Mifflin County student takes first place

LEWISTOWN – Jonathon Chester’s train of thought is carrying him all the way to Orlando, Fla.

The Mifflin County High School student was recently recognized as the first place finisher in Transportation Modeling, a competition held at the 35th Annual Pennsylvania Technology Student Association State Conference held April 17 to 20 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion.

His project involved designing and building his vision of a futuristic high-speed rail train. Chester said he was responsible for everything from engine design to building a display for the model train. He also had to prepare a project booklet containing 3-D sketches and technical drawings documenting the progress of

the design.

Chester said the competition models real-life vehicle construction. He was required to include foam and clay mock-ups and build his train model to meet detailed specifications.

At the regional and state conferences, students raced the CO2-powered models and earned points based on their speed, as well as the accuracy and presentation of their project books.

Chester said this was the second year he participated in the competition. Last year, he placed third at states and didn’t qualify at nationals. This time, he was determined to improve his project.

The new design was created on the computer. Chester said he used a computer numerical control machine to cut the pieces. He said learning to use the CNC machine was his biggest challenge since the equipment is new to the school. However, it cut the pieces more precisely than he could have cut them by hand. He also added more artistic detail to the vehicle for greater aesthetic value.

Even so, he said he didn’t expect to win.

“I was looking at mine and looking at others … their painting was a lot better … displays a lot bigger,” he said.

Plus, his car accidentally flipped on its side during the race before sliding across the finish line.

As he waited in the audience at the conference’s awards ceremony, Chester said the announcer was down to the last top-ten finisher – the first place spot – when a friend sitting beside him joked, “that’s you!”

When his name was called, Chester said he “about fell over.”

“(The judges) take everything into account,” he said.

Though he admitted his hand may not be as steady as other students with a paintbrush, his attention to detail and diligence in the preparation and presentation of his project book earned top recognition from the judges.

“He puts 110 percent into everything he does,” said Jason Donaldson, MCHS TSA adviser. “He scores a lot of points in documentation.”

Donaldson said many students rush to get projects done and may not put enough time into preliminary sketches, drawings and models.

“He’s very thorough for those parts,” he said about Chester.

Chester’s win qualifies him to compete at the TSA National Conference set to be held June 28 to July 2 at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla. He said he is most looking forward to exploring a new area and visiting local attractions.

“When people ask, I compare (TSA) to the tech ed version of 4-H,” Chester said. “A lot of people don’t really know what TSA is. It’s more than your average school club … it’s a nationally recognized organization that does more than just build stuff.”

Chester explained that students’ experiences in TSA shape the way they look at technology for the future.

Other MCHS students who competed at the state conference are:

Meagan Bleyer, Tori Stewart, and Kirstie Fultz -fifth place, Video Game Design;

Emily Berryman, Lauren Naylor, and Kirstie Fultz – 10th place, Biotechnology Design

Kirstie Fultz – 10th place, Photographic Technology;

Jacob Foltz – sixth place, Desktop Publishing; fifth place, Future Technology Teacher;

Kevin Cahill – fifth place, Flight Endurance;

Andrew Traxler, Andrew Kline, Alex Kurtz, Mahesh Pai and Caleb Drukemiller.