The list of standout students at Oak Bay High school grows by the day.
You can add Grade 10 student Robert Lee to the list after the 15-year-old Oak Bay high student scored the highest grade on the Michael Smith Science Challenge, a competition where Lee took top prize not only across the province – but across the entire country.
“He is an amazing young man and we know it and he has that recognition across Canada now,” said science teacher Stephanie Mann. “Our school is producing fine young people, very accomplished young people and we are helping support them to be all they can be.”
Mann discovered the University of British Columbia-sponsored challenge online and when she brought the proposal to the nine honours students in her science class including Lee, they accepted the challenge with one caveat: if the winner came from their class, the $50 prize going to the teacher of the winner, would be put towards an in-class pizza party. The results from the Feb. 25 exam arrived at the end of April and on May 13, they celebrated with a pizza party for the entire class.
“I was feeling pretty happy. … It feels good,” the soft spoken Lee said. “I was hoping to do well but I didn’t know. It wasn’t black and white, it wasn’t crystal clear so I wasn’t too sure.”
Lee scored 58.5 out of a maximum score of 60, on the open-ended, five-question exam which looked for a demonstration of problem-solving skills and analysis, evaluation and communication of scientific ideas. Lee’s classmate Ruby Tang, who also took the exam, said she was excited for her friend who beat out 1,747 participants for the award and the $500 top prize.
“I knew we had bright, exceptionally talented people in our class,” Tang said. “I was really happy. I thought that everyone would be really proud of him, he is like really smart and I’m glad to know someone that incredible.”
Mann said she is proud of all nine students who took part in the exam, with Matthew MacDonald coming in the top 10 per cent and three others, Nicole Frazer, Jack Kyle and Liam Marshall rewarded with certificates for top 25 per cent finishes.
“I knew that they would shine because they are all good students and Rob is an exceptional student,” she said. “It wasn’t unexpected but that doesn’t detract from the excitement and joy for the acknowledgment of being first.”
Lee and his parents are excited by the achievement and although he isn’t quite sure what his future holds or where his academic future will take him, the humble 15-year-old said he will continue to challenge himself with whatever scientific opportunities come next.
“I just find science interesting it explains nature, it explains the world pretty well. … It was fun to try it out to see what was outside our science classroom,” he said. “I thought it would just be a good experience to try out and I was hoping to do well.”