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Innovators take home first place at BioTrek championship

11th graders impressed a panel of experts with their knowledge of biofabrication, stem cells, and pluripoint cells in their presentation on producing airway supports for babies with tracheomalacia.

On June 6th, NEIA innovators Alex Grillo, Aaron Zhang, and Zi Sykes were chosen as the first-place team in the 2023 BioTrek Championship. This honor came from work that they did in science class through the Fall. The team developed a method to create biofabricate supports for babies born with airway malacia. The panel of six judges, including representatives from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, Therapeutics, BioFabUSA, and Rockwell Automation, commented on our students ability to address technical questions about the process, speak with knowledge and poise, and target such a meaningful topic. 

This was the culmination of this year’s BioTrek Program, a joint initiative by ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Medical Institute) and BioFabUSA. The NEIA and BioTrek partnership started in October and ran for five weeks during science class time. Throughout the program, NEIA students learned to identify issues that could be solved using bio-manufacturing techniques. They delved into the biology of cell growth, tissue generation, and 3D printing formats. To bring real life meaning to the project students developed an entrepreneurial model for their chosen project which included complete financial models and advertising plans. Our partnership with this program was a perfect complement to the integrated science curriculum at NEIA. It allowed our students to dive into topics that spanned traditional science disciplines and pair that content with meaningful, cutting edge projects.  

On the day of the event, NEIA’s team (Aaron and Alex, as Zi was not able to attend) showcased their pitch, competing against seven other schools. Their five-minute presentation impressed the judges, earning them a spot among the top three groups. Transitioning from presenting to their peers and families, they faced a new challenge: delivering their pitch to industry professionals and leaders who are shaping the biofabrication field. The big finale took place at the DEKA Auditorium in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the championship round coincided with ARMI’s gathering for The Meeting in the Millyard Conference. 

During their final pitch our innovators’ knowledge and composure amazed everyone as they spoke about their idea and then gracefully addressed challenging questions related to biofabrication, stem cells, and the choices they made for each step of the manufacturing process from the judges. The judges recognized the students’ expertise and awarded NEIA’s team the first-place honor!

Tim McCauley, a science instructor at NEIA, expressed immense pride in his students’ accomplishments. “It was really gratifying knowing all of the work that this group poured into their project. The work that every student in our 11th grade did throughout this program helped to elevate Aaron and Alex through this process. They also benefited from the program that we have here at NEIA, the skills we develop in our students, and the support they get to pursue passions like this.” 

Alex Grillo couldn’t believe it when their team’s name got called. “I didn’t think we were gonna win at first… Me and Aaron turned to each other, and we were like, ‘No way, surely not, there’s no way this is happening.’ My first thought was automatically, ‘This is gonna be so great on my college resume,” she said, laughing. “The governor of New Hampshire was there. I got to meet him! It was crazy.”

Aaron Zhang confessed a similar initial shock upon winning, given that it had been seven months since the project’s completion. He and Alex were still studying their notes on the car ride to the event. Both students made sure to highlight Zi Sykes and their hard work as a big contributor to their project. 

“I think we were just more knowledgeable about our topic,” Aaron said. “So when the judges asked us questions, we were able to answer them.”

The students’ ability to handle complex questions on the fly demonstrated their understanding of the subject matter, impressing even the seasoned judges, though the triumph came with its fair share of nerve-racking moments. Alex’s hands were so sweaty, they almost dropped the clicker for the presentation slides. Nonetheless, the overall experience was a remarkable milestone in both their and Aaron’s academic journeys. 

“I texted my mom, I texted my dad, I texted my friends as soon as they read off the second-place team, and we realized we had won,” Alex Grillo said. “They were all very happy.”

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After our first full week into summer, we want to look back on a year-long project that yielded impressive results for three of our amazing rising 12th graders.

This past fall, NEIA 11th graders pitched products that could add value to people’s lives by curing diseases or ailments. This is part of the BioTrek Program: a joint initiative by ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Medical Institute) and BioFabUSA. Students pitched their amazing ideas to Tim McCauley, their peers, and a panel of judges made up of NEIA staff members. 

Throughout these presentations, our students walked through all phases of the Biotrek journey. First, identifying a problem. Second, engineering a solution using bio-manufacturing techniques. In the third phase, they developed a business and financial model for their product. The final phase was this event: pitching to their peers and judges. They are trying to solve real medical issues, such as endometriosis, chronic lung disease, color blindness, and osteogenesis (just to name a few). 

The winners moved on to the Final Presentations judged by representatives from ARMI and Biofab, which decided
who would represent NEIA against other schools in the Biotrek Championship. The winning group chosen to go to the championship was Endopexy, created by Milena, Lila, and Max H.

Milena, Lila, and Max’s hard worked paid off as they were the winning team of the championships. We are so proud of these three innovators for working hard the whole year and being recognized in such a highly competitive program.

This project-based learning program continues to be a very valuable experience for our innovators. You can clearly see the intersection of subjects like science, math, entrepreneurship, and communications. It is the perfect example of how integrated academics lead to exciting projects and connections.

#NEIA #BioTrek #Innovation #entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #integration
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This weekend, three of our 11th grade students: Vicki, Owen, and Langston, won first place at the Entrepreneurship for All - EforAll All Ideas Pitch Competition for their idea around the NEXTGEN Summit, a conference that Langston initiated this spring at NEIA.

Owen explains the idea to execution as follows, "My mother is an alum of the Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Business Accelerator Program. One night while scrolling Instagram, she found a post by EforAll about an All Ideas Pitch Competition happening. She sent me the post at 11:20 p.m. and we were signed up for the event by 12:15 a.m. A few weeks later we were selected to table at the event with the potential of being able to participate in the final pitch competition. We landed a spot in the pitch competition, and it was a huge success as we not only won the first place prize of $1000, but also won the Fan Favorite prize for an additional $500. We were by far the youngest attendees at the event and were pitching with people who were already well removed from college."

We are so proud of our innovators and commend them for their efforts to not only seek new opportunities each and every day but to thrive within them.

#NEIA #PitchCompetition #EForAll #NEXTGENSummit #NEXTGEN #FutureOfEducation #Innovation #Entrepreneurship
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That’s a wrap! We will see you soon, innovators. We miss you already.

#LastDayOfSchool #Summer #NEIA #innovators #summerbreak
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