The Autonomous Hour

        After spending an intense six weeks working on the most complex robot Forest Hill has ever seen, it was finally time for our robotics competition at York University. This year’s robot was equipped with a pneumatic (pressurized air-based) intake system and conveyor belt to play in the FIRST robotics competition. Our game strategy was to be a quick, nimble, low-profile robot that could perform its task with consistency and efficiency.

        As we passed inspection and tested our primary mechanisms, we knew it was time for our first match. It began with an unfortunate start, as our robot’s pre-written code did not execute as intended in the autonomous phase of the game. Nevertheless, with a bit of luck, we managed to get through this portion of the match unscathed. When the tele-op phase of the match began, our driver rushed to grab the Xbox controller to manually command our robot to pick up cubes and put them in the necessary locations. The first couple of cubes were successfully placed without much difficulty, but after those, we found ourselves unable able to pick them up anymore. From the driver’s station, we could not tell what was wrong with the robot. We kept trying to pick up cubes and failed each and every time. We lost our first match by a substantial margin, but this was not of much importance compared to the fact that a piece of metal on the robot’s intake was bent. Quickly rushing back to our pit, we replaced the warped gusset plate and reinforced it with another one. With this out the way, we felt more confident that our performance would improve.

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At the competition

 

        The following match began somewhat innocently; the robot’s code was still error-filled, but we came close to figuring out the root of the issue. Everything was going decently until our robot smashed into one of the field elements, ripping the entire intake mechanism off of the robot. As I saw the robot’s arm dragging across the field, I thought the damage would be irreparable. After the match, we bolted onto the field hoping to fix the robot as quickly as humanly possible – only to find out that our next match was in ten minutes. It was humiliating. Without an intake mechanism on the robot, there was little we could do to contribute. A few frustrating games without an intake system later, we finally had the chance to reattach the robot’s arm to be able to play the game as intended. Learning our lesson, we secured the robot’s intake system with a combination of bolts and rivets. We also pinpointed the issue with our autonomous code and corrected it.

        It was an incredible feeling for us to be able to play matches without technical issues. Our autonomous code did exactly what we needed it to and we finally got the chance to play our own game rather than one dictated by our more experienced alliance partners. We got to show all of the other teams at the York that team 5699, the Robo Sapiens, came to compete.

Despite all of these setbacks, this experience was anything but a failure. We built a robot that could accomplish what we intended it to, had the opportunity to express our creativity a medium that unlike any other, fundraised thousands of dollars, worked alongside professional engineers, and most importantly went from a group of nerd building robots in a biology room to a family. And, of course, we worked with what are unquestionably the most dedicated teachers in the school. They sacrificed enormous amounts of time away from their families so we could undertake this daunting – and incredible – project. I would like to extend the sincerest thanks to our lead mentors, Mr Kleiman and Mrs Wilk. In the most literal sense, this would not have been possible without their work on the robot and behind the scenes to get us to the competition. I will look back upon robotics as the single most important activity I could have taken part in during my high school career. At the end of the day, we didn’t just build a robot, we built character.

FDA Approves First Commercial CAR-T Cell Therapy

By Linda Cako

 

Kymriah is the first CAR-T cell therapy to be approved by the FDA. It was approved on August 30, 2017, and has been making waves since. The reason why is because up until now, doctors needed a more personalized treatment for leukaemia. Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, making up 30% of all childhood cancers in America (American Cancer Society, 2016), so an effective treatment was in demand. Acute cancers are cancers that progress very quickly, usually within a few months. Unfortunately, this means that they are often diagnosed in the later stages. Cancers of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) are also very aggressive. They exhaust treatments quite rapidly, pushing researchers to develop more methods for targeting cancer. Now that Kymriah has been approved, these aggressive cancers can be treated with more precision for the patient.

It will be used on patients who have relapsed or refractory ALL. This type of treatment will also only be used on patients up to 25 years of age. The company did not specify why this age limit is placed.

Kymriah uses CAR-T cell therapy to target ALL. It does this by, in a way, “boosting” the immune system. It is a type of immunocellular therapy which starts by harvesting the patient’s own T cells. They are filtered from the blood, and then they are modified to target a particular antigen expressed in the patient’s cancer cells. They are modified by having a vector (usually an adenovirus) inject the genetic material into the cells. Then they are grown in-vitro and injected back into the patient. Within weeks the patient’s cancer begins to go into remission.

Using the patient’s own T cells significantly reduces the chances of them from suffering Graft vs Host disease and provides a reliable method for treatment. Previously patients would receive bone marrow transplants, but they were risky. Patients, sometimes, would have to be on a [restrict]waitlist for months, or years, to receive a bone marrow that their body would be likely to reject.

Although Kymriah sounds like a wonder drug, it has shown to cause severe to life-threatening side effects. The most common side effects are Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) and Neurological Toxicities. CRS is when the immune system is releasing too many cytokines into the blood resulting in a more severe immune response, which triggers the release of even more cytokines. This results in very low blood pressure, high fever, difficulty in breathing, severe nausea, vomiting, joint pain, etc.

While this therapy is revolutionizing how we can personalize cancer treatments, it is far from perfect. For starters, this drug costs $475,000. Not everyone can afford to pay this kind of money for a therapy that is supposed to be used when other therapies have already been paid for and failed. Due to the age limit, this drug is not even available for people over 25 so it is pushing researchers to develop more treatments for those who do not have access.[/restrict]

Save the Little Blue Planet

By Linda Cako

Climate Change has never been good news. Science has always provided the evidence for the global impact and consequences stating that we would experience more extreme weather, see an unprecedented rate of extinction, and have more toxic levels of smog. Within the past few months alone we had seen some of the damaging cases of forest fires in Canada, we had three destructive hurricanes hit consecutively, and smog levels have reached their highest levels yet in some parts of the world. Not to mention that land ice has decreased by 286 gigatonnes just this year alone (Climate NASA, 2017).

While we live comfortable lives in Toronto, even here we can see the dangerous effects of climate change in subtle ways. For example, up until a few weeks ago, we were still hitting temperature in the double digits. Even now in December we still haven’t experienced any proper flurries or frost.

While most of this is not new, and these facts are depressing to hear, they are important to acknowledge. This year we have had a very frightening experience with politicians and their beliefs but it is important to see the signs and not simply dismiss them. In times of ignorance, facts are the only foundation on which we must base our actions upon. Otherwise, forget about saving the planet and adopt the realization that this will be our reality from now.

Governor Jerry Brown stated that these forest fires would become “the new normal” due to increasing heat and dryness in California.

It is important to always remember that little steps count. Small actions such as recycling, using renewable sources of energy when possible, using more energy efficient appliances, and reducing car emissions by keeping cars in good condition can all help. Making dietary changes can help too, such as cutting back on meat and dairy products. All are good ways to doing our part. The only thing missing is awareness.

While it’s so easy to read these articles and forget about climate change right after, it’s important that we do not do this. Climate change is very scary and is threatening millions of lives right now. Not to mention all our lives are being threatened in the long term.

So don’t just read passively and forget. At times like these, the action is essential to pull ourselves up and make the necessary amends to slow down climate change like our lives depend on it because they do.

As Margaret Mead said, “We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.”


Linda is a grade 12 student at FHCI and is a Social Issues Editor for The Golden Falcon newspaper.

Image Source: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjplpaXpJbYAhVF5YMKHdutBjIQjhwIBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftrendintech.com%2F2016%2F10%2F06%2Flatest-figures-estimate-we-need-90-trillion-to-save-the-planet%2Fkane-blog-picz-amazon-uk%2F&psig=AOvVaw09RC0rTQUjWwHOqm2dVHcx&ust=1513780021425257

The Mystery In Space Programs

By Ethan Blumberg

I have always asked myself why the Canadian and American governments annually spend enormous amounts of money on their respective space programs and different international space initiatives. The scale of the spending has led to a constant debate in both Canada and the United States for many years. While I do understand the global importance of space exploration, I believe that the two nations that are at the forefront of the field are allocating funds at a senseless rate. It seems to me that the negligent spending of both Canada and the United States is taking away funds from serious issues the two Countries face back on earth.

Growing up in Canada I have gained a good grasp of the adversity our continent faces and at the same time, I realize the magnitude of resources needed to combat issues such as unemployment, education and poverty. The transparency of how much is being spent by Both NASA and the Canadian Space Agency allows for me as an average citizen to see the immense capital needed to fuel the two organizations that are so synonymous with space exploration. The financial numbers that are constantly being exhibited by the two groups are extremely large, but rarely indicate or just what exactly will come out of the funding.  An example of this neglectful spending is that the Canadian government set aside $379 million in the 2016 federal budget just to preserve our countries partnership with the International Space Station.  Canada went ahead with the investment knowing there may not be a great return on the massive deal that was reached. Professionals, alongside elected officials, decided that this was the best use of all that money, while around 4 million Canadians still live with food insecurity. This statistic includes the over 1 million children in Canada who live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. Knowing this how am I supposed to be able to come to terms with the fact that Canada is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance space exploration, at the same time that many of my fellow Canadians are facing detrimental obstacles in their day to day life.

There are similar issues with the much larger scale and more dynamic National Aeronautics and Space Administration South of the border. NASA is a storied part of the American government, with a long history of success. However, that is not so much the case anymore. Not being able to achieve the same level of technological breakthroughs has led me to believe that the inefficiency of the United States space exploration program should result in even more cuts than have previously occurred to this date. NASA’s yearly budget is still close to 20 billion dollars. The portion of the federal budget that NASA receives is about an astonishing 40% of what the U.S. federal government spends on education each year.  The public education system is often criticized for reasons such as overcrowding within American public schools. These numbers are just another illustration of the unconscionable mismanagement of federal funds that are going towards the countries space program rather than to assisting those in need.

Finally, I think it is important to state that I don’t want to discredit any of the programs I spoke upon, because I am well aware of the importance of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and space exploration as a whole. I just believe that both Canada and the United States should take a step back and re-evaluate how they are funding their own space programs. In order to ensure the government doesn’t make negligent spending decisions that could instead be going towards more egalitarian causes.


Ethan is a grade 11 student at FHCI and is a Social Issues Editor for The Golden Falcon newspaper.

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyEzsAy4qeU

The Beginning​ of Real-Life Cyborgs

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RFID stands for radio frequency identification. Many of us have never heard of RFID though most people this technology daily. It can be found inside library books, keys of vehicles, passports and, even in credit cards. RFID chips can store and relay information, enabling it to identify commercial products. Recently, due to interest from the masses, this technology was adapted into distinct areas of the market. Several individuals, for example, see the benefits of tagging their household pets so they can be tracked.

In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved human “tagging” to help retrieve medical records, but not many people signed up. The line between technology and reality blurred a little more when companies like Three Square Market allowed their employees to choose if they want a chip injected between their index finger and thumb. The chip, using RFID technology, enables the employees to enter the office building, use copy machines, share business cards and pay for food all with the swipe of a hand. Fifty employees in River Falls, Wisconsin have already agreed to have the chip implanted.

“We see this as another payment and identification option that not only can be used in our markets but our other self-checkout/self-service applications,” said Three Square Market COO Patrick McMullan.

It is clear that the RFID chips do not keep data regarding where you are or were, but the employee’s smartphone can – any iPhone could quickly provide data to nosey supervisors. Right now, this program is only voluntary though there is nothing stopping companies like Three Square Market from urging employees into getting these chips.

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Some people take this technology a step forward. Artist Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, which means he can only see black and white. Harbisson has implemented a specialized electronic eye which executes colours as sounds on a musical scale. Essentially, he is able to “hear” colour through his device. “When I started to dream in colour, I felt [that] the software and my brain had united,” said Harbisson. He was excited about the technology and so, decided to establish the Cyborg Foundation, an organization whose aim is to assist humans in becoming cyborgs.

The most important thing to do is to set standards on the RFID chips. These should outline specific ownership and control over all implants, including educating the public with widespread literacy on how the chips work and what they are programmed to do.


To read more stories on technology, innovation and science, check out the science and technology section.

Rise Of The Dead: Woolly Mammoth Revival

By Abi Parameswaran

Why do scientists want to revive the Woolly Mammoth? This is not a commonly asked question in people’s day to day lives since many do not have the time to question these new found scientific experiments. However, it is important to be informed on all the different aspects of our society including these innovative projects conducted by scientists.

There are many different standpoints on the idea of reviving the Woolly Mammoth as this animal walked the earth tens of thousands of years ago. But, the massive mammal should not be brought back from the dead as futuristic as it may sound.

These enormous creatures with furry appearances lived in cold climates and were closely related to the Asian elephant. In the last ice age, this herbivorous animal was in abundance. The primary cause of their extinction was increasing global temperature as they had evolved to live in cold climates and thus their habitats became uninhabitable.

A secondary causation of extinction is that with the end of the ice age humans hunted these massive mammoths for their tusks, fur, and meat. Although the changing climate was an issue, humans ultimately closed the chapter of this diverse species causing it to go extinct. This leads to the reasons as to why this species should not be attempted to be brought back from the dead through the process of cloning. Humans fall under secondary causes for this mammal’s extinction. What are the chances that humans will not again exploit these mammals yet again? People do not always learn from their mistakes as seen prevalent in the continuous extinctions and endangerment of over one hundred crucial species yearly.

Also, the concern around climate change has skyrocketed since the industrial revolution. This means that the habitat of the Woolly Mammoth is almost non-existent or severely altered. This just goes to show that the species would not have a sustainable environment even if it were revived. This is crueller to these animals than going extinct as not only are they being brought back from the dead but they will never be able to live a natural life again.

Additionally, as a society, there are many improvements that must take place to mitigate climate change, habitat loss, over-population and extinction of animals. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, efforts should be taken to correct current situations, and solutions need to be found for the future generations.

Conducting projects like this seem useless in the aspect of controlling population-related issues. Organisms on this planet are running out of resources to depend on for their needs. Adding an extinct species back into the ecosystem will only worsen current situations. Does this mean cloning is useless? Absolutely not! The current use and efforts of this technology are not beneficial to civilization. Instead, this technology should be used to save endangered species that cannot reproduce in a manner to preserve itself. Scientists need to be more conscious of what they invest billions of dollars into researching and reviving. The mammoth does not seem to be an appropriate investment, though, instead, there needs to be more research into investing money into reviving or preserving species that are relevant to
today’s modern society!

Citations:
[1] http://www.itsastrangeworld.com/scientists-aim-resurrect-wooly-mammoth/

5 Reasons Why CRISPR is Beyond Exciting

Rafael Lopez

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By Matt Lindzon


Starting now, scientists can successfully edit the DNA of viable human embryos using the new gene-editing tool called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat commonly known as CRISPR. It can efficiently tweak almost any gene in any animal or plant. This technology could be the first step in preventing infants from having incurable diseases or disorders. Despite all its benefits, CRISPR has stirred up some discussion on the ethical implications of genetically altering human embryos. Though, in this article, we’re going to focus on the positives:

CRISPR HAS STIRRED UP SOME DISCUSSION ON THE ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF GENETICALLY ALTERING HUMAN EMBRYOS.

  1. Scientists have been able to successfully reverse signs of Huntington’s disease as they were able to remove corresponding genes from test mice. The researchers are one step closer to using this technology on humans. It is entirely likely that this brilliant technique could one day be used on humans as well.
  2. CRISPR Gene editing has been used by researchers to make viruses force superbugs to kill themselves. Scientists are hopeful that they will be capable of developing new ways of conquering antibiotic-resistant pathogens. https://twitter.com/merebauer/status/897957502175682560

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    nobeastsofierce/Shutterstock
  3. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have used gene editing to eliminate HIV from three different living animal models. CRISPR allowed them to remove the virus DNA which cleared up acute and latent infections.
  4. Using CRISPR, mosquito-borne diseases could be eliminated. Scientists have discovered a technique that can limit the outbreak of mosquitoes by editing their fertility genes.
  5. Thanks to CRISPR, we can now target the hybrid fusion genes that sometimes trigger tumour growth of cancer. Researchers have made a cancer-defeating gene that can even shrink tumours in mice who have prostate and liver cancer cells.

Einstein’s Brilliance in the Discovery of Gravitational Waves

By Aaron Gotkin

It is remarkable how one man alone could be so connected to the universe that his predictions and hypotheses could prove to be true even though they came from his intuition. It may sound to most as typical routine to say, “Of course Einstein was right,” but, now at the time of the latest proof of one of his predictions, his body of work appears even more extraordinary. From Special Relativity to the Photoelectric Effect, the man was brilliant. He may be the man most in tune with nature of all-time, but he himself was a freak of nature.

 

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Illustration of gravitational waves

 

In 2015, The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (thankfully also known as L.I.G.O.) detected the first observed gravitational waves in human history. The waves are propagating disturbances in the fabric of space-time itself and were formed from the collision and merger of two black holes. Each black hole was the equivalent mass of 30 suns and collided approximately 1.3 billion light years away from Earth. However, at the time, the only possible observed consequences of the collision were those detected gravitational waves. The difficulty being that there was no emission of light from the event so it could not be seen. However, visibility is not fundamentally necessary for proof. The reason for the lack of visual evidence lies in the nature of black holes.

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Courtesy of Science News

Black holes are defined as exact points in space that contain extreme amounts of mass known as a singularity. This then makes them the densest astronomical objects in the universe. Due to their absurd mass and density, they have an immensely strong gravitational force associated with them. The strength is so great that light, even being the fastest entity in the universe, cannot escape the gravitational attraction of a black hole. In fact, it sounds quite creepy, like a monster under a child’s bed that’s grip is so strong it will definitely succeed in pulling the terrified child into the darkness below. Anyhow, this property of black holes, that it absorbs all light and emits none is what makes them visually undetectable especially when two of them collide.

Black holes are defined as exact points in space that contain extreme amounts of mass known as a singularity.

If only these gravitational waves could be observed along with this desired visual evidence of light. Well, that is just what happened a few months ago. L.I.G.O. detected another collection of gravitational waves, although this time coming from the collision and merger of two neutron stars instead of black holes. This is huge because unlike black holes, neutron stars (which in themselves are intensely interesting objects) are in fact made of visible matter. They, like black holes, are dense and massive which allows for the possibility of their gravitational wave detection. However, most importantly when neutron stars collide they release tons of energy in the form of light. On October 16th 2017, L.I.G.O. announced that they detected the gravitational waves and the high-energy gamma rays from the collision of two neutron starts on August 17th, 2017. The best part of all is that the collision could be seen in the night sky with telescopes, thus giving the visual evidence associated with gravitational waves.

This great feat of human collaboration towards the proof of a scientific phenomenon, like most things in physics, relates back to Einstein. The entire project of detecting gravitational waves and the construction of L.I.G.O. was to essentially find out if Einstein was right. In 1915, Einstein completed his 10-year battle in completing his era-defining General Theory of Relativity. In his theory, Einstein described gravity as the curvature of space-time when objects of mass are placed in it. One year after the publication of his theory, using the equations of General Relativity, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Now we have proof that he was right, once again.

The Dark Side of Technology

By Josh Blatt

Why was technology made in the first place? This is a question that people should be asking themselves far more frequently, as it outlines many of the problems that exist with its use in modern society.

Technology was first made to make people’s lives easier. For example, farms used to require several individuals to manage it all day. Then, devices such as tractors and ploughs were invented and only a fraction of the effort is now needed in order to run the farm. As a result of this automation, people should, in theory, be able to work fewer hours and receive the same or more pay. The reality is that this is very idealistic and seldom seen in the modern world. Instead of this, many farmers, and workers in similar situations were fired. This illustrates how large-scale technology only benefits those who can afford to purchase it, and evidently not those who it replaces.

Furthermore, in a more relatable sense, technology has ironically made people more disconnected than ever. A 2016 report written by Media Technology Monitor says that young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 spend nearly five hours per day using the internet, approximately 34 hours per week. Not only does this mean young people are spending less time with each other, but University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras has evidence showing that people who are addicted to cellphones or the internet “scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales.” It is clear that socially cell phones can and have been detrimental to the mental health and well-being of those who use them.

Technology is something that can yield tremendous benefits for those who use it. It can make communication and research easier, open up new and innovative job opportunities, and add unmatched levels of convenience to people’s lives. However, it should not be seen as something without its drawbacks. Not only has it contributed to the current wealth disparity we see today through eliminating jobs, but it has harmed its users on a mental and physical level. To avoid this unfortunate reality, youth need to be especially cautious with their future career choices. Technology must be used in moderation along with everything else in order to avoid the isolating and addictive traits it possesses intrinsically.

Do You Really Know The Periodic Table?

Test your knowledge on The Periodic Table here:

Can You Name This Organic Molecule?

By Rachel L

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Source: Los Angeles Mission College

If you’re anything like me, organic chemistry is difficult. Those who study it have alkynes of trouble.

Can You Pass The Grade 11 Biology Exam

Note: This is just a fun quiz and is not meant to be used as study material

Science Club

Here is a blurb from the student leaders of Science Club:

The Science Club offers students amazing opportunities to participate in numerous scientific experiments and discussions that will further enhance their understanding of the world of science. The club gives passionate students a chance to extend their knowledge about science and to look deeper into the reasoning behind every result. Our goal is to take what we’ve learned about science and apply it in a fun and interactive way.
Science Club normally meets on Thursdays at lunch, listen out for announcements for the next upcoming meeting.