Arizona Technology and Innovation: Innovation Awards

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Meet some of the 2011 honorees from the annual Governor’s Celebration of Innovation awards ceremony sponsored by the Arizona Technology Council.

Ted Simons: Tonight horizon's focus on technology and innovation looks at the Governor's celebration of innovation awards recognizing the best of the best in high school science and engineering fairs. Award winners were announced by the Arizona technology council. We'll hear from the teacher of the year and a couple of future innovators, but first here's a look at two of the winning projects.

Aakash Jain: My project sought to understand the properties of garlic, the growth inventory effects that garlic has on the proliferation of e-coli, and in addition, I wanted to understand garlic treatment individual relationship, if any, with levofalxacin, and so I was looking for innovation of growth, and I tested three forms of garlic, which were cooking powder, powder obtained from capsules taken as supplements, and fresh garlic respectively. And with my positive control- levofloxacin, which is a common antibiotic used to treat severe bacterial infections. I wanted to understand three things -- the individual anti-bacterial properties of these three garlic treatments. I tested garlics one, two, and three at two varying concentrations, and in doing so, I was able to establish what's called a minimum inhibitory concentration. Second, I also wanted to understand its role in synergy. The sum is greater than the parts in their anti-bacterial activities. And thirdly, I wanted to look at drug resistance. Because my experiments showed that resistance is more likely to occur with garlic versus some other antibiotics, I think it made my research much more applicable and practical. And something that I think that I have gained from doing experiments like these is an appreciation of research. If I do become a medical doctor, I would like to still be able to do clinical and pure research in fields such as these, micro biology, biology. It's all very fascinating.

Rajet Vasta: I constructed a reactor that allows you to cultivate algae, so I figured why don't I test four species of desert algae that grow in the local area, second, see if we can produce biofuel and oil from those sources. And I designed the reactors, to cultivate the algae and produce biofuel. I made the photo reactor out of 24 water bottles. Each of those has a certain amount of algae in them. And then I broke the test into a Carbon Dioxide test and a nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium test. There is a Carbon Dioxide tank attached, and it cycles Carbon Dioxide throughout the reactor, which allows the algae to take in the nutrients synthesize it, and grow from there. I ran the test three times, and it was a process of two weeks. So the first week was allowing the algae to sit and get adapted to the environment. And then I cycled in the Carbon Dioxide and other nutrients in there for the next week, and after two weeks, to actually extract the biofuel, I microwaved the algae so I could heat up and excite the cells, and then I used the French press just as you extract the essential oils from coffee beans, I decided I could extract the oils from algae. And with half a minute of warming it, I was able to extract 20 microliters of oil from each of the algae species. I just tested it at 24 water bottles, and 90 microliters of algae total, which is not a lot, with the yield I got was four times as much as I started in just two weeks. I really want to become a neurosurgeon or a cardiac surgeon, and then I would like to provide free medical care to rural communities around the world.

Ted Simons: And here now to talk about their awards are Birgit Musheno, an honor's biology and biotechnology teacher at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. Aakash Jain, and Rajet Vatsa, both students, faculty, Brophy Prep, in Phoenix. My goodness. Thanks for joining us.

Birgit Musheno: Thank you.

Ted Simons: I want to start with you. Were you surprised by this honor?

Birgit Musheno: I was surprised. It was a very pleasant surprise. Yes.

Ted Simons: And as far as being teacher of the year, what do you try to instill into students? And how do you get those minds to wrap themselves around? It's a heavy concept.

Birgit Musheno: It is a heavy concept. I think really, it's just that I feel passionate about it. I think it's fascinating and interesting, so I try to convey that to my students. And show them the real world applications of the science that we learn, and the ability to solve problems using the science.

Ted Simons: And Aakash Jain, as far as this project and this Avenue, why did you go this direction? Something you've been thinking about for a while?

Aakash Jain: Yeah. I had strong interest in microbiology, and I wanted to investigate and do a project on that. But, specifically, I wanted to look at, at the traditional herbs and spices that, that have been shown to have anti-microbial properties, or at least in myth they have, and so I wanted to understand the scientific evidence, behind that, and so, that's why I chose to, to do this project.

Ted Simons: And Rajet Vatsa, what about you? Were you interested in biofuels all along? Or vehicles, or what got you going here?

Rajet Vatsa: Well, the thing that got me going was I was watching this Exxon Mobil commercial, on how they were using blue green algae as sources of biofuel, and reading how the fossil fuels we use are about to deplete, so to find an alternative source of energy, so, my biology teacher in ninth grade got me going and looking towards algae, and I went to Casa Grande and grabbed a few species, four species actually and began to test different nutrient sources to test the biofuel liquid output.

Ted Simons: My goodness. Sophomore at Brophy correct, a sophomore at Brophy?
Aakash Jain: Yes.
Rajet Vatsa: Correct.

Ted Simons: Ok, do your classmates have any idea what you are doing?

Rajet Vatsa: Um, well, I would say a lot of my classmates are as intelligent if not more intelligent than me. Brophy is a fantastic school, so they have a lot of like minded individuals, and it's, I mean, the classroom environment gives me an ability to challenge myself, work harder, and see what I can perform.

Ted Simons: And same with you, do, I mean, it's one thing to say you are working on an experiment and you are doing and that with spices and trying to figure out medicinal qualities, but do they get what you are doing?

Aakash Jain: No, I agree with Rajet, Brophy provides a great atmosphere, and environment for this kind of stuff. The teachers are phenomenal. And inspiring and encouraging students, faculty, and my fellow classmates, as well. It's a great, a great environment.

Ted Simons: And it helps having a good home environment. Parents enjoy this stuff. This recognition came with proud parents.

Aakash Jain: Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Ted Simons: And same thing Rajet, this kind of thing is encouraged?

Rajet Vatsa: My parents give me support through everything I do, and this is a big surprise and pleasure for all of us.

Ted Simons: And at Desert Vista High School, do you find the same thing, if you just get to a certain level, get that interest going, and everything kind of follows?

Birgit Musheno: Yeah, and one of the really cool things, we, one of the things that I did that helped to earn me this award was to develop a biotechnology program at the school. And we have a lot of interest in math and science in our community. A lot of the parents work at, at companies like Intel, and so, that community interest and, and it was really the students that wanted the program. So, I would offer one class and they wanted another, so, it's really nice to see that the interest is coming from the students themselves rather than something from the top down that we do.

Ted Simons: And I don't know how many years have you been teaching?

Birgit Musheno: I've been teaching since 1997.

Ted Simons: Ok. Are you seeing a difference in students as the years progress, or have -- this has always been the situation as it stands now?

Birgit Musheno: I feel like more students are interested in science and math. But we have had strong interests in our community. But I have never had so many kids signing up for competitions in science, and taking so many classes.

Ted Simons: Yeah. And the competition helps, doesn't it? It gives it a little extra push, I would imagine?

Aakash Jain: Yeah, definitely. I think the best parted is meeting other students with similar interests and learning about their projects and what they have been doing. And I attended ISEF competition in Los Angeles, California, and that was an incredible experience, so yeah, I definitely agree.

Ted Simons: Picked your college out? You are still a sophomore. You have time. Any ideas?

Aakash Jain: Not really. It's pretty wide open.

Ted Simons: Anything goes. How about you, any ideas for college so far?

Rajet Vatsa: No, same as Aakash. Just looking at everything. Waiting for options as they arise.

Ted Simons: Well, it sounds great, and great stuff. Congratulations to all. My goodness. It's a very, very impressive, and continue good work.

Aakash Jain: Thank you very much.

Rajet Vatsa: Thank you.
Birgit Musheno: Thank you.

Birgit Musheno:Innovation Teacher of the Year; Aakash Jain:Future Innovator; Rajet Vatsa:Future Innovator

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