Why Participate in the Technology Students Association (TSA)

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A woman standing with a blackboard behind her

Everything You Need to Know About the Technology Students Association (TSA)

If you are curious about the Technology Students Association (TSA), there are probably a lot of questions regarding whether or not this program is right for you (if you’re a student) or your child (if you’re a parent of a student).

Before we break down the many benefits of joining the Technology Students Association (TSA) and taking part in one of their many competitions, let’s break down what exactly the TSA is.

Group of students doing a thumbs up and smiling

What is the Technology Students Association (TSA)?

In short, the Technology Students Association (TSA) is a national, non-profit career and technical student organization, otherwise known as a CTSO, made up of middle school and high school students who are interested in and engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Since the TSA was first chartered in the year 1978, nearly 4 million total students have participated in competitions, leadership opportunities, community service, and more. Moreover, the Technology Students Association (TSA) is a non-partisan, non-sectarian group and proudly accepts all students regardless of race, color, age, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity/expression, or disability.

Breaking down the numbers.

When it comes to the kinds of students that have taken part in the Technology Students Association (TSA), the group itself proudly boasts some very impressive statistics.

  • The TSA boasts over 250,000 students between middle school and high school.
  • 100% of students who are members of the TSA are likely to graduate from high school.
  • 75% of students who are members will go to college.
  • 39% of the student members of minority representation.
  • Over 2,500 teachers make up TSA chapter advisors.
  • Over 2,000 schools are involved in the program from 48 states within the United States.

Why should you consider joining the Technology Students Association?

The Technology Students Association (TSA) is aimed at providing its student members the chance to explore a wide variety of education and career interest areas related to STEM. Either working within a team or as an individual, TSA student members are encouraged to find motivation in the excitement and inspiration that they get from being recognized for the achievements that they accomplish in any competition they take part in.

Some of the many benefits that TSA believes it offers its students include:

  • Enhance literacy in technology
  • Allow students to work on complex activities from start to finish within teams or as individuals
  • Compete at local, state and national levels
  • Develop life-long leadership skills through the TSA’s customized LEAP program
  • Attend organized meetings, make life-long friends
  • Explore and learn about STEM education and career options
  • Network with students and teachers who share similar passions and interests across the country
  • Contribute time and effort to a national service project
  • Receive national TSA membership communications
  • Gain recognition through the TSA’s honor society and scholarships
  • Play a role in the national career and technical student organization (CTSO) that plays a role in shaping the future of technology and career education
  • Gain fantastic experience in a meaningful and education extracurricular activity

A group of students sharing their works

How do their competitions work?

The competitive events that are offered by the Technology Students Association (TSA) are broken up into middle school and high school levels, with students only being allowed to compete within their respective age groups.

From there, competitors take part in competitions that take place at the local, state, regional, and national levels. While the subject is, of course, the primary focus when it comes to each and every competition, leadership is also typically a major focus.

Every TSA competition is a connection to one of many different topics such as national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and business standards.

When it comes to the scoring of competitions, the use of judges who are technology educators and business professionals within STEM-related industries are used to try to inspire the very best work and projects from its members.

Row of students seated and writing on their notebooks

How does scoring work?

When it comes to each and every Technology Students Association (TSA) competition, scores are out of 100 points and are based on a rubric that is developed at the national level. As you might expect, winners are chosen based on the scores that they receive. In many of the events, semi-finalists (the top 12 scorers) will move onto the second round of the competition. This typically includes an interview with the judges about the project of the competition.

First, second, and third-place winners are offered a trophy. Finalists (the top 10) are recognized at the national level.

What competitions does the Technology Students Association (TSA) offer its members?

The Technology Students Association (TSA) offers rules and guidelines for over 70 middle school competitions and high school competitions. In each and every competition, students involved are challenged to use and improve their STEM skills in events that are for both teams and individuals.

Every TSA competition is made to line up with STEM standards, leadership skills, and the United States Department of Education’s National Career Clusters Framework.

Now, let’s go over many of the most popular types of competition that the TSA offers its members.

3D animation

Participants are asked to demonstrate their expertise in 3D animation and design skills to solve the challenge specific to that year.


Participants are asked to demonstrate their knowledge of mechanical systems by designing animatronics and then controlling the device that they created to communicate, entertain, inform, and or illustrate a topic, subject, or concept. One stipulation is that sound, lights and a surrounding environment must be used as an accompaniment to the device.

Architectural design

Participants are asked to develop their own original architectural plans and related materials for a one-year design challenge. They are asked to build both computer-generated and physical models that accurately depict their design.

Biotechnology design

Participants are asked to select a current biotechnology problem that successfully reflects the theme for the year. They are then asked to demonstrate their understanding of the topic through their well-documented research, the development of a given solution, a display, and finally a unique multimedia presentation.

Boardgame design

Participants are asked to develop, build, and package an original board game that will focus on the subject of their choosing. In order to win, the board games that are created should be interesting, fun, visually appealing as well as mentally challenging. Each team will have to design the packaging, instruction pieces, and cards that are associated with the use of their original board game.

From there, semifinalists for the competition will get the opportunity to set up their game and demonstrate how the game is played in front of the competition’s judges.

Chapter team

Participants will take a written test in order to qualify for the semifinals of this competitions. In the test, participants will complete an opening ceremony, items of business, parliamentary actions, and a closing ceremony within a specified period of time.

Children’s stories

Participants are tasked with creating an illustrated children’s book that offers artistic, instructional, and social value. The narrative can be written in either prose or poetry styles and can take the form of many different structures. Beyond this, the physical book itself should be made of high-quality material and should be designed to reflect the theme of that year’s competition.


Participants will be asked to respond to an annual coding-related challenge by developing their own software program that will solve the onsite problem in a limited amount of time.

Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)

Participants will be asked to design, fabricate, and use Computer Integrated Manufacturing to create a promotional product.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Architecture

Participants will be asked to use complex computer graphic skills, tools, and processes in order to develop representations of architectural subjects, such as foundation, floor plans, elevation drawings, and more.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Engineering

Participants will be asked to use complex computer graphic skills, tools, and processes to develop 3D representations of engineering subjects like machine parts, tools, devices, or manufactured products.


Participants will be tasked with responding to a cybersecurity challenge by both identifying the breach in computer security via fabricated games in the style of Capture the Flag. They will be asked to solve onsite challenges in a specified amount of time.

Debating technological issues

Participants will work together in order to prepare for a debate against a team from a competing chapter. Teams will be directed to either take a pro or con side on a selected topic.

Digital video production

Participants develop a digital video complete with a sound that reflects the theme of the year.

Dragster design

Participants design and produce a working C02-powered dragster model.

Engineering design

Participants develop a solution to a National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge that is posted on the national TSA website. The solution that is offered should be informed and designed by precise problem definition, thorough research, creativity, experimentation, and the development of documents and appropriate models. Teams that advance to the semifinals get the chance to present and defend their solution to a panel of judges.

Essays on technology

Participants write a research essay that is able to make insightful connections about a current technology-related topic.

Extemporaneous speech

Participants will be asked to verbally communicate their knowledge of technology or TSA subject by conducting a speech that will be chosen when they draw a card on which a technology or TSA topic is written.

Fashion design and technology

Participants will be asked to research, design, and create a portfolio and wearable prototype of their creation that reflects the theme of the year. Participants who advance to the semifinals will be able to participate in a presentation and interview in which they present their garment designs to industry judges.

Flight endurance

Participants are asked to analyze flight principles with a rubber band powered model aircraft.

Forensic science

Participants take a written exam of basic forensic science theory in order to qualify for the semifinals. Semifinalists then examine a mock crime scene in order to demonstrate their knowledge of forensic science and analysis of crime scenes. Participants will then be expected to survey the scene and use correct techniques to collect evidence of the mock crime scene. They will then collect their data and perform a written analysis of the crime scene.

Future technology teacher

Participants investigate technology education prep programs in higher education and test their potential as a future technology educator.

Information technology fundamentals+ certification – CompTIA

Participants demonstrate an understanding of basic information regarding technology concepts by taking an online exam. Certifications will be granted through TSA’s partnership with CompTIA in order to gain a passing score.

Music production

Participants produce an original musical composition that is designed to be played during the National TSA Conference opening or closing general sessions.

On-demand video

Participants will write, shoot, and edit a 60-second video clip onsite during the conference.

Photographic technology

Participants demonstrate their understanding of and expertise in photographic and imaging technology in order to convey a message based on a specific theme. Those who advance to the seminal will record images and then use graphic editing software to complete a final image as a solution to an online challenge.

Prepared presentation

Participants will be tasked with delivering an oral presentation, using a digital slide deck on a topic that is provided onsite.

Promotional design

Participants will be asked to use computerized graphic communications layout and design skills while creating a promotional resource for TSA.

Scientific Visualization (SciVis)

Participants use either 2D or 3D computer graphics tools and design programs to communicate, inform, analyze, and/or illustrate a STEM topic, idea, subject, or concept.

Software development

Participants will be asked to work as a team to build a designated structure that is shared on the TSA site. From there, participating teams apply the principals of structural design and engineering through their research, design, construction, destructive testing, and assessment to determine the efficiency of the structure.

System control technology

Participants work onsite in order to develop a computer-controlled solution to a problem. Typically, these problems are based in an industrial setting. Together, teams will analyze the issue and then build a computer-controlled mechanical model, program their model, and explain the program and mechanical features of the model solution and write instructions for judges and evaluators to operate the device.

Technology bowl

Participants prove their knowledge of TSA and ideas addressed in the technology content standards by completing a written, objective test. Those who compete in the semifinals will then participate in a question/response, head-to-head competition.

Technology problem solving

Participants utilize their skills in problem-solving to develop a solution a problem that is provided on the TSA site.

Transportation modeling

Participants will research, design, and produce a scale model of a vehicle that matches the annual design problem.

Video game design

Participants are asked to develop a game that will reflect the theme for the year. The game must exemplify high artistic, educational, and social value. It should also be interesting and visually appealing to look at.


Participants will be asked to design, build and launch an original website that features the school’s career and technology/engineering program, TSA chapter, as well as the chapter’s ability to research and present a given topic that is related to technology.

Those who advance to the semifinal round will get the opportunity to participate in an onsite interview so that they can demonstrate the knowledge and expertise that they have gained through the development of their original website. Participants are expected to put an emphasis on web design methods and practices, as well as their research for the annual design topic.

What are you waiting for?

The Technology Student Association (TSA) is a great way for students of all ages to start thinking about the world and develop critical thinking skills that will serve them for their whole life. By immersing and learning about the significance of technology and the role it plays in our everyday society,  students can really hone in on their math and science skills and practice them in a competitive or non-competitive setting.

If you’re looking to get into the top colleges in the country, you’re going to need to make a strong case to the admissions officers that you’re not only successful academically, but also successful in your commitment to your community. Here at AdmissionSight, our main goal is to set students up with the highest chance for success when it comes to college admissions. Set up an initial consultation today to see how we can help.


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