)  

Second place – CAD Foundations (Max E.), Dragster, System Control Technology

Third place – CAD Foundations (Aiden T.), Electrical Applications, Flight, VEX IQ (Alex H., Brody K., Cooper M., Brayden S.), Website Design

Fourth place – Biotechnology, Cybersecurity, Challenging Technology Issues, Chapter Team

Fifth place – Essays on Technology, Forensic Technology

Photo: Nolan Middle TSA Chapter at FL TSA Conference. 

Nolan Middle School:

First place – Website Design

Second place – Coding, Flight, Video Game Design

Third place – Chapter Team

Fourth place – Leadership Strategies, Prepared Speech

Fifth place - Tech Bowl

Photo: Palm View K-8 Chapter at FL TSA Conference. 

Palm View K-8:

First place – Essays on Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Technical Design

Second place – Career Prep, Digital Photography, Mass Production, Problem-Solving

Third place – Dragster, Promotional Marketing, Tech Bowl

Fourth place - Board Game Design, Junior Solar Sprint

Fifth place – Biotechnology, Structural Engineering

Photo: TSA advisors, including Sugg Middle School teacher Dale Smith, checking lists for event qualifiers. 

Sugg Middle School:

First place – Problem-Solving

Second place – Microcontroller Design, VEX IQ (Navarius L., Adam N.)

Third place – Challenging Technology Issues, Construction Challenge, Data Science and Analytics, Junior Solar Sprint

Fourth place – System Control Technology, VEX IQ (Dylan C., Cristopher N.)

Fifth place – Career Prep, Coding

Photo: Lee Middle School TSA students participate in VEX IQ Robotics event.

Additionally, Lee Middle School earned 6th place in Mechanical Engineering.