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Lake Oswego students gain skills in Science Bowl

Participants glean knowledge along with teamwork skills and confidence

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Our Lady of the Lake Science Bowl competitors included (from left): back row, eighth-grader Peter Hull, seventh-grader Emma Murphy, eighth-grader Nathan Gewant and seventh-grader Christopher Pusztai; and front row, seventh-grader Nick Di Re, eighth-grader Lucy Bell, eighth-grader Vanessa Viuhkola and eighth-grader Margaret Johnson. (Not pictured are: team members Bridget O'Hearn and Sofia Tosoni.)What did local students learn from participating in the recent Science Bowl?

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School seventh-grader Nick Di Re says he picked up “a lot of cool facts,” such as that a deficiency in blood platelets is called thrombocytopenia. Lakeridge Junior High School sixth-grader Elina Deshpande says she discovered the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which has to do with scratch resistance.

“For example, diamond is the hardest and talc is the softest, so that was something interesting,” Elina says.

Teams from Lakeridge Junior High and Our Lady of the Lake were among several contenders in a Jan. 30 regional competition vying to earn a place in the 26th National Science Bowl finals, which were hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. (Lake Oswego Junior High didn’t enter a team into the competition, but the school has a thriving science program, complete with regular visits from Portland State University experts. Students are participating in the Intel Northwest Science Expo regional competition.)SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lakeridge Junior High School's Science Bowl participants include (from left): coach Matt Briggs, Ben Hosking, Alex Moreau, Austin Sharp, Elina Deshpande, Aidan House and assistant coach Rohan Myers.

The Lake Oswego teams didn’t advance to the national Science Bowl competition, which is scheduled for this May, but students say they learned lessons in science, confidence, scholarship and teamwork through the competition held at the University of Portland and their preparation for it.

Nick says the competition was “thrilling.”

“When you get a question correct, you feel happy,” he explains.

Elina says she developed “teamwork skills.”

“We learned how to have each other’s backs,” she says.

Matt Briggs, seventh-grade science teacher at Lakeridge

Junior High, led the school’s Science Bowl involvement as the coach. Briggs says Science Bowl and the school’s Science Club provide activities “for students who really enjoy and have a passion for science.”

“It’s a quiz atmosphere, so they like the chance to be challenged,” Briggs says. “Some of the questions are quite difficult to answer, but many of our kids can answer them, so they seem to enjoy that.”

Lakeridge Junior High eighth-grader Benjamin Hosking says the questions may be difficult, but the point of the program is to make students feel proud for having the courage to challenge themselves.

“It’s supposed to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something by getting there and trying to get you to accomplish more by advancing,” Hosking says. “It’s trying to get you to have a sense of accomplishment in yourself. It’s a really good program.”

Lakeridge High School freshman Rohan Myers served as the unofficial assistant coach for Lakeridge Junior High. A former Science Bowl team captain himself, Rohan returned to help the Lightning Bolts. Rohan says his involvement has a lot to do with Briggs.

“Mr. Briggs is really the first person who got me into science,” he says. “He is really supportive and encouraging not only to the team, but also to me as a coach. I think he really appreciates what I’m doing with Science Bowl and Science Club. He is just an amazing teacher to get to work with.”

Lakeridge Junior High has competed before, but it was the first year Our Lady students participated — and the school sent two teams.

“Entry into the regional competition is not competitive, so what I feel most excited about is the group of students I work with,” says Marco Puccio, a science teacher in his first year at Our Lady. “I have a great bunch of kids showing up each week, and their decision to commit some of their free time to learning more math and science is heartening.”

He says his teams did well, despite competing against teams that have been participating in Science Bowl for years.

He notes that his students will continue to train for next year’s competition.

Our Lady eighth-grader and team co-captain Vanessa Viuhkola says she has enjoyed working with Puccio.

“If you don’t understand something, he’ll always help you,” Vanessa says. “He’s very passionate and patient about what he does.”

Nick’s mom, Lori Di Re, agrees.

“We have a tradition of great science teachers at Our Lady of the Lake,” she says.

Students have continued to build on their knowledge this spring, since their Science Bowl-centric groups transition to more of a Science Club experience at their schools after the competition.

Nick says he’s already looking forward to next year, when he hopes to get a chance to instruct younger students.

“I wanted to teach them how to do things most people don’t know how to do,” he says. “I want to teach them how to have fun learning about this kind of stuff.”

Noelle Pusztai says her son, Christopher, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of the Lake, has grown a great deal from the experience of the competition and club.

“It has encouraged him to be more inquisitive and involved in his science class, and he has always had an ... extreme interest in science,” Pusztai says.

Elina says she joined the club to prove in a still male-dominated subject that “girls can be smart too.” She adds that as a “science geek” newly arrived from the Beaverton School District, she wanted the people at Lakeridge Junior High to understand her, who she really is.

“I just wanted to establish my brand in the school, so people know who I am when I walk through the doors of the school,” she says.

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..