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Stimulus for creativity

Students exhibit innovative proposals at a Fair at USP

Eduardo CesarMouse-spectaclesEduardo Cesar

Environmentally correct solutions for discarded waste, an intelligent bandage for the regeneration of skin tissue, as well as other simple and practical proposals for the handicapped are just some of the examples of projects presented at the 8th Brazilian Science and Engineering Fair (Febrace), held from March 9 to 11 on the campus of the University of São Paulo (USP) and organized by USP’s Polytechnic School (Poli) through the Integrable Systems Laboratory (LSI). Of the 1,200 entries, 280 projects were chosen from engineering and from the exact, earth, human, social, biological, health and land sciences to be presented at the fair by students from primary, secondary and technical schools from all over Brazil. The projects brought together some 600 students and 250 teachers, as some projects were individual and others were team efforts. “Participation in Febrace is a transforming experience for students and teachers,” says Roseli de Deus Lopes, a professor from the Department of Electronic Systems at Poli and the coordinator of Febrace. “Students become more motivated when working and learning at the same time, through project teaching,” says Roseli. Teachers are also in the sights of Febrace, since they are fundamental for stimulating students to improve their knowledge and become more independent in their decisions.

All projects presented were evaluated by a committee formed by professors from various institutions and the science and engineering areas. During the fair, the best projects selected in seven categories were awarded prizes. On March 13, in a ceremony held in the great hall at the USP Law School in the Largo São Francisco square in downtown São Paulo, nine projects were chosen to represent Brazil at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), from May 9 to 14 in San Jose, California, United States. This annual fair brings together over 1,500 young scientists from 56 countries. “In each of these fairs, six individual projects and three in the final group are chosen to compete internationally,” said Roseli.

One of the nine projects selected is an intelligent dressing with nanoparticles of zirconium dioxide and silver, developed by Gabriela Schaab da Silva and Kawoana Trautman Vianna, from the Technical Chemistry Course of the Liberato Foundation, from Novo Hamburgo, Rio Grande do Sul, the tutor for which was professor Sylvia Guterres, from the School of Pharmacy at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). “The antimicrobial effect in our dressing totally inhibits the proliferation of bacteria by 100% and fungi by 40%,” says Gabriela. Zirconium dioxide, because it has a high refractive index, reflects the infrared rays emitted by human skin, heating it and causing an increase in local blood flow. “This increase in blood flow to the tissue provides more nutrients and oxygen, which favors the healing process of wounds and increases the chance of success in re-implants.”

The other eight projects that will represent Brazil are “Food Profiles: working with nutrition education,” by Heitor Geraldo da Cruz Santos, from the Arco-Íris Educational and Cultural Association in Recife, Pernambuco; “Analysis of plant extracts with insecticide-larvicide potential: the chemical characterization of bio-controllers used in transmission vectors,” by João Batista de Castro David Junior, from the Liceu de Maracanaú school, Ceará; “The use of the ZnO / UV photocatalytic system in the analysis and control of microbial pathogens found in contaminated indoor environments,” by Gabriel Nascimento da Silva Santos and Paulo Ricardo Maciel Nascimento, from the Santa Teresinha School, in Imperatriz, Maranhão; “The performance of ecological tanning agents in the tanning of tilapia fish skins,” by Priscilla Oliveira Andre, from the Professor Carmelina Corrêa Júnior Technical School in Franca, São Paulo; “FAC – photo-bioreactor for absorbing carbon,” by Victor Marelli Thut, from the Dante Alighieri School, in São Paulo, “Sulfonation of polystyrene: its application in the retention of heavy metal ions,” by Paolo Damas Pulcini, Amanda de La Rocque and Carlos Henrique Leite da Silva, from the Getulio Vargas Technical School, São Paulo; “Analysis of the absorption/adsorption of heavy metals in aquatic environments with the use of Pistia stratiotes,” by Natalia Giuzio, from the Interativa school, in Londrina, Parana; and “Construction of a channel using plastic PET bottles attached to a solar concentrator: a steady stream of solarized water as an alternative to microbiological disinfection in water treatment plants,” by Karoline Lopes Martins, from the Federal Center of Technological Education of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte.

Over the three-day event, about 12,000 people circulated along the corridors of a huge, 2,200-square meter tent. In the stands, attentive listeners thronged around students who described their inventions or proposals that had been developed with the support of their own teachers or of researchers from universities and research institutions. Three students from the state of Rio Grande do Sul attracted attention by demonstrating their low cost mouse-spectacles which would enable people who partially or totally lack the use of their arms to access a computer. Connected to a conventional mouse, the system allows the user to click on an icon on the screen by just blinking. “The cursor is moved by movements of the head,” says Filipe Carvalho, one of the creators of the mouse-spectacles, along with Alexandre Sampaio and Cléber Quadros, from the Sul-Rio-Grandense Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology, in Charqueadas.

Moriche palm pulp was the material chosen by the students Luana dos Santos and Glenda Correa from the Joaquim Viana School in Belém, Pará, to create educational toys to facilitate learning in physics, chemistry and biology lessons. Roger Lafaiete de Carvalho, from the Camaragibe Educational Group, in Pernambuco, found in the essence of cloves with the aid of a couscous pan an efficient and affordable alternative for farmers to fight the two-spotted spider mite, which attacks mainly strawberry plantations. Students Giovanna Torquato, Mateus Costa and Thainá Fontes, from the Francisco Moreira da Costa Technical School of Electronics, in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, Minas Gerais, created a system for the visually and hearing impaired that advises them, via a display and a loud-speaker, when a bus is approaching the bus-stop.