On May 11th, the "Mad For Science" contest ended in the suggestive setting of Palazzo della Luce in Turin.
A fascinating finale, in which the 8 finalist institutions have shown that great passion for research is alive even among the youngsters. We just need to know how to turn it on.
To win the award was the Nicola Pellati Institute in Nizza Monferrato, with a study on oenological yeasts resulting from the closeness to a territory that has always been dedicated to viticulture. The teaching experiences proposed by the team range from Pasteur's microbiology to the most modern techniques, such as PCR and DNA sequencing. The route includes, in particular, the collection and analysis of grapes coming from a biological and conventional vineyard, the observation of surface water bio-indicators at cultivation, the search for GMOs and inhibitory substances in the finished product, using bioinformatics platforms and creating a database.
A replicable idea, capable of enhancing the excellence of local territory, which has convinced a jury of experts and communication professionals based on five fundamental parameters: relevance, originality, coherence, validity and public speaking. Thanks to the 60,000-euro prize, the institute will be able to renew its scientific laboratory and carry out the experimental project in the years to come.
"We were surprised by the great participation and the quality of the work presented. Some seem to have a university level."
All finalist teams have distinguished themselves by depth and variety of content:
Piero Gobetti high school in Turin developed the theme of biodiversity, aiming to investigate microscopic and macroscopic worlds: the biological community of river waters, the sensitivity of enzymes to external conditions, the bacteria in and around us, as well as the plants, green giants with a fascinating story.
Charles Darwin high school in Rivoli imagined ten projects, part of a single great work. Among others, a study on the anti-aging effect of the vitamins, antibiotic resistance research, a study on music therapy and a major insight into the Human Genome Project as well as the resulting activities such as the DNA fingerprinting technique.
Moncalieri's Majorana high school focused on food biotechnology with the aim of reproducing some analytical essays for assessing the quality of food and environmental parameters by integrating expertise in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics and computer science.
Carlo Alberto high school of Turin presented ten activities focused on small organisms and molecules, including various subjects: biology, biochemistry, microbiology, English and computer science. A part of the team focused on the protocols to be presented to the committee, the other part on a video presentation and 3D maps of their current and "ideal" lab.
Giuseppe Peano high school in Turin designed a series of gradual and vertical experiences shared by some criteria, such as the use of non-traditional didactic methodologies and the use of ICT at various stages of the work. The proposal ranges from simple microscopic observations to sophisticated activities such as DNA amplification by PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) or software programming "Adopt a Colony"
"We want to make young students fall in love with the challenges of research, which has a strong influence on the future of public health."
Curie Vittorini high school in Grugliasco designed a range of educational experiments open to various modes of execution, such as a study of inverse enzymes which are discussed on the second and fourth year program. For each experience, a video was created and published online, with the aim of providing the other students with a useful completion of the theoretical discussion.
Aldo Moro high school in Turin chose to focus on the issues of health and environment by including in its project activities based on the use of bioindicators and eco-toxicological tests, cell division and enzyme research as well as three innovative protocols: one on the DNA fingerprint and two on dry-labs, respectively on genetic diseases and on mechanisms of evolution.
The competition is a fruitful model to be re-launched in the future to continue rewarding the love for science.