Students study everything - from mucus to traditional Chinese medicine for solutions

(From left) Ashwin Kumar Vetriselvan, Jordan Leong, and Chua Jia Jun, Secondary 2 students from Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, at the 13th Scientific Thinking Programme.
(From left) Ashwin Kumar Vetriselvan, Jordan Leong, and Chua Jia Jun, Secondary 2 students from Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, at the 13th Scientific Thinking Programme.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

SINGAPORE - Which type of mucus has the most anti-bacterial properties: human, earthworm, frog, snail or fish?

The answer is frog mucus, according to a group of students from Gan Eng Seng School who did a project on this and also found that its possible commercial applications range from cleaning products to cosmetics.

This was one of 43 student projects presented on Friday (June 3) to a panel of judges at the 13th Scientific Thinking Programme, an annual competition by Republic Polytechnic where secondary school students solve everyday problems with simple scientific solutions. The top five projects will go through to the final round on June 24, where a champion will be crowned. Winners stand to get book vouchers and plaques.

Chua Jia Jun, 14, a Secondary 2 student from Gan Eng Seng School who is part of the mucus project, said: "One of our members had fallen ill, and that got us thinking - why do we produce mucus? Was it to fight bacteria? We were interested in the biological implications of that, and that's how everything started."

To find out which kind of mucus is most resistant against bacteria, his team placed paper discs with different mucus types into agar plates containing E.coli bacteria, and compared bacteria growth for each mucus type after incubation.

Another project presented on Friday looked into whether plants grew better when watered with Traditional Chinese Medicine infusions. A team from Fajar Secondary School discovered that the answer is "yes".

"I've always wondered how the knowledge from our textbooks came to be," said Muhammed Imran, 15, a Secondary 3 student from Fajar Secondary School in the team.

"Now, I really appreciate the process of acquiring scientific knowledge, having gone through a bit of it myself. It's quite difficult, especially isolating variables," he added.

To help the students with their projects, workshops were held and mentors from Republic Polytechnic were also assigned to the teams.

Mr Ashley Chua, director of the School of Applied Science at Republic Polytechnic, said: "We want to help youth understand how scientific possibilities and solutions can be found in every aspect of the world around them. Hopefully, we have helped nurture their interest in applied science."

He added that the quality of students' projects have improved every year since the inception of the programme 13 years ago.