Rapping about the cosmos

t West Sound Academy senior takes top honors in competition.

KINGSTON — It seems the only thing Lila Burns doesn’t know how to do is lose. When the West Sound Academy senior entered a national NASA competition with her class, Paul Kikuchi’s sound design course, last year their entry didn’t win. That didn’t sit well with her. So, this year, she took on the project by herself. The results were favorable.

Burns took first prize in this year’s 21st century explorer podcast competition, a nation-wide contest sponsored by NASA. The competition encourages participants to answer — in the most artistic fashion they can — the question, “What do you think is NASA’s greatest exploration achievement in the past 50 years, and why?” The Kingston native’s answer, a rap song, can be found at

Using music she’d mixed on a digital program a day earlier, Burns put her words to music then entered the contest. She tapped into experience garnered in the local music scene to take on the project. Her band, the Electric Lemonade Project, is currently on hiatus while a band member tours Europe.

“We’d been performing for the last couple of years, and we’re starting to do some rap stuff,” she said, explaining that the rap podcast wasn’t too difficult.

The motivation behind the project was pretty simple. Last year was a disappointment because her team was a national finalist, but didn’t win overall. That sparked a fire in Burns.

“We were all pretty upset after last year,” she said. “We worked pretty hard. ... It was an assignment last year and we all had to do it. This year I did it because I was pretty determined to get something from it.”

For her efforts, Burns was awarded a eight gigabyte iPod Nano — and the satisfaction of a job well done.

That she willingly and single-handedly tackled the project is no surprise to Burns’ mom, Nancy Ball.

“Lila has been an artist since she was born. She’s very self-motivated,” Ball said. At every stage of Burns’ life, Ball has fed her hunger for knowledge and the arts. From the first through eighth grades, Burns attended the North Kitsap Options program at Gordon Elementary.

That motivation has led to Burns being accepted at three different art schools, including Cornish University in Seattle. She’ll study graphic design in college.

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