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Inglemoor teacher recognized for ‘hands-on, brain-on’ classes

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

Engineering 631"I’m trying to just create the class I wish I’d had in high school," Mike Wierusz explains. "I left high school with a full ride scholarship to UW for engineering, but I had no clue what engineering was. I just don’t think that’s fair, with the cost of higher ed now. I think it’s a huge benefit for students to have an idea of why they’re going to do what they’re going to do."

Wierusz teaches the sustainable engineering and design program at Inglemoor High School, and was one of seven teachers on the West Coast chosen as an Allen Distinguished Educator. The ADE program, sponsored by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, recognizes innovative teachers who give their students opportunities to learn engineering and entrepreneurship in creative ways.

Hands-on, real-world learning is the central theme of Wierusz’s classes, IB Design and Technology and Sustainable Engineering and Design. (The classes are open to high schoolers at any school in the Northshore School District.)

"The idea behind IB Design and Technology is to introduce students to the design process and the tools that we use to do design," he said. "That includes understanding how the market works, the product life cycle, and all of the elements that go into decision-making for product design."

Engineering 647After students complete IB Design and Technology, they can further their skills in Sustainable Engineering and Design. Students learn how humans affect the environment and society; then, Wierusz said, he asks them to use that knowledge to "do good."

In groups, the students plan projects, submit grants and spend the rest of the year making their projects.

This year, for example, one group is trying to design a more sustainable snowboard.

Another group is developing an off-the-grid refrigeration system to store vaccines in developing countries.

Several groups are working with professional architects and designers on NSD’s new high school. One group is focusing on the wetlands on the site. Another is making a touch screen kiosk that will show students how much energy and water the school is saving.

There’s a "huge emphasis" on students working with industry partners — local businesses and organizations — who serve as technical experts for the students, Wierusz said.

For example, the group who’s making the sustainable snowboard is working with K2 Sports in Seattle to understand snowboard design and the market for snowboard.

Most students come in to the class with an interest in engineering, business orenvironmental science, Wierusz said. His class draws on those skills and others, requiring students to use both their strengths and weaknesses. Students must explain their project goals in writing and figure out how much money they need for their project before they can begin coding or building.

"The reality is, problem solving cannot be done with just one skill set. Real problem solving involves science, it involves art, it involves communication, it involves math, it involves writing," Wierusz said.

He added, "We try to spread these skills sets among the projects, so that way you’ve got somebody who’s interested in the environment, somebody who’s interested in engineering,

somebody who’s interested in business in each of the projects, so that way they understand that it does take all of the skill sets to bring something to fruition."

The classroom is equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter, wood shop tools and soldering equipment for students to make prototypes of their designs.

The program is both "hands-on" and "brain-on," Wierusz said.

Students are effusive in their praise for Wierusz’s classes. Student Chloe Pearson is part of the class’s "green communications team," which lets her combine her love for design and environmental science with her interest in marketing.

By working with real-world companies, she said, she’s learned how to patiently navigate the many levels of authority within a company.

"I’ve also learned a lot about the freedom of design, because I had a misconception that they would give me a project and I would do it," she said. "But they gave me a problem."

Another student, Spencer Lane, took the Sustainable Engineering and Design class last year and again this year. His group is working on the "green machine," a mobile learning lab in a trailer that the students use to teach elementary schoolers about energy and sustainability.

The hands-on approach of Wierusz’s class makes it easy to be excited about the work, Lane said.

"It was unlike any class I’ve had before. It was super hands-on," Lane said. "We always had cool field trips or people come in and talk to us….It was stuff like that that brought me back this year."

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Photo by Briana Gerdeman

Mike Wierusz, who teaches the Sustainable Engineering and Design program at Inglemoor High School, answers students’ questions. Wierusz is one of seven teachers nationwide who won an award for teaching entrepreneurship and engineering in creative ways.

Lena Bandulin, a student in Mike Wierusz’s IB Design and Technology class, creates a model of one of her designs. For an assignment to improve a household object, she’s making a paper towel holder with a rubber stopper that lets you tear off paper towels with one hand.

BHS’ Edgecomb wins best junior dog handler in U.S.; Westminster next

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

Katelynn EdgecombBy school day, she’s Katelynn Edgecomb, just another sophomore walking the halls at Bothell High School and attending classes. Outside of school, she recently became the best junior dog show handler in the nation, winning the title on her first try at the 2013 American Kennel Club’s Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show held December 14-15 in Orlando, Florida.

Edgecomb, who lives in Snohomish, was one of 148 junior dog handlers between the ages of nine and 18 who competed in the national competition. She edged out Emma Echols of Watkinsville, Georgia, who was attempting a third consecutive win as national junior showmanship champion with her Yorkshire terrier. Mary Ann Alston of Maryland judged the 12 handlers who made it to the finalist round.

Before she could reach the finals, Edgecomb and her fellow junior handlers had to maintain a 3.0 grade point average in school and have at least five wins in open competitions.

Edgecomb got involved in dog showmanship when she was encouraged to join a 4-H club in Snohomish County about seven years ago even though she didn’t own a show dog. She used her 4-H leader’s bullmastiff to learn how to handle a dog in the showmanship ring, and she quickly started winning first place in junior novice competitions. She eventually transitioned to a show quality Australian shepherd in order to become more competitive in open class competitions.

And then three years ago a short, stout pug full of personality named Lara entered her life. Lara, whose full name is CH Luna’s Timeliss Lara Croft Of Cantu, and Edgecomb became a team.

"Our first time out we got best junior, and I knew it was a match made in heaven. She loves to show and we have fun together; she is a character!" Edgecomb wrote in an online interview she posted on a website set up to receive donations toward her travel expenses to show at the Crufts Dog Show.

Billed as the largest dog show in the world, the Crufts competition will be held in Birmingham, England March 6-9. Edgecomb’s victory in Orlando qualified her to show at Crufts.

Between now and the Crufts show, though, is America’s favorite and most famous dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club’s 138th annual Westminster Dog Show February 10-11 in New York City. Edgecomb and Lara’s victory at the Eukanuba National Championships also qualified them to participate at this prestigious dog show.

The Westminster show’s evening competition will be televised live on CNBC from 8-11 p.m. on Monday, and on USA from 8-11 p.m. on Tuesday. Should Edgecomb qualify for the junior showmanship finals, she would compete Tuesday evening.

Besides winning the title at the Eukanuba show and qualifying to compete at Westminster and Crufts, Edgecomb also was awarded a $2,000 college scholarship.

While practicing and participating in dog shows takes up most of her spare time, Edgecomb still makes time for two other activities in her life. She is very active as a 4-H member not only in Snohomish County, but also has taken on mentorship and leadership roles by becoming a teen leader and State 4-H Ambassador. At school she’s participated in choir for almost eight years because she loves to sing.

Edgecomb gives a lot of credit for her success to her mom, Dena Edgecomb, a single mother who has supported her daughter’s efforts every step of the way. Edgecomb’s mom has worked hard to save enough money for her daughter to travel to various dog shows around the country, but after winning the Eukanuba competition and suddenly being qualified to travel to New York City and England to compete makes covering the costs of travel a bit harder for her mom.

Thankfully, Edgecomb has friends and family who are helping to support her dream, and it was one of her friends who set up the website www.katelynntocrufts.com so fans and supporters could have an easy way to make a donation to cover travel expenses. Visitors to the website will also find a link to the video of the junior showmanship finals at the Eukanuba National Championship.

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Photo by Robert Young © AKC

Katelynn Edgecomb, a Bothell High School sophomore, recently won the best junior handler showmanship championship at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship held in Orlando, Florida in December. She is shown here with her pug, Lara. Next up for the pair is the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York City.

Columbia Winery introduces new wines, tasting room renovations

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

In 2012, California-based E. & J. Gallo Winery bought Columbia Winery. Now, Columbia has just released its latest 2012 wines.

The Chardonnay, Red Blend, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that were released earlier this month will only be available in the Northwest until later this year — a way to "pay homage and recognize Columbia’s roots," said Kristina Kelley, director of public relations for Gallo.

Columbia’s roots go back to 1962, when 10 friends — six of them University of Washington professors — founded Associated Vintners to focus on making table wines with European grapes. In the 1980s, the company changed its name to Columbia Winery and opened a tasting room in Woodinville, one of the first wineries here.

Columbia’s four newest wines represent changes in winemaking and sourcing. Winemaker Sean Hails said he sourced fruit from the Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope for these wines.

"They’re wonderful everyday food wines," Hails said.

The 2012 Chardonnay has flavors of apple and pear that are stronger than the oak flavor, Hails said. He also experimented with different yeast strains and cooler fermentation for this Chardonnay.

The Composition Red Blend uses a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from 2010 and 2011. Hails said he plans to release similar Composition blends every year.

"Moving forward, it’ll be the same idea from a blending standpoint," he said. "It gives me some flexibility and a place to play."

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Hails said, is "varietally correct. You definitely know it’s Cabernet." It has good acidity and is good to drink with food, he added.

The 2012 Merlot has cherry and dark fruit flavors, with notes of spice and mocha, Hails said.

The wines aren’t the only thing that’s new at Columbia; the tasting room will begin renovations this week, said John Sportelli, senior manager of Columbia Winery.

When the renovations are done, Columbia will have a new private tasting room and an educational room where customers can learn more about the winemaking process. The tasting room will also be repainted for a high-energy look, Sportelli said. (The tasting room will still be open during the two to three weeks of renovations.)

Educating customers about the blend of art and science that goes into winemaking is one of Columbia’s main goals, Sportelli said.

"Our focus is on education when a customer comes in ...and we want to do it fun," he

explained. "We give you as much information as you want."

Columbia has also introduced new packaging and a new logo in the hopes of targeting a new audience.

"We’re looking at the consumer that’s really a foodie enthusiast ... the customer that enjoys a good food and wine pairing," Sportelli said.

To that end, Columbia’s tasting room has a chef on staff who prepares foods, such as unique flatbreads, to accompany the wines.

"It’s good to drink wine, but it’s at its best when it’s served with food," Sportelli said.

Village Theatre’s acclaimed 'Les Misérables’ opens in Everett

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Les Mis photoAfter receiving glowing reviews when their production opened in Issaquah in November, Village Theatre’s latest musical production Les Misérables, directed by Steve Tomkins, moved to the Everett Performing Arts Center on January 10.

The good news is that additional shows have been added February 5 through February 9. With the addition of more performances, it becomes the longest running production in the history of Village Theatre.

Also of note is that the production just last week won a Seattle Times Footlight Award for one of the top mainstage musicals of 2013.

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name has been wowing audiences since first opening in 1985. Since then, over 60 million people in more than 40 countries have seen it on stage.

Set in France, the musical begins in 1815 when France is in political upheaval, and convict Jean Valjean is on the run. Hunted relentlessly by the policeman Javert for breaking his parole, he must leave his past behind and keep his vow to raise the young orphaned Cosette. But with revolution in the air and Javert closing in, Jean Valjean has no choice but to fight for his life and sacrifice everything to protect the people he loves.

Friday’s opening night performance did not disappoint, even when the rotating stage floor malfunctioned during Little Cosette’s first scene, causing an almost 18-minute delay in the performance.

That stage floor – picture a giant Lazy Susan hidden smack dab in the middle of the stage – was just one part of what made this production soar. Envisioned by scenic designer Scott Frye, the floor, along with the complex set, meant the cast could walk while remaining center stage, the props could enter and exit seamlessly, and it allowed the audience to see both sides of the epic battle scene. It is probably one of the best executed set designs I’ve ever seen on stage.

Also soaring were the voices of the cast, especially Jean Valjean’s Greg Stone, Javert’s Eric Polani Jensen, and Enjolras’ Steve Czarnecki. Those three men’s voices poured out into the audience like a fine tawny port on a cold winter’s night.

Stone is a Seattle native and attended the University of Washington. He has played the role of Valjean on Broadway and he starred in a national touring production for a year and a half. He made his Village Theatre debut in 1993 in the lead role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, a role he credits as his breakout role that jumpstarted his career, according to an interview published in the musical’s program.

Czarnecki, making his Village Theatre debut with this production, was breathtaking on stage when he sang in "Red and Black" and "Do You Hear the People Sing." It is understandable why he was selected as the under/study for Valjean.

Strong, solid performances abounded with Fantine’s Beth DeVries, adult Cosette’s Alexandra Zorn, Marius’ Matthew Kacergis and Eponine’s Kirsten DeLohr Hellend, whose performance of "On My Own" was stellar.

Rounding out the performances were the hilariously gauche Thénardier, played by Nick DeSantis, and Madame Thénardier, played to perfection by Kate Jaeger. A special mention must also be made for the children’s roles, which were beautifully performed.

The 14-person orchestra, led by conductor R. J. Tanicioco, also deserves star billing, as the musical’s mood transitioned the theatre effortlessly from heart-pounding and goose-bump producing ensemble performances like "Master of the House" and "One Day More" to the poignant performances like "I Dreamed a Dream" and "On My Own."

Costume designer Cynthia Savage’s attention to detail was evident in every outfit worn on stage. Over 200 costumes were required to outfit the cast.

Adding to the layers of complexity on stage was the lighting done by Tom Sturge. With a flick of a light change, the mood shifted from light to dark, golden to stark, warm to frigid.

The musical’s running length is approximately three hours. Everett Performing Arts Center is located at 2710 Wetmore Avenue. For tickets, visit Village Theatre’s website: www.villagetheatre.org.

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Ensemble. Les Misérables Production photo.© 2013 Tracy Martin. Property of Village Theatre.

Precor debuts new exercise technology at CES

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

PrecorWorkout-tracking software and HDTV-enabled cardio equipment are among the products Woodinville-based Precor exhibited last week at CES, an international consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. This year was Precor’s first time at CES, the show at which the VCR, CD player, plasma TV and Blu-Ray disc have been unveiled in past years.

Precor launched Preva, a networked fitness platform, in April 2013. It lets exercisers set goals and track their progress by logging in on Precor treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and Adaptive Motion Trainers or by using an iPhone app.

"They can literally go anywhere in the world — we have over 20,000 of these units [with Preva] in 56 countries," said Brent Brooks, vice president of networked fitness at Precor.

He explained that Preva uses "gamification," similar to earning levels in a video game or participating in an airline mileage program, to motivate people to exercise. Exercisers can set duration, distance or calorie goals.

"Once people have taken the time to establish a goal, they’re twice as likely to work out," Brooks said.

While Precor equipment tracks users’ workouts automatically, they can also manually enter activities like strength exercises using the mobile app. The workout information can also be linked with Microsoft HealthVault, a service that records other health data such as nutrition and medical records.

People work toward badges for certain accomplishments, such as exercising for a total of 10 hours. Other badges, such as the one for burning as many calories as you would burn walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, are kept secret until the user earns them — which gives the user a "surprise and delight factor," Brooks said.

"Really, at the heart of Precor is a desire to help people reach their goals, whether they’re exercisers with fitness goals or operators with business goals," Brooks explained.

Mike Williams is the co-owner of Gold’s Gym in Woodinville, which has several floors dedicated to Precor cardio equipment. He strives to help gym members meet their goals, and Preva can make it easier for them to work out. For example, users can set up a workout program for themselves with a certain speed and incline, and repeat that workout without having to set up the machine again.

As a business owner, Williams likes how Preva lets him track usage of the machines (though not individual users.) That helps him figure out why certain machines wear out more quickly, why certain machines aren’t getting used and which types of equipment to buy more of.

Gym members also appreciate all the entertainment options offered on Precor’s equipment with P80 touch screens. They can choose from a variety of TV channels, how-to exercise videos, music videos of different genres, movie trailers and Internet browsing.

"We all know that running, ellipticals, biking can be tedious and boring," Williams admitted. "The entertainment helps distract people. Personally, I like it because then I’m not watching the clock."

And Precor plans to add even more entertainment options to its exercise equipment, Brooks said. At CES, the company announced integration with DIRECTV, which will give exercisers access to more than 100 HD channels, such as CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Food Network and HGTV. Exercisers no longer have to rely on shared, wall-mounted TVs for entertainment.

"We’re able to integrate the fitness experience and the media experience," Brooks said.

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Photo by Briana Gerdeman At Gold’s Gym in Woodinville, a man runs on a Precor treadmill with a touch screen that allows users to log in and track their workouts. The software, called Preva, is designed to motivate exercisers.