Education

Park City rising ninth grader to compete at national Technology Student Association competition

Mack Hastings to represent Treasure Mountain Junior High in dragster engineering event

PARK CITY, Utah — Mack Hastings, a rising ninth grader from Treasure Mountain Junior High, is set to compete in the Technology Student Association (TSA) national competition in Orlando June 26 – 30. Hastings, who took first place at the state level in March, will be the only student from Park City participating in the event.

Hastings’ journey to nationals involved utilizing advanced software for his dragster’s design. “There are definitely a lot more complex programs, like AutoCAD and SolidWorks,” he shared. AutoCAD is a software used for two-dimensional drawing, while SolidWorks is used for three-dimensional design.

The Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) funds TSA’s Mustang After School Academy (MASA) at Treasure Mountain (around 15 students). At the high school level (over 40 students), PCEF has also funded various materials and printers. Park City High School engineering, robotics, and construction teacher Brad Gannon has been running TSA in the Park City School District for nearly a decade.

Gannon elaborated on the process of preparing for the competition. “We sketched out how we wanted [the dragster] to look, loaded it into the CNC machine, and then cut out the parts,” he explained. (“CNC” stands for Computer Numerical Control.) Hastings added, “We used materials like balsa wood, carbon fiber rods, 3D printed wheels, super glue, blue paints, and a glossy finish.”

Prior to each competition, rigorous preparation includes extensive testing. Hastings recalled a critical moment at the state competition when their initial design had to be completely redone due to a specification issue. “Mack had to completely redesign it because his axle was too far down,” he said. “If it’s too far down, you’re disqualified.” Gannon also recalled that they had to change his dragster two weeks ago because Mack was “short by a millimeter.” The dragster specifications are painstakingly exact and change every year.

Due to unfortunate logistical circumstances like moving classrooms and building demolition, Gannon and Hastings had to tear down the test track already, so they will not be able to test the dragster again prior to nationals. Despite the challenges, Hastings remains optimistic. “We know it’ll move,” he quipped. His dragster, which has not yet been named or fully decorated, will compete in a race where milliseconds can determine the winner.

Hastings’ dragster can now get up to 67 mph on a 20-meter course. This is about 0.2 seconds faster than his dragster’s state competition speed.

Gannon noted, “A difference of 0.2 seconds can be the difference between first and tenth place.”

According to Gannon, Hastings’ drive and resilience were key factors in his success. “I always like having something to do,” Hastings said, describing what inspired him to join TSA. “In sixth grade, I did TSA, and when I heard it was happening again, I decided to join with my friends.” Gannon praised Hastings’ achievement and highlighted the benefits of TSA in developing STEM skills. “It teaches teamwork, coordination, and leadership,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see students like Mack shine, especially given the level of detail and specifications required.”

Looking ahead to nationals, Hastings is excited about more than just the competition. “I’m excited to race my car and see how others perform,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to visiting Universal Studios and possibly the beach.”

The national TSA competition will take place in Orlando, with thousands of students from across the country showcasing their engineering projects. Hastings’ journey from Park City to the national stage is a testament to his hard work and dedication.

Photos below by Dani Miles.

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