Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Vancouver schools’ TV show scores Emmy gold

By Ashley Swanson, Columbian Features News Coordinator



Leonardo da Vinci propelled Vancouver Public Schools to local Emmy gold.

The Renaissance man was the subject of “Famous Scientist,” a regional Emmy Award-winning segment from the Vancouver Public Schools’ education series, “Science.”

Mixing visual puns, humor and historic facts, Television Production Supervisor Nick Voll and Video Production Specialist Ian Southworth created the nearly three-minute clip, which highlights da Vinci’s scientific ideas. The piece was narrated by Vancouver’s David Schmitke.

“I hadn’t realized how scientific (da Vinci) was, how his ideas were so far ahead of the technology of the time,” Voll said.

Hosted by Skyview High physics teacher Nate Macon, the “Science” show explores one scientific concept through experiments in each episode. Voll and Southworth approached Macon about producing the program after seeing the teacher’s “crazy” classroom experiments.

“Our humor and science is based on subjects for fifth- to eighth-graders, but our goal is to sneak in stuff that appeals to everyone,” said Voll, who joined Vancouver Public Schools’ communication department in 2010.

“The hard parts are trying to make it fun.” said Southworth, who has worked in the district for 12 years. “It’s pretty crazy that our names are on the award with Leonardo da Vinci. I’m glad that our district supports this kind of program.”

In addition to “Science,” the duo produces a talk show, news program, a student filmmaker project and most recently have begun to highlight music programs in the district. The show airs on Comcast Channel 28 and is posted to its YouTube channel,

The 50th annual Northwest Chapter Emmy Awards show was June 15 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.

“It was almost an out-of-body experience,” Voll said about when the team saw their segment playing above the stage, signaling they had won.

It was especially meaningful to their voice talent, Schmitke, who worked for 25 years as a broadcast reporter and TV show host before leaving the air. He had never won an Emmy. His wife, Helen Raptis, a host of KATU’s “AM Northwest,” was also nominated in a separate category.

“On Emmy night, both of them were nominated as hosts, but it was David who won. He was just like a little kid, jumping up and down,” Voll said.

Both Schmitke and Raptis volunteer their time for the program to help give back to the schools and students. Vancouver Public Schools triumphed over segments from Oregon Public Broadcasting, Idaho Public Television and Seattle news station KING, all professional broadcasting companies that took home Emmy awards in other categories.

The “Science” episode “Waves” was also nominated in the Health and Science category for a Program or Special. Nominated in that same category was Vancouver filmmaker Forrest Burger for his segment, “Weathering The Storm.” The program examined the weather stations on Washington’s coast. His program ran on Tacoma KBTC’s “Full Focus” series.

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email

Don't Do Stupid Stuff Mugs