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STEAM team wins 17 trophies

posted: Tue, May 15th, 2018

Varshini Chinthareddy, Amulya Kuntamukkala, Siya Kulkarni, and Shana Soyfer won 1st place at the TSA State Conference for their genetics project 

MOMS students in the school's Technology Student Association (TSA) scored high honors in the New Jersey TSA State Conference, taking home a total of 17 awards, including seven 1st place trophies. 

At the conference, held at the College of New Jersey, the 50 MOMS students competed against students from about two dozen middle schools throughout the state in more than 25 competitions involving STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). 

Exploring cutting-edge genetic engineering

Among the highlights was the 1st-place-winning project in the medical technology category which explored cutting-edge genetics. The team of Varshini Chinthareddy, Siya Kulkarni, Amulya Kuntamukkala, and Shana Soyfer examined CRISPR-Cas9, a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to remove, add, and alter sections of DNA. Cas9 is an enzyme that works as “molecular scissors” that can cut a DNA strand at specific locations so that bits of DNA can then be added or removed. This method of genetic manipulation, developed just six years ago, is inexpensive and relatively simple, and promises to revolutionize the field of genetic engineering. 

“It’s much simpler and safer than other editing methods, and it has an 80% success rate,” Shana said. “So many people suffer from serious diseases and now there are cures so close to being discovered and perfected with this process.”

The MOMS team created a model of the process and discussed in a report the ethical, environmental, and social impacts of easy DNA manipulation. The students explored not only the potential to cure diseases but also the real possibility in the near future of creating “designer” babies with customized physical traits. 

Addressing an urban challenge

Sia Bawa, Aanya Khanderia, and Aveena Khanderia tackled a problem facing most major cities. The team, which took 1st place in the system control technology category, spent three months developing and building an automated parking garage. Using the motors, sensors, and construction pieces of the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics system, the students engineered a circular conveyer belt-driven method of car parking and retrieval.

A customer would drive a car onto a parking bed and be given a computerized receipt. The system would automatically rotate the car to an elevator where the vehicle would be moved for storage. A scan of the customer’s receipt would complete the process in reverse.

The system would not only save time because of its automation but would also maximize real estate by allowing parking garages to have multiple stories of densely stored cars. 

“I like to try new things and challenge myself,” said Aveena, discussing her reasons for entering this category. “I’m really into Legos and I thought this would be great for me. It’s hands on and I like to build things.”

Mass producing puzzles

In the mass production category, students are challenged to manufacture a marketable object and submit documentation so that it could be easily duplicated. The brother/sister team of Adam and Victoria Tang combined this year’s theme of geometric puzzles with Adam’s love of penguins.

They designed 3-D penguin puzzles in TinkerCAD and then manufactured them using the district’s MakerBot 3-D printers. 

Other interesting MOMS projects were balsa wood gliders and solar cars.

Beth Cohen is the school's TSA adviser.

TSA Winners

CAD Foundations
Sammil Panda – 3rd place

Career Prep
Siya Kulkarni – 1st place
Aveena Khanderia – 3rd place

Children's Stories
Alice Park, Aneesa Brelvi, and Katie Keegan  – 2nd place

Digital Photography
Melissa Patten – 3rd place

Leadership Strategies
Amulya Kuntamukkala, Sia Bawa, Aanya Khanderia – 1st place

Alice Park, Aneesa Brelvi, Varshini Chinthareddy – 3rd place

Mass Production
Adam Tang, Victoria Tang – 1st place

Medical Technology
Shana Soyfer, Varshini Chinthareddy, Siya Kulkarni, Amulya Kuntamukkala – 1st place

Microcontroller Design
Aveena Khanderia, Maya Jones, Melissa Patten – 2nd place

Off the Grid
Katie Keegan, Olivia Lin, Brennan Ozkan – 1st place

Prepared Speech
Vidhika Ramchandani – 1st place

Problem Solving
Victoria Tang, Adam Tang – 3rd place

STEM Animation
Olivia Aghabi, Maya Jones, Victoria Tang – 2nd place

System Control Technology
Aveena Khanderia, Aanya Khanderia, Sia Bawa – 1st place

Tech Bowl
Akila Venkatraman, Bryan Thomas, Olivia Aghabi – 2nd place

Website Design
Daniel Caradang, Greg Baek, Brennan Ozkan – 3rd place

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