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My Student Experience: Technology, Engineering, and Design Education Students Take Home Top Prizes in Regional Competition

When London Tolson, a senior technology, engineering and design education major and the president of NC State’s Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association (TEECA) chapter, arrived at the TEECA Eastern Regional Conference, she was thinking about honeycombs.

Tolson was competing in the Instruction Module Challenge, which required participants to create a lesson for children about biomimicry, the emulation of systems in nature to solve human problems. Inspired by her interest in bees, Tolson structured her lesson around a honeycomb sculpture she built in TDE 351: Ceramics: The Art and Craft of Clay, and she used the engineering design process to guide her planning as she brought the project to life.

“The way we break projects down, that’s my approach to everything now,” she said. 

When asked to present, Tolson explained how the honeycomb shape is used in modern technology, and she showed the judges the panel she designed and constructed to demonstrate its usage in insulation. 

“I was thinking of my niece — she’s 11 — would she understand what I’m talking about?” Tolson said. 

The judges thought so. For her efforts, Tolson was awarded first place, one of multiple awards NC State’s TEECA chapter took home at the conference this November. In total, they earned two first-place finishes in the Teaching Lesson and Integrative STEM categories, and three second-place finishes, in the K-5 STEM, Instructional Module and Poster Session categories.

“Getting there and seeing everybody win in their respective competitions, it was really nice to see,” Tolson said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time Tolson and most of her fellow students were able to attend the conference, and it served as a welcome opportunity to connect with technology and engineering education students at other universities. The first night, students took part in ice breakers both figuratively and literally, such as a basketball tournament and a polar plunge, before spending the rest of the conference engaged in competitions that tested their problem solving capabilities.

Gerard Gaskin, a junior technology, engineering and design education major, competed in a challenge where each group was given a box of supplies in order to build a vehicle that could replicate the scene at the end of Toy Story where Woody and Buzz Lightyear jump into a moving truck.

“It built up my leadership and my teamwork,” Gaskin said. “I learned how to think in different ways. When I was seeing my work, they were giving ideas, and I was actually learning from them. I never would have thought about what they were thinking about, so I was just picking up the knowledge from my teammates and learning how to be an actual team, to be a leader.”

Assistant Teaching Professor Steven Miller, who serves with Lecturer Eric Schettig, as advisor for NC State’s TEECA chapter, said it was rewarding to see students find success in applying the technology, engineering and education program’s “Make and Do” ethos.

“I try to do everything I can to put the resources and the experience in front of them, so they can figure things out for themselves, and they always rise to the challenge,” Miller said. “I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed with them. They’re amazing. It can be emotional for me at times to see how well they do.”