The STEM Project Annual Competition is an online competition for middle school girls attending schools in PA, NJ, and DE. Middle school girls currently in grades 5-8 (including rising 9th graders) can use their skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to build something useful or conduct scientific research to solve a real-world problem. They can either use scientific methods to perform a hypothesis driven research to answer a question or can follow the principles of engineering design to build something. They need to register online by submitting the electronic application form and also email a written project report (less than 20 pages) along with a short video (less than 2 minutes long) to: email@example.com
The details of the competition guidelines can be found at this link:
The details about how to submit the completed project application can be found here:
The deadline to submit the completed project is 9/17/2017.
Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12)
Synopsis of Program:
The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. Projects should result in research-informed and field-tested outcomes and products that inform teaching and learning. Teachers and students who participate in DRK-12 studies are expected to enhance their understanding and use of STEM content, practices and skills.
The DRK-12 program invites proposals that address immediate challenges that are facing preK-12 STEM education as well as those that anticipate radically different structures and functions of preK-12 teaching and learning. The DRK-12 program has three major research and development strands: (1) Assessment; (2) Learning; and (3) Teaching. The program recognizes the synergy among the three strands and that there is some overlap and interdependence among them. However, proposals should identify a clear focus of the proposed research efforts (i.e., assessment, learning, or teaching) consistent with the proposal's main objectives and research questions. The program supports five types of projects: (1) Exploratory, (2) Design and Development, (3) Impact, (4) Implementation and Improvement, and (5) Conferences and Syntheses. All five types of projects apply to each of the three DRK-12 program strands.
Cas9 binds and accurately cuts genomic DNA via a guide RNA, enabling for useful genome engineering
For a state bearing the company/institute offices of BASF, Sun Pharmaceuticals, MSKCC, Becton Dickinson, and Celgene to name a few, a comprehensive life sciences program is essential. With steady country-wide biology job growth, New Jersey emerges as one of the top states to be in as a biology major. In-state graduates are now in high demand close to home. Biotech is in style, and this upward trend shows no signs of leveling off.
A Revolutionary Technology
At forefront of this biological charge is the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9 system (CRISPR/Cas9 or CRISPR for short), a revolutionary new technology for genome editing that provides unheard-of ease, efficiency, and low cost. Its now universal use in laboratories worldwide has led to subsequent breakthroughs in inherited disease, HIV, malaria, retinitis, and cancer. Most NJ biotechs have adopted the technology for in-house experimentation.
Scientists are able to design their own expression vectors (a.k.a. DNA-comprised CRISPR delivery methods, typically plasmids) via computerized tools. Upon vector delivery, cells transcribe the vector’s encoded portions into genetic products: the protein Cas9, a desired template DNA strand for insertion, and the guide RNA (gRNA) containing a custom sequence complementary to the desired location or locus to edit in the genome. Cas9 then complexes with the gRNA, using it as a template to locate the complementary locus. Once found, Cas9 binds to the DNA and performs a double stranded break. This induces a DNA repair pathway called homology directed repair, which inserts the template DNA strand into the genome. Effectively, CRISPR can introduce new traits in foreign organisms. If the aim is to confer gene knockout to study function, cutting the genome without supplying a template initiates the error-prone repair pathway non-homologous end joining, introducing mutations that 'corrupt' the gene of interest.
With CRISPR, institutions can develop treatments and discover novel protein functions at an accelerated rate, making the drug industry and biology in general all the more lucrative and exciting. Now, we see the emergence of biotechnology companies and organizations like Addgene and Thermo Fisher Scientific making CRISPR affordable and widespread. Biotechs have even played with new business models, transforming themselves into plasmid-pumping factories.
Why CRISPR Education Matters
I applied for a general biology internship this summer and was a bit surprised to hear the question: “Do you know what CRISPR/Cas9 is?” in the interview. I told the professor what I knew. He added, “Great. We use it in the lab all the time.” Just knowing about the technology gave me preference over other candidates which ultimately helped me get the position. Due to its sudden ubiquity, CRISPR is now a permanent implement in research and industry labs internationally, which begs that we familiarize our biology students with it as early as possible.
But the recent developments in biology have made high school and college curricula somewhat outdated. Today, CRISPR is completely absent from syllabi. This is despite the fact that many bioscience students post-graduation will be expected to have worked with or at least understand CRISPR technology. For students intending to study nonclinical biology, CRISPR will inevitably be part of their future experience. Therefore, curricular inclusion is a must.
Teaching CRISPR may appear daunting at first, but in actuality, it's a great, simple addition to the classroom. A Wired feature demonstrated how easy it is to explain CRISPR and how difficulty can be scaled if necessary. CRISPR learning would fit perfectly in a class' biotechnology unit. And if pressed for time, a learning activity can be limited to a single slide in a presentation. AP Biology teachers in particular are locked into a set curriculum by the College Board. However, there’s plenty time to introduce fun and new concepts to your students after the May exams. Even with a little exposure the key concepts come through. Alternatively, CRISPR can be taught alongside a genetic recombination (an obsolete but still tested on method of gene editing) lesson. This lesson typically includes an experiment familiar to many bio teachers: bacteria are engineered to glow in the dark and/or become antibiotic resistant. This can be replaced/supplemented with a CRISPR activity achieving a similar goal, also at a modest price.
The Odin, a successfully kickstarted biotech purveyor, recently began offering classroom CRISPR kits containing everything (wares, bacteria, gels, manuals, plasmids, etc.) needed for five experiments at $75.00. (I did the experiment myself and found the instructions fairly easy to grasp; I thought it was a great experience.) The experiment is similar to a genetic recombination lab (save a couple steps) as it engineers the bacteria to be antibiotic resistant. At 5–8 students per experiment, a school can fund large biology classes relatively cheaply. I am leading an initiative at my high school to acquire CRISPR classroom kits. The science department believes integrating CRISPR would be a fantastic opportunity. We plan to request a grant from the local education foundation in the fall.
For the more adventurous schools, CRISPR offers a myriad of opportunities for future scientists. Custom CRISPR/Cas9 plasmid vectors (also similar to those used in genetic recombination) now range from $200–500 an order. After AP exams, a few, small student groups can be invited to develop their own independent science projects. With some basic knowledge of vector design (and instructor guidance), a student lab group can select which genes they would like to disrupt/insert via online easy-to-use plasmid pickers (e.g. Deskgen). At the end of the year, the students can give presentations on their experiments and findings to the community and their peers.
Students planning to explore new edits to microorganisms would probably be conducting their own original research, being that CRISPR is so new. These experiments may be the first of their kind—all taking place within the high school laboratory classroom. Budget-willing, CRISPR technology is a great way to demonstrate students' scientific prowess, curiosity, and successful application of the scientific method.
Getting students to critically think about CRISPR technology and its impact may help them better prepare for the New Jersey Biology Competency Test as well. And if integrated into curriculum, CRISPR education may help satisfy the following NGSS standards: HS-LS3 Heredity: Inheritance Variation of Traits, HS-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, HS-LS4-6 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity, and HS-LS2-7 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics.
Although CRISPR/Cas9 technology may not be realistic for some schools, its integration into curricula is still crucial for the biological literacy of NJ’s future scientists. Our STEM students must be introduced to CRISPR and the CRISPR revolution, not only to push them to the cutting edge of science, but to better prepare them for the real world.
CRISPR-Cas in the laboratory classroom (article)
A Primer on CRISPR, and Adaptations for the Classroom (presentation)
How A Gene Editing Tool Went From Labs To A Middle-School Classroom (article)
Good opportunity for biology students (letter to the editor)
Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR (video overview)
Images from: Pixabay
© 2017 Simon Levien All Rights Reserved
Editor's Note: Simon Levien is a student at Sparta HS, NJ.
The Regeneron Science Talent Search (Regeneron STS), a program of Society for Science & the Public (the Society) is the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors. Since 1942, first in partnership with Westinghouse, then with Intel 1998-2016, and now with Regeneron, the Society has provided a national stage for the country's best and brightest young scientists to present original research to nationally recognized professional scientists.
The application for the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2018 will open August 1, 2017.
To be notified about Regeneron Science Talent Search program updates, including the release of the official rules, the launch of the 2018 application, and more, visit: https://societyforscience.tfaforms.net/64
Learn more: https://student.societyforscience.org/regeneron-sts
The Chemical Educational Foundation® (CEF) is a nationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to fostering STEM literacy and exposing K-8 learners to the excitement of science. CEF is looking for science educators who are interested in volunteering as part of its Content Development Team (CDT), which reviews content for the You Be The Chemist Challenge®. The Challenge is a fun, quiz-bowl style competition for students in grades 5-8 that tests their understanding of chemistry. Volunteer reviewers collaborate with CEF staff via e-mail, which allows volunteers to work around their own time constraints.
Last year the Challenge reached over 55,000 students across 42 U.S. states and territories (including New Jersey!). By collaborating with CEF as part of the Content Development Team, you can have a significant, far-reaching impact on students at a time that is crucial to developing an interest in the sciences and in STEM careers.
Please contact Katie Wetstone (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested or have any questions. If you know others who may be a good fit, feel free pass along this information. You can also visit CEF at www.chemed.org to learn more--all of our programs and resources are free for teachers!
Happily, she followed up on my observation with an article that she and her collaborators produced in the Feb’17 issue of the NSTA journal Science Scope entitled From Fish Tank to Fuel Tank. Congratulations to Eileen Antonison and her students on successfully developing a STEM design to produce a biofuel from common algae that could replace the more expensive application of corn or soy plants as we do now.
Ms. Antonison is a STEM teacher at the Franklin Avenue Middle School in Franklin Lakes, NJ and an NJSTA Simmons Scholar. Though the generosity of grants and collaboration with two other teachers in the fields of technology and science, her students successfully transformed a common photosynthesis lab into a proper NGSS research investigation.
Among other STEM skills employed, the apps for Google Sketch-up, Python and Raspberry Pi helped the students design the growth chambers for the algae. Real World laboratory conditions with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a Biosafety One organism, were utilized to regulate growth parameters, arguing further testing from data and generating many group discussion sessions. As often happens with science investigations, an “accident” resulted in an unanticipated outcome when two different fertilizers were inadvertently purchased. These micro-nutrients were tested individually anyway, and then mixed with no expectations of a difference. However, the results showed that they worked best if used together!
Read more about their foray into this exciting research in their article. Hopefully, while we are asking our students to communicate better through the NGSS experience, more teachers will seriously consider writing up their classroom experiences for publication!
From Fish Tank to Fuel Tank is available for download from the NSTA site.
By Linda Burroughs
Vice President / Central Region NJSTA
Science Education Specialist
ASSET STEM Education announces Project-based Learning Through Teacher Externships, an innovative pilot program designed to provide you with an externship at a STEM-related business, where you'll observe firsthand the challenges your students will likely face in their future careers, acquire the knowledge and skills to equip them to tackle these challenges, and discover opportunities to bridge what they're learning in the classroom with the real world through project-based learning.
All you have to do is
For more information, download the Teacher Overview, or Click Here.
To register, or if you have questions, please contact Maleea Johnson via email at email@example.com or phone at 412-481-7320 ext. 201.
Space is limited; register by August 1 to guarantee your spot.
Project-based Learning Through Teacher Externships is sponsored by Arconic Foundation with additional support from Chevron, Consol Energy, and PPG Industries Inc.
Know a STEM professional or business that would be interested in participating? Contact Karen Ahearn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-481-7320 ext. 203.
Special Alert from the American Geosciences Institute
Earth Science Week 2017 Toolkits are available for advance orders now! The toolkit contains everything you need to prepare for Earth Science Week (October 8-14, 2017), which celebrates the theme "Earth and Human Activity."
To ensure that you are among the first to receive these exciting educational resources, order yours today. The Earth Science Week 2017 Toolkit includes:
Earth Science Week is an annual event that has been led by AGI along with its sponsors and the greater geoscience community since 1998. To mark the occasion of the 20th annual Earth Science Week, AGI and key program partners are offering many new materials, tools, and other resources for participants. The Earth Science Week 2017 Toolkit will ship starting in August 2017.
Under a new price structure, copies of the toolkit are free and available for the cost of shipping and handling ($8.50 for the first kit, $2.25 for each additional kit in the United States). For ordering, special shipping, bulk orders, and more information, visit Earth Science Week online or phone AGI Publications at 703-379-2480.
The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment. For contact information, please visit online.
Professional Online Supports for Teaching - The POST is an online newsletter that offers many resources including some for the NJSLS for science, otherwise known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), to make this implementation a smooth transition.
The current edition has links to STEM practice briefs, NGSS Early Implementer Districts’
lessons learned about professional learning, and information about the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse.
Application for the 2017 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards is Now Available
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is pleased to announce that the application for the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards is now available. Completed applications must be received at DEP by September 29.
The Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards Program is New Jersey’s premier awards program for recognizing outstanding environmental performance, programs and projects throughout the state. These awards recognize individuals, businesses, institutions, communities, organizations, educators, youth and others who have made significant contributions to environmental protection in New Jersey.....
The screencast of the final NGSS webinar of the program year has been posted on the NAGT/AGI collaboration website.
The webinar, NGSS Across the Sciences Curriculum, happened May 11 and featured presentations from Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman (American Association for the Advancement of Science), Dr. James Kessler (American Chemical Society), and Dr. Aleeza Oshry (Howard Hughes Medical Institute).
You can see the screencast, the presentation slides, and additional resources from the presenters on the webinar page.
Mark your calendars now for the first webinar of next program year. On Speptember 14, we will have a webinar entitled Achieve Resources and Tools for NGSS Implementation featuring a presentation from Matt Krehbiel of Achieve, Inc. Read more about the webinar and pre-register at