MCLA

Encouraging Science Careers

Region 1 Science Fair interest doubles


03/11/2009

Excitement and interest in the sciences is growing for high school students across western Massachusetts as MCLA, the lead partner for the Berkshire STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pipeline Network, hosted for the fifth year in a row the Massachusetts Science Fair for Region 1.  

The event, which took place in MCLA's Campus Center gymnasium, also featured keynote speaker Kathleen Arcaro, professor of Environmental Toxicology, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the UMass-Amherst, spoke on the effects of environmental pollutants on human health.

While in 2005 the fair featured 35 projects and 52 students from four schools, this year, nearly 200 students participated with 109 projects as students from Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties explored and shared various aspects of science with peers from surrounding communities.

In 2006, a team from Pittsfield High School (PHS) placed at the Region 1 fair and went on to the state fair at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they were awarded a patent for their project - a "gripping" device for a wheelchair-bound student.

Again, in 2007, a team from PHS with their "Petscratcher" project went on to the state fair, where they received a patent award.

This year's projects included those in behavioral and social science, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, computer science, earth and space science, engineering, environmental Science, mathematics, medicine, microbiology, physics and zoology. Top science students competed on four levels for the honor to compete in the State and International Science and Engineering fairs.

For the last several years, Arcaro has used breast milk to monitor human exposure to various chemicals. Breast milk also is a new and exciting approach to understanding breast cancer risk. The cells present in the milk reveal patterns that show whether and to what extent pregnancy and childbearing protects mothers from developing cancer in later years.

The cells also can be used to detect the early signs of breast cancer. The Avon Foundation, Army of Women, Rays of Hope and cancer clinics across the U.S. are all partners in this new effort to collect breast milk samples and help us detect and understand changes in the DNA of cells contained in breast milk.

The Region 1 Science Fair Planning Committee consists of business representatives, community members and educators. It is chaired by Monica Joslin, MCLA dean of academic affairs.

For more information about the regional fair, call (413) 662-5242. For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/pipeline or www.scifair.com.