Heading for a brain storm
High school students from all areas of the province are encouraged to write a quiz that could land them in St. John’s in April to compete for the title of Brain Storm Champion 2013 and an opportunity to represent the province at the national competition in Hamilton, Ontario in June.
Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine established the brain storm competition in 2000 to encourage high school students to learn more about the brain and to consider neuroscience as a career.
The competition targets high school students taking biology, advanced placement psychology and other high school science courses.
“We’re working to expand the competition and to get more schools interested,” says graduate student Brian Roome, who is co-ordinating this year’s competition.
In preparation for the provincial competition held at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s in April, students write a qualifying quiz at their high school based on a standardized information booklet.
The Top 50 students will participate in the provincial competition, consisting of both oral and written questions about the function, anatomy and diseases of the brain.
This year’s winner will travel to Hamilton, Ontario, on June 1 to represent Newfoundland and Labrador at the National Brain Bee competition.
Roome is originally from Grand Falls-Windsor. He’s in the neuroscience program at Memorial and is currently studying the use of neural stem cells as a therapeutic option for stroke.
Roome graduated from Exploits Valley High in 2005. He never heard about the brain storm competition when he was in high school but is delighted that the school is participating in this year’s event.
“I liked participating in provincial competitions and the math teachers really pushed those. But, as far as science goes, there wasn’t a lot that we heard of,” he says.
Students who travel to St. John’s not only get to compete in Brain Storm 2013 but will be given free tours of select neuroscience research labs at Memorial.
“This is a great way of getting the students interested in the neurosciences into the labs to see how things are done,” Roome says.
Greg Penney won last year’s competition. Penney was born and raised in Harbour Breton but moved to Gander with his family and completed his final year of high school at Gander Collegiate.
He took part in the competition with his biology class at Gander Collegiate. All students participated in the first stage of the provincial competition, which consisted of a written exam.
“We then had multiple choice questions relating to neurology and neuroscience and that was an elimination round. It was three strikes and you’re out,” Penney explains.
The competition continued until the three f inalists — Penney, Michaela Garland of Baccalieu Collegiate in Old Perlican and Michaela Rose of Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John’s — were left to battle it out for top prize.
For this stage of the competition, the judges read questions to the finalists who wrote out their answers.
The win gave Penney the honour of representing his province at the national competition held at McMaster University in Ottawa last year. It was great to be part of both the provincial and national competitions, he said.
Penney is a first-year engineering student at Memorial. He says he’d encourage all high school students who are taking biology, psychology and other science courses to write the quiz at their school.
“You don’t have anything to lose. You don’t pay anything to write the exam. But the test shows that you’re interested in neuroscience as a career and that’s what they’re looking for.”
Schools interested in offering the quiz to their students can contact Roome via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org