Named after the astronaut, physician and entrepreneur Dr. Bernard Harris, the Supernova award honors a Boy Scout's outstanding achievement in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

SUBMITTED PHOTO: JAKE BRUMBAUGH - With the help of fellow Scouts and community members, West Linn resident Jake Brumbaugh was able to build a new viewing platform at Willamette Park, clearing the way for him to become an Eagle Scout. One built a new viewing platform at Willamette Park in just two days. Another forged a protective structure for blueberry bushes. And a third is one of the few who can refer to himself as a "Supernova."

It's been a busy year for these three teens from West Linn's Boy Scout Troop 396, and they were each recognized at the Court of Honor Feb. 5 at the Church of the Resurrection in Tualatin. There, West Linn residents Jake Brumbaugh and John Wetzsteon reached lifelong dreams of becoming Eagle Scouts while Wilsonville's Justin LeBlanc — already an Eagle Scout — was honored with the Dr. Bernard Harris Supernova award.SUBMITTED PHOTO: JUSTIN LEBLANC - Wilsonville High School sophomore Justin LeBlanc entered rarified air in earning the Dr. Bernard Harris Supernova award — a prestigious STEM honor for Boy Scouts.

The Supernova award honors a Boy Scout's outstanding achievement in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and is named after the astronaut, physician and entrepreneur Dr. Bernard Harris.

To earn the award, LeBlanc — a sophomore at Wilsonville High School — completed STEM-related merit badges and requirements while also earning three "Nova" awards and finishing two Supernova projects.

"I earned Eagle (Scout) when I was 14, and I wanted to find a way to stay involved," LeBlanc said. "So my Scout mentor suggested I try to earn this, because I enjoy science. It seemed like a good challenge, and I believe I'm the first person in this Boy Scout (troop) to win it."

For the two Supernova projects, LeBlanc opted to reverse engineer a bicycle and analyze a science fiction movie for inaccuracies.

"The movie was 'Ender's Game,'" he said. "It was fairly accurate, but there were a couple things that were inaccurate in the movie. With the bike, I had to take apart the bike and look at all the parts and see what each part did, and how they all fit together to make it work."

LeBlanc said the toughest requirement for the Supernova award was competing in the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) last year.

"It was a lot of work — a lot of fun as well, but a lot of work went into the project," he said. "I used orange oil — the natural extract from orange peels — to dissolve Styrofoam ... and then mixed it into concrete to see if it would improve the strength and water resistance of the concrete."

The hope was that such a process could help reduce the amount of Styrofoam that ends up in landfills, and LeBlanc said the experiment was a success in that the dissolved Styrofoam did improve the strength of concrete.

In all, the process to earn the award took about a 18 months, and LeBlanc was proud to receive the rare recognition.

"It was really awesome ... and going into it, I didn't know I was going to be one of the first in the area to get it, so I was really excited to get that," LeBlanc said.

Moving forward, he will work toward the even more prestigious Thomas Edison Supernova Award — the highest STEM-related honor in Boy Scouts.

On the water

Brumbaugh, a senior at La Salle High School, earned his Eagle Scout rank after completing a final project that centered on building a new viewing platform along the Willamette River at Willamette Park.

"There's a path off from the boat ramp parking lot that the City of West Linn built," he said. "I went to them in January (2017) and asked them if they had anything (to do), and they said they had a platform for me to build. ... It's pretty much a 16 foot by 16 foot in a 'V' formation, about 500 meters down the path, and it looks down (toward) the falls."SUBMITTED PHOTO: JAKE BRUMBAUGH - Brumbaugh was shocked and pleased when it took just two days to build the new viewing platform at Willamette Park.

To Brumbaugh's surprise, the project took just two days to complete — in large part because of the help he enlisted from fellow troop members and friends from the community.

"I definitely think it came out better than I ever expected it to," Brumbaugh said. "We got it done in two days, and I really felt we were precise, took measurements well and it's built really sturdily.

"For the community, it's good to use and observe the Willamette River. I've gone down to it multiple times and always see people on it, or on the adjacent bench or table."

Brumbaugh said earning his Eagle Scout rank was the culmination of a near-lifelong dream.

"It's something I've been working for since I was 8 years old," he said.

Protect the plantsSUBMITTED PHOTO: JOHN WETZSTEON - West Linn High School junior John Wetzsteon earned his Eagle Scout rank after completing a framed structure to protect a blueberry planter at the Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies (CREST).

Wetzsteon, a junior at West Linn High School, earned his Eagle Scout rank after partnering with the school district's Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies (CREST) for his final project.

The end product, which can be found at CREST's headquarters near Boones Ferry Primary School in Wilsonville, is a framed structure wrapped in bird netting that is used to protect a planter of blueberry bushes.

"I basically got a quote from Parr Lumber, got the materials and contacted Bob Carlson from CREST," Wetzsteon said.

"I made arrangements to go and build it and arranged days for troop members to come and help."

Wetzsteon estimated that he worked between 35 and 40 hours on the project last summer.

"I really liked the final product," he said. "I think everybody did a pretty good job ... hopefully it stays there a long time."

West Linn Tidings reporter Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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