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West Hills Students, Teachers Join Congressional Hearing on Science Today

Seventh-graders showcase their award-winning invention at hearing that rebroadcasts tonight on CSPAN.

Two students were part of a congressional hearing on science education on Capitol Hill today.

Claudia Cooper and Samantha Tarnopol, both seventh-graders, participated in a full session of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology this morning, according to district spokeswoman Betsy Erikson.

They were joined by science teacher and coach Amy Attard, and Russ Purdy, who teaches language arts, to testify about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education. The program emphasizes the relevance and real-world application of science, math, engineering and technology.

Cooper and Tarnopol were named 2nd Place National Winners of this year's Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Competition, for their invention called the Intra-Trachea Breathing System. The disc-like device helps patients with breathing disorders or diseases inhale once it is surgically implanted.

They were among two dozen teams selected as regional winners in the seventh- to ninth-grade category. In addition to creating their invention prototype, they wrote a research paper and designed a website. More than 4,300 teams from around the country entered the competition.

The students devoted two hours each day toward the project for three weeks.

"(It) is just one venue that provides a challenging opportunity for students to become excited about science," Attard testified. "This program encourages students to think of an invention that could come to life 20 years in the future."

The students each also received Toshiba HD camcorders, an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC, and a $5,000 savings bond.

In addition to the notoriety, the school also reaped rewards for their achievement. West Hills received a Toshiba laptop computer,  and both Attard and Purdy received Toshiba camcorders.

Nine other teams from West Hills earned honorable mention in the competition, continuing a six-year streak., Attard said.

"Students are challenged to use their ingenuity to plan, research, and design a product that will benefit mankind," she said. "This model forces students to think globally, use problem solving skills and incorporate technology, all skills that are paramount in the future of education."

The hearing will be rebroadcast at 8 p.m. on CSPAN.

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