School News

Scientific Creativity Wins Big: Pranav Chhalliyil named Iowa BioGENEius 2017

"Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.  It is a process; it's not random."

Ken Robinson

At Maharishi School we agree with noted educator and speaker Sir Ken Robinson that, "there's a wealth of talent that lies in all of us" and that "those who work in schools must nurture creativity systematically and not kill it unwittingly."  Each child enters the school environment alive with energy and individuality, ready to enjoy and learn.  At Maharishi School we respect the uniqueness of each student, and have a system in place to develop the full creative potential of each one. 

Pranav Chhalliyil has attended Maharishi School since kindergarten, and he's one of the many children who have benefitted from the breadth of experiences and support offered to each student.  Maharishi School provides a wide variety of elective offerings and a strong project-based learning from kindergarten through twelfth-grade, a unique curriculum that allows our students to explore the full scope of their own interests, abilities, and gifts. Students are exposed to a range of possibilities in every subject area, and have the opportunity to delve deeper into any topic that intrigues them by designing their own ten-week project.   This process of academic and self-exploration develops students who are self-directed and passionate, who know where they want to go in life and why.   Pranav was able to make good use of his project periods when he developed a sudden curiosity about the science behind dental hygiene!

Pranav's interest was sparked by a common occurrence for kids; his parents were frustrated over getting him to brush his teeth!  Pranav explains, “a few years ago, when I was too lazy to brush my teeth in the morning, my dad had me spit into petri dishes and look at them under a microscope to see how much bacteria is in my mouth.  I was amazed, and then my interest grew in oral hygiene and its importance.”

Pranav’s curiosity about oral bacteria lead to the next step towards creativity, sustained interest.  Inspired to research which tooth and tongue cleaning methods are most effective, Pranav designed a series of experiments with subjects from an Indian school he volunteers at each summer.  Pranav's interest has only increased as he continues his research, and he is now in his fourth year of study about the oral microbiome and low-cost techniques for improving oral health.  Pranav has shown creativity not only in his innovative research methods but also in a new product he is developing. He has created a type of toothpaste that is made from nano charcoal derived from burning rice husks, a sustainably sourceable and inexpensive material readily available in India.

Pranav's sustained work and creativity have paid off hugely, garnering him ever increasing state and national recognition.  This year the Iowa Biotechnology Association named him the winner of the 2017 Iowa BioGENEius Challenge at the 60th Iowa State Science and Technology Fair 2017. His work topped among the top five high school projects chosen from the whole fair selected to compete at the BioGENEius Challenge. Pranav was also awarded the Honorary Mention Grand Champion at the State Science and Technology Fair 2017 and was an EISEF finalist at the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair 2017.

The 2017 Iowa BioGENEius Challenge for high school students recognizes outstanding research and innovation in the biotechnology field. This year it is held in San Diego and Pranav won a paid trip to attend and present!  He will compete against 17 top BioGENEius students from U.S., Canada, and Germany in the International BioGENEius Challenge at the BIO International Convention in June 2017.  This is not only an international science fair but also an opportunity to network with 2,500 CEOs and 16,000 attendees from 76 countries and 1,800+ exhibiting companies. At this convention, he will engage with leading companies, scientists, and innovators currently transforming the scientific landscape in order to gain invaluable insights into an industry making significant contributions to the world. He will also receive an IowaBio SSTFI College Scholarship.

Pranav is looking forward to his fourth paid trip to INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles next month, as well!  The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), a program of Society for Science & the Public (the Society), is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Each year, approximately 1,800 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories are awarded the opportunity to showcase their independent research and compete for on average of four million dollars in prizes.

Pranav would like to thank his school teachers who supported his research work for years: School Head Dr. Richard Beall, Upper School Head Laurie Bauman, Mrs. Natasha Jones, Mrs. Barbara Hays, Genetic-ID, his parents and the school students from Porayar, who participated in his research work as his subjects. He is happy that through his project he is able to give dental health awareness to these students and to find that they have improved their dental health over the years of his outreach and research. Pranav is excited to spread dental health awareness globally through his research paper!

Congratulations, Pranav!

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