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60th Hawai'i Science and Engineering Fair: The State's Best and Brightest

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Wayne Yoshioka
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The annual Science and Engineering Fair featuring students from schools statewide concluded today at the Convention Center.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

More than 300 projects were on display at the 60th annual Hawai’i Science and Engineering Fair. Students, grade 6-to-12, competed for the honor of representing their school at the state competition. 

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Aslan Cook, sophomore, Kamehameha Schools

Kamehameha Schools sophomore, Aslan Cook, focused on the anti-cancer properties of Poison Dart Frog skin secretions.

“Alkaloids are nitrogenous organic substances used to treat cancer, generally from plants.  But, my frogs have alkaloids in their skin secretions, which are normally poisonous, but since they are from Hawai’i, they have different alkaloid content and therefore that gives them potential to be a cancer treatment.  I found that Hawaiian Poison Dart Frog secretions can inhibit the growth of Myeloma Cancer, which is a blood cancer.”

Cook also tested the secretions on ovarian cancer cell growth which was not inhibited, hinting that the treatment could be more effective on blood cancers like leukemia.   Johnson Lin, an 8th grader at Hawai’i Baptist Academy, tested gene therapy and its effect on Lung Cancer Cells.

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Hawai'i Baptist Academy teacher, Jordan Yasutomi and 8th grader, Johnson Lin

“The CRISPR/Cas9 System, that’s sort of like gene therapy.  And what CRISPR stands for is Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short, Palindromic Repeats and what this can do is, it’s a memory bank for a bacteria and the Cas9 protein is developed in the Streptococcus Pioganese and what the CRISPR does is it stores the past DNA from invading phages into the bacteria and it can defend against other viruses.”

Lin says CRISPR could be a viable cure because it shows potential in repairing damaged genes in lung cancer cells.   Mililani High School senior, Airi Morita, researched flu vaccines from 2002-2008 to determine if effectiveness can be measured.  Although a strong correlation was not found, Morita says, it was definitely a learning experience.

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Airi Morita, senior, Mililani High School

“When I first started, I didn’t realize they do make a new vaccine every year and I really want to be able to analyze this year’s flu season because it takes about a year for the information to go into the data base.   So I’ll have to wait a little bit.”

“Yeah, how you doing?  What’s your name? D-J.”

Governor David Ige toured the exhibits.  Roshani Jha, a senior at Roosevelt High School, explained to the governor the effect of Parkinson’s Disease LRRK2 mutations on Synaptic Vesicle Recovery.

“I’m just trying to figure out if a specific protein is the missing link between Parkinson’s Disease or not because of the characteristics that it has and the roles that it plays inside the brain.”

Governor Ige says he was overwhelmed by the interest and curiosity of the students.  He participated in the science and engineering fair when he was a student and still remembers his project.  He says the knowledge gained is invaluable.

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Roosevelt High School senior, Roshani Jha, explains to Governor David Ige, what her project focused on.

“We know that project-based learning really creates a stickiness to the knowledge that the students acquire.  It really is through these projects that they truly begin to understand the tools that modern scientists are now using.  But, more importantly, how to recognize and develop conclusions that really help us move forward.”

Some state-and district-level winners will compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair in California next month.    Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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