Middle schoolers test bridge building mettle at ANSEP summer program

first_imgA balsa wood bridge isn’t something you’d want to drive your car over, but it can be a useful way to expose kids to engineering.Listen nowThe Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program recently hosted middle school students from the Anchorage School District at the University of Alaska Anchorage.In a building on the edge of the UAA campus, 47 middle schoolers are putting last-minute touches on miniature bridges.Glue dries on an unfinished bridge. (Photo by Ammon Swenson, Alaska Public Media- Anchorage)The students gather in groups around blueprints of their own design. They carefully measure, cut, and glue thin pieces of balsa wood, hoping their creations will be able to stand up to the abuse of real-world testing.The bridge building exercise is part of the ANSEP program’s Middle School Academy. For two weeks, the students live on campus and get a taste of college life, while being exposed to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.“So they are getting that experience, they’re able to not only envision themselves here in the future, but actually spend some time here and prepare for their university experience in the future,” Josephine Mattison, ANSEP’s middle school director, said.She says that other than a push in the right direction and some adult supervision, the students are left to their own devices when building their bridges.Students prepare to test their bridges at the ANSEP Middle School Academy. (Photo by Ammon Swenson, Alaska Public Media- Anchorage)“So it empowers them quite a bit and there is a bit of challenge in it as well as they have time constraints and working with others and getting all the kinks worked out in time to test,” Mattison said.Among other things, the students took part in an earthquake engineering session and built computers that they would later use to design their bridges.The students are selected through a process designed to prepare them for applying to college. They submit grades and test scores, complete an essay, and provide teacher references. If they’re chosen, they get to attend the program for free.A student gets help attaching their bridge to the testing platform. (Photo by Ammon Swenson, Alaska Public Media- Anchorage)Nancy Neil teaches at Hanshew Middle School and this is her second year helping at the Middle School Academy. She describes the program as a pre-college bootcamp.“We’re teaching them to be thinkers, we’re teaching them not just to learn out of a book,” Neil said. “They have to problem solve and we need more of that in education today.She says that the bridge building exercise does more than just teach them about math and science.“They might have a mind of an engineer, but they also need to know about how to get along with people and this whole bridge building is a challenge so it’s kind of hitting the best of both worlds,” Neil said.A couple of days later, after the glue is dried and the bridges are complete, it’s time to put them to the test. Each group takes turns describing their process and how much weight they predict their bridge will hold.A bridge breaks apart during testing. (Photo by Ammon Swenson, Alaska Public Media- Anchorage)The bridge is attached to a platform and a wooden tray is suspended from the center. Chaperones then slowly add fist-sized metal balls to the tray until the bridge slowly gives out or like some did, explode.No one appeared heartbroken over their hard work being destroyed and most seemed to enjoy watching how their classmates did. One team set a Middle School Academy record for how much weight their bridge held.While the adults look at this program as a means to get students thinking seriously about higher learning, most of the kids— like Jordan Kehl— are just looking for a good time.“It’s just very interesting here and very fun, if you want to make new friends,” Kehl said.He says the program also helps him avoid a younger sibling.“There’s nothing better to do, because if you have a little sister at home, it gets hectic,” Kehl said.The next round of students who will spend time on campus and get free time away from younger brothers and sisters, will be kids from school districts around the state.last_img read more

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Gene considered as tumor promoter may also halt development of cancer shows

first_img Source:https://www.cnio.es/ Aug 9 2018A gene that has for decades been considered a tumor promoter, the PLK1 gene, can also perform the exact opposite function: halting the development of cancer. This finding was made by researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) and the Germany’s Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ), and is being published in the journal Nature Communications. The role of PLK1 as a target for powerful drugs must now be reviewed since, depending on the type of tumor to be treated, it might be useful to inhibit it, or it might not. For the time being, the scientists have discovered that the expression of PLK1 in breast tumors can determine a different prognosis, depending on the tumor sub-type.The PLK1 gene is essential for the division and proliferation of tumor cells. It has been known for years the overexpression of PLK1 is found in a large variety of tumor types, and on occasions this overexpression is associated with poor prognosis (when a gene is overexpressed in the cell, there is an excess of the protein produced by that gene). For that reason, PLK1 has for decades been considered an oncogene, a gene that promotes the development of tumors. Plk1 is also a therapeutic target, since inhibiting its activity induces the death of cell tumors. In fact, there are Plk1 inhibitors already at advanced clinical stages.However, curiously, the oncogenic nature of PLK1 has never been formally demonstrated. In other words, until now, no experiment has been designed to demonstrate that the overexpression of PLK1 does indeed contribute to tumor development.That was the initial aim of researchers from Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO – Madrid) and Germany’s Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ – Heidelberg) at the start of this joint research project. To this end, they modified the genome of a mouse so that it was possible to overexpress the PLK1 gene at will in these animals. The first thing they noted was that these animals did not develop any more tumors than the normal mice. They then crossed their mice with others that expressed the oncogenes H-Ras or Her2 in their breast tissue, and hence they developed very aggressive breast tumors. They expected a much greater incidence of cancer, but the result was unexpected: by overexpressing PLK1 together with the oncogenes, the incidence of tumors was reduced drastically.Related Stories3D breast tumor models may improve drug discovery and testingScientists use advanced imaging to track brain tumor ‘turncoats’Novel anticancer agents show promise to control tumor growth in nearly every cancer type”That was when we realized that something important was happening,” explained Guillermo de Cárcer, one of the lead researchers on this study at CNIO. “And in effect we have shown that not only does PLK1 not act as an oncogene, but surprisingly it acts as a tumor suppressor”.Plk1 as an indicator of breast cancer prognosis. Intrigued, the researchers consulted the breast cancer databases, in search of a link between the expression of PLK1 and patient prognosis. And they confirmed that “the expression of Plk1 can result in a very different type of prognosis depending on the tumor sub-type”, said de Cárcer.In Her2 positive tumors, the expression of PLK1 gives a better prognosis; however, in patients with positive tumors for the expression of the oestrogen receptor (ER+), it’s the complete opposite. Not only does this paper describe the novel action of PLK1 as a tumor suppressor, it also identifies the molecular mechanism of how this suppression occurs. “We have seen that the overexpression of PLK1 increases the number of chromosomes in cells, because after they divide, cells cannot correctly segregate their chromosomes”, said Rocío Sotillo, lead researcher with the Molecular Thoracic Oncology Group at DKFZ.The fact that Plk1 acts as a tumor suppressor could call into question therapeutic strategies based on the inhibition of Plk1. However, Marcos Malumbres, head of the Cell Division and Cancer Research Group at CNIO and coordinator of the paper, trusts that the inhibition of Plk1 is still a valid and useful option.”The fact that Plk1 is a tumor suppressor instead of an oncogene does not mean that Plk1 inhibitors will not be effective against cancer”, said Malumbres. “Many essential components in cell proliferation can be used as targets against cancer in spite of not having any oncogenic activity, owing to the addition of cancer cells to specific cell processes such as cell division”.The work of these researchers bestows value on the PLK1 gene as an oncological biomarker: “Understanding when PLK1 acts as an oncogene or as a tumor suppressor, and in which types of tumors this happens, is clinically extremely relevant when it comes to using this gene as a therapeutic biomarker”, stresses Guillermo de Cárcer.last_img read more

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