Eleven participants from three high schools across northeastern Nova Scotia converged on StFX March 27 to take part in the first-ever Antigonish Brain Bee—organized by psychology professor Dr. Erin Mazerolle, lab instructor Sherry Neville-MacLean and StFX students—and came away with a greater knowledge of neuroscience, and for the winner, the opportunity to compete at the 2023 CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee.
The Antigonish Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition for high school students in Grades 9-12, saw participants take part in quiz rounds, a hands-on neuroanatomy round, and a Jeopardy-style final asking questions about the brain.
“We wanted to get students excited by neuroscience,” says Dr. Mazerolle, who had the idea to host a competition in Antigonish after previously helping out with a similar event in Halifax during her graduate school days.
The Brain Bee is like a spelling bee, she says, but for neuroscience knowledge. Participants also get to meet neuroscientists and learn about their work.
Presenting such an opportunity to students in rural Nova Scotia was important to her.
“It’s a nice way to engage a broader range of high school students who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity.”
Dr. Mazerolle says the event was organized by her students in the Service Learning component of her Brain and Behaviour class.
The event, she says, was a great opportunity for the StFX students, who really had to learn the material in order to teach it. The StFX students also tutored the high school participants in advance, helping prepare them for the competition.
While at StFX for the event, participants took a campus tour and enjoyed lunch in Morrison Hall.
Dr. Mazerolle says they also hosted a reverse science fair that went very well. StFX faculty and students from health, psychology, human kinetics and computer science shared their research with the visiting students, who went to different stations to learn about the work and even voted on a top presenter.
Dr. Karen Brebner, Dean of Arts and a neuroscientist, hosted a very tight final round.
Grade 9 student Jaron Francis of Riverview Rural High School in Sydney, NS emerged as the winner and will go on to compete in the national brain bee final at McMaster University May 19-20.
Brooklyn Ehler and Isaac Rankin, both from Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School in Antigonish, NS, placed second and third respectively.
Dr. Mazerolle says she is grateful to the offices of the Dean of Arts, Dean of Science, the Research Services Group, and the Academic Vice-President & Provost for providing funding for this competition and in helping with the winner’s cost to attend nationals. She says she is also grateful to the partnership with X-Chem Stem Outreach to host the event.