Palm Beach County Students Compete in Max Planck Florida’s Brain Bee Challenge

April 17, 2019

The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) held its 8th annual Brain Bee Challenge Saturday April 6, 2019. Nervous excitement filled the room as 57 Palm Beach County students readied themselves for a thrilling competition that would show which team knew the most about the brain. But the excitement was quickly replaced by confusion, when the first question was read: “What part of the brain is necessary for a Zombie to walk?”


While the first question was an ice breaker and a joke, the rest of the competition was no laughing matter as students in teams of three answered questions about learning and memory, emotion, sensation, movement, aging, neurobiology, brain anatomy and neural disorders.

In the end, two teams from FAU Henderson High School took the top two spots, with a third-place team coming from American Heritage School of Boca and Delray.

“We are so impressed with the number of young students in our community who are passionate about science and understanding the brain,” said Dr. Ilaria Drago, MPFI Education Outreach Coordinator. “Brain Bee is one of our signature events that we hold each year to raise awareness of the field of neuroscience and to help inspire the next generation of scientists.”

The 2019 Brain Bee Challenge also featured another competition as students, teachers, and parents tuned into a live webcast of the event hosted by the hosts of Max Planck Florida’s Neurotransmissions Podcast, Misha Smirnov and Joe Schumacher. The school with the most online participation won a 3D printer, courtesy of the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund. More than 245 people watched the competition online, with Jupiter High School making up 60% of the online audience and winning the 3D printer.


The 2019 MPFI Brain Bee Challenge Teams were:

American Heritage School of Boca/Delray

  • Artificial Selection: Aneesh Veeramachaneni, Naven Parthasarathy, and Smit Viroja
  • GABA-daba-doo: Nicolas Jo, Valentina Velasco, and Pavan Gudoor (Third Place)

A W Dreyfoos School of the Arts

  • Banyan: Charmae Medina, Teddie Sprague, and Collin Crawford
  • Dreyfoos Jaguars: Daniel Wang, Izumi Yasuda, and George Wu

Boca Raton Community High School

  • Waitlist Champions: Matthew Prescott, Nicholas Rodriguez-Zingg, and Rafi Hawke

FAU Henderson High School

  • FAU High Team 1: Pedro Almeida, Lili Mueller, and Yasmine Zerrouki
  • FAU High Team 2: Sajeev Sarkar, Zachariah John, and Mauricio Barba (Second Place)
  • FAU High Team 3: Kiran Shirazi, Noa Abiri, and Sanjana Chandran (First Place)

Jupiter High School

  • Great Minds: Ben Lev, Nadine Austin, and Colin Czaja
  • Brains and Beauty: Ajay Garg, Samantha Clayman, and Max Bello
  • Thinking Alike: Eva Miklos, Katy Stalter, and Katherine Shirley

Lake Worth Community High School

  • Cognitive Crew: Zarifa Kabir, Osinachi Nwosu, and Aniqa Ahmed
  • Arbour Vitae: Raisa Jafry, Lihao Wu, and Malik Turkustani
  • Dope-amine: Sufiya Ali, Jose Delgado, and Jannatul Begum

Lake Worth Community Middle School

  • The Anxiety Attack: Miguel Benavente, Annia-Gabrielle Beneche, and Hyann Jimenez

Oxbridge Academy

  • Oxbridge Academy: Gianna Dunham, Zoe Krishtul, and Yonel Gonzalez

Royal Palm Beach High School

  • Royal Wildcats: Mark Berrios, Charline Zapata, and Richmond Baptiste

Spanish River Community High School

  • Sharks: Eesha Shah, Hayden Siesel, and Katherine Burkman

Wellington Community High School

  • Winning Wellington: Cole Smith, Eric Burchill, and Nicholas Ndreca


The Max Planck Florida Brain Bee Challenge is held each year to increase public awareness of the importance, progress and benefits of brain research. The event is sponsored by the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund. The Florida-based public education foundation has supported the event since its inception in 2012.