Students from the SUNY Oswego Technology Student Association continued their run of success in conference competitions, earning three second-place finishes and one fourth-place nod at the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) conference in Memphis in March.

The second-place success came in the manufacturing, teaching and technology challenges, with the fourth-place finish coming in the communication challenge. SUNY Oswego also was again recognized as a STEM School of Excellence, an overall designation for how well the department and university prepare future teachers.

For the manufacturing competition, “our prompt was to recreate a tabletop gameboard and pieces.” explained team member and technology education major Tiffany Truong. “It should be able to last generations and be passed down.”

They selected The Royal Game of Ur, which is “one of the oldest tabletop games in the world, originating in the Mesopotamian Era,” Truong said. “Everything had to be created from scratch.”

Team member and technology education major Dan Hall noted that most modern games are mass-produced and of low quality, while “we were asked to use high-quality long-lasting ingredients, and to produce something that is also nice to look at.”

“We decided to make the entire board out of red oak and the pieces from aluminum, as we know those materials will last,” Hall said. “We also used card stock for the packaging and instruction book.”

“Everything was made using the facilities of our technology education department with all the designs and pieces made by us,” Truong said. “To prepare for these conferences, we put lots of time into the effort in our labs on campus, days and nights and even on weekends. We put a lot of time, communication and effort into this.”

At the conference, they presented their final project, explained the technology used and shared a portfolio showing the process. One other thing the students enjoyed was speaking with students on other teams about how they addressed the challenge.

Rocking the teaching challenge

Technology education major Adam Parente, who represented Oswego for the second-place finish in the teaching challenge, said that the contest asked for a teaching lesson related to Elvis Presley, since the competition took place in Memphis.

“I created a lesson about how sound is generated and heard, leading to an activity where students create a cigar box guitar,” Parente said. “Since Elvis was a guitar player, this was a connection to him. I had to submit the lesson plan and support materials, including slideshow, note sheets, activity, and rubric before the conference for evaluation.”

Parente was then selected as a top-five participant to teach the lesson in front of a panel of judges. 

“I believe I did so well because of the experiences I have had at Oswego and from the guidance of my professors,” Parente said. “Attending the TEECA (Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association) East conference in the fall is a great way to experience a similar competition. Having experiences in TED306, the methods class, creating lessons, and teaching students in KidsTech [where the technology education department produced hands-on lessons for youth) is a great learning experience for teaching in front of a class.”

The fourth-place finish in the communication challenge involved creativity and teamwork.

“Our prompt was to make a 30-second video in the style of a commercial. showing the importance of learning how things work, and why things work the way they do,” said team member and technology education major Gillian Lopez. “We filmed in the technology education classes here to show what we do, and spent a lot of time putting it together.”

Their submission was somewhat of a spoof of a pharmaceutical commercial, starting slowly and in black and white and picking up and rolling into color as they showed how things improve when people learn about how things work.

Oswego students’ second-place finish in the tech challenge trivia challenge –- based on things traditionally taught in technology programs – was made more impressive because the only team that topped them was made up of professors from various institutions.

Faculty support

All the students interviewed for this story raved about the ongoing support of the faculty in SUNY Oswego’s technology education program for their success in conference competitions and beyond.

“The professors here really push us to succeed,” said Andrew Anderson, a technology education major and conference participant.

“The faculty here only want to see us succeed,” Truong said. “They are so generous and supportive whenever we need anything. ITEEA is a national conference and while they want us to do well in the competitions, they really want it to be a positive learning experience.”

“Oswego Technology Department faculty play a big role in students' success,” Parente said. “They are always available to bounce ideas off of and provide support for projects. They are dedicated to giving students labs time to complete projects in all classes and provide guidance and suggestions. … All of the Oswego Technology faculty have played a part in shaping the educator I am.”

Professor and department chair Richard Bush was helpful in many facets, including finding the equipment that could support what they wanted to do with the manufacturing challenge. 

“We knew that competition was going to be difficult, but we wanted to do this because we know it’s hard and we want to show we can do it,” Truong noted.

For a problem-solving competition, “We had only 24 hours to put it together, so we pulled an all-nighter,” Lopez said. “Professor Bush would stop in and ask ‘Do you need help?’ because he knows we want to succeed and he wants to support us.”

The students also raved about technology faculty member Karin Dykeman, as “her door is always open to talk about whatever you need to,” said technology education major and conference participant Bryan Diaz-Ximello. “She always has time to talk to you.”

Lopez agreed: “She is always there if you need to talk with her. For me, her support made the transition into college very easy.”

“She’s such an advocate for students,” Truong added. “If we ask for help, she always has time for us, whether we’re dealing with something on an academic or personal level.”

Parente noted that Dykeman was a big help with the teaching challenge. “When I spoke with Professor Karin Dykeman about my plans for the competition, she offered to mail me cigar boxes for the project, as she had them from a previous project she did with her students,” Parente said. “This was a tremendous help for me in completing this project.”

In addition, institutional support via a RISE (Research and Individualized Student Experience) Office student travel grant and the university’s Feinburg Family Fund made participation possible for multiple students. “Their support in funding my academic pursuits outside of the classroom is the reason I can go to the conferences and I am grateful for the experience I got,” Parente said.

Conference benefits

The students who took part in the conference said that while the great showings in the competition were a highlight, they found many other benefits to attending.

“One of the things that makes us want to go to these technology conferences is that technology is constantly changing and there’s always something new happening,” Truong said.

“Technology education is such a niche topic,” Anderson said. “We all love the same stuff. Everything is so close and friendly. We get tons of social opportunities and chances to network. It’s a chance for me to meet people I might be working with for the rest of my life.”

“These conferences are amazing to get to network with other teachers in a niche field and, for me, an even more niche field of STEM tech ed teachers,” Diaz-Ximello said. “Just to have this family that’s willing to help us is an amazing experience. That alone makes it worth going to the conference.”

“This conference provides many opportunities for advancing my knowledge in technology education,” Parente said. “As it is an international conference, there are presenters from around the world giving presentations. They all bring different knowledge and ideas that I can implement in my classroom.”

Parente also noted that seeing vendors at the conference lets participants know about products, textbooks, activities, kits, software and machinery that can help future teachers support their students in their classrooms.  

“Also, this conference allowed me to present my work in the STEM showcase to other professionals,” Parente said. “This networking and professional experience is worthwhile in expanding my professional connections.”

The success here builds on previous award-winning conference efforts and continues to show Oswego among the best schools in the nation for technology education, students said.

“Oswego is such a great school for technology education and has been for so long,” Lopez said, noting that at conferences and in any school where they go, they are very likely to see Oswego alumni teaching. “It’s a small but close community.” 

“It always feels like a family,” Truong said. “Being in this major, the classes are small so you know everybody in your classes. It makes you more comfortable in reaching out. I know years down the line, we will be there to help each other and to help other people be successful.”