The Virginia Association of the Technology Student Association (VA TSA) is home to a hot bed of learning opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) across the state. Open to grades 6-12, the organization provides a chance for students to understand how STEM fosters career growth in industries ranging from robotics to children’s books, forensic science to flight, game making to fashion, and much more.
VA TSA has created a way for members to take the concepts and skills learned in various STEM courses and apply them to real-life situations. This in turn fast-tracks their ability to utilize knowledge that will help them become future leaders in the field through intra-curricular events, state-wide competitions, and various mentorship opportunities.
Aside from the cost of travel, there is no fee to participate, and teachers reach out to students each year in the fall to encourage them to join. There are plenty of spots open, and parents can attend the events with their children at no cost.
Sky Vaught, 13, a former participant in the program, recalls the year she spent in the association as a formative time that helped her grow as a future leader. She worked on a children’s book as part of the program. The rising 8th grader plans to create another children’s book next year, as well as enter the fashion design competition. The program solidified her goals to become a writer and produce both short stories and screenplays.
Members can enter the competition for multiple categories, either as a team or individually. Events are held twice annually, once in Hampton, Va., and one time in Kentucky.
“My favorite part of the event was the awards ceremony, because our group made it to the finals,” Sky relates. State finalists receive a commemorative pin, and the top three winners receive a trophy. She says the journey to the finals was not without hiccups, as each category comes with its own set of criteria and rules for competition, and her team was not made aware of the protocols within different categories in advance. However, the team prevailed, stuck together, and made it all the way to the end.
Many embrace the field of STEM as a primarily technical endeavor, but the VA TSA has shown that STEM application truly knows no bounds in the modern world. The tools learned in these fields further career growth in the arts just as much as the sciences. Plus, members do not have to choose one or the other, as event participation is not mutually exclusive. Sky’s favorite overall area of study was math, though she entered the event competition in the field of writing.
The specific purposes of the VA TSA:
• Provide the student with opportunities for the
development of leadership in social, civic, school, and
• Develop through group action the ability of members to
plan together, organize and carry out worthy activities
• Explore industry and our technological society.
• Promote high standards of craftsmanship, scholarship
• Foster a deep respect for the dignity of work.
• Provide good leisure time activities and hobbies.
• Provide opportunities for wholesome recreation.
• Encourage students in creative expression.
• Develop consumer knowledge in students.
• Instill within students desirable habits and attitudes
toward the American way of life.
• Prepare individuals for enrollment in advanced
educational and/or technical education programs.
More generally speaking, the organization aims to assist students in carefully choosing careers that will help them find meaning and purpose, as well as promote technology education in schools across Virginia.
In order to achieve its mission, VA TSA holds an Annual Summer Officers Clinic as well as a Fall Regional Leadership workshop for officers, members and advisors. These workshops guide leaders in the organization and management of their respective chapters. Great care is taken to ensure that members get the most out the VA TSA, including leadership opportunities.
The organization equally strives to ensure that public schools across Virginia are provided with the guidance and direction they need to deliver top tier technology education to students from middle school and up. Lastly, the VA TSA offers scholarship opportunities “for Virginia TSA students that have displayed exceptional leadership qualities or intend to further their TSA experience by preparing to become technology education professionals”. Students are encouraged to apply.
The childrens book created for Virginia TSA Technosphere 2023 by Sky Vaught, Addison Meek and Miriam Williams.
Narrows Elementary Middle School 7th Grade.
By Emily K. Alberts
Emily K. Alberts served the Virginia Tech research community as a science writer for 10 years, proving the fields of art and science are perpetually entwined.