MANATEE-- Manatee County students may be on vacation from school, but they have not let the temptations of summer keep them from working hard. This week, 171 students from schools in Manatee County competed in the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference.
Manatee County students tool home 66 first-, second- and third-place trophies and 194 Top 10 titles.
Technology Student Association teams from Bayshore, Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Southeast, Manatee high schools; and Nolan, Harllee, Haile, Sugg and Johnson middle schools represented Manatee County in one of the biggest competitive technology events for students.
The students competed in events such as animatronics, fashion design, dragster design, robotics, music production, video game design and more. They competed against students from across the United States as well as a high school team from Turkey and a high school team from Germany.
Doug Wagner, director of adult career and technical education, said this is the seventh year in a row that Manatee County schools have taken home a greater combined total of trophies and Top 10 scores
than any other school district in the nation.
"The community should be cheering," Wagner said. "It shows the hard work of the students, teachers and schools."
While the school district as a whole shined at the conference, students had their own individual moments of pride and accomplishment.
Eighth-grader Hayden Kennelly won first place for dragster design at the middle school level.
Kennelly showed off pictures of his dragster with a huge smile.
"I designed it on the computer first and then a machine cut out my design," Kennelly said.
Austin Keenan, who just completed his senior year at Bayshore High School, competed in the Technology Student Association National Conference every year of middle school and high school. This was the first year Keenan won a trophy at the national level.
Keenan said the best feeling was getting to walk across the stage at nationals for the first time.
Keenan and his teammates earned second place in the problem-solving event, where teams must create a solution to everyday needs out of limited supplies in a limited amount of time.
"We made a filter out of styrofoam," Keenan said proudly. "It was a challenge, but it felt great to complete it well."
The technology students must not only display high levels of math, science and critical thinking skills, but they must also have creativity for all events, particularly in the areas of design.
Braden River High School students Emily Malcom, Katherine Zimmerman and Mario Palmer won the first-place trophy for fashion design. The challenge was to design a uniform for an emergency first responder.
The team had to conceptualize the outfit, sketch their design, make the outfit and then showcase it on the catwalk. Malcom, Zimmerman and Palmer interviewed certified first responders to get ideas for their winning design, which included working LED lights. The trio also won third place in music production.
"We are very proud of our students and how hard they work to continue to come out on top year after year," said Gil Burlew, the Florida Technology Student Association chairman and engineering teacher at Braden River High School.
About 5,000 students competed in the 2013 Technology Student Association National Conference. The conference was held June 28 through July 2 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando.
These students were not the only ones to make a name for Manatee County last weekend.
Manatee Technical Institute students took home 61 medals in 22 contests at the 49th Annual SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City last week. Their sweep included 18 gold, 25 silver and 18 bronze medals.
The competition tests career and technical students around the country in occupational areas like business management and technology, engineering technology/design, fire fighting, nail care, and web design.
The competition is often referred to as the Olympics for career and technical education.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081