West Salem team wins world’s largest K-12 science competition

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West Salem team wins world’s largest K-12 science competition

Published 9:58 p.m. PT May 18, 2017 | Updated 3:06 p.m. PT May 21, 2017

A team of young women from West Salem High School has won one of the world’s largest science competitions.

Alexa Montgomery, Marcella Cross, Emma Fagan, and Sophia Hawley recently finished first in North America’s 25th annual Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision program, the world’s largest K-12 science competition.

The team of sophomores and juniors saw the exploding lithium-ion batteries in phones, laptops and other increasingly common hand-held devices and mobile technologies as a major problem. The problem, said Hawley, comes from a build-up of lithium in the batteries.

Their solution? Invent a new kind of battery, the qSafe battery, that uses surface acoustic waves, a specific kind of sound wave, to break up the lithium before it can build to dangerous levels.

Their prototype is not a working model, but the girls said they think it could work and be manufactured in the future if a company was willing to invest the time and money.

For the competition, the West team competed against more than 5,000 teams from the United States and Canada. They were among 24 teams that won regional titles, and then selected as national winners in eight age groups, said Toshiba officials.

Since the competition’s inception in 1992, more than 378,000 students from across the United States and Canada, officials said.

Past Exploravision winners have gone on to study various fields of science from physics to aerospace engineering, and some have taken part in or even lead projects such as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, called Waymo.

Now, the West team will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will speak to the National Press Club, present their prototype to members of Congress, celebrate at a gala, and take a little time to explore the country’s capital.

“It still just seems so unreal,” Montgomery said.

Their team will be lead by recently retired science teacher Michael Lampert and Victoria Moreland, an ASPIRE volunteer and textbook editor for the school.

The girls said they are relieved now to be worrying about what they are going to say in their presentation and what they are going to wear to the gala.

“It will be the experience of a lifetime we will never forget,” Montgomery said.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.

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