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FARMINGTON — A love of science has inspired students at two San Juan County middle schools to participate in a regional science bowl competition where they will represent New Mexico in the national competition.

Newcomb Middle School and Tibbetts Middle School in Farmington are two of five schools competing at the National Science Bowl regional competition Saturday at Highland High School in Albuquerque. The annual event is sponsored by U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

The winner of the competition wins an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. as one of 48 middle schools nationwide to compete in the National Science Bowl middle school finals from April 28 to May 2.

Both schools will take three teams of five students along with extra students to serve as alternates.

Newcomb middle school science teacher Cynthia Montano-Brown will coach the students for the second year in a row.

Montano-Brown said she has been working with her students on becoming more confident, helping them overcome the shyness they display during practice.

“I want these kids to have an experience outside the classroom,” Montano-Brown said. “I want them to be educated and successful.”

Sixth-grader Hannah Pengosro said she likes how the science bowl operates at a faster pace and is more engaging than participating in a school science fair. She finds the science bowl questions more in-depth and harder than classwork and is learning as she studies for the competition.

“I like the action,” Pengosro said. “I enjoy understanding how things work and science is technically the study of everything. It's a little bit overwhelming but kind of cool at the same time."

Vickie Funk-Sheley, a Tibbetts science teacher, has been coaching students for the science bowl competition the last 11 years and the last five years at Tibbetts.

Funk-Sheley said the team lost a lot of experienced eighth-grade students this school year and is eager to work with the new sixth-grade students.

“They’ll be really strong next year and in eighth grade,” Funk-Sheley said.

Sixth-grader Bailey Perkins said the team has been preparing for the last four months for the competition.

“I’m really excited. I’m really nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before,” Perkins said. “I’m really interested to see what the competition is like.”

Perkins said the competition is a fun way to learn about science.

Sixth-grader Jessen Accountius said it would be amazing if the Tibbetts students were to make the national competition but making it to the state competition still felt pretty good.

Funk-Sheley said she will take her students to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque following the regional competition.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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