PDB EDUCATION CORNER: Wisconsin High School Science Olympiad PROTEIN MODELING Event by Gary Graper, Event Supervisor

Gary Graper is a former biology teacher who taught 35 years at Madison West High School in Wisconsin before retiring from the classroom 2 years ago. Since retirement, he has been promoting the Wisconsin Science Olympiad, facilitating University of Wisconsin College of Engineering outreach to K-12 education, helping teachers develop constructivist approaches to instruction in their classrooms, and advising a high school SMART (Students Modeling A Research Topic) team.

An understanding of 3D molecular structure and function is at the heart of rapidly expanding fields in the molecular biosciences. Protein Modeling is a new Wisconsin Science Olympiad event in which teams first master the use of a molecular visualization tool to display and analyze a molecular structure, and then create a physical model of that structure using mini-toobers, a free-form modeling media especially designed for this purpose. This event has introduced Science Olympiad competitors in Wisconsin to the value of 3D molecular visualization in understanding protein structure and function, to the PDB and the wealth of information it contains, and to the RCSB PDB's Molecule of the Month's informative articles on relevant and important molecules. The event is an excellent opportunity for high school students to practice inquiry-based science using the tools and methods of research scientists.

Science Olympiad tournaments are rigorous academic interscholastic competitions that consist of over 30 individual and team events which students prepare for during the year. These challenging and motivational events are well-balanced between the various disciplines of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics, computers and technology. The events require knowledge of science facts, concepts, processes, skills and science applications. Students demonstrate an understanding and mastery of science, mathematics, and technology concepts that require not only knowledge and problem solving skills but also the ability to work together as a team. Science Olympiad is devoted to improving the quality of science education, creating a passion for learning science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science. One of the major goals of the Science Olympiad is to elevate science education and learning to a level of enthusiasm and support that is normally reserved only for varsity sports programs. At the end of the competition individual medals and team trophies are awarded to the top competitors.

The Science Olympiad Protein Modeling event was part of the Wisconsin Division C (High School) 2005 regional and state (April 2) competitions. For the competition, teams of 1 to 3 students first had to design and build a model of the potassium channel protein (1bl8) that told the story of the protein's function. They utilized RasMol and the Molecule of the Month article, as well as individual research to explore the potassium channel structure and learn how the protein functions. The molecular model was constructed in the weeks prior to the competition using mini-toobers for the backbone and any other creative materials of the students' choice to illustrate the significant structural features of the protein. The models were impounded for scoring on the day of the competition. The scoring rubric was based on accuracy of the physical model, as well as creativity and originality of design. This first part of the competition counted for 40% of the final score.

The second part of the competition consisted of a 50 minute time period during which the teams designed and built a physical model and answered questions about a protein selected from the Molecule of the Month. The modeled structure used at the regional competitions was amino acids #4-31 of the zinc finger molecule (1ZAA), and at the state competition was chain B of the major histocompatibility complex molecule (1HSA). The model was constructed using mini-toobers and clip-on amino acid side chains provided at the competition. In addition, students were provided with RasMol, a PDB file, and the Molecule of the Month feature to guide their model construction and to help answer questions about the protein's structure, function, importance, researchers, when and where the research was published, etc. At the end of the 50 minutes, the model was scored with a rubric for accuracy which counted 30% of final score, and the multiple-choice test was scored which counted for 30% of the final score.

The Wisconsin Science Olympiad Protein Modeling event was designed, organized, and supported by the Center for BioMolecular Modeling (CBM) at the Milwaukee School of Engineering along with myself, a retired science teacher who has utilized the services of the CBM for a number of years to develop curriculum that makes chemistry more interesting and understandable for high school students as well as to support my former school's SMART (Students Modeling A Research Topic) team. The team of CBM members Director Tim Herman, Co-Director Michael Patrick, Jennifer Morris and Shannon Colton and myself wrote the event descriptions and rules, selected molecules to be modeled, planned and taught 4 workshops around the state of Wisconsin, developed scoring rubrics, and ran and judged 2 regional and the state competitions. The mini-toobers and other modeling materials were provided to the fifty teams registered for the event by 3D Molecular Designs. The event was a success at both the regional and state competitions with many competitors expressing enthusiasm and support for continuation of the event. At the National Science Olympiad held at the University of Illinois-Champaign on May 21, 2005, the event was presented to numerous other state directors with a great deal of interest. It is hoped that arrangements can be made to have other states run the event in 2006, and that it can be a trial event at the 2007 national competition and possibly a regular event at state and national competitions in the future.

PDB ID 1bl8. Doyle, D. A., Morais Cabral, J., Pfuetzner, R. A., Kuo, A., Gulbis, J. M., Cohen, S. L., Chait, B. T., MacKinnon, R.: The structure of the potassium channel: molecular basis of K+ conduction and selectivity. Science 280 pp. 69 (1998)
PDB ID 1zaa. Pavletich, N. P., Pabo, C. O.: Zinc finger-DNA recognition: crystal structure of a Zif268-DNA complex at 2.1 A. Science 252 pp. 809 (1991)
PDB ID 1hsa. Madden, D. R., Gorga, J. C., Strominger, J. L., Wiley, D. C.: The three-dimensional structure of HLA-B27 at 2.1 A resolution suggests a general mechanism for tight peptide binding to MHC. Cell 70 pp. 1035 (1992)

Related Links
National Science Olympiad www.soinc.org
Wisconsin Science Olympiad wisconsinso.uwstout.edu
Wisconsin Science Olympiad Protein Modeling Event wisconsinso.uwstout.edu/wsoprotein.html
Center for BioMolecular Modeling www.rpc.msoe.edu/cbm
RCSB PDB Molecule of the Month www.rcsb.org/pdb/molecules/molecule_list.html
RasMol www.umass.edu/microbio/rasmol