MANATEE COUNTY — As students in Justin Devine’s technology class at Nolan Middle School hovered around computer screens, manipulating images, the excitement from weekends past still hadn’t worn off.
On Feb. 26, Nolan’s Technology Student Association team not only came back from the state TSA Conference and Competition with 16 first-place finishes but also with a state championship title.
“It really motivated us to work harder for the national conference and to try to keep our reputation,” said 13-year-old Sofia Atzrodt, who, with teammates, took home several awards.
Manatee County Public Schools dominated the competition, held Feb. 22-26, on Amelia Island, with Manatee high schools sweeping the top-three overall championship spots. Southeast High took first, while Braden River High followed closely behind, and Lakewood Ranch High placed third.
In the middle school contest, Nolan came home as state champions, earning more than five times as many first-place finishes as any other Manatee County middle school and 24 total top-three finishes. Johnson Middle School, a magnet school, placed third overall with 11 top-three finishes, while Haile Middle School placed fourth.
More than 1,000 middle and high school students from across Florida’s 67 school districts competed in 68 events during the competition.
“This is an amazing accomplishment, and one that shows just how hard our teachers and students are working,” said Doug Wagner, director of Adult, Career and Technology Education for the school district. “We won more trophies than any other school district in the state, and we really won more than all the other school districts combined.
“For me, the most impressive result we had (was that) we had 581 top-10 finishes from our students in Manatee County,” he said.
Manatee’s top finishers in June will head to the 2012 National TSA Conference in Nashville to compete for the national championship.
Wagner said STEM programs and organizations such as TSA are important to Manatee students because they help prepare children to be college and career ready upon graduation.
All Manatee schools have TSA chapters, Wagner said, and seven district elementary schools have engineering programs in place, including McNeal, Freedom and Braden River elementary schools in the East County.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
SECRET TO SUCCESS
Wagner noted that East County schools performed exceptionally well, and success at the high school level, in particular, may stem back to the implementation of a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, program at the elementary level. McNeal and Freedom elementary schools were the first elementary schools to offer the program.