IRMS Students win third in the Nation in two events at TSA Nationals

Technology Student Association (TSA), a club for students interested in STEM, has been flourishing at Icicle River Middle School and Cascade High School for years. This spring, over thirty students participated at the state conference and competition, with many finalists and four IRMS students qualifying for Nationals.

Eighth graders Avery Houghton, Cordelia Freeland, Olivia Melton and Jewel Leroy earned first in the state in the category Community Service Video, which highlighted sustainability efforts at IRMS. They decided to take the state judges’ advice and redo their video before submitting it for Nationals.

“Our team decided to remake the video in order to improve the audio quality,” said Kim Gilreath, seventh grade science teacher and TSA advisor. “They worked hard to reshoot the video, make edits, and get it uploaded by the May 15th deadline.”

The students and Gilreath boarded a plane on June 26th bound for Dallas, Texas for Nationals, which lasted five days. “It was great to be able to compete in person again after a two-year break because of COVID,” said Gilreath. “There were more than 5000 students at Nationals from across the nation, Germany, and Turkey.”

The students felt a mix of nervous anticipation and awe. “To be at the conference with thousands of kids interested in STEM was very daunting because everyone there was smart, had big plans and had worked hard on the projects they were presenting,” said Houghton.

TSA gives students opportunities to learn and practice professionalism and public speaking. The IRMS students had to present their video to a panel of judges, explaining their process and motivation.

Additionally, the girls had a chance to compete in other categories available only at the conference, including Problem Solving, Forensics, Junior Solar Sprint and Technical Design.

“The other events were all new,” said Gilreath. “They rose to the occasion, studying for the forensic science test, building a solar car and figuring out how to race it, and innovating a technical design solution for an on-the-spot challenge. The girls were fearless in their willingness to put themselves out there and show what they could do.”

Houghton said, “A highlight was watching all the cars race and seeing all the interesting designs people came up with to make their cars go faster.”

The conference incorporates noncompetitive fun activities too. “The whole thing was a great experience, and me and my friends had a lot of fun,” said Houghton. “My favorite things were competing in my events, going to the pool and the waterpark and being able to meet people from across the nation.”

When it came time for the awards ceremony, IRMS students got to step on stage not once, but twice, to receive trophies. “Not only did they win third place for their Community Service Video, but Olivia Melton and Cordelia Freeland also placed third for Technical Design,” said Gilreath.

“At the awards ceremony, it is amazing to hear all the different events offered through TSA,” she continued. “Washington state made the top ten in many events both for high school and middle school. We were surprised and elated to win third place in two of our events!”

Houghton, speaking of hearing their names called for winning third for Community Service Video, said, “It was just kind of so crazy that this video, that we had been working on for months and had so many troubles with, went far. It was a great experience being up there and knowing that we worked hard for this.”

The students felt elation and also gratitude for the opportunity and for the mentoring provided by advisors like Gilreath. “I want to say thank you for this wonderful trip and this amazing experience that we would not be able to do without Mrs. Gilreath. She’s an amazing teacher,” said Houghton.

For advisors, working with passionate, smart students through TSA, is rewarding. “The best part of being a TSA advisor is seeing all the amazing students highlighted through the TSA program and knowing you were a part of making the experiences possible for our students,” said Gilreath.

It will be exciting to watch as these students continue to hone STEM skills through TSA and to see the next crop of middle schoolers that will gain these experiences thanks to teachers like Gilreath.



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