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Area students get taste of bioscience with experiments

Luverne High School students (from left) Carrie Goebel, Ashlie Hess, Joel Wohnoutka and Gretchen Schneekloth observe the carbon dioxide gas forming from a solution of sugar and yeast during a series of pre-Bioscience Conference experiments Wednesday at Worthington High School. The Bioscience Conference starts today on the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

WORTHINGTON -- Much like those who will attend today's Bioscience Conference, students at Tracy Area High School are willing to rise at the crack of dawn in the name of science.

"It's been a good day seeing different areas of bioscience and exploring different things. I'm definitely impressed with the work they've put into this," said college-level biology teacher Jake Scandrett, whose small group of juniors and seniors left Tracy shortly after 6 a.m. to attend a day of experiments hosted in conjunction with the Sixth annual Regional Bioscience Conference.

Nearly 100 high school students from Adrian, Luverne, Mountain Lake, Murray County Central, Worthington and Tracy Area districts attended a series of laboratories taught by instructors and professionals in the bioscience field on Wednesday at Worthington High School and Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Students experimented with lamb blood cells and chicken egg membranes, learned about nanotechnology and more.

"They showed us nanowire and nanofabric; that was neat," explained Jackie Martin, a sophomore at Worthington High School. "The wire itself you cannot bend until you put it in cold water," she said, though the wire will regain its bended shape when placed in hot water.

Nanofabric repels all liquids, including hot ones like coffee or soup that previously soaked through even water-resistant materials.

"It's kind of the future of clothing, no stains," continued Martin, who wants to be a veterinarian.

"Most of what they're doing here we've done in my class, so it's a good review," Scandrett said. "But the nanotechnology part was totally new."

Luverne junior Gretchen Schneekloth said she enjoyed a laboratory in which students were instructed on ethanol production.

Students spent a half-hour learning about ethanol from Rose Patzer, a biofuels instructor at the Granite Falls campus of Minnesota West. The simplified process works like this: water, enzymes and finally yeast are added to feed corn. The resulting fermentation produces dry distilled grain, which is used for animal feed; and 190 proof ethanol, which is distilled and mixed with gasoline (methanol) to produce engine fuel.

"The students have been top-notch and interactive," Patzer said. "Usually I'll ask them if they know more about ethanol than when they came in, and they say 'Oh yeah.'"

The students' experiment centered on one step in the four- to 24-hour production process: fermentation. They mixed sugar, water and yeast in a flask and used a balloon placed over the top to gauge the amount of carbon dioxide the reaction produced.

Students also learned about food science, and were given tastes of sausage missing key production ingredients like water, salt and sweeteners.

The Bioscience Conference starts today at Minnesota West, Worthington campus.