View Ridge Middle School STEM students ready to compete in nationals


Two View Ridge Middle School (VRMS) students will show off their animation and STEM skills at a national competition in June.

Ridgefield’s VRMS STEM Club members Naomi Heim, a seventh grader, and eighth grader Ecco Buzby will fly to Orlando, Florida, to compete at the 2024 National Technology Student Association (TSA) Conference. The duo earned second place in an animation competition at the Washington TSA state-level conference in March, qualifying them for nationals.

The state conference features various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competitions, including problem-solving, career prep, math quizzes and more. Heim and Buzby were the only two Ridgefield students who placed high enough to make nationals. For the animation competition, the duo was given five months to make a film about a robotic device used in the medical field. Heim and Buzby took second place for their animation short “Healing Broken Hearts.”

In their film, Jeremy, the protagonist, experiences heart palpitations and is diagnosed with heart arrhythmia by his doctor. In a surgical procedure, he has a pacemaker implanted in his heart through a “da Vinci 5” robot, a robotic device used for precise heart surgeries. The students explained that doctors use computers to control the device for surgeries in narrow, hard-to-reach areas in the body, including the veins.

“The robot is so precise, it can peel the skin off a grape,” Buzby said.

The duo began plotting their animation on a storyboard in October of last year in preparation. Heim generated the idea after reading an article about the positive impacts of pacemaker technology. Heim storyboarded and animated the film while Buzby worked on sound design and color during the five-month process. The team used ibis Paint X, a free animation software, for the video.

“I had to sketch it frame by frame, so it did take a long time,” Heim explained.

Heim and Buzby plan to refine their animation, complete with a slide presentation explaining the five-month process, during nationals. The team will add more background details as part of their final animation.

During the March state competition, Buzby also earned a fifth-place medal for the Computer Aided Design (CAD) challenge. Students used computer software to sculpt a 3D model of a complicated drawing of various geometric shapes, Buzby described as one of the most challenging things he experienced. Buzby and Heim will sign up for various other STEM competitions. Most TSA competitions are a surprise, Buzby said.

“For [problem-solving] at state, we had to build this tower and see how high it could hold a ball with only a pad of paper, popsicle sticks, tape and glue,” Buzby said. “[We] had to see how high we could build the tower while a fan was blowing on it.”

Heim is excited to compete in the problem-solving competition again at nationals, while Buzby is preparing for a career prep challenge. Buzby may have to create a resume and looks forward to learning how. Heim said she feels confident and is ready to panic once they enter Florida.

“I don’t really want to go to Orlando, but we’re going to Universal Studios as part of it, so that’s worth it,” Buzby said.

The national competition will begin on June 26 and is expected to last four days.

The STEM Club is accepting donations to support its trip to nationals at StemClub.