High school students compete to be ACT’s Brain Bee Champion

5 August 2022

Year 10 students from the ACT will battle wits to see who is the ‘brainiest’ in the 2022 ACT Brain Bee Challenge next Tuesday on 9th August at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR), ANU.

Started in 2006, the Australian Brain Bee Challenge (ABBC) is a neuroscience competition for Year 10 high school students.

Each year, participants from across Australia learn about the structure and function of the brain and get their knowledge and understanding tested by an online quiz.

Students with a high score on the quiz are then invited to compete in the Regional Finals. For the ACT, this has been coordinated by the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience since 2007.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Regional and National Finals of the 2021 Brain Bee Challenge were run as online events. Fortunately, JCSMR can deliver the ACT Brain Bee Challenge this year under COVID-Safe settings.

Ten students from two schools—Canberra Grammar School and St. Francis Xavier College—are participating. During the all-day event, they will go through rounds of challenges answering questions and solving problems about the anatomy and physiology of the brain.

“Numbers are down compared with pre-pandemic times when we typically got around 40 students,” says Professor John Bekkers at the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience, ANU, “but it’s great to be back to the face-to-face competition.”

Alongside the individual and school team competitions, the students will also have the opportunity to visit the neuroscience laboratories and learn about degrees, research, and potential careers in neuroscience from researchers and students at the Eccles Institute of Neuroscience.

“I see Brain Bee as an excellent opportunity to engage interested students and show them what neuroscience research looks like, why it matters, who does it and where it goes on,” says neuroscience PhD student Angela Nicoli, who will facilitate the event on the day.

The winning students from each Australian State and Territory will get together in December at the Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS) Conference in Melbourne to compete against each other for two days for the National Brain Bee Champion.

Professor John Bekkers with students in Brain Bee Challenges in 2010.

In 2010, ACT student Ben Thompson was crowned the Australian Brain Bee Champion. Representing Australia, Ben won second place in the International Brain Bee that year.

Regardless of the outcome, the ACT Brain Bee coordinators at JCSMR are looking forward to seeing the students enjoy the experience.

“Understanding neuroscience is like understanding yourself,” Professor Bekkers says, “It’s also exciting and fun!”

“I hope the students all walk away with some valuable insights and, hopefully, a renewed interest in the topic,” says Angela.