Kids tech project digs into soybean diseases PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Friday, 12 April 2013 09:40
Lingxiao Ge (left) shows Kamryn Kosch, 10, how to use a microscope during the "Kids Tech" event at BGSU Saturday. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
The idea of Kids Tech University, though founded in Germany more than a decade ago, is still relatively new in the United States. In fact, Bowling Green State University is only the third such program in this country.
Kids Tech University (KTU) allows middle and high school students an opportunity to experience collegiate-style educational experiences primarily in the STEM areas, which includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each session includes both a lecture and a hands-on activity.
On Saturday, Dr. Brett M. Tyler, director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at Oregon State University, was the featured speaker.
There were 85 children and parents in attendance.
"The Kids Tech program is very popular in Europe," Tyler said prior to his lecture on Saturday morning.
He first became familiar with the program through a colleague at Virginia Tech, the home of the first program in the U.S. He previously was featured at one of their sessions and wanted to continue his involvement with KTU. The second program is located at Virginia State University.
Tyler is also the lead investigator of a $9.1 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to study "Integrated Management of Oomycete." In simplest terms the grant focuses on soybean diseases.
"We study root rot diseases," Tyler explained noting that the oomycetes are parasitic marine algae. The topic of phytophthora (Greek for plant devourer) root rot may not be the first topic young students care to learn about, however, Tyler's talk was designed to show them the relationship between plant diseases and human diseases.
The professor said he planned to talk about microbes in general.
"I will tell the students that diseases are caused by microbes in both people and plants. Like them, plants get sick," Tyler said in advance of his presentation.
In addition to his Saturday morning presentation at Olscamp Hall, the students participated in a series of plant-related "hands-on" activities at Eppler North on campus in the afternoon.
Paul Francis Morris, professor of biological sciences at BGSU, is also the program director for KTU locally.
The hands-on activities were popular with the children.
According to Morris, the hands-on activities in the afternoon session included an opportunity to get a lesson on how to focus a compound microscope and take the similar test to one given in year one biology labs.
"However the most exciting activity was the extraction of DNA from strawberries," he said.
The program director said, "One alumni told me that his daughter enjoyed the program so much, that she wanted to go to BGSU and become a volunteer for the KTU program."
Morris noted, "Soybeans are a big crop ... in Wood County. The Kids Tech University program provides an opportunity for children to interact with world class scientists addressing local problems."
Tyler's research goals include helping to find ways to improve treatment and minimizing the effects of diseases in both plants and people.
Tyler is in his second year of the five-year grant from USDA which also funds the KTU program at BGSU.
"We're making very good progress on new disease-resistant geonomic technology," he said of the research.
He is also looking for sponsors to step forward to fund KTU down the road.
"The USDA funding will not continue indefinitely," Tyler said.
The final program of this year's KTU program will be this coming Saturday when BGSU's Distinguish Research Professor Dr. Ronny Woodruff presets a program entitled "What Can Flies Tell Us About Human Health and Evolution?"

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