Sep 16, 2020

SOSA GONE VIRTUAL

Participant location by parish
Participant location by parish

The world is in the middle of a pandemic and we are all adjusting to a new normal. This is no different at SOSA, where we have had to be nimble to quickly pivot and adjust to keep our programmes running and our youth engaged.

The result of this was STEPS Online 2020 where we took our summer programmes virtual. Our first event was hosted on June 22 and 23, 2020 and was a resounding success!

The workshop focused on Computer Science (Learning to Code), Virology, and Epidemiology - a very timely component as the world watches as scientists track the development and spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Participants loved the workshops with almost 70% ranking the 2 days at an 8 and above on a 10-point scale for fun factor. As for the impact of the workshop, this participant summed it up nicely,I did not know that R was a programming language, I had no idea what bioinformatics was about, and I also had never heard about Scratch as a programming language.”

In July, we hosted another 2-day workshop covering non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and engineering, including 3D printing and aerospace engineering. Students joined us for a mixture of presentations and hands-on learning guided by specialist speakers. This event saw SOSA expanding its reach all across Jamaica.

Once again, participants found the sessions to be fun and a majority (86%) indicated that their interest in science was an 8 and above on a 10-point scale at the end of the workshop. This represents a whopping 68% increase in the interest level prior to the beginning of the workshop!

Comments from our participant included:

“I have an increased urge of wanting to be a scientist.”

“I wasn't sure what career and educational path I wanted to pursue but [now] I know about a lot of different careers in STEM which I could pursue.”

Go team SOSA, job well done!

 

May 20, 2020

STEPS IS GOING VIRTUAL!

We'd like to begin by thanking you for your continued support in these uncertain times. As you know our programming is usually local in Jamaica, but as the world copes with COVID-19, SOSA evolves. For seven years we have offered an on the ground, hands-on experience for our students, but in 2020, STEPS is going virtual! Despite being spurred by the pandemic, in actuality, we will actually be accomplishing a long-term goal of providing international exchange, through virtual interactions among underserved and under-resourced youth in Jamaica.

Students from the anywhere in the region are currently registering to participate in our two-day workshop that showcases virology, epidemiology and computer engineering, with at least 50% of participant space allotted to Jamaican students. We will be exploring the study of viruses, how humans track diseases, and computer science, with team discussions among primary/middle school aged students. In just a short time we already have hundreds of applicants, and look forward to providing our cohort a unique and enriching experience. 

Stay tuned to hear about how our pilot virtual event goes! Thank you again for your continued support. Without you, we would not be able to get our programming off the ground ….…(no pun intended)!


Attachments:
Jan 24, 2020

Another Successful SOSAvember - FEVER!

CRISPR Group Activity
CRISPR Group Activity

A large warning sign greets you as you stumble to the hospital entrance: "DENGUE OUTBREAK: CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE". The viral disease that once spread only through the bite of a mosquito has now mutated! Dengue X is now able to spread from person to person! As you wander the city, quarantined houses on either side of the road, a bold thought comes to mind: "Why can't I, a junior scientist, combine my knowledge of molecular biology and immunology to find a cure for Dengue fever?" You quickly call up your colleagues from university and rent a laboratory space - there's still time to save the city!”

This is the scenario our high school STEPS students who participated in SOSAvember 2019 were tasked with. Using techniques associated with gene-editing and immunology, 93 high school students interacted with each other to eradicate a special strain of Dengue Fever from their community. We used concepts such a CRISPR (which has been utilized as a gene-editing tool to repair genetic mutations responsible for causing specific diseases), and ELISA (which uses antibodies to detect the presence of the virus in blood or other body fluid) to expose our students to technologies that allowed them to take the role of a researcher, and devise possible ways to eradicate diseases like Dengue.

In addition to learning how to detect if patients were infected and learning how we could use gene-editing to eliminate mutated genes, our hands-on experiments gave students an understanding of how herd immunity can protect those who are immunocompromised, or those who have allergic reactions to certain vaccines. 

Our high-schoolers found that the possibilities are endless in a lab setting and they were superstars in using their imagination to think of how techniques like these can be applied in the future!

Thank you for your continued support – onward and upward in STEM!!

Enjoying ELISA
Enjoying ELISA
 
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