Mountain Vista earns top tech awards

High school students' efforts earn school top slot at state competition

Jane Reuter
From left, Mountain Vista High School TSA members Peter Cleverdon, Will Jones, Aubrey Harrison, Cassandra English and advisor Kent Allison stand by a MVHS trophy case that displays the club's state-level medals.

Five years ago, Mountain Vista High School didn't have a Technology Student Association.

Today, a case in the school's main hallway shines with medals earned by TSA members, who launched the group to a top spot in the Colorado TSA State Leadership Exposition. And a spot in June's national competition in Maryland.

“We went from the smallest to the biggest (HS chapter) in four years and won state,” said senior Will Jones, a member of the award-winning team.

MVHS, the first Douglas County high school to earn a state title, tied for first place with Littleton High School. LHS has dominated the event for 11 of the past 12 years.

“We were really surprised,” senior Peter Cleverdon said. “Last year, we were in 11 place. (This year) our club doubled in size and doubled in effort.”

A total of 53 MVHS students competed at state, and 25 qualified for the national competition.

STEM Middle School earned DCSD further bragging rights. The Highlands Ranch charter took first place at the middle school level; 98 STEM middle and high school students participated in the event.

The state leadership exposition, which included 45 schools, was held Feb. 27-March 1 at the Denver Tech Center Marriott.

MVHS' win has ratcheted up the enthusiasm level among its already dedicated TSA members, but it was particularly poignant for technology teacher and advisor Kent Allison. He was moved to tears by the announcement.

“I was just so proud of these guys,” he said. “It's a great way for them to get validation for what they know.”

Allison's guys include 40 boys and 13 girls. While the team has steadily grown since its inception four years ago, the influx of female members has been particularly notable. In 2013, two MVHS girls went to the state TSA event; this year, 13 participated.

Among them were sophomores and engineering enthusiasts Aubrey Harrison and Cassandra English. Extroverted and easily amused, both girls shatter any tech-geek stereotypes — even as they ponder how to improve their designs for the national event.

“I really enjoy technology, building things, challenging myself,” said English, who has been exploring a career in material engineering. “Definitely not something on the artsy end.”

“We are the minority,” Harrison said. “But you don't really notice the gender difference. We tell everybody, you should join TSA — it's so much fun. And you find common ground in the club.”

English agrees.

“Fifty-three people — we just click.”

TSA is a national nonprofit organization that serves 170,000 elementary, middle and high school students with an interest in technology.