Melbourne hosts the 2016 Australian-New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge State Final

On Wednesday 13 July, one hundred and eighty-four Victorian Year-10 students and 36 teachers from as far as Donald, Bright and Warnambool, gathered at the  Melbourne Brain Centre to participate in the 2016 Australian-New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge State Final.

This annual event, hosted by the Melbourne Neuroscience Institute (MNI), University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health (FINMH), and further sponsored by the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), was once again a huge success with the buzz of excitement palpably evident in the eyes of all attendees.

Professor Geoff Donnan of the FINMH welcomed the gathering to the Victorian “home of the brain” and introduced newly re-elected Federal Member for Melbourne Dr Adam Bandt, who spoke of the exciting future in neuroscience awaiting the next generation who are eager to participate in fundamental and clinical research. Professor Kathy North, AM, Director of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute gave the plenary address that plotted her personal path to research success in the neurogenetics field and provided a wide vista of opportunities available to the future brain pioneers in the audience.

Brain Bee

Students take part in challenging neuroscience competitions

The business of the Brain Bee Challenge began in earnest as excitement built over who would emerge the State’s Individual and Team finalists, vying for prizes including a giant model of the human torso (later dubbed “Sam” by the winning team), trophies, cash and Elsevier books. Results after tense competition in the Team Challenge were: 1st - Methodist Ladies College; 2nd - John Monash Science School; and 3rd - The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.  Congratulations to all!

A highlight of the day for both teachers and students were the pre-lunch tours of the Harry Brookes Anatomy Museum, the DAX Centre gallery and neuroscience laboratories. Many were late for lunch because they were so engrossed in what they saw and experienced. The volunteering tour leaders deserve special commendation for inspiring the students with their infectious enthusiasm for science. After lunch it was the teacher’s turn to show their neuroscience prowess as they competed in a friendly game of Neuro Trivial Pursuit - chocolate prizes not failing to drive excellence in performance!

Students visit the Harry Brookes Anatomy Museum

Dr Christine Nguyen, MNI Fellow and researcher at the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences gave the Young Neuroscientist address, outlining how a passion to do good in helping others can become a reality in the field of brain sciences.  Our 2015 State Champion, Miss Nebula Chowdhury of the Mac.Roberston Girls’ High School described her year as Champion, attending the Australian Neuroscience Society annual conference and taking out 2nd place in the National Finals.

After a closely contested final round amongst six contestants, the Individual State Champions for 2016 emerged as: 1st - Alysha Wanigaratne of John Monash Science School; 2nd - Ajay Jay of Marymede Catholic College; and 3rd - Juulke Castelijn of Bacchus Marsh Grammar.  Congratulations to each of these fine students, and to all contestants (and their teachers)! All those involved in this excellent event should feel deservedly proud of their efforts to promote interest in brain science, which clearly remains at a high level of excellence in the State of Victoria.

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Andrew Metha

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