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Paynesville Press - March 9, 2005

Juniors place in top ten at Minnesota Brain Bee

By Michael Jacobson

Juniors Ashley Frank and Katie Schlick qualified for the 2005 Minnesota Brain Bee and both placed in the top ten. Schlick reached the finals and placed sixth. Frank tied for seventh.

Eighty-eight students - from a dozen high schools in Minnesota - competed in the event, sponsored for the sixth time by the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota.

The brain bee, similar to a spelling bee, focuses on brain anatomy, neurodegenerative diseases, and brain function.

brain bee A sample question might be: What word would describe the post-synaptic membrance activity level if the neurotransmitter gamma-aminubutyric acid is successfully transmitted across the synapse? a) excitatory; b) inhibitory; c) degenerative; d) restorative. The answer, of course, is (b) inhibitory.

Juniors Ashley Frank (left) and Katie Schlick (right) competed in the Minnesota Brain Bee in February at the Minnesota Science Museum. Schlick made the finals and placed sixth. Frank tied for seventh.

Students took a preliminary computerized test in early February.

PAHS teacher Jeff Youngs asked four of his top psychology students to participate in the Minnesota Brain Bee, and Frank and Schlick decided to try it.

Frank, the daughter of Marty and Nanette Frank, placed 12th in the state on the preliminary test, and Schlick, the daughter of Joe and Mary Jo Schlick, placed 18th. Both qualified for the finals, which were held at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Ashley's parents took the girls to St. Paul for the finals and watched them compete in the opening rounds at the state competition. The finalists - the top 30 on the preliminary test were invited but only half were able to attend - were divided into two groups for the opening round with the top three scorers in each group advancing to the finals.

Schlick qualified for the final round at state and finished sixth. Frank tied for fourth in the other opening-round group at state and finished in a tie for seventh place overall.

The girls did very well, exceeding expectations, said Youngs, especially since their information packet with brain facts (the basis for the questions at the competition) came late. Ashley and Katie worked very hard to prepare themselves in the limited amount of time they had, according to Youngs. To have one student reach the finals and both finish in the top ten exceeded his expectations, he added.

Many of the students at the Minnesota Brain Bee had competed in the event before, said Frank and Schlick, who were pleased with their performance and would be interested in trying again next year. "It was a lot of fun," said Schlick, "and a good experience, and I would recommend for anyone considering the medical field to try it."

"It was a good learning experience," agreed Frank, "and I would recommend other students take part in it."

Both Frank and Schlick are thinking about careers as nurses. Frank plans to go post-secondary option next year and to start taking her generals at St. Cloud State. Then she plans to enter a nursing program. Her participation in the Minnesota Brain Bee next year will depend on her schedule.

Schlick plans to attend a four-year college after high school and is strongly considering nursing as well, saying it is most likely to be her field of study.

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