On Saturday 18th of March 2017, 55 high school students gathered at the University College London to take part in the second English Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition for high school children. The event was part of the British Science week which encourages the general public to participate in STEM events and activities across the UK. Many participants were Year 11 to 13 students from all over England and Scotland.
The English Brain Bee is one of the chapters that participate in the International Brain Bee aimed to encourage students to learn about the human brain. There are currently about 175 Local Chapter Brain Bee coordinators in more than 50 countries.
A team of volunteers managed by two national coordinators from the University of Aberdeen, Martyna Petrulyte and Melissa Spilioti, organised a day full of activities and challenges. Organisers are wholeheartedly grateful to the judging panel which consisted of renowned scientists from the Imperial College London, Prof Ceri Davies, and the University of Edinburgh, Dr Dorothy Tse and Dr Antonios Asiminas.
Students had to answer 50 multiple choice questions in the first part of the exam, and 20 questions in the Neuroanatomy & Neurohistology exam. The most interesting and demanding part was the patient diagnosis test, where 10 videos demonstrating patients with various symptoms of neurological diseases were presented to students. For the first time, we included some questions from recently published research papers to educate students on the latest scientific findings, and to explain how important research and discovery is to our community. The final round was a podium in which 10 participants had to answer 15 questions about the brain by writing their answers on white boards. After every 5 questions, the audience also received a question for a delicious prize. This is how we involved not only students, but also their parents and teachers!
A guest speaker, Dr Paul Winter from STEMNET, presented an interesting talk “The Teenage Brain.” Dr Adam Taylor from the Lancaster Medical School presented notable historical cases of neuroanatomy, highlighting the need for more knowledge and research in this field. He also talked about “typical” career pathways into neuroanatomy. Additionally, we ran a small careers fair and had students from Bristol, Aberdeen, and London universities talking about careers in neurosciences.
To make a day more memorable and to break ice between participants, we organised a Name Matching Scavenger Hunt, which required some neurosciences knowledge and courage to find a second half of the scientific name by asking other participants what words they have got. The winner of the hunt was awarded with a breakfast mug.
Finally – the winners!
1st place – Roy Roshna (67 pts)
2nd place – Ramu Neha (66 pts)
3rd place – Andrea Eslabra Frances (63 pts)
4th place – Duong Zoe (62 pts)
5th place – Ramaraju Sruthi (57 pts)
Given our very limited funding, we had to fundraise. For the event, we ran two bake sales in Aberdeen, one in the Institute of Medical Sciences, and one in the city centre, where the general public donated money to our event. This Brain Bee competition taught us that with limited funding we can make an inspiring event for secondary school students and deliver a high-quality science outreach project effectively.
To end with, we would like to thank to all our volunteers and supporters: the British Neuroscience Association, the Anatomical Society, the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University College London, and Nairn’s.
Martyna Petrulyte, BSc