Aki Kurose Sending STEM Team to Prestigious Statewide Tech Competition

by Erin Okuno


Exciting things are happening at Aki Kurose Middle School. The sixth to eighth grade school, tucked between Rainier Ave and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is sending their Technology Student Association (TSA) STEM Team to the state conference in March 2020. This is the fourth year the Aki Kurose team will be heading to the statewide competition.

The conference will be a culmination of months of learning and teamwork. The students meet together after school every week for an hour to learn about STEM principles (the interconnection of science, math, and technology) and work on their projects. Teacher Mark Watling recruits students from his shop class to participate in TSA. Watling’s shop class is one of the last of its kind in the city.

In the Technology Exploration Shop class students learn about fabrication in wood, metal, and plastic. This class helps to give students exposure to career and technical education skills that prepare them for college or career. Some of the students are attracted to the club because of the computers and computer technical skills needed, others find the hands-on building related aspects fun and challenging. The students learn about technology through robotics, building solar powered cars, and other STEM related activities.

Students, such as Carlos (not his real name), a seventh grader and a second year student on the team, says being a part of TSA gives him a chance to practice his leadership skills, especially around the use of robotics. His robotics team placed first at the state conference last year. Other students, such as Lorna (not her real name), also a seventh grader, worked on building a solar powered car and competing in the Jr. Solar Sprint. As the students build their projects they gain technical and life skills.

It is the latter skills that are transferable to all walks of life, including problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills.

The culminating event for the team will be attending the State Conference in SeaTac. Attending the conference will bring new opportunities as well, such as staying in a hotel and practicing increased responsibility such as adhering to a dress code. The students also get to compete in up to six events and meet students from all over Washington. Most importantly they become ambassadors for Aki Kurose, by positively representing their school and South Seattle at the conference.

While the team is made up of 18 students, they were only able to fundraise enough money to send half of the participants. The students representing Aki Kurose Middle School at the state conference were selected by lottery. The entrance fee per student is close to $400. The TSA team received several grants which is helping them cover the cost of the nine students attending the conference.

If you would like to contribute to sending students to the conference and supporting the club overall, donations can be sent to the Alliance for Education, 509 Olive Way, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98104, or online giving can be made here. Please write Aki Kurose TSA in the comment box.


Erin Okuno is the Executive Director at the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition. She is a South Seattle resident and is always on the hunt for good eats, good reads, and a good conversation, preferably all in South Seattle. Her column on issues relating to South Seattle area schools appears regularly in the Emerald.

Featured image courtesy of Seattle Public Schools

One thought on “Aki Kurose Sending STEM Team to Prestigious Statewide Tech Competition”

  1. This is a super exciting story! I’m curious about the fundraising–is there still a chance to send the remaining 9 team members to the conference?