The Malcom Mechanical Mariners Robotics Team of Laguna Niguel, California, recently accepted a First Place Award in the VEX IQ Challenge: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Research Project Competition for their entry, “Regenerative Growth Technology.” McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine deputy director Stephen Badylak, DVM, PhD, MD, professor in University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Surgery, and Michelle Scarritt, PhD, and Scott Johnson, MS, from his lab assisted the fifth grade teacher and coach, Nona Reimer, and the team with their understanding of the science behind their project.
The California team consists of 8 students—Ryan Weiss, Ethan Shaver, Josh Chernekoff, Jackson Garbino, Dante Viramontes, Brenden Bellavia, Ben Dailey, and Anthony DeCato—from John Malcom Elementary School. The team chose tissue engineering and regenerative medicine as its area of study. During their preliminary research, the students learned that tissue from pig bladders can be used to form scaffolds that can be used in used in humans to trigger stem cells to regenerate damaged or missing tissue. They read an article about a man whose finger tip grew back with the use of a regenerative powder. They watched a video of a news clip that showed a man with a skiing injury strengthen his leg by regenerating damaged muscle tissue and even read about a serviceman who regrew muscle tissue in his leg after sustaining a disabling injury while serving our country. The team all agreed, “This research is amazing to us.”
Wanting to know all that they could about tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, the team reached out to Dr. Badylak to increase their understanding of the answer to their question: “How does a powder grow back human tissue?” Following a conference call, the students learned from Drs. Badylak and Scarritt and Mr. Johnson exactly what they needed to know to prepare for their winning presentation to judges at their first competition on January 15, 2016.
The Malcom Mechanical Mariners Robotics Team’s next stop is a state competition on March 12 with the hope to make it to World’s in April in Louisville, Kentucky.
Congratulations and best of luck, team!