“We shocked ourselves at how far we made it.” -Raymond Emmart
“I was shocked—because I tend to prepare for the worst-case scenarios—and happy that all the hard work paid off.” -Marcelle Langford
“We did a lot better than I thought we would.” -Alex Teeples
Members of Utah State University’s Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association (TEECA) chapter, formerly the TECH Club, were happily surprised by their successes, though they certainly invested effort in preparing to attend the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association 2020 Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and continued to focus on preparations at the competition. USU engineering and technology education students Emmart, Langford and Teeples, and their faculty advisors brought home a trove of awards from the annual event. After competing against 12 other universities, the USU students placed second in every event they entered.
“It's difficult to place in these competitions,” said Trevor Robinson, chapter advisor for USU TEECA. “This is the third year we have gone to the conference. We placed in a couple of events the first year. Last year we didn’t place in anything, and so to come away with three second-place awards, when we only participate in three events, is huge. And in a couple of competitions, we got to beat BYU.”
An assistant professor in the Aviation and Technical Education division of the School of Applied Sciences and Education (ASTE), Robinson was one of four technology teachers nationwide recognized at the conference as an “Emerging Leader” for demonstrating high levels of professional activity and innovation. Cory Ortiz, a graduate student who works with Robinson, received the Maley Outstanding Graduate Citation. ASTE Professor Gary Stewardson also attended and assisted with some of the competitions.
Emmart, Langford, and Teeples competed as a team for the Technology Challenge and the Transportation Challenge. The Technology Challenge is a quiz-bowl style competition wherein competitors are tested on their general knowledge of technology, tech education, and related concepts. In a single-elimination tournament, the USU team advanced to the final round before falling to the tournament champion.
The Transportation Challenge involves programming and piloting a drone through an obstacle course. Students are given a vague understanding of the course’s layout and obstacles before arriving at the event, Ortiz said, but the limitations of their specific space mean that participants have to adapt and make adjustments just before competing.
In preparation for the Graphic Design Challenge, Emmart and Teeples had invested over 150 hours since January in designing, testing, and ultimately creating a trophy topper to ornament the 2020 tournament trophies. The topper submitted by the USU competitors was a 3D printed robot complete with an articulated head, rolling wheels, and arms that move up and down. The trophy topper provided many lessons in creative problem solving, right down to the wire.
“The tech challenge was just about to start and were going to go submit our topper when we opened the case he was in and one of his arms had sort of broken off or disconnected from what he was holding,” Teeples said. “It was pretty bad. I had to run to the nearest store in Baltimore that sold glue so we could get it stuck back together before we had to submit it. I don't like running, but it was a good half-hour run. As I got back, we had just started going up for the tech challenge so I was able to compete as well, but it was a really close thing.”
Besides the stress created by some unforeseen circumstances, the students and faculty all said that they considered the tournament and conference a great success and a worthwhile educational experience.
The conference was rescheduled and ultimately cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but eight of the nine competitions were finished before the conference was called off. Langford was scheduled to compete in the Teaching Lesson competition, but her event was postponed.
“It was disappointing that the conference was cut short,” Langford said. “There was so much more I wanted to learn and so many more people I wanted to get to know better.”
As students in the ASTE and AVTE programs, Langford, Emmart and Teeples are preparing to enter the workforce with a background not only in technical principles but also with a degree of flexibility and real-world experience. Emmart, for example, works for the Utah Assistive Technology Program at USU. His work there is to provide assistive technology and services to individuals with disabilities, including modified equipment, machines, or other tools adapted to the user's abilities and needs.
“It’s interesting, some of the stuff we’ve created to help people,” Emmart said. “Applying what I’ve learned, an exciting opportunity would be to get with a company that is working on robotic prosthetics or automated vehicles.”
Robinson said he’s thrilled to see his students applying their skills in competition and in their day-to-day lives. He said the technology systems degree, the course of study for both Teeples and Emmart, is a great opportunity for students and industry because it allows people to use work certification to earn college credit.
“Most of my time is spent teaching courses,” Robinson said. “That's what I enjoy doing. Working with these students in the club, to give them this experience and these opportunities is a huge benefit to being in this job.”
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences
Assistant Professor in the Aviation and Technical Education
School of Applied Sciences and Education