Students enjoying the continuation of Bioathlon despite being virtual.
Students enjoying the continuation of Bioathlon despite being virtual.
Students enjoying the continuation of Bioathlon despite being virtual.

To stimulate an avid interest in biology, the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University has sponsored a single-day, hands-on, problem-solving competition known as the Bioathlon in each May since 1989. As many as 20 high schools from across the Upper Peninsula have been participating in a day-long competition, using their skills and knowledge to solve biological problems along the way. Many high school teachers use the team selection process (four sophomores per school) as a means to motivate their students throughout the school year. In the summer of 2020, this event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in summer 2021 and summer 2022, we held the Bioathlon in a novel way as follows:  


This was the first year when we sent the competition kits to schools to participate in two projects:

Asynchronous Virtual Case Study: Students will work through a case study to help them understand the basics of blood typing using the standard ABO systems and the Rhesus factor. Then they will apply that information to understand the findings of a publication that possibly links blood type to COVID-19 susceptibility. Students will be graded on their knowledge of blood typing and their ability to critically assess findings from scientific manuscripts.

Hands-On Dissection: Students will be sent a preserved vertebrate animal and must identify a list of organs and other anatomical structures while following their high school's safety protocols. Students will complete the dissection under the supervision of their teacher at school but will not have access to any dissection guides or other assistance. Students will be graded on the quality of their dissections and the number of correct identifications by submitting images to an online form.


  • 1st Place: L.L. Wright (Ironwood)
  • 2nd Place: A.D. Johnston (Bessemer)
  • 3rd Place: Calumet High School


Four schools participated in the 2022 Bioathlon: A.D Johnston/Bessemer, Lake Linden, Calumet High School, and West Iron County High School. The activities were an ecological scavenger hunt, a mitosis/meiosis modeling event, and a dissection and identification (brain and heart) activity.

For the dissection activity, the students identified many parts of the brain and heart.

For the Ecology/Food web scavenger hunt, the students were asked to find and collect specimens and ID their part in a food web (e.g., primary consumer, secondary consumer, decomposer), diagram a food web with the collected specimens, and calculate the energy dynamics at different trophic levels of the stated food web.

Lastly, the students were asked to construct models (using magnets and beads) of each phase of Mitosis and Meiosis within the "Chromosome Simulation" exercise.

Participating groups had no more than 60 minutes to complete each activity, and the total time taken was used as a tiebreaker if multiple schools had the same total point score.


  • 1st Place: A.D. Johnson (Bessemer)
  • 2nd Place: Calumet High School
  • 3rd Place: West Iron County High School

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.