Ma’ayanot Students Excel at Summer Science

Ahhh, summer. Backyard BBQs, pool parties, sunblock and . . . nanoparticles? Yes, if you’re Atara Neugroschl, a rising senior at Ma’ayanot, and one of several students from her high school who elected to work in science internships over the summer.

Neugroschl was among 35 high-school students from the tri-state area participating in Partners in Science, the Liberty Science Center’s summer internship program. She studied osteoarthritis treatments in the lab of Dr. Martin Yarmush, under the mentorship of Dr. Kristen Labazzo, at Rutgers University in the Biomedical Engineering Department.

“My project involves creating hyaluronic acid nanoparticles that encapsulate anti-inflammatory drugs, as an advanced treatment for osteoarthritis,” said Neugroschl. “The goal of using these nanoparticles is to have a long-lasting anti-inflammatory effect to alleviate joint pain and to allow patients to take the drug less frequently.”

Other Ma’ayanot students participated in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, & Math) programs. Hadassah Freedman, a rising sophomore, joined Ma’ayanot STEAM teachers, Mrs. Reyce Krause and Mr. Aryeh Tiefenbrunn, at New York University Tandon School of Engineering’s iTEST (Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) program for robotics and entrepreneurship. Freedman commuted two hours each way from her home in Passaic to attend this four-week intensive program.

Two public school students, Ramon Acevedo and Analis Reyes, from Validus Preparatory Academy in the Bronx, also joined the Ma’ayanot team. Together they explored robotics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, robot design, and entrepreneurship.

They designed a robot that they programmed to complete increasingly complex tasks. For example, they programmed the robot to follow infrared sensors on black lines on the floor, sense a cup, lower its arm, and pick up the cup with its claw. “What we learned at Ma’ayanot helped when it came to learning more advanced topics,” said Freedman. At Ma’ayanot, all freshmen and sophomores take a two-year course in STEAM, followed by electives in 11th and 12th grades.

“It was really refreshing to see a student who was so enthusiastic,” said Mr. Tiefenbrunn. At NYU, in addition to hearing lectures by doctoral students, the students and teachers benefited from the hands-on aspects of the program, which added insights into design thinking and entrepreneurship.

“The students learned to think like a startup company: What’s the product? Who needs it? What can we do to develop it?” Mr. Tiefenbrunn said. “There was a great amount of collaboration among the 18 teachers and 32 high school students.”

“We’re especially excited to be partnering with NYU Tandon this coming year and benefiting from the mentorship of their grad students, who will be visiting our Maker Space,” said Mrs. Krause.

Meital Fuksbrumer, Freedman’s classmate from Ma’ayanot, attended SHAPE, the Summer High School Academic Program for Engineers, a three-week program at Columbia University. “I’m currently constructing and coding a robot to navigate a maze, find a candle within the maze, and extinguish the flame,” she said. “I’m learning how to construct my own robot, code for unfamiliar sensors, and most importantly, be independent.”

Fuksbrumer described the pressure as intense, but she felt prepared. “As one of the youngest students, it can be hard competing with kids three years my senior. Ma’ayanot, however, ensures that I feel confident going head to head with older kids, having had prior experience with coding and robotics,” she said. “My experience on the Debate Team also prepared me well for instances when I had to present the project to the entire group.”

Beyond the science, the best part of the program, according Fuksbrumer, is making friends with people from many different cultures from all over the world. “I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who wants to pursue a career in engineering!”