Wednesday, February 15, 2012


--23rd year that MGH has mentored students in Timilty Science Fair


--23rd year that MGH has mentored students in Timilty Science Fair

BOSTON— February 15, 2012— The science experiments unveiled last week at the annual Timilty Science Fair tested phenomena ranging from the release angle of a baseball, to the effect of light filters on light heat; from the attraction of flies to odor to fruit conductance. Through the mentoring program, MGHers guide and advise the 7th and 8th graders as they develop science projects. The pairs meet biweekly at the hospital, and their collaborations culminate with science fairs held at the school, city and state levels.

This year, 15 Timilty students with MGH mentors are among the 21 Timilty 7th and 8th graders selected to compete at the Boston city-wide Science Fair on March 10 at Northeastern University.

A total of 54 mentors came from 28 MGH departments. Bill Banchiere of Environmental Services has served as a Timilty Science Fair mentor for 17 years. “I serve as a mentor for two reasons. The first one goes back to my wife’s 33-year teaching career. I helped in her class on many occasions, and I had great satisfaction in working with her students. The second reason I serve is to help MGH make a difference in our community,” Banchiere said.

While many mentors have been involved with the program for a long time, others are participating for the first time, like Bill Hynes, Executive Director of Pathology. “I was looking for an opportunity to make a small impact in the life of a younger person who might lack the support structure that is available to children in the typical suburban community,” he said.

This too is the first year as a mentor for Patrick Hagan from the Center for Community Health Improvement. “I decided to mentor this year after seeing the projects from last year's science fair. The students were really excited to show off their work for MGH employees under the Bulfinch tent, and I was impressed with the caliber of their work,” Hagan said. “The Timilty Partnership has been an awesome experience, and I am thankful that MGH affords its employees opportunities to work with the community in exciting ways that go beyond their job description,” he added.  

For Valerie Valant of the Center for Human Genetic Research, this is her second year as a mentor with Yanicia Miller. “We specifically requested to be matched again since we have so much fun together,” Valant said. Fortunately, Valant’s and Miller's mentoring relationship does not end with the completion of their science project. The collaboration between the MGH/Timilty Partnership and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay means that their relationship continues as they meet regularly for activities and events. “Outside of the science fair, Yanicia and I enjoy pottery painting, kayaking on the Charles River, going to the movies and the aquarium and just talking,” she said.

 Here are summaries of some of the experiments:

 Bill Hynes and Luiz Cortez: What is the effect of the release angle on the distance a baseball travels?

Luiz’s project studied how the mass of a base ball affects the distance the ball will fly.  Using a softball, a baseball, a tennis ball, a golf ball and a MGH Donor Center Foam ball, Luiz used the same motion and release point to throw each ball six times.  He measured the distance and the mass of each ball to try to prove his hypothesis that balls of lower mass would travel furthest.

Bill Banchiere and Jozef Pineda: What is the effect of different odors on attracting flies?

Jozef’s project is about the chemical attraction of lesser fruit flies ( Drosophila repleta). We tried to determine what smell was more attractive to flies between: Malt Vinegar, Beer and Red Wine. He prepared traps of plastic containers' with glue boards, a cap with paper towels saturated in the same amount of these tree ingredients. Placing the traps in a number of locations in the main hospital kitchen, he removed the traps after a couple of day, counted and recorded the number of flies in each trap. He repeated this process a number of times. Jozef’s hypothesis predicted that flied would be more attracted to the traps that had beer in it. After the experiment was completed, he found that they were actually more attracted to the red wine traps.

Valerie Valant and Yanicia Miller: What is the effect of the type of fruit on its conductance?

Yanicia’s project questioned which fruit has the greatest electrical conductivity. Yanicia recently discovered that a lemon circuit could light up a battery and wanted to see what other fruits could do this too. She tested strawberries, cucumbers, lemons, apples, bananas, kiwis, and tomatoes. Although her hypothesis predicted that more acidic fruits would have the greatest conductivity, her results showed that there was no significant difference amongst them. Thus, her conclusion is that other factors, such as ion concentration and internal liquid amount, must also contribute.

Patrick Hagan and Gordon Miller: What is the effect of different light filters on the heat produced by the light?

Milton's project looked at the effect of light filters on temperature. He shined a light through a filter into a dark box and measured the temperature of a beaker of water over time. After three hours he was able to show a difference between "dark" colors (Blue, Green), "light" colors (Red, Yellow) and no filter. The darker colors had a lower water temperature compared to the lighter colors and the control.

About MGH Youth Programs

Boston youth face many barriers to success in life. About three-quarters of Boston Public School students qualify for free and reduced lunch, a key indicator of poverty. These programs create a pathway out of poverty for these young people, which is critical to improving health status.  The programs also help MGH to develop a more diverse workforce, a key strategy in addressing disparities in health. Through its STEM Clubs, Senior STEM Clubs, MGH Youth Scholars and Alumni Program, MGH provides exposure to STEM careers to more than 450 Boston youth every year in grades 3 through college.

About the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI)

CCHI carries out its work in Chelsea, Revere, and Charlestown, where MGH has maintained healthcare centers for more than 40 years, as well as in Boston among youth, homeless persons and seniors. CCHI has partnered with the communities it serves to assess needs and create more than 35 programs that:

  • Reduce and prevent substance abuse 
  • Tackle the obesity epidemic by increasing access to healthy food and physical activity
  • Increase access to care for vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, seniors, and homeless people
  • Prevent cancers through early detection and screening
  • Generate interest in science and health careers among youth


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