Fort Hays wins titles
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Louisville, Ky., has proven to be a place of March Madness for Fort Hays State University when it comes to national competitions.
The Tiger men won the NCAA Division II national basketball championship there in 1996.
Thirteen years later in the same month, Fort Hays won three national championships at the International Technology Education Association's annual conference.
There was a lot of buzz about the University of Louisville basketball teams in the home of the Kentucky Derby as the Cardinals men's and women's teams kept alive their dreams of winning two Division I national titles in the same season.
FHSU, by Louisville standards a tiny Division II school nearly 800 miles away in the middle of Kansas, one-upped the Cardinals while also outdoing its own previous best performance at the ITEA nationals.
The Tigers also recorded two fourth-place finishes and failed to place in the top four of only one of its six events.
"We usually do well there, but this is the first year we went in and really dominated," said Fred Ruda, chairman of the Department of Technology Studies at FHSU.
Ruda, who was named Distinguished Technology Educator of the Year at the conference, said all the honors were a group effort.
"What it took to win was what (students) learned in all their classes," he said. "We do not sit down and prime them for one competition or another."
Kim Stewart, associate professor of technology studies, agreed.
"Our kids are well-rounded in all the different areas," Stewart said, naming production, construction, drafting and manufacturing. "They is a lot of variety, and I think that's one of our strengths. They're just not tuned in to doing one job. They have an opportunity here to learn about many facets of industry."
Students proved that at the conference, as several placed in more than one event.
Cimarron senior Joe Hornung even had the distinction of being a member of all three championship teams.
He joined with seniors Mark Bogner, Odin, Lindsey Schaefer, Hays, and junior Nathan Wendel, Ingalls, to win the manufacturing competition.
After qualifying for nationals with its regional championship effort at Denver last fall, that FHSU group was able to win nationals in that category for the first time since 2004.
"That was exciting to bring the manufacturing title back to Fort Hays," Stewart said.
Hornung, Schaefer and Bogner also teamed up with Ellis senior Thomas McElroy to win the technology challenge, a quiz bowl-type event, and Hornung and McElroy joined Tonganoxie freshman Patrick Holton for a first-place finish in the transportation competition.
"The conference in general is great because they have lots of vendors, meet a lot of people," said Schaefer, who also placed fourth in the teaching lesson at nationals.
"And," she added, "it also gives (FHSU) a lot of exposure, and that's good. This program is an excellent one, and (industrial education) is needed everywhere."
Rounding out FHSU's top four finishes was a fourth place in robotics, a first-time competition at the conference.
Members of that team were Wendel, Hays junior Brandon Bunger and Tim Markloff, a sophomore from Campbell River, British Columbia.
Schaefer, who has competed at nationals all four years, said her experience at Fort Hays has been a rewarding one and that it's kind of nice to hear people recognize her and her classmates for their accomplishments upon their return from nationals.
"We're pretty proud of us, too," Schaefer said with a laugh.