The dozen high school students in the iCREATE CTE Bioscience class toured two very different labs at NAU on Monday, April 24th. First, they ventured to the Geochronology Lab in the Science Lab Facility building where Lab Manager Katherine Whitacre described the process of amino acid racemization and how it is used to date small specimens including single microorganisms or bits of mollusk shells, egg shells, etc. Northern Arizona University has one of the few amino acid geochronology labs in the United States and has analyzed samples from all over the world for almost 20 years under the leadership of Lab Director and Regents Professor Darrell Kaufman. Below, graduate student Ethan Yackulic showed one of his sediment cores from Crater Lake in Colorado.
The lab has a large walk-in refrigerator with lake cores from all over the world, collected by NAU researchers and graduate students. The cores are kept cold so unwanted microorganisms don't grown on the surfaces. Ethan uses a Specim hyperspectral single core scanner designed for studying lake sediment core samples. By changing the range of wavelengths, he can detect locations of specific minerals or organic compounds, to help pinpoint where to collect his samples.
In the photos above: Katherine is dissolving mollusk shells with hydrochloric acid, an iCREATE student looks at shells under the microscope, and graduate student Kara Gibson uses a particle size analyzer on soil samples for her dissertation research.
Many of the research results from this lab focus on understanding paleoclimate change, which may then inform our understandings of, and models for, present climate change. You can learn more about this research here.
The next tour was to Nathan Nieto's lab in the Wettaw Biochemistry Building. Dr. Nieto has studied numerous animals in the past, but these days his lab is overwhelmed with ticks being mailed to him from all over the country. On an average day, the graduate students and undergraduate researchers in his lab will identify, grind, extract DNA and run real time PCR on 200-400 samples to determine whether the tick is host to pathogens such as Lyme disease and tick-borne relapsing fever. One week in May of 2016 he received over 2,000 ticks in the mail and it looks like he may exceed that this May. The tick study will identify what regions of the country have which species of ticks and what diseases they are carrying. This project will create a "heat map" of tick-borne diseases that can then be used by doctors and epidemiologists.
Photos above: Nate looks over where some of the many ticks are being mailed from, just a few of the mailboxes of ticks in his lab, and undergraduate Shienna Braga who is identifying the species of ticks at the microscope.
Photos above: Nate shows an iCREATE student the number of eggs one female tick laid, and graduate student Tanner Porter leads the lab tour for the students, including the refrigerator with thousands of samples from numerous animals including coyote tongues (possible reservoir for Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever), mice, squirrels, bats and more!
Nate's lab website explains what keeps him busy: "Our research focuses on the ecological maintenance and evolution of infectious diseases in wild animals and how this translates into transmission of disease to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. We use a mixture of microbiology, molecular biology, phylogenetics and population ecology to investigate empirical infectious disease dynamics in wild animal populations.
Thank you Katherine, Nate, and generous students for sharing your time and knowledge with the iCREATE bioscience class!
Guest Blog post by Christine Sapio, CocoNuts Coach and CHS Educator
On December 3, 2016 the Coconino High School “CocoNuts” FIRST Robotics Competition Team hosted 400+ FIRST Robotics students at the 9th Annual High Altitude Robotics Extravaganza. The Extravaganza featured two FIRST events happening simultaneously at Coconino High School: The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament and the Northern Arizona FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament. Thirty-six teams will compete in the two events.
The Flagstaff FIRST Lego League Qualifying Tournament featured 26 teams from Flagstaff, Kingman, Cottonwood, Heber, Holbrook, Phoenix, Camp Verde, Glendale, Cibecue and Sedona. The teams competed in this year’s challenge ANIMAL ALLIES for a chance to advance to the Arizona FIRST Lego League Championship January 14-15, 2017 at Arizona State University.
The ANIMAL ALLIES Challenge calls for teams of 9 to 14 year-old children worldwide to research and present their original ideas that explore the interactions between humans and animals. Teams will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a series of wisdom-gathering missions which include: pushing a lever to open a door to learning, moving an idea outside of the box, loading a model with knowledge and skill loops, and more. The cornerstones of the experience are the FLL Core Values, which emphasize contributions of others, friendly competition, learning, and community involvement.
The Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament featured 10 teams from Flagstaff, Laveen, Winslow, Buckeye, Gilbert, Heber, St. Michaels, Eager, and Joseph City. The teams are competed in this year’s challenge VELOCITY VORTEX. The teams were competing for a chance to advance to the Arizona/New Mexico Championship February 25, 2017 at Northern Arizona University.
The 2016-2017 Game: VELOCITY VORTEXSM presented by Qualcomm® is played on a 3.7m × 3.7m (12 ft. × 12 ft.) square field with approximately 0.3m (1 ft.) high walls and a soft foam mat floor. The field is divided diagonally into a “red” and a “blue” side corresponding to the two alliances. In the center of the field are two goals on a rotatable stand called the Center Vortex. Two ramps, each with a goal, called the Corner Vortex, are placed in opposite sides of the field. The Center Vortex Goals and Corner Vortexes are alliance specific. There are also four alliance neutral Beacons, two placed on each front wall next to the Corner Vortex. There are floor markings as well as Vision Targets placed on the field walls as reference points for robot navigation.
The top teams in the tournament were: FIRST Lego League Champion’s Award: FALA Llamabots, Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, Flagstaff FIRST Tech Challenge Inspire Award: Navajo Code Writers, St. Michael’s Indian School, St. Michael’s FIRST Tech Challenge Winning Alliance: Mogollon Rim Jaegers (Mogollon High School in Heber) and elkSPLOSION (Round Valley High School in Eager)
Nine FIRST Lego League teams and three FIRST Tech Challenge Teams advanced to their respective Championship Tournaments.
Dr. Darlene Lee, an anatomical and clinical pathologist at Flagstaff Medical Center, led thirteen high school students in the iCREATE bioscience class on a fascinating tour of the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at FMC on Monday, November 14th. Pathology is the study of disease, and a pathologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in studying disease, including the source, extent, and cause of the disease in a patient. The students got to see many aspects of what this career entails.
The students began the tour by seeing some of the high-tech diagnostic tools available to test patient samples. These included urinalysis, PCR, flow cytometry and light microscopy. Jane Talisman, one of the laboratory lead technicians, even did a rapid test from Cate’s mucosal sample to determine if she had MRSA. Read to the end of the post to find out the result!
The students then watched Garn Bailey, the Pathologists’ Assistant, as he prepared to dissect an excised gall bladder. The students were able to touch the gall bladder to see what it felt like. The dissected gall bladder had several gallstones in it that were too large to exit the gall bladder on their own.
A frozen tissue sample from a patient came in, and the tour immediately switched over to observing the pathology team process this sample for the surgeon and patient waiting for it in the operating room. The pathology team can receive and process a sample, and return a diagnosis to a surgeon, within 20 minutes. This intraoperative pathology consultation helps guide the surgeon through the remainder of the procedure, so the patient has a better outcome.
Garn put the sample on the cryostat, a machine that keeps the sample frozen while shaving off very thin slices for placing on microscope slides. Audrey McMillon, a histotechnologist, then stained the samples with a specific stain to highlight what the surgeon needed to view. Histology is the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.
There are four pathologists at FMC and one at Verde Medical Center. In order to become a pathologist, you need a four-year college degree, then a four-year medical school degree, and then you need to complete your pathology residency for another four years! If you want to do a subspecialty fellowship, that takes another 1-2 years.
After the students completed the tour, Dr. Lee shared a presentation with three different case studies for the students to discuss. Just as Garn had previously, Dr. Lee reaffirmed that in order to recognize an abnormal pathology you need to know what the normal anatomy and histology looks like. During the cases, Dr. Lee asked the students what they thought, and what tests they would run to try and solve the case.
At the end of the presentation, Cate got the results from her diagnostic test. We were all thrilled she did not have Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA!
Note the sign above the door in the photo above. This important message reflects the commitment of the pathology team: Patients are our Purpose.
STEM City and the iCREATE collaborative thank Dr. Lee and the entire team in the Clinical and Pathology Lab for being such willing presenters, and for providing important and engaging information to the students. Thank you!
Superbowl of STEM
The 3rd Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration kicked off the week on Monday, March 7th at the NAU Skydome with almost every school, STEM business, government agency, and non-profit in Flagstaff! You can relive the excitement with Flg4TV's 2 minute video here!
2015-2016 STEMMY Awards
The 4th annual awards, funded by the Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance, were received by students Rebecca Adams (FHS and CAVIAT), Teacher Ted Komada (Killip), Community Leader Bruce Sidlinger, and STEM Partner Nestlé Purina. You can read Corina Vanek's article and see Jake Bacon's photographs in the Arizona Daily Sun article here.
High-Altitude Balloon Launch
On Wednesday, March 9th, Teacher Kaci Heins and 100 NPA 6th graders sent their payload to over 106,000 feet on a high-altitude balloon from the Flagstaff Airport. Community Leader Bruce Sidlinger and his Aeronautics Engineering class from Flag High, Airport Director Barney Helmick, the Coconino Amateur Radio Club, the Civil Air Patrol, and many other community partners were there to assist. You can see images and hear the story from KNAU's science and technology field reporter Melissa Sevigny here.
Women Executives in STEM Panel
NAU hosted the panel on Thursday, March 10th. All of the women had connections to NAU and facilitator Elizabeth Glass recommended that the many students in attendance use their alumni network as they search career opportunities.
AZ North Regional
The Skydome was brimming again on Friday and Saturday with the CocoNuts and 52 other teams, for NAU's inaugural FIRST Robotics Arizona North Regional contest, which pitted robots against each other to try to take down a castle. You can read Corina Vanek's article on the event here. Microchip sponsored pit tours by volunteers from many of the teams, as well as a VIP luncheon that was well-attended by Flagstaff's government, business, and education leaders. FIRST, which stands for --- , is a non-profit founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. It encourages students to pursue STEM and also develops skills in teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, and gracious professionalism.
Congratulations to everyone on helping make STEM Week 2016 the best ever in Flagstaff STEM City!
STEM City Coordinator Mindy Bell took Swedish science museum educator Kajsa Berg on a tour to some of STEM City's (aka Flagstaff's) STEM education sites. Kajsa is visiting as half of an exchange established by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce. 6th grade science teacher Kaci Heins, from Northland Preparatory Academy, is the American half. You can read more about the goals of the exchange at their blog.
We began the tour at Sinagua Middle School. Teachers Gretchen Downey, Carrie Jenkins, Jenna Samora, Kathryn Wertz, and Jillian Worssam showcased student-centered learning in engineering musical instruments with recycled materials, plate tectonics with graham crackers, coding at your own pace, creating models of human systems, and doing investigations with dry ice respectively!
Flagstaff Junior Academy is in the ol' Flagstaff Middle School building by the pond. We visited science and math teachers Elii Chapman, Todd Saunders, and Heather Berginc. Kajsa was taken by the open format of the middle school, popular at the time the school was built!
We had a great time touring STEM City! If you want to know more about great STEM sites to visit in STEM City, please contact the STEM Coordinator.
Flagstaff Medical Center’s Future Health Leaders Summer Camp
Flagstaff Medical Center, a member of Northern Arizona Healthcare, held its first Future Medical Leaders summer camp for high school students from Monday, July 6, through Thursday, July 9. The event, sponsored by Patient and Family Experience Services, was designed for incoming high school freshmen through senior students interested in becoming healthcare professionals.
More than 40 students applied to attend the camp, but only 24 were selected to participate. There were nineteen young women and five young men representing five high schools in Flagstaff (Coconino High School, Flagstaff High School, BASIS Flagstaff, Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy and Northland Preparatory Academy) as well as one home-schooled student.
The students spent the week attending lectures about contemporary healthcare topics; visiting different departments and discussing ethical issues. They met with Rob Thames, NAH’s president and CEO, and spent time with physicians, nurses and other colleagues who care for patients. They also participated in hands-on activities, such as a trauma lab, where they practiced patient-care scenarios and learned CPR and first-aid. On the last day of camp, they worked on their public speaking skills and developed basic resumes.
Flagstaff Medical Center is a member of Northern Arizona Healthcare, which also provides healthcare services through Verde Valley Medical Center, Team Health, Verde Valley Medical Clinic, Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare, EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine, Fit Kids of Arizona, Guardian Air, Guardian Medical Transport, Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, Northern Arizona Homecare, Northern Arizona Hospice and Valley View Care.
For more information on Flagstaff Medical Center programs and services, visit FlagstaffMedicalCenter.com. “Like” FMC at Facebook.com/FlagstaffMedicalCenter.
Thank you to Patient and Family Experience Services at NAH who hope to host this event again next year. And a special thank you to Sophia Papa, Public Relations with Northern Arizona Healthcare, for the primary writing of this post.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator