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On Thursday the Columbia Area Career Center took 10 RBHS students, coached by laboratory technology instructor Christine Roberson, to compete in Junior Science, Engineering and Humanities Symposium (JSEHS) at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
In the poster and presentation section, senior Michael Pisano took first and senior Walter Wang took second, both in general biology, one of six categories.
The top finisher in each category presented again this morning. All top finishers, like Pisano, will have an opportunity to present at nationals May 2-6 in Bethesda, Md.
“I’m going since I got to the point where I can do a poster presentation,” Pisano said. “The experience is great; it will prepare me for when I have to do poster presentations in college.”
Pisano’s presentation was “The Effect of Bt Cry1AB Toxin in Genetically Modified Corn in Eisenia fetid During Vermicomposting.” Pisano explained that Bt toxin is a crystal protein made by bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis. The gene from the bacteria is put into the corn plant because the toxin kills insects in their larval states.
“I put red worm, which is Eisenia fetida, I put them in a vermicomposting bin. And vermicomposting is an easy way of composting that people do in their houses, and they compost their food material. But I have been composting just Bt corn stubble, and corn stubble is like a doctor plant,” Pisano said. “I measured their health by using mass, population and lethargy to determine if the worms of Bt bins were statistically less healthy or not, and I found that there was no statistical difference between the non-Bt corn worms and the Bt corn composting worms.”
Pisano tested in October, November and December at the CAAC. After submitting his research to JSEHS, Pisano began preparing for the presentation in February and continued through March.
Pisano, along with seniors Abby Thompson, Micah Fletcher and Nikhilesh Sharma, also competed in a debate ; the team, led by senior Rick Flinn, took first place, overturning defending champion Parkway West.
The Bruin team tackled the resolution: “Is it appropriate that the government require that individuals abrogate the right to regulate the use of their somatic (body) cells for the general welfare?” Members created a wiki online page and posted evidence and ideas for arguments there. They met in person once or twice a week to discuss the evidence.
“We got a lot of help from Rick and [senior] Syed [Ejaz]. Syed came to the first meeting and gave us general advice on speaking. And later on Rick was coming in pretty much every meeting and giving us further instructions, more details and instructions, to help,” Fletcher said. “Rick was especially essential to us winning this debate. I think we definitely couldn’t have done it without Rick.”
By Avantika Khatri
additional reporting by Walter Wang