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Junior Rispa Vranka Wafula was one of only 10 teen engineers honored recently

The top Wilson High School Robotics team called Loose Screws may have missed out on a repeat appearance at the world championship this year, but team captain Rispa Vranka Wafula went to Houston and was named one of the top 10 teen engineers in the world.

She and nine other sophomores and juniors made the Dean's List for FIRST, which is an acronym for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," the organization founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen to promote engineering.

"There was this luncheon in Houston for 150 student finalists and their chaperones where the president of FIRST spoke and deans from schools like Yale and MIT attended," Rispa recalled. "They named the 10 people who were the winners from the 150 and I was one of them."

Rispa, a junior, flew to Houston with her mom, Janice Wafula, not expecting to be one of those 10.

"I really, really didn't expect it. Honestly, I was running on one hour of sleep because we took a red-eye flight late Thursday because I couldn't miss another day of school and only missed Friday," Rispa said. "I wasn't expecting it at all and was out of it because of just one hour's sleep so when they announced my name I didn't really feel anything at first. It settled in later. I was surprised."

Rispa says making the FIRST Dean's List will be the top item on her resume and college applications.

"A lot of colleges are aware of what FIRST Robotics is doing so it would make an impact to say I'm a Dean's List winner," she said. "There were some cool prizes too. Southwest Airlines gave me a round-trip voucher for anywhere they fly, I've been invited to attend a college summer program that's a tech camp and to FIRST Headquarters for a special tour."

She's is pretty sure that no one from Wilson High or any Portland public high school has ever won student robotics's highest honor.

"I don't even know if anyone from Oregon was ever named a FIRST finalist," she said.

Rispa will be captain of the Loose Screws in her senior year and is more committed than ever, she says, to leading the Wilson Robotics team to next year's FIRST World Finals.

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