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April 14, 2006

Team has formula for success

From: Dallas Morning News, TX - Apr 14, 2006

Hillcrest students set to compete at National Science Bowl

By ELIZABETH LANGTON / The Dallas Morning News

The science team's first National Science Bowl appearance hasn't exactly been the talk of the halls at Hillcrest High School.

"But as soon as we win, everybody will know," team member Nevena Rakonjac said.

The team, formed this year to compete in the Department of Energy-sponsored academic competition, shares Nevena's confidence, said biology teacher and coach Theresa Oriabure.

"We're not just going to compete; we're going to win," she said.

Team members are Nevena, 17; Joshua Armstrong, 18; Burke Hall, 15; Kate Kitsumritphol, 15; and Melissa Perette, 16.

They earned their all-expenses-paid trip to nationals by besting schools from 16 area districts at the March 4 regional competition.

The National Science Bowl takes place April 27-May 1 in Washington, D.C. Four Texas teams will compete.

The contest uses a quiz-show format. Two teams armed with buzzers face off. They answer questions about math and various areas of science, including biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and earth science.

The finalists will also tour national monuments, attend science seminars and compete to build the best model car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Hillcrest practices once a week. The team members run drills and receive coaching from Ms. Oriabure, chemistry teacher Laura Smith and social studies teacher Gil Winograd. Since all are enrolled in Advanced Placement science courses, their class work also helps.

All of the team members plan to pursue science degrees in college.

Burke is the team's math whiz. He became interested in science because of Ms. Oriabure's teaching methods, he said.

"Math is really my favorite, but now I think it will be something that combines science and math, maybe engineering," he said.

Kate, who suffered profound hearing loss at age 3, wants to attend medical school and become one of the first doctors to wear a cochlear implant. Melissa wants to study mechanical engineering.

Nevena, who emigrated from Bosnia five years ago, is considering a career as a biochemist or environmental engineer.

"English and history are a lot harder for me," she said. "Math and science – they are the universal language."

None were on the first-ever science team at Hillcrest a year ago.

Before the Washington trip, the group will compete in a University Interscholastic League regional meet. The team placed first in its district.

Plans next year are to form a Science Bowl Club and invite more students to join. The Dallas district plans to hold its own contest modeled after the Science Bowl.

Science team members excel academically while balancing a variety of other activities, Ms. Oriabure said.

Melissa is the sophomore class secretary and next year will join the cheerleading squad. Nevena participates in Key Club and Spanish Club and acted in the fall musical. Burke, the sophomore class treasurer, swims and plays lacrosse. Kate is the only female member of the chess team.

"That's usually the case – a small number of kids do everything," Ms. Oriabure said. "They're a wonderful group."


© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co.