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Schools Notebook: Tackling protein models

Science-minded teams from 34 Long Island schools demonstrated their knowledge of organic compounds last month in the Stony Brook University Protein Challenge, a contest that requires teens to build models illustrating the link between protein structure and function.

The first-place winner was a team from Great Neck High School South: Yifan Li, Tiffany Huang, Daniel Lee and Samantha Phillips. Runners-up were teams from George W. Hewlett High School and Longwood High School in Middle Island, respectively.

A Mount Sinai High School team was voted to have the most scientifically accurate model, and Hewlett won the People's Choice Award for the model most liked by students.

"It just comes naturally to our team," Great Neck South science teacher and adviser James Truglio said of his team's efforts. "It means a lot to see them coming in as ninth-graders knowing nothing about proteins and to see where they are now as juniors and seniors."

This year, projects focused on the epidermal growth factor receptor, a protein that has a key role in cell communication and growth. Students were required to build a model of the protein using a Mini-Toober, which is "a piece of wire with foam around it," Truglio said.

Teams were also asked to build a model of a related protein on the day of the event and to complete a short exam. Models were evaluated on accuracy.

Other competing schools from Nassau County were Baldwin, Division Avenue and MacArthur in Levittown, East Meadow, Farmingdale, Garden City, H. Frank Carey in Franklin Square, Jericho, John F. Kennedy and Mepham in Bellmore, Locust Valley, Massapequa, New Hyde Park, Seaford, Sewanhaka in Floral Park, Wantagh, and The Wheatley School in Old Westbury.


A day at city hall

Long Beach High School's participation in government classes recently received a firsthand look at local officials in action when they spent a full day at Long Beach City Hall.

The visit included a discussion with Judge Marjorie Tepper about the judicial process and drunken driving dangers, and a tour of the firehouse with Lt. Brian Pues. Public Works Commissioner Kevin Mulligan spoke about the types of projects that pass through his office and the intricacies of Long Beach's freshwater and sewer management.


AIDS awareness

Massapequa High School's peer educators stressed the importance of safe sex last month by sponsoring lectures and activities held in conjunction with AIDS Awareness Week.

Speakers included representatives of Love Heals: The Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, and activities included a display of AIDS Memorial Quilt panels at the high school and Berner Middle School.

In other news, 130 ninth-graders at the high school recently took a pledge to remain tobacco-free as part of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout initiative.


Recycling bottle caps

Nine school districts in the Town of North Hempstead are recycling plastic bottle caps this school year through a new partnership established between the town and Aveda, a producer of makeup and hair products and a subsidiary of cosmetic company Estee Lauder.

The caps - which are not recyclable in a number of Long Island towns - are being collected in school bins and will be turned into new caps for Aveda shampoos and conditioners.

Participating districts are Carle Place, East Williston, Great Neck, Herricks, Manhasset, New Hyde Park-Garden City Park, Port Washington, Sewanhaka and Westbury.


'Best Foot Forward'

Career academies at six Long Island schools were recently named winners in a "Best Foot Forward" initiative coordinated by the Long Island Works Coalition, a division of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey.

The initiative - done in partnership with Nike and Ford Motor Co. - asked teens to produce a commercial encouraging donations of used sneakers to be recycled into playground and track surfaces. The schools also collected 4,100 pounds of sneakers. Commercial contest winners were:

Baldwin: overall best video, audience choice, most school spirit, and best student performance awards for Baldwin High School; East Islip: best entertainment value and best message of social responsibility awards for East Islip High School; East Meadow: most creative video award for East Meadow High School; Massapequa: best reality commercial award for Massapequa High School; Mastic Beach: best use of technology award for William Floyd High School; Wantagh: best display of career academy industry award for Wantagh High School.


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