Spring 2014: Alaska Brain Bee winner Sarah Johns will represent the state at national competition

by Michelle Saport  |   

20140201-brain-beeUAA hosted the 3rd Annual Alaska Brain Bee Competition Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Anchorage Museum. Keynote speaker Dr. Scot Hines of the Alaska Native Medical Center opened the event with a discussion on the history of neuroscience in the arts.

The competition itself was divided into two parts. First, students competed individually by writing their answers to neuroscience-related questions on a dry-erase board, and received points for correct answers from the two judges, Gwen Lupfer (UAA psychology professor) and Chris Jung (UAA biological sciences professor). The students then identified brain structures on models and sheep brains. After, UAA biological sciences students led hands-on neuroscience activities and games for the competitors while the judges tallied the scores.

Sarah Johns of Alaska Middle College High School won by a close margin of two points over second-place winner, Bailey Fuller, of Robert Service High School. Cooper Danner, of Colony High School, came in third place for the second year in a row.

Four competitors flew in from Kenai Central High School: Mariah Schloeman, Joseph Vicere, Mariah Prosterman and Denise Taylor. The other participants  included Rochelle Benton-Edwards of Bartlett High School and Graysen Sorensen and Austin Ackerman of Grace Christian High School.

The winner, Sarah Johns, will represent Alaska in the National Brain Bee in Baltimore, Md., March 14-15, 2014.

Designed to increase the interest of high school students in studying neuroscience through a fun and competitive atmosphere, the competition tested students' knowledge about nervous system cells, neuropathology and the structure and/or function of specific brain regions and landmarks. The event is organized by the UAA Department of Biological Sciences, with support from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health and Center for Community Engagement and Learning.

The Brain Bee is an opportunity for many of the students in BIO 490 (Neuroanatomy & Neurophysiology) to participate in service learning. Caroline Wilson, professor for the course, and community engaged student assistant Sean Costello organized the outreach. This year, BIO 490 students Vanessa Gonzalez, Blair Munro, Karen Niebert, Karen Carlson, Rhiannon Pattison, Pamela Conley, Delbert Leavitt Jr., Andie Chaudhary and Jessy Bowers organized neuroscience games and activities for the participants and their parents.

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