A group of students from Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy competed in an engineering and technology contest at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. They went in with lots of different career plans, and came back with most wanting to earn degrees in some area of engineering.
The students, led by their math/geometry teacher, Jamie Wolverton, competed in the Technology Student Association competition March 9 in Terre Haute. They competed against seven other high schools in the state.
TSA is a new organization based in Reston, Virginia. The organization established a chapter in Indiana about two years ago, and students across the state have been joining.
Wolverton, a civil engineer-turned-teacher, said she attended a Career and Technical Education conference in Indiana early in the school year and learned about TSA there.
According to its website, TSA is a national organization of students engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. It's open to students enrolled in or who have completed technology education courses. TSA's membership includes more than 250,000 middle and high school students in approximately 2,000 schools spanning 48 states.
The juniors and seniors who are members of the TSA Club at Roosevelt are Jasmine Martin, Shanell Robinson, Jailynn Walker, Robert Barnes, Shemar Johnson, Devin Hale, Darnell Harris, Keith Davis, Ramon Gordon and Paul Lawrence.
The students learn through a variety of activities including leadership-building and competitive events.
In addition to teaching math and geometry, Wolverton, in her sixth year at Gary Roosevelt, also teaches introduction to engineering and that will expand next year with a second-level engineering class.
She said four groups of students participated in projects at the competition in Terre Haute, including the engineering project, an architectural project that won second place and two debate teams that debated STEM topics, which came in second and fourth places.
Students place, win in competitions
She said first-place winners were juniors Martin, Hale and Harris for a project they completed called "Drone Pollination."
The students said they did weeks of research and work on the project during the school day, and after school during their TSA club meetings.
Martin said they decided on the drone pollination project because of the dying bee population.
"Bees have been dying for a variety of reasons including pesticides and the Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind the queen bee," she said.
"We made a drone pollinator. We decided to use a drone because that's the closest thing to a bee," she said.
Hale said they demonstrated how the drone acts like a bee, and used pipe cleaner at the bottom of the drone to represent the fur on a bee's legs.
Wolverton said another component of the competition was leadership, and each student had to submit a resume and include information on how they acted as leaders. She said they were graded on the project, their resume and their verbal presentation.
Martin and junior Robinson earned second place in an engineering debate competition.
"Our topic was, should schools be allowed to track students around campus with an RFID or GPS tracking system," Robinson said. "It was a lot of fun. I've always been passionate about debate. This is my first time in a competition. It was a great experience.
"I listened to the other students debating and I loved it. I love to shut people down," she said.
Roosevelt striving to improve
The Indiana Department of Education graded Roosevelt a D for 2017, breaking the cycle of Fs over the last several years.
Gary Roosevelt Superintendent Ernest Williams said the school, of 620 students in grades seven through 12, continues to work on improving its academics.
Williams said the school is focused on data to improve instruction.
"We look at it by classroom, and we look at each individual student," he said. "Our students get intense reading intervention, and that can mean an additional class period. We offer credit recovery in school and online. We also have a Saturday school."
School officials also have said in 2016-17, 76 percent of the graduating class enrolled in a two- or four-year college or vocational program.
They said there was a 54 percent reduction in out-of-school suspensions, a 92.59 percent attendance rate, and students in the class of 2016-17 won $1.1 million in scholarships.