FSU STARS engages future generations through partnership with Florida Technology Student Association

Florida State University STARS Alliance students are engaging the future generation by partnering with Florida’s chapter of the Technology Student Association (TSA), an organization of high school and middle school students interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

TSA’s mission is to foster personal growth, leadership, and opportunities in technology, innovation, design, and engineering.  Nationally, TSA’s membership includes over 190,000 middle and high school students with over 2,000 chapters in 49 states.  One hundred percent of TSA members are likely to graduate high school and 75 percent are expected to attend college.

The Florida TSA chapter is the nation’s second largest with over 28,000 students (up from 18,000 four years ago) and is growing fast. The number of chapters in Florida has grown to 90 from 70 in the last four years.

STARS TSA Conference
Allison Loehr of FSU STARS (right) with Christina Behnken (Sergeant at Arms, Lake Asbury Junior High TSA).

While the STARS Alliance is a national organization, Florida State is the only STARS chapter in the state that has formed a partnership with Florida TSA for STEM outreach. In that role, FSU STARS speak to TSA groups across Florida and help administer TSA’s annual State Leadership Conference, where they teach workshops on game design, mobile apps, communication, public speaking, leadership and college preparation.   FSU STARS also attends and judges competitions at the Annual State Competition.

“FSU STARS has always placed a big focus on outreach,” Allison Loehr, FSU STARS student liaison for TSA, said.  “We do a lot of work with middle and high schools to educate these kids on the growing importance of technology.  A lot of them are really smart and they know that technology is important but what they don’t know is how they can make a career out of it and that’s where STARS comes in.  We have traveled all over the state to speak with schools about technology, communication and leadership.”

“These college students come back and show us that you can learn more after high school and it is really important to go to college,” Florida TSA President Morgan Honeycutt said.

STARS TSA Conference
John Nguyen (standing in front) and Michael Helfrich (seated middle) presenting about Mobile App Development.

FSU STARS plays an integral role at Florida TSA’s annual leadership conference, which draws hundreds of students, parents and educators throughout the state.

“Getting to work with TSA has been one of the most exciting things I have gotten to do as a member of STARS,” Loehr said.  “I went to their state conference in 2012 and got to see all of these projects that they were working on ranging from things like engineering, robotics, video production, graphic design and debate.  Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with the level of skill these middle and high schoolers were exhibiting.”

“FSU STARS has helped facilitate student leadership activities at our annual fall conference, which has enhanced student development,” Florida TSA Executive Director Justin Lauer said.

STARS TSA Conference
Allison Loehr, McKenzie Fitzpatrick and Marissa Monoviss lead the “I want to be an FSU STAR” session at the Florida TSA Annual Conference.

While the Florida TSA conference showcases FSU STARS involvement on a larger scale, it is perhaps the individualized attention the elder students are giving the younger students that makes the biggest impression for both groups.

“I like that we sit down with them in small groups because it gives us the chance to talk to them in a less scary format,” Loehr said.  “We can stand up there and give a presentation all day long but to really engage them we make it a comfortable place for them to ask us questions or talk to us about what they really want.  This is definitely something I wish I had in middle or high school because it would have helped me in making my choice in majors.”

“The FSU STARS students have truly been an asset and inspiration to all of our Florida TSA members,” TSA State Chair Gil Burlew said. “They continue to come help us year after year to support our programs at the local, district, state and national levels.  We have a very active team of technologically advanced student population and it amazes me how well versed the STARS team can handle the leadership roles that they have taken.  STARS students have instilled a sense of respect, hard work ethic, confidence, honesty, loyalty and a sense of self worth to our middle school and high school students.  We greatly appreciate what Ebe (Randeree) has done to make the STARS team a group of together people who care to help other get to where they need to be.”

The partnership has been mutually beneficial for the University.  The outreach helps to attract some of the best students from around the state.  Of 16 current FSU STARS members, four are former TSA members.

“The link with TSA is very important to our outreach efforts in the State and our goal to recruit more STEM students,” Associate Dean Ebe Randeree said.  “These students are very talented and they will drive Florida’s economy as they graduate and launch businesses and create jobs.  It is our job to mentor them and to keep them here in Florida, in Florida universities, and launching Florida businesses.”

Information technology is one of the fastest growing sectors of the nation’s economy according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which expects the industry will add nearly 1.4 million job openings by 2020.  The U.S. Department of Education encourages TSA as an activity to enhance STEM education and the need for these skills has bolstered growth of the organization.

“I believe TSA is a really important organization because it doesn’t just teach technology skills, but communication skills, engineering skills, math skills, science skills and presentation skills,” Honeycutt said.  “I think more and more students are starting to realize how beneficial it is and they continue to join.”

2013 Fall STARS members include:

STARS 2013
2013 Fall STARS
Michelle Crowe (UG – Computer Criminology)
Rachael Deja (UG – IT)
Melissa Ehster (UG – ICT)
McKenzie Fitzpatrick (GRAD – IMC)
Caroline Goodrich (UG – ICT)
Kirk Granger (UG – IT)
Michael Helfrich (UG – IT)
Brittany Holland (UG – ICT)
Allison Loehr (UG – ICT)
Marissa Monivis (UG – Studio Art & ICT)
Nancy Moyers (UG – Psychology/Humanities)
Daniel Norrell (UG – Political Science)
John Nguyen (Grad – CS)
Shelby Schlembach (UG – IT)
Chelsea Schneider (UG – CS)
Bryan Strawter (UG – IT)