At the Sixth Annual Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo, to be held May 20 at Lucchesi Park in Petaluma, children will have the chance to help kids in Sonoma County suffering with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities. Thanks to a fun science event to follow, they will also learn about another way they can help fight childhood cancer and other diseases — they can become scientists.
In the Kids Gran Fondo, participants can challenge themselves on a 1-mile, 4-mile or 7-mile route on which they can ride a bike, run, walk or roll. The funds raised from the event go toward helping sick kids. The event will continue with a Fun Festival and STEM Fair made possible by Thermo Fisher Scientific, the presenting sponsor of the Kids Gran Fondo. Thermo Fisher is a multinational company with a manufacturing facility in Petaluma.
STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and math.”
Christopher Rea, the training specialist at the facility, says including a STEM Expo at the Kids Gran Fondo makes sense. It conveys to kids that another way to fight deadly disease among children is to become disease-fighters themselves by pursuing careers in science. This message is directed especially at female and minority children, who are under-represented in the science professions.
“We try to expose kids to fundamental aspects of science by making it fun,” Rea said.
At the STEM Expo, children will have the chance to make magnetic “slime” from glue and iron shavings, in the process learning about polymers and DNA.
They will make and launch “stomp rockets,” paper missiles with various sizes of fins. The rocket is placed in an empty two-liter plastic bottle. When the kid stomps on the bottle, the rocket blasts off.
They will also learn how to extract the DNA from a strawberry by squishing the fruit and adding a solution of isopropyl alcohol that breaks down cell walls in the juice.
“The kids can see the separation of the DNA precipitate,” said Rea.
Thermo Fisher gives each participant a Science Kit Swag Bag that includes genuine laboratory goggles, an apron and gloves, as well as a special “Be STEM-Credible!” notepad and a four-color “Frog Pen” for recording experiments. At the end of the STEM Expo, there is a treasure hunt for the kids. The company, which owns Nalgene water bottles, will give the kids a Marvel Superheroes version of the bottle.
According to Rea, childhood cancers — the primary focus of the Gran Fondo fundraising effort — are different from adult cancers, but until recently little was known about genetic alterations that drive such childhood cancers. To help address the problem, Thermo Fisher has established the International Childhood Oncology Network, a resource to develop a global community of researchers who collaborate by sharing data, protocols and best practices. Members can access data sets that are uploaded by other members.
The company has also recently launched the Oncomine Childhood Cancer Research Assay. In collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the assay targets mutations associated with pediatric and young adult cancers by combining gene amplifications and fusions in a single panel. The assay interrogates 203 unique genes representing multiple gene classes.
Additionally, Thermo Fisher played a major role in the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That award went to three scientists whose developments in cryo-electron microscopy have broadened the use of this technology. To achieve the breakthrough, the researchers worked with systems manufactured by Thermo Fisher.
Plan to go?
What: Fun Festival and STEM Fair at Sixth Annual Sonoma County Kids Gran Fondo
Where: Lucchesi Park, Petaluma
When: Sunday, May 20