Dare to Explora – Tesla STEM students named regional winners of ExploraVision contest


    If you need to know more about customizable responsive hydrogel patches, look no further than Tesla STEM High School. Two Tesla STEM students were named regional winners of the 28th annual ExploraVision competition. Calista Morley and Elisabeth Berger, class of 2020, were the regional winners of this competition in the spring of 2020. The title of their project was “Customizable Responsive Hydrogel Patches for Internal Use in Surgical Recovery.” The team was one of just six teams that advanced to the national competition.

    According to its website, the ExploraVision competition for K-12 students engages the next generation in real world problem solving with a strong emphasis on STEM. ExploraVision challenges students to envision and communicate new technology 10 or more years in the future through collaborative brainstorming and research of current science and technology. It is the largest K-12 science competition, designed to build problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills.

    Seven other Tesla STEM teams received honorable mentions for the 2020 contest. Below is a description of the project Morley and Berger worked on for the competition:

    “Customizable Responsive Hydrogel Patches for Internal Use in Surgical Recovery”

    Project Description: Current applications of hydrogel technology, referring to a liquid matrix of hydrophilic polymers in water, are constrained by insufficient tensile strength and a lack of widespread use. By overcoming these obstacles and 3D-printing regenerative medicines into hydrogel patches on-demand in hospitals would offer a customizable solution to faster and more effective surgical recovery. Isolating and synthetically mimicking mucus substances from snail slime as the base for new hydrogels would provide the tensile strength needed for the hydrogel to remain stable inside the body before degrading once the injury has healed, with added non-toxic metals acting as supportive ionic bonding enhancers. These stronger hydrogels could patch damaged internal organs for longer and promote faster local regeneration while minimizing problematic scar tissue, functioning as an alternative to traditional sutures. This faster regeneration would occur due to hypoxia inducible factors and supplemental antiseptic medications printed into the hydrogel to stimulate RBC production.