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Students work together to complete an event in the Tech Olympics held as part of the Illinois High School Theatre Fest. The Midwest Section sponsors the friendly competition.

Photo/R.J. "Mike" Nielsen

by Steven Jacobs, assisted by Ellen White and Jim Ream
Midwest Section


Midwest Section Awash in Tech Olympics

Tech Olympics has taken hold in the states of the Midwest Regional Section. For the past several years, high school students have competed in a Tech Olympics at the Wisconsin and Illinois High School Theatre Festivals. Two years ago, the Indiana Thespian Conference joined in and will hold its in March. This past January, the American College Theatre Festival, Region III, held at Illinois State University, added a Tech Olympics as well. All of these were sponsored in part by the Midwest Regional Section and ETC Lighting.

Now in its sixth year in Wisconsin, eight teams with a total of 43 students participated in this event designed to teach students new technical skills as well as working together as part of a team while having some fun. This year's events were hanging a light, tying knots, using a NICO press, shifting props, doing a costume change, and, a true team event, folding a pleated leg. Participants are judged based on time, safety, and correct performance. Events at the Wisconsin Festival were sponsored by Mainstage Theatrical Supply, Acme Productions Inc, John Hyatt & Associates, and Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. (ETC).

Now in its fourth year in Illinois, Tech Olympics has caught on with widespread enthusiasm. This year's event saw over 70 students from 13 high schools around the state participate in what has become an annual part of the festival. The competition was the same as in Wisconsin but building a mini window flat was the team event instead of folding a leg. All teams left with their 18- by 24-inch flat emblazoned with "USITT-Midwest Section." All participants received a certificate based on time. They were classified as Master Technician, Top Technician, Supporting Technician, or Aspiring Technician. In addition to certificates, those who were fastest in a category received USITT-Midwest Section shirts.

Representatives of theatrical companies and dealers served as judges along with high school teachers and Midwest Section members. Participating were were: Designlab Chicago, ETC, Grand Stage Co., Hall Flying Effects, and Intelligent Lighting Creations. Most of the companies also had swag for the students who competed.

At the first KCACTF Region III Tech Olympics, 19 teams of two students competed in five events: knots (clove, bowline around the waist), wardrobe (fast change from one suit into another), sound (set up and test a mixer, amp, speaker, microphone and CD), lighting (hang and focus a light onto a geometric shape), and carpentry (attach and remove two compression legs).

The fastest time was recorded by students from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; second place was University of Michigan; and third place was University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Fourth place was earned by Ball State University.

There was a pleasant balance of fun and competitive spirit that made this late night event one which the organizers of ACTF intend to continue. Plans are already underway for the new, improved version in 2007.

The board of the Midwest Section sees Tech Olympics as the best method of recruiting high school students and teachers as well as college students. The Section's involvement also helps promote the Section and USITT in general. Other Sections interested in pursuing a Tech Olympics contact Steve Jacobs at for more information.

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At KCACTF, students got into the spirit of the Tech Olympics competition, and into and out of clothing for the quick change event.

Photo/Linda Janosko