By Eric Larson
Recently I had the good fortune to return to my home state of Alabama and observe young people engaging in intense STEM competitions.
I experienced a flashback: some intense STEM memories of my own.
In 1986, the state competition I’m recalling took place in Auburn, Alabama. We stayed in a hotel I certainly hope by now has been torn down and rebuilt: the old Heart of Auburn Hotel. This was one of those hotel rooms in which you didn’t dare to walk around in bare feet.
The state competition was dominated by the largest high schools from Birmingham,Huntsville and Montgomery. All the success we had on the regional level didn’t mean a hill of beans.
But it’s not the competition that mattered in the end.
It was the camaraderie. There was something about traveling with friends who held a common interest that made the journey worthwhile.
I definitely observed a similar force happening at the Technology Student Association (TSA) state convention in Birmingham, Alabama, this spring. Yes, I saw plenty of students sweating out the competitions. As a volunteer judge for several events, I had the best view possible of that. (My heart especially went out to the nervous girl who was also fighting a terrible sinus cold. I’ve been there!)
What really caught my attention, though, wasn’t the jitters. It was the laughter. It was the smiles. It was hundreds of young people enjoying one another’s company. These students weren’t being judged about how “cool” they looked or how much money their parents had. Because they wore the TSA blue slacks and blazer uniform, there wasn’t even a way to show off one’s threads. (Do they even call clothes “threads” anymore?)
With all the wonderful competitions TSA makes available to its students, I think it’s really the community that helps it stand apart.
That’s what gets me most excited about the CompTIA / TSA partnership. By working together, we can help to grow this wonderful community of young people so even more can take part.
Technology doesn’t always bring us together — just look at everyone on their devices — but TSA is an example of tech drawing people closer.
I’m still in touch with some of those friends from my high school science team. We didn’t win many state awards, but our friendships were made stronger. And, while we’re not all working in STEM fields, I’m happy to say we’re all contributing members of society with a healthy appreciation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Just like the kids of TSA.
Tech industry professionals can get involved in TSA at both the state and national level. Contact Lynda Haitz to volunteer.