PCOM Helps Connect the Dots with Science in Gwinnett County
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PCOM Helps Connect the Dots with Science

March 14, 2022

PCOM faculty, staff and students participate as judges in the virtual Gwinnett Regional Science, Engineering and Innovation Fair. PCOM faculty, staff and students participate as judges in the virtual Gwinnett Regional Science, Engineering and Innovation Fair.

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine was well represented at the recent Gwinnett Regional Science, Engineering + Innovation Fair – “Connecting the Dots” - as 59 judges from the Suwanee, Moultrie and Philadelphia campuses judged middle and high school student projects.

“Impressive,” “inspiring,” “well organized” and “uplifting” were some of the adjectives PCOM’s judges used to describe their experiences with the close to 1,000 students from 64 local schools who completed more than 450 projects this year.

Soroosh Parsa (DO ’24) said, “I was “absolutely stunned by how smart the middle schoolers were. For a second, I thought I was in a high school session.”

Meghan Di Rito Wegendt, MLIS, PCOM Georgia’s education and outreach librarian, agreed. She said, “It’s inspiring to see how enthusiastic the middle school students are about their projects. I can’t wait for next year!”

Fellow librarian, Barbara Wood, MLIS, associate director of library, education & engagement, called the event uplifting. “The quality of these projects was fantastic with positive real-world implications,” she said.

Judges evaluated the projects on scientific quality, accuracy, creativity, engineering precision and experimental design. Top project categories included chemistry, robotics and intelligent machines, environmental engineering and biomedical engineering.

Six Years of Support

For the sixth consecutive year, PCOM Georgia supported STEM education in Gwinnett County as the presenting sponsor of the regional science fair. For the past two years, the fair has taken place virtually using Zoom and a digital platform created especially for the fair. In addition to in-depth project interviews with judges, the event included STEM workshops which provided activities and ways for students to engage with the more than 15 community partners.

Andrea Mann, DO, FAAPPCOM Georgia was well represented at the fair. In addition to PCOM’s judges who donned red PCOM shirts while judging, the campus Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine scholars, Obianuju Nwamah (DO ’22) and Ferzan Uddin (DO ’23), developed a workshop to introduce the students to OMM. Also, Andrea Mann, DO, FAAP, dean and chief academic officer of the osteopathic medicine program at PCOM Georgia, had the opportunity to welcome the students to the online science fair through a pre-recorded video. She also congratulated the winners at an award ceremony following the event. PCOM Georgia students recorded congratulatory messages which were included in the welcome video, while student science fair participants received promotional items from the college that were delivered to their schools on the day of the fair.

Next Steps for Science Fair Winners

The high school and middle school students who earned top honors at the regional fair move to the next round – the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair to be held in Athens, Georgia, beginning March 31. The top six high school projects also automatically qualify for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, a hybrid event set for May 7. At this fair, Gwinnett students compete against students from 77 other countries.

Philip A. Fabrizio, PT, DPT, EdDPhilip Fabrizio, PT, DPT, EdD, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, has participated as a judge for several years. He described his experience this way. “As it has been in the past, the experience was awesome. The students' enthusiasm, attention to detail, passion, and creativity were outstanding! Needless to say, I learned a lot!”

Qian Chen, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology in the PCOM Department of Bio-Medical Sciences, reported that she judged five interesting biomedical sciences projects conducted by high school students. Topics included: Can insulin administration without needles be feasible?; a comparison of various face masks; water purification methods; racial differences of pregnant women care during the third trimester; and food allergy knowledge of teenagers who work at restaurants.

Dr. Chen said, “I was so touched by their passion and curiosity in research. Moreover their fresh eyes and scientific interpretation for their data inspired me to look for research ideas from daily life and experience!”

Ariana Daftarian (DO ’23) also enjoyed judging the science fair.  She said, “I was particularly impressed with how organized and well thought out the entire process was in our virtual room – hats off to our well-rehearsed host! She added, “The students were a joy to interact with. I hope to participate next year as well.”

Assistant to the PCOM Georgia Chief Campus Officer, Colleen Heer, judged projects ranging from developing algorithms/coding for a prototype drone for wild fire training to creating a prototype combining a PEP device and incentive spirometer for cystic fibrosis patients to the creation of a leg prosthesis prototype for a horse with ‘stable legs’ using 3D modeling.

She reported that being part of a three-judge group allowed the student presenters to have enough time to interact with the judges, “and there was ample time for each judge to ask questions and, believe me, we did!”

She said, “Most impressive was that the middle school students were just as good as the high school students and, in some cases, better prepared. Not only were these particular students comfortable presenting, they were well prepared as they answered any questions without hesitation. Their presentations were well-structured with good grammar, data, images and, in one case, short video clips.”

Heer said she “learned new things,” while having fun. “I highly recommend others try judging as well next year.”

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a branch campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), a private, not-for-profit, accredited institution of higher education with a storied 125-year history dedicated to the healthcare professions. Located in Suwanee (Gwinnett County), PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy. Graduate degrees are offered in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science and physician assistant studies. The campus joins PCOM South Georgia in Moultrie in helping to meet the healthcare needs of the state. Emphasizing "a whole person" approach to care, PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the community. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.

    Contact Us

    Jamesia Harrison, MS
    Assistant Director, News and Media Relations
    Email: jamesiaha@pcom.edu
    Office: 678-225-7532 | Cell: 470-572-7558

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