SciTech Now Episode 41

In this episode of SciTech Now, Reporter Andrea Vasquez explores the rich history of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island; Hari Sreenivasan sits down with Yale University’s Dr. David Spiegel to discuss synthetic chemistry and its impact on science and medicine; we take a step into Robofest Tampa Bay, which challenges children to put their programing skills to the test while inspiring future generations to pursue careers in math and science; and we meet Jennifer Funk, a researcher at Chapman University in California, who discusses plant life in drought conditions.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

COMING UP, CELEBRATING MORE THAN A CENTURY OF DISCOVERY...

IN THE LATE 1940s, JUST AFTER THE WAR, THIS WAS THE PLACE IN THE WORLD WHERE THE FIELD NOWw KNOWN AS MOLECULAR BIOLOGY REALLY GOT UNDER WAY.n

...REFOCUSING THE HUMAN IMMUNE SYSTEM...

WHAT WE'RE WORKING TOWARD MOVING FORWARD IS THE ABILITY TO SELECTIVELY ENGAGE WHATEVER WING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS GOING TO BE MOST USEFUL AGAINST THE PARTICULAR DISEASE TARGETS.n

...PREPARING FOR A FUTURE INn STEM...n

SO YOU LITERALLY HAVE TO PROGRAM YOUR ROBOT TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION.

SO YOU'VE GOT TO USE YOUR BRAIN, AND THAT'S THE WHOLE IDEA OF ROBOFEST.n

...AND ENDURING AN EVOLVING CLIMATE.

PLANTS ARE REALLY THE BASE OF THE ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM.n THE TYPE OF VEGETATION COMMUNITY THAT YOU HAVE 50 OR 100 YEARS3 FROM NOW IS REALLY GONNA IMPACTD THE ANIMAL COMMUNITY, AS WELL.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR' PUBLIC BROADCASTING ANDD CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.

HELLO, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.n WELCOME TO 'SciTech NOW,' OUR' WEEKLY PROGRAM BRINGING YOU THEU LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.n LET'S GET STARTED.

LONG ISLAND'S COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY HAS BEEN THE SITE OFf MONUMENTAL SCIENTIFIC3 DISCOVERIES IN CANCER RESEARCH,L PLANT BIOLOGY, AND GENOMICS, AND IS HOME TO EIGHT NOBEL LAUREATES.

NOW THE RESEARCH INSTITUTION CELEBRATES 125 YEARS OFf SCIENTIFIC STUDY AND BREAKTHROUGHS.

REPORTER ANDREA VASQUEZ HAS THEU STORY.

THE GROUNDS OFf COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY ON LONG ISLAND ARE DOTTED WITH& SPIRAL STRUCTURES.

ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO DISCOVERED THE SHAPE OF DNA, WHICH IS A DOUBLE HELIX, JIM WATSON, WAS PRESIDENT OF OUR LAB FOR MANY, MANY YEARS, SO WEU HAVE LOTS OF REFERENCES TO THE DOUBLE HELIX SHAPE ON CAMPUS.n AND WHAT YOU SEE ON THE TOP OF THE TOWER IS A 'G,' AN 'A,' ANDD IF YOU GO AROUND ON THE OTHER' TWO SIDES, THERE'S A 'T' AND A 'C.'

THOSE ARE THE FOUR BASES THATD MAKE UP DNA.

WATSON WON THE NOBEL PRIZEU FOR CO-DISCOVERING THE TWISTED LADDER SHAPE OF DNA, WHICH HOLDS OUR BODIES' BLUEPRINTS.n

EVERY CELL IN OUR BODY CONTAINS DNA.n DNA PROVIDES THE INSTRUCTIONS3 FOR OUR CELLS TO MAKE PROTEINS.n

REGULAR TOURS OFf COLD SPRING HARBOR'S CAMPUS3 POINT OUT TRIBUTES TO SOME OFf THE PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE LABORATORY'S 125 YEARS.n

SO THIS BUILDING HERE -- IT WAS BUILT IN THE 1890s AS A& BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY.

IT STILL FUNCTIONS AS A& BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY, WHICH MAKES IT THE OLDEST CONTINUALLY OPERATING BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY IN NORTH AMERICA.n SO, THIS BUILDING IS CALLED THEU McCLINTOCK LABORATORY.

IT'S NAMED AFTER BARBARA McCLINTOCK.n SHE WAS ONE OF THE NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS ASSOCIATED WITH& COLD SPRING HARBOR, AND SHEU STUDIED JUMPING GENES.

AND SHE SHOWED IN CORN -- IN MAIZE, WHICH IS A TYPE OF CORN,L THAT GENES CAN MOVE FROM ONE SPOT OF A CHROMOSOME TO ANOTHER.

COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY BEGAN IN 1890 WITH A GROUP OFf BIOLOGY TEACHERS WHO COLLECTED AND STUDIED MARINE LIFE FROM THIS HARBOR, BEGINNING A LEGACY OF BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH AT A TIME WHEN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY WAS STILL BUZZING WITH CHARLES DARWIN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION, PUBLISHED JUST A FEW DECADES PRIOR.n

INITIALLY, THE LABORATORY WAS A MARINE BIOLOGY STATION CONSISTING OF ONE BUILDING, BUTD OVER THE YEARS, THE LABORATORY MOVED FIRST INTO A GENETIC STATION, AND THEN THAT HAS SLOWLY EVOLVED INTO THE FIVE PROGRAMS THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE.

THE INSTITUTE'S 54 LABS CONDUCT RESEARCH IN CANCER,L NEUROSCIENCE, PLANT BIOLOGY, QUANTITATIVE BIOLOGY, ANDD BIOINFORMATICS AND GENOMICS.

COLD SPRING HARBOR'S PRESIDENT BRUCE STILLMAN SAYS THE LAB HAS3 A LEGACY OF DISCOVERIES THAT TOUCH ALL AREAS OF SOCIETY.n

A HYBRID CORN WAS DEVELOPED HERE, AND THAT REVOLUTIONIZEDD AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.n AND THEN, IN THE 1910s AND '20s, SOME VERY IMPORTANT GENETICS EXPERIMENTS WERE DONE HERE.n AND THEN, IN THE LATE 1940s, JUST AFTER THE WAR, AND IN THE EARLY 1950s, THIS WAS THE PLACEU IN THE WORLD WHERE THE FIELD NOW KNOWN AS MOLECULAR BIOLOGY REALLY GOT UNDER WAY.n

COLD SPRING HARBOR LAB IS A BASIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE,L MEANING SCIENTISTS STUDY HOW CELLS WORK, BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND WITHIN TISSUES AND ORGANISMS.

NOW I'LL RELEASE IT.n YOU CAN SEE HE'S FLOATING RIGHTD THERE.

NOW, IF I GO IN WITH THIS3 MAGNET...I WILL PULL HIM AWAY.

AND NOW THAT CELL'S ON THE END OF THIS WAND, WHICH WE CAN THENn DELIVER AND DO EXPERIMENTS WITH.

IT'S REALLY GAINING THIS3 BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF HOW CELLULAR PROCESSES WORK THAT HAS NOW ALLOWED US TO TAKE ALL OFf THAT BASIC KNOWLEDGE AND MOVE IT INTO THE REALM OF TRYING TO UNDERSTAND DISEASES, WHAT GOES WRONG IN A PARTICULAR TYPE OFf CANCER.n CAN WE USE PLANTS TO DEVELOP BIOFUELS THAT CAN HELP OUR ENERGY CRISIS?

BUT WITHOUT THE BASIC3 UNDERSTANDING OF HOW CELLS WORK, ONE CANNOT JUST JUMP TO THEU ULTIMATE QUESTION.

RESEARCHERS SHARE THEIR FINDINGS IN SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS, IN CONFERENCES WITH COLLEAGUES,L AND SOMETIMES, THEY MAKE A DISCOVERY THAT CAN BE TURNED INTO A PRODUCT OR MEDICALL TREATMENT -- FOR EXAMPLE, A DRUG THAT CAN SLOW THE GROWTH OFf CANCER CELLS.n

WE TREATED THIS DRUG -- IT'S CALLED A BRD4 INHIBITOR --] IN MICE THAT HAD ACUTE MYELOID LEUKEMIA.n AND BY TREATING THESE MICE WITH& THIS BRD4 INHIBITOR, THIS3 RESULTS IN A DRAMATIC REDUCTIONn IN DISEASE PROGRESSION AND RESULTED IN A LONGER SURVIVAL OF THESE MICE.n

IT'S A LONG ROAD FROM THE LAB TO THE MARKETPLACE, PAVED WITH LEGAL NEGOTIATIONS, FINANCING, AND CLINICAL TRIALS.

IT MAY TAKE 15 TO 30 YEARS3 FROM THE TIME YOU HAVE A DISCOVERY UNTIL THAT DISCOVERY IS TRANSLATED INTO A THERAPY THAT'S EFFECTIVE AND SAFE FOR, YOU KNOW, FOR YOU OR ME OR ONE OF OUR FAMILY MEMBERS, SO IT IS3 A LONG-TERM PROCESS.

A LOT OF THINGS CAN GO WRONG,L BUT WHEN IT HAPPENS, IT'S ONE OF THE MOST SATISFYING THINGS YOU CAN BE INVOLVED IN.n

WE ARE PEOPLE, TOO.

WE HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS WHO SUFFER FROM THESE DISEASES.n SO BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY WEU ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITY.

EDUCATION ALSO HAS BEEN A PRIORITY THROUGHOUT THE LAB'S3 125 YEARS.

THE INSTITUTE'S PROGRAMS REACH MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WORLDWIDE EACH YEAR, INCLUDING MIDDLE- AND HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENTS, TEACHERS,L AND COLLEGE PROFESSORS,L UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENTS, AND SCIENTISTS WHO COME FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE FOR CONFERENCES AND SEMINARS INn STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGIES.

AS SOON AS NEW TECHNOLOGIES ARE DEVELOPED, THERE'S A COURSEU AT COLD SPRING HARBOR BEINGw OFFERED ON HOW TO USE THOSEU TECHNOLOGIES, AND SO WE REALLY ARE AMONG THE FIRST TO LEARN ABOUT NEW TECHNOLOGIES, AND AS SOON AS WE HEAR ABOUT THEM,L IMMEDIATELY, WE WANT TO SEE HOWw CAN WE IMPLEMENT THESE TECHNOLOGIES AT THE LABORATORY SO THAT OUR SCIENTISTS ARE HAVING AN EDGE UP ON EVERYONEU ELSE.n

WE'RE CONSTANTLY HAVING THE INPUT FROM THE WORLD'S SCIENTISTS ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON IN SCIENCE, AND OUR SCIENTISTS GET A LOT OF VISIBILITY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF HAVING ALL THESEU PEOPLE HERE.

SO THAT HELPS WITH THE CULTURE HERE.n IT'S A VERY COLLABORATIVEU CULTURE.

THERE'S A LOT OF INTERACTIONS3 BETWEEN THE LABORATORIES.n

COLD SPRING HARBOR' LABORATORY'S LEADERS CREDIT THEU INSTITUTE'S SUCCESS THROUGHOUT ITS 125-YEAR HISTORY NOT ONLY TO ITS SCIENTISTS' CONSTANT COLLABORATION, BUT TO THEIR' ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM.

THE ENVIRONMENT ATD COLD SPRING HARBOR LABORATORY FOR A SCIENTIST IS LIKE NO OTHER PLACE IN THE WORLD.n THERE'S A BUZZ THAT I FEEL HERE, AND THAT'S A BUZZ OF EXCITEMENTD BECAUSE EVERYONE IS JUST SO MOTIVATED ABOUT THEIR RESEARCH AND MOVING THEIR RESEARCH AHEADD TO IMPACT HUMANITY.n ♪♪

THE BRAND OF SCIENCEU DEDICATED TO CREATING NEWw CHEMICALS IS KNOWN AS3 'SYNTHETIC CHEMISTRY.'

ONE TEAM AT YALE UNIVERSITY IS USING SYNTHETIC CHEMISTRY TO DEVELOP NEW APPROACHES THAT WILL HELP ENABLE OUR UNDERSTANDINGw AND TREATMENT OF HUMAN DISEASES.

JOINING US TO DISCUSS THIS RESEARCH IS DR. DAVID SPIEGEL, PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY AND PHARMACOLOGY AT YALE.n SO FIRST OF ALL, FOR OUR GENERAL AUDIENCE, WHAT IS3 SYNTHETIC CHEMISTRY?

THIS IS A GOOD QUESTION.n YOU KNOW, SYNTHETIC CHEMISTRY IS REALLY A SEQUENCE OF CHEMICALL REACTIONS DESIGNED TO PRODUCE A& SPECIFIC PRODUCT.n IT'S SORT OF LIKE COOKING, EXCEPT YOU'RE NOT BAKING A CAKE -- YOU'RE MAKING A SPECIFIC MOLECULE DESIGNED TO DO A& SPECIFIC THING.n

ALL RIGHT, SO, WHAT DO THESEU MOLECULES END UP DOING?

I MEAN, NATURE SYNTHESIZES CHEMICALS ALL THE TIME, RIGHT?

SO WHAT DO YOU GO INTO A LAB AND TRY TO GET CHEMICALS TO DO?

YOU KNOW, THESE MOLECULES CAN RANGE FROM MATERIALS, NEW KINDS3 OF PLASTICS AND OTHER KINDS OF FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS, ALL THEU WAY TO NEW KINDS OF DRUGS.

SO EVERY DRUG THAT WE TAKE -- AT LEAST, THE CONVENTIONAL ONES --] ASPIRIN TO STEROIDS, ET CETERA -- THESE ARE ALL SMALL MOLECULES THAT ARE SYNTHESIZED IN THE LABORATORY.

WHAT KIND OF INGREDIENTS DO YOU COOK TOGETHER SO THAT ONEU CHEMICAL WILL REACT WITH ANOTHER CHEMICAL IN A SPECIFIC WAY AND DO SOMETHING LATER?

SO, THIS IS THE FUN OF IT --] THIS IS ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MOST HATED, BUT, BY MANY, THE MOSTD LOVED FIELDS OF CHEMISTRY CALLED 'ORGANIC CHEMISTRY.'

IT'S ACTUALLY TREMENDOUSLY FASCINATING AND EXCITING BECAUSE THIS IS HOW YOU UNDERSTAND,L BASED ON THE RULES OFf REACTIVITY, WHAT MOLECULES AND WHAT SPECIFIC GROUPS, CALLED FUNCTIONAL GROUPS WITHIN MOLECULES, ARE GOING TO REACTD WITH ONE ANOTHER TO PRODUCEU SPECIFIC PRODUCTS.

SO, WHEN YOU'RE, SAY, TARGETING PROSTATE CANCER CELLS, HOW DO YOU DESIGN A SYNTHETIC3 CHEMICAL THAT WILL WORK THERE?

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IS TO --] AT LEAST, WHAT WE'VE DONE IN THIS AREA, IS TO DESIGNn MOLECULES THAT ARE CAPABLE OFf RECOGNIZING, VERY SELECTIVELY, PROTEIN BIOMARKERS THAT AREU PRESENT ON THE SURFACES OF THESE CANCER CELLS.n AND SO CANCER CELLS, ALTHOUGH& THEY'RE DERIVED FROM CELLS WITHIN THE BODY, THEY HAVE CERTAIN ABERRATIONS, CERTAIN WAYS IN WHICH THEY DIFFER, AND ONE SUCH DIFFERENCE ARE THEU EXPRESSION OF THESE PROTEINn BIOMARKERS THAT CAN BE TARGETEDD WITH SYNTHETIC MOLECULES THAT WE MAKE IN THE LABORATORY.n

SO, WHEN YOU MAKE, POSSIBLY,L A DRUG THAT CAN TARGET A SPECIFIC CANCER CELL LIKE THIS,L DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE DRUG ITSELF IS THE DELIVERY, OR THATD IT CAN PERHAPS SUPER-CHARGEU OTHER PARTS OF OUR IMMUNEU SYSTEMS TO GLOM ONTO THAT ANDD THEN ATTACK THE CANCER CELL IN THE SAME PROCESS?

EXACTLY.n SO, YOU HIT THE NAIL RIGHT ONn THE HEAD, AND THIS IS WHAT WEU HAVE DONE WITH RESPECT TO THESEU DRUGS.

SO, ONCE YOU'VE FOUND A WAY TO TARGET THESE PROTEIN BIOMARKERS, THE NEXT QUESTION IS, HOW DO THESE SYNTHETIC MOLECULES3 ACTUALLY BRING ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANCER CELL OR THE VIRUS PARTICLE, THE BACTERIA, ET CETERA, ITSELF?

AND THE WAY THAT WE'VE DONE IT IS BY ATTACHING TO THIS3 TARGETING MOTIF OTHER EFFECTOR MOTIFS.n SO WE HAVE ONE MOLECULE WITH TWO HEADS -- ONE HEAD THAT RECOGNIZES THE CANCER CELL, FOR' EXAMPLE, AND THE OTHER HEAD THAT ACTUALLY INTERACTS WITH& COMPONENTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM -- FOR EXAMPLE, ANTIBODIES THAT ARE ALREADY PRESENT IN OUR BLOODSTREAM --] AND BY BRINGING THESE ANTIBODIES TO THE SURFACES OF THESE DISEASE-CAUSING ENTITIES, THEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM CAN COME INn AND ACTUALLY DO THE JOB OF CLEARING OR ERADICATING THESEU PROBLEMATIC PATHOGENS.

WHERE DO YOU SEE IT GOING 5 YEARS, 10 YEARS OUT?

WHAT'S THE BIG BREAKTHROUGH THAT YOU'RE WAITING FOR?

WHAT WE'RE WORKING TOWARD MOVING FORWARD IS THE ABILITY TO SELECTIVELY ENGAGE WHATEVER WING OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS GOING TO BE MOST USEFUL AGAINST THE PARTICULAR DISEASE TARGETS.n SO, FOR EXAMPLE, THERE MIGHT BEU A PARTICULAR KIND OF IMMUNEU FUNCTION THAT'S MORE ACTIVELY ANTIVIRAL THAN IT IS ANTI-CANCER.

WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO MAKE MOLECULES THAT CAN SELECT FOR' WHICH OF THOSE COMPONENTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS GOING TO BE MOST EFFICACIOUS.n

DAVID SPIEGEL FROM] YALE UNIVERSITY, THANKS SO MUCH& FOR JOINING US.n

MY PLEASURE. THANK YOU.

[ KEYBOARD CLACKING ]] ♪♪

ONLY A THIRD OF BACHELOR'S3 DEGREES EARNED IN THE U.S. ARE IN A STEM FIELD.

ROBOFEST IN TAMPA, FLORIDA,L CHALLENGES CHILDREN TO PUT THEIR PROGRAMMING SKILLS TO THE TEST WHILE INSPIRING FUTURE GENERATIONS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN MATH AND SCIENCE.n HERE'S A LOOK.

♪♪

[ SHOUTS INDISTINCTLY ]

ROBOFEST IS AN AUTONOMOUS ROBOTIC COMPETITION.

THAT MEANS THAT NO REMOTEU CONTROL, NO WIRELESS DEVICES --] ALL THE PROGRAMMING HAS TO COMEU FROM THE CHILD'S HEAD ANDD PROGRAM IT INTO THE COMPUTER,L AND THE DAY OF THE COMPETITION,L PRESS 'ON' AND BACK AWAY.n

EMMA ALABA IS THE DIRECTOR' FOR THE TAMPA BAY REGIONAL ROBOFEST COMPETITION.n EVERY YEAR, THIS EVENT DETERMINES WHO GOES TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION IN SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN.n

IT'S MAINLY TO HELP KIDS GETD PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE IN WHICH IS STEM -- SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY,L ENGINEERING, AND MATH.

TODAY, BOTH STUDENTS IN MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL COMPETE.n THIS ORGANIZATION PROVIDES TRAINING FOR ANYONE WHO PUTS TOGETHER A TEAM.

WE'VE TAKEN THEM FROM ZERO TO 100 -- ROOKIES WHO DON'T KNOWw HOW TO, YOU KNOW, CAN'T EVEN IDENTIFY A LEGO, DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT A 32-BIT PROCESSOR IS OR A& SENSOR -- A LIGHT SENSOR OR A& TOUCH SENSOR, BECAUSE THOSE AREU THE THINGS THAT MAKES THE ROBOTD HAPPEN TO DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.n

THERE ARE TWO COMPETITIONS3 HERE -- EXHIBITION COMPETITORS SHOWCASE A UNIQUE AND INNOVATIVE USE FOR ROBOTS, WHILE GAME COMPETITORS HAVE TO NAVIGATE AROUND OBSTACLES AND KNOCK DOWNn PENS.n

SO, ONCE THE COMPETITIONn STARTS, THE KIDS ARE ON THEIR' OWN BECAUSE NOW THEY UNVEIL THEU UNKNOWN.

NOW THE KIDS HAVE TO ACTUALLY PROGRAM THE ROBOT TO ACCOMPLISH& THE COMPETITION WITH THE UNKNOWN FACTOR THAT THEY DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE.n

FOR THE GAME COMPETITION, STUDENTS ARE GIVEN 30 MINUTES TO TAKE THIS PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN FACTOR AND MAKE LAST-MINUTEU CHANGES TO HOW THEIR ROBOT IS3 PROGRAMMED.n

THAT'S TO ENSURE THAT THE CHILD OR THE STUDENT DID THE WORK.n

ONE OF THE TEAMS AT THIS3 YEAR'S COMPETITION IS3 ST. PETE BEACH LTs.n TEAM CAPTAIN KAYLA OATES PUT INn A LOT OF HOURS TO GET HERE TODAY.

WELL, WHEN WE FIRST STARTED,L IT WAS -- IT SEEMED REALLY EASY, LIKE, YOU KNOW, YOU'RE GONNA GET THROUGH IT REALLY FAST, BUT AS YOU GET MORE INTO IT, THEREU SEEMS TO BE MORE PROBLEMS EVERY DAY.

WE STAYED A LOT OF LATE NIGHTS TRYING TO FIX THE ROBOT.

COACHING THE STUDENTS REQUIRES A HANDS-OFF APPROACH.

BASICALLY, THE KIDS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO MOST OF THIS BY THEMSELVES.n I'M A COACH.

I'M JUST A MENTOR TRYING TO POINT THEM IN THE RIGHTD DIRECTION.

THE STUDENT TEAMS COMBINE ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING SKILLS TO ACCOMPLISH THE TASK.n

SO YOU LITERALLY HAVE TO PROGRAM YOUR ROBOT TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION.

SO YOU GOT TO USE YOUR BRAIN,L AND THAT'S THE WHOLE IDEA OF ROBOFEST -- MAKE THEM USE THEIR' BRAIN.

IN THE EXHIBITION COMPETITION, STUDENTS CREATE A REAL-LIFE APPLICATION FOR A& ROBOT.

THE TEAM THEN DEMONSTRATES THEIR WORK FOR THE JUDGES.

I WANT THE KIDS TO KNOW HOW TO OWN THEIR NAME, STAND UP ANDD TALK.n YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN TO THE JUDGES WHAT THEY'RE LOOKING FOR BECAUSE THAT'S GONNA DETERMINE WHETHER YOU, YOU KNOW, WIN OR LOSE, BASED ON WHAT YOU SAY.

THESE YOUNG PEOPLE FROM EAST LAKE MIDDLE SCHOOL CREATEDD AN INGENIOUS DEVICE FOR' TRAINING.n

WE BUILT A BALL THROWER FOR KIDS AND ADULTS WHO HAVE PROSTHETIC HANDS.n IT TRAINS THEIR MUSCLE MEMORY, 'CAUSE WITH A PROSTHETIC HAND, LIKE, ONCE YOU GET IT, YOU'REU NOT LIKE, 'OH, I CAN PICK UP A WATER BOTTLE INSTANTLY.'

YOU HAVE TO TRAIN IT AND PRACTICE TO MAKE SURE THAT ITD WORKS FINE.n

AND TEAM EMBEDDED LOGIC CREATED A ROBOT TO HELP DISPENSE MEDICINE.n

WE THOUGHT OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, WITH ARTHRITIS,L AND MAYBE THEY CAN'T OPENn BOTTLES, SO IT DISPENSES MEDICINE FOR THEM.

WE HAD TO START WITH SOME NEW PROGRAMS, AND I USED A DIFFERENT ONE CALLED 'ROBOTC.'

IT'S A LITTLE BIT HARDER BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO, LIKE, COMPLETELY WRITE IT WITH NUMBERS ANDD LETTERS, AND THEN WE MADE SOME OF THAT, AND WE HAD ADULTS HELP US BECAUSE WE DIDN'T WANT TO CUT OFF OUR FINGERS WITH SAWS.

SO, YEAH.n IT WAS A PRETTY FUN EXPERIENCE,L ACTUALLY.n

THE JUDGES SCORE THEU EXHIBITS, AS WELL AS THE GAMES.n THE EMCEE KEEPS EVERYONE ENGAGED WHILE COACHES AND PARENTS CHEER' ON THE COMPETITORS.n

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO PUT A& PROJECT ON LIKE THIS?

LOTS OF VOLUNTEERS, LOTS OFf VOLUNTEER HOURS, AND THE TENACITY TO, LIKE, HANG IN THERE AND GET IT DONE, NO MATTER WHATD IT TAKES.n

AFTER TWO ROUNDS OF GAMES AND EXHIBITOR PRESENTATIONS, EVERYONE ANXIOUSLY GATHERS FOR THE RESULTS.

ST. PETE BEACH LTs!

[ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]]

WELL, IT WASN'T OUR BESTD ROUND, I CAN SAY THAT.

THAT'S WHY I DIDN'T THINK WE WERE GONNA WIN, 'CAUSE IT WASN'T THE BEST THAT WE COULD DO, AND THEN THEY SAID OUR NAME AT FIRST PLACE, AND THAT WAS JUST A REALLY BIG SHOCK.n

PLANT HIGH SCHOOL.n [ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]]

IT'S JUST INTERESTING SEEINGw MY SOFTWARE TRANSLATE INTO THE WORLD TO MAKE IT CONTROL ROBOTS3 AND THINGS LIKE THAT.n IT'S REWARDING SEEING IT DO WHAT I TRY TO GET IT TO DO.

PLANT HIGH'S COACH& ROBERT TAIT TEACHES BIOLOGY, AND HE LEAVES ALL THE ROBOTICS PROGRAMMING TO THE STUDENTS.

ADAM'S PRETTY MUCH& SELF-TAUGHT.

HE KNOWS WAY MORE ABOUTD PROGRAMMING THAN I DO, SO, YOU KNOW, MOST OF THE TIME, I'M] BOUNCING IDEAS OFF HIM MORE THAN HE'S BOUNCING IDEAS OFF OF ME.

AND HE'LL TELL ME WHETHER OR NOT IT'S POSSIBLE.

EMBEDDED LOGIC.

[ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]]

I THINK IT'S REALLY FUN, ANDD IT'S GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND GET TO KNOW OTHER PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE A GOOD RELATION IN THEU FUTURE, BUT IT'S A LOT OF WORK,L SO BUCKLE UP.n

I WOULD TELL MY FRIENDS THATD THEY SHOULD JOIN 'CAUSE IT'S REALLY FUN PROGRAMMING THE ROBOTS AND ACTUALLY SEEING ITD WORK AND COMPETE AGAINST OTHERS.

THE ROBOFEST TAMPA BAY QUALIFIERS WAS A BIG SUCCESS,L SENDING SOME STUDENTS TO INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION IN MICHIGAN AND RAISING THE BAR FOR ALL WHO COMPETED.n

KIDS BECOME AWESOME WHEN THEY DO ROBOTIC COMPETITION, ANDD ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY DO A& ROBOFEST ROBOTIC COMPETITION.n I WANT EVERY, EVERY KID TO BEU EMPOWERED.

IT'S ABOUT BEING WELL-ROUNDEDD IN WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU,L YOU KNOW?

SO YOU'LL BECOME A THINKING, FULFILLED CITIZEN OF TODAY'S WORLD.

♪♪

PLANTS ARE THE FOUNDATION OFf OUR ECOSYSTEM, BUT WITH RAINFALL ON THE DECLINE IN CALIFORNIA,L THIS IMPORTANT LINK HAS BEEN HIT WITH SOME NEW CHALLENGES.n UP NEXT, WE MEET A RESEARCH TEAM WORKING TO DETERMINE WHICH PLANTS WILL BEST BE ABLE TO ENDURE THIS EVOLVING ARIDD CLIMATE.

THIS IS JENNIFER FUNK IN HER' NATIVE ENVIRONMENT, STUDYING CALIFORNIA PLANTS.

THE CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY RESEARCHER WANTS TO KNOW WHICH SPECIES IN THIS FIELD OF FLOWERS AND COASTAL SAGEBRUSH CAN ADAPTD TO LONG-TERM DROUGHT CONDITIONS.

IS THAT ENOUGH LEAF MATERIALL ON THIS INDIVIDUAL LEAF?

MM-HMM.

OKAY.

YEAH.

IT IS FORECAST THAT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL GET LESS AND LESS RAINFALL OVER THEU NEXT CENTURY.n FUNK HOPES HER RESEARCH WILL PINPOINT WHICH CHARACTERISTICS IN PLANTS HELP SOME SURVIVE A& DROUGHT WHILE OTHERS PERISH.

SO, TODAY, WE'RE HERE MEASURING PHOTOSYNTHETIC RATES,L SO IT'S A REALLY GOOD INDICATOR' OF SORT OF THE HEALTH OR THE FUNCTIONING OF THE PLANT.n AND THEN, IN A COUPLE WEEKS, WE'LL COME BACK OUT, AND WE'RE GOING TO DIG WHAT ARE CALLED 'SOIL CORES,' WHERE WE ACTUALLY DIG A LONG TUBE OF SOIL, AND WEU ACTUALLY CAPTURE SOME OF THE PLANT ROOTS IN THAT.

AND FROM THAT, WE CAN LOOK ATD THINGS LIKE ROOT MORPHOLOGY ANDD BRANCHING STRUCTURE AND SOME OTHER CHARACTERISTICS ABOUT THEU ROOTS.

THE RESULTS COULD IMPROVE FUTURE ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION EFFORTS.

INSTEAD OF RE-PLANTING NATIVEU SPECIES THAT MAY HAVE BEEN IN AN AREA 50 YEARS AGO, THE STUDY COULD IDENTIFY DIFFERENT NATIVEU PLANTS THAT ARE BETTER-ADAPTED TO THE DRIER ENVIRONMENT.n FUNK'S THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGEU ABOUT WHAT MAKES A PLANT DROUGHT-TOLERANT COULD HAVE AN IMPACT AROUND THE WORLD.

WELL, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HAS A MEDITERRANEAN-TYPE CLIMATE,L AND WE'RE ACTUALLY ONLY ONE OF FIVE MEDITERRANEAN REGIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE, SO IT'S QUITEU POSSIBLE THAT THE STUFF THAT WE'RE LEARNING HERE CAN BE APPLIED TO DIFFERENT SYSTEMS INn SOUTH AMERICA, LIKE IN CHILE OR' WESTERN AUSTRALIA OR EVEN THEU MEDITERRANEAN BASIN.

FUNK SAYS THERE'LL BE WINNERS AND LOSERS.n WE WILL LOSE SOME SPECIES THAT CAN'T ADJUST TO DROUGHT, WHILE OTHER PLANTS WILL THRIVE.n THOSE CHANGES WILL ALSO CREATE A DOMINO EFFECT ON THE NATIVEU WILDLIFE.n

SO, PLANTS ARE REALLY THE BASE OF THE ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM,L RIGHT?

SO THEY PROVIDE ALL OF THE ENERGY THROUGH PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

THEY ARE WHAT PROVIDE THEU FOUNDATION FOR ALL THE ANIMALS THAT LIVE IN THAT SYSTEM.n THE TYPE OF VEGETATION COMMUNITY THAT YOU HAVE 50 OR 100 YEARS3 FROM NOW IS REALLY GONNA IMPACTD THE ANIMAL COMMUNITY, AS WELL.

DID YOU FIND ANYTHING OUT ABOUT F4 -- HOW MANY SPECIES THERE ARE IN HERE?

SO, WHILE THIS3 SELF-PROCLAIMED 'PLANT NERD' LOOKS AT THESE LEAVES AND ROOTS, SHE'S REALLY LOOKING AHEAD TO TRY AND SOLVE THIS GROWING PROBLEM.

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.n FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR' WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR' YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.n THANKS FOR WATCHING.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS3 MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATIONn FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING ANDD CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS STATION.

♪♪