Hillsboro foursome soars at national technology contest

Members of the Hillsboro High School TSA team that competed at the national TSA conference in Nashville this summer pose with the three trophies commemorating their top-10 finishes, and with the two model planes and bridge they entered. From left are Lonnie Benda, Isaac Leihy, Evan Just and Neil Kaiser. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press. Click image to enlarge

Preparation pays off.

That?s the lesson Hillsboro High School technology instructor Creigh Bell thinks enabled four of his students to come home with three trophies from 29th annual National Technol?ogy Student Association Confer?ence in Nashville in late June.

The four underclassmen?Evan Just, Neil Kaiser, Isaac Leihy and Lonnie Benda?competed in a variety of events, including flight endurance, dragster design, structural engineering, promotional graphics, problem solving and technology bowl.

Just came home as the national champion in flight endurance with Kaiser placing third.

Just and Kaiser also placed third in structural engineering and Leihy was seventh in dragster design.

And how significant are those accomplishments?

?We had 12 Kansas schools represented at this conference, and there were just over 5,000 students from the nation,? Bell said. ?There were students from Quebec, Peru and Germany.

?But of our 12 Kansas schools, we had 74 Kansas students. As a state, Kansas brought home six trophies; three of those trophies came to Hillsboro.

?I can?t be any happier,? Bell added. ?These guys worked hard and you can see the result.?

This summer?s success was built in part on last summer?s disappointment, Bell said. A couple of Hillsboro?s competitive entries in flight endurance and dragster design were disqualified because of minor inattention to detail.

?This year I stressed the need to measure, measure again, measure a third time and reread the rules five times,? Bell said. ?You?ve got to dot all the I?s and cross all the T?s.

?I would put money down that Neal and Evan flew those planes at least 30 or 40 flights (prior to this summer?s competition),? he added.

In flight endurance, students use balsa wood, tissue paper, a standard propeller, landing gear and a one-gram rubber band to make an airplane.

Students then see who can achieve the longest average of two flight times?plus they get a 10-second bonus for a good landing.

Students also are evaluated on how well they logged their flights and progress in their notebooks throughout the year.

Just placed first with the longest average flight time of 2 minutes 32.5 seconds and a nearly perfect notebook.

Kaiser placed third because of a few minor problems with his notebook and a few seconds shorter flight time than Just.

In structural engineering, a miniature bridge built by Just and Kaiser held a weight of 61.5 pounds with a 14-inch span.

Competitors use 10 strips of bass-wood strips that measure 2 feet by 3/32 inches by 3/32 inches to build a bridge, on site and within certain specifications, between 8 and 16 inches.

In dragster design, the intent is to take a balsa car blank and make a dragster that is the lightest?within weight requirements?and fastest provided with a scaled drawing of the car?s layout.

Bell said his TSA members are already looking forward to next year?s national competition.

?I?m hoping they?ll take some of the lessons they learned and continue to grow,? he said. ?It?s really a life lesson?the more you prepare, generally the better off you do.?