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November 03. 2013 9:18PM

Student technology group gears up for competitions


Michael Ogilvy of Educational STEM Solutions in Manchester talks robotics with Eduard LaBonte, 12, during the Technology Student Association competition at Camp Carpenter in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


Aamuktha Porika, a junior at Nashua South High School, quizzes fellow students during the Technology Student Association competition at Camp Carpenter in Manchester. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Although the group's title has technology in it, it's not a bunch of computer nerds.

The state president of the New Hampshire Technology Student Association, Aamuktha Porika, said: "Technology can be incorporated anywhere."

Friday was the association's Fall Rally, held at the Boy Scouts' Camp Carpenter. Porika said the goal is to get kids excited about the year's many competitions leading up to the two-day state competition in March.

But the energy and noise levels showed the 134 kids who attended were hardly in need of encouragement. While the group was predominantly male, there were some female participants.

New Hampshire has 50 chapters, evenly split between middle and high school levels, although there are some participants as far down as fifth grade.

The goal of the association, she said: "Is to spark kids' interest in technology, to consider it as a career."

Porika said the local and state competitions include events covering a wide range of technical careers, and members compete in such diverse events as animatronics and fashion design, agriculture and electronic gaming, architectural renovation and music production.

"I joined it in eighth grade," said Porika, who said most chapters are in middle and high schools, although two elementary schools have chapters.

Ervin Connary, who is the state adviser and chapter adviser for Whitefield and Lancaster, has been involved for about 25 years.

"I see how it really challenges the kids," he said. "It's not just all about the (competitive) events."

Connary said: "You hear technology and people think computer events. But there aren't that many computer events." He said a pencil qualifies as technology. With that pencil, he said: "You are taking knowledge and using it to make your life easier,"

Connary said: "There's a mind-set that if you can't plug it in, it's not technology." But he said that's not true. He said: "You hear a lot about STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We've been doing that for 25 years."

Among the most important aspects of what happens in the chapters is team-building and problem-solving.

Emily McCusker, an eighth-grader from Dalton, needs no convincing. "It's the jobs of the future," she said. "The future is technology."

McCusker likes digital photography and robotics. But techno talk is also a competitive event that's right up her alley. "I went to nationals this year," she said.

Teams of four were divided in half, put in two rooms with the same set of Legos. One half of the team built an object and had to text directions to the other team to build the same object. "We were the second of 55 teams," she said, with only two pieces not put in the correct spot.

Om Kappor comes by his interest in technology naturally. The 13-year-old eighth-grader at the Academy for Science and Design, a Nashua charter school, comes from a family of software engineers. This is his first year of membership in the association. He's interested in robotics, he said.

At the moment, he's leaning toward biomedical engineering. "More making discoveries that can change the way people look at something," he said, rather inventing devices. But that could change.

Connary said technology is so much a part of life now, especially with the STEM focus, that he thinks association chapters would draw interest in the elementary grades.

dvincent@unionleader.com


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