Science

Teknova hosts tech and science fair

Schoolchildren visit presentations on DNA extraction, bacterial growth, fire and more.
Waiting in line for the fire-breathing Meech. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Waiting in line for the fire-breathing Meech. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Fire demonstration. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Fire demonstration. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Photo provided by Teknova.
DNA extraction. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
DNA extraction. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Dawn Elwood, Tiffany Bonvie and Isabella Bonvie. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.
Dawn Elwood, Tiffany Bonvie and Isabella Bonvie. Photo by Carmel de Bertaut.

Local biotech company Teknova hosted a science and technology fair Nov. 9 at its Hollister offices at 2290 Bert Drive. The fair focused on engaging children in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and featured presentations on DNA extraction, fire, bacterial growth in petri dishes, and more. Participating groups included the San Benito High School Robotics Team and the San Benito County Amateur Radio Association.

“We are getting a lot of elementary and middle school students,” said Ashley Holtz, human resources manager for Teknova. She said that over 100 people showed up in the first hour and a half.

Teknova supplies biological products to other labs, hospitals and biology-based companies, so petri dishes and bacteria are usually in abundant supply. During the fair, a booth on petri dish growth presented bacterial growth from the human hand and dishes labeled “Zombie boogers.”

The most popular table at the fair belonged to the fire-breathing Meech, Teknova’s imaginary mascot that resembles a dinosaur and an ancient bird.

Teknova employee Kevin Bonvie led four scheduled displays where he explained that fire needs fuel, heat and oxygen in order to function. The audience of mostly schoolchildren asked and answered questions about the elements needed for fire and how they need to be at an exact ratio for a chemical reaction.

Mel Tolentino, president of San Benito County Amateur Radio Association, said the group chose to present at the fair because amateur radio is “a great hobby for anyone interested in science and technology.” The association offers classes for licensing in amateur radio use, and works closely with law enforcement and county search and rescue to provide radio communication in case of emergencies. Tolentino believes that since radio may be the only communication method available following a disaster in remote locations, it’s a good skill for anyone to have.

DNA extraction was another popular activity at the fair. Teknova employee Nicole Ellis extracted DNA from a strawberry for each group of students who came to her table. She explained the ingredients needed for extraction and how DNA is found in all living things. 

Ellis said the students came with varied knowledge of DNA and that she loved talking to them about it.

“I love this stuff and I love to be able to do at-home science stuff,” Ellis said. “This is something they can see. It is tangible for them.” 

BenitoLink talked with the Bonvie family about their visit to the fair. Tiffany, her daughter Isabella, and sons Mason and Maddox revealed what they liked best. The boys went for slime, while Isabella expressed interest in the robotics team. A middle school student, Isabella is interested in a career in robotics engineering.

“It is great to see what [the robot] can do,” she said.

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.