Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Groups team up for Biotechnology Camp for Young Students

After 15 young scientists arrived at the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden earlier this week, they were greeted by two Daviess County Sheriff Department deputies.

Professor Nico Tiana was missing, and the deputies had questions for -- and needed help from -- the students. The scientists, who are also students ages 9 to 12, spent Monday morning exploring the garden and gathering samples during the first day of Mystery at Biotech Summer Camp.

By Tuesday morning, they were in a lab on the third floor of the Owensboro Museum of Science and History, where they learned about aquatic organisms, identified pond organisms and studied the susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics.

"It's been really cool," Austin Simmons, 11, of Cloverport said on Tuesday. "We found all kinds of clues (and) codes."

The campers found Nico Tiana's lab book at the botanical garden. Several of her lab technicians were sick, and the campers needed to discover what was wrong with them as well.

"It sounded as though there was opportunity for all to feel some success in that gathering of evidence," said Susie Tyler, botanical garden director. "A variety of the campers made the discoveries."

Mystery at Biotech Summer Camp is a product of the Budding Biotech program, which is a partnership of the science and history museum, botanical garden, Owensboro Medical Health System, Kentucky Bioprocessing, Owensboro Cancer Research Program and Owensboro Community & Technical College.

The Budding Biotech program is wrapping up its first year, and it was underwritten by a $37,560.83 grant from OMHS. Students have been participating in biotech activities since last fall.

A Biotechnology Expo for middle school students interested in science is Thursday night at OCTC.

Officials are applying for another OMHS grant for the program so it will remain free for school groups, said Kathy Olson, executive director of the science and history museum.

The summer camp is a success, she said, and organizers would eventually like to attempt a two-day camp for families.

Fifteen students are participating in the mystery camp. The young scientists' adventures will take them to Kentucky Bioprocessing later this week.

"They're going to get to use some equipment and see some things that a lot of people don't get to see," Olson said.

The students spent Tuesday morning wearing aprons as they analyzed samples they gathered the previous day. Austin said the students were hoping to figure out what made Nico Tiana's lab techs sick so that they could make an antidote or medicine.

Jackie Noffsinger, 11, of Bremen, and Owensboro residents Caroline Shutt, 9, and Kayla Ruth, 10, all said they were enjoying the camp.

"I like how we got to actually do real samples and got to use real stuff that people use," Kayla said.

Caroline said she liked being able to explore the botanical garden as they looked for clues.

The camp reminded Jackie of a TV show she enjoys.

"I like watching 'NCIS,' and I thought it would be interesting to solve a mystery and sort of do the stuff behind solving crimes," she said.

Beth Wilberding, 691-7307,

A Biotechnology Expo for middle school students interested in science and math is from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Owensboro Community & Technical College Advanced Technology Center. For more information on the Budding Biotech program, visit