Second annual Brain Bee at StFX on March 4th

Brain Bee

The second annual Antigonish Brain Bee is coming to StFX on Monday March 4, 2024, and organizers are inviting all interested students in Grades 9-12 in northeastern Nova Scotia to register. 

The Brain Bee is a neuroscience competition and fun day of learning activities for high school students, including a chance to meet real neuroscientists, says StFX psychology professor and neuroscientist Dr. Erin Mazerolle who is organizing the event with psychology lab instructor Sherry Neville-MacLean as well as StFX students. 

“There are many prizes available, including our first-place prize: a spot at the 2024 Canadian National Brain Bee Competition! This year, the first round of the Canadian National Brain Bee will be virtual. The top students from that round will win a trip to compete in the in-person final round at the Canadian Association for Neuroscience meeting in Vancouver on May 21, 2024,” Dr. Mazerolle says. 

In addition to the prizes, Dr. Mazerolle says the Antigonish Brain Bee is a great way to check out neuroscience at StFX.

“High school participants will learn a lot about the brain; meet students and faculty from departments including psychology, health, computer science, human kinetics, and biology; and take part in hands-on demos and activities. There’s also free food!”

This year only, there is no Brain Bee in New Brunswick so she says students from both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are eligible to participate in either the Antigonish or the Halifax Brain Bee.

Dr. Mazerolle says the day will start with a written test round, followed by a hands-on neuroanatomy lab exam where participants get to check out real sheep brains. “We’ll have lunch at Morrison Hall, generously provided by StFX Recruitment, followed by the reverse science fair. At the reverse science fair, scientists host stations for the high school participants, and the high school participants get to vote on the best one.”

New this year, she says they will have a simulated patient diagnosis round, in which students from StFX will be trained to simulate different neurological conditions for high school participants to diagnose. There will also be time for a campus mini-tour before the winner is selected from the top three in a Jeopardy-style final round.  

This year, the main study material for the Antigonish Brain Bee is the Open Neuroscience Initiative free textbook. They'll be launching an updated online course soon.

Also new this year is limited transportation and financial support for high school participants traveling to Antigonish from outside Antigonish County.

Dr. Mazerolle says she is excited to get more people interested in neuroscience.

“Neuroscience is not a focus of the Grade 9-12 curriculum in Nova Scotia, so activities like the Brain Bee are very important. By engaging a younger audience, we can do a better job of reaching a wider range of students,” she says. 

“Long term, I hope this helps improve diversity in neuroscience careers. Also, we run the Brain Bee as a Service Learning activity for students in PSYC 232 (Brain and Behaviour II), which is also really fun. These StFX students are planning, promoting, and helping to run the Brain Bee. Last year, PSYC 232 students told us things like “now I get the difference between studying for an exam and actually learning the material” which was amazing feedback.”

She says it’s fantastic that they can make a big impact on both the high school and StFX students.
She says she is also happy that they will use a free online textbook, and “finally, I am excited to see who wins, and how they do at the National Brain Bee!” 

The Antigonish Brain Bee is supported by the StFX Dean of Arts, Dean of Science, the Academic Vice President and Provost, and the Research and Graduate Studies office. 

Keep up to date with the Antigonish Brain Bee or on Instagram @antigonishbrainbee