geekStarter Community Highlights – February 2017

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Young students at FMCHS robotics competition

Two exciting events were hosted last month by Father Mercredi Community High School team in Fort McMurray. One was a VEX Robotics Tournament, world’s Northernmost VEX tournament, held on January 14. The winners were two of the school’s teams, which qualified for the North American VEX championships in Iowa April 4-8, 2017. The tournament was attended by First Lego League students as well, who participated in a programming Maze and Sumo match competition. The other event where the FMCHS teams spread their love for robotics, was the well-attended Grade 6 Open House Day on January 30.


 

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OLS team designing their new project

The past few weeks have been eventful for the OLS team in Canmore! They have been busy brainstorming and researching project ideas using design thinking methods, as part of the Berkeley Program. Recently, they converged on two topics: Degradation of plastics and Microbial Fuel Cells. It’s great how everyone, including the team’s mentors, can follow and contribute to the ideation and discovery process, which is all documented on Google drive. Excellent work OLS, and great job at keeping everyone in the loop!


 

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OLS students using AMINO’s DNA Playground

New bioengineering kits from AMINO labs are being tested by the OLS team from Canmore – with excellent results! After gaining some practice with the virtual bioengineer simulator, the team went ahead and used the DNA Playground to introduce a new DNA program into bacteria – which turned the bacteria pink! Designed for beginners with no prior experience in molecular biology, the AMINO equipment and kits are student-friendly and will help our new middle-school and high-school teams jump-start their journey in synthetic biology.


 

The team at Notre-Dame Collegiate in High River has been working diligently on building up their lab skills while continuing their research on two project ideas: synthetic blood and an ovulation-detection system for natural family planning. So far, the natural family planning project looks very promising. The team will introduce a DNA program into bacteria that will make them glow upon encountering ovulation hormones. The team has ambitious plans for the season, and aims to complete part of their wetlab before the June exams. Good luck!


 

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Working with Raspberry Pi tanks at Ross Shep HS

Ross Sheppard High-School team in Edmonton is making headway with their cool project that sends self-driving Raspberry Pi tanks to collect data around the school. Once the Pi tanks have successfully accomplished their surveillance mission, the team plans to move on to drones. Their goal for the season? Sending self-flying quad-copters to film the school’s summer festival from above. We are SO excited for them and can’t wait for the video footage!


 

The youngest yet most experienced team when it comes to design thinking methodologies – the team at Ted Harrison School in Calgary – has made significant progress recently, on several fronts. For their more advanced project – a filter for the removal of pesticides from water – the team will soon introduce customized genetic circuits into bacteria and start running functional tests. They’ve also acquired first-hand experience with current water-filtration products and gained valuable insights on how to improve the user experience of their future device. For the team’s newer project, students’ idea flow converged on tackling the sugar addiction seen in our present-day society by making sugar-free food products. At the moment, the team is trying to determine the user base for their new product, and exploring the possibility of using the miraculin protein – a natural sugar substitute found in some types of berries – as a replacement for sugar. Impressive work – Way to go, team!