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SynthetiQ Experimental Dance will be the first dance group ever to perform in a presentation at a scientific research conference.
This is a group devoted to creating, testing and analyzing movement, in the form of dance, as a means of explaining scientific concepts. Inspired by Dr. John Bohannon's “Dance Your PhD Contest” and his TEDxBrussels talk in 2011, our first project was partnered with the Queen's Genetically Engineered Machine (QGEM) Team. Because our research and learning goals aligned perfectly with those of the QGEM team, we will be researching and presenting together at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition in the fall.
As a part of our 2012 iGEM project, we used dance to explain concepts associated with synthetic biology, as well as our own research.
We will make dance into our own unique tool for teaching others scientific concepts, as an alternative to use powerpoint presentations.
In our presentation at the 2012 iGEM Americas East Jamboree, we incorporated dance into our presentation as a means of conveying our ideas, and demonstrating our work in a unique method. After the iGEM competition, our group hopes to continue sharing our ideas, and creating new routines to help teach people about other scientific concepts from any field of research.
What we did we do?
Our goals were set at the start of the summer and we achieved them.
Initial testing: Modeling DNA
As our first goal, we created a series of photos to model DNA and some of its properties.At the start of our summer, we started by doing some brainstorming with members of our research team. We talked about the fundamentals of dance, movement and it's interpretation. Then, we did some bodystorming, starting with DNA, the foundational information of a cell.
Our video: Learning PCR!
Our second project was to create an educational video, in the style of Dance Your PhD. We chose to explain the fundamentals of our favourite lab protocol: Polymerase Chain Reaction. This main goals of this video were to be fun, simple and easy to follow. Our team manager, Kevin Chen, who was the only member of our team with previous dance experience, lead the choreography. Because one of aims was to make this video something that people can follow easily, and even learn themselves, when we were choosing specific moves, if there was something that the dancers/researchers didn't quite get straight away, we scrapped it and made it simpler. Introducing another dancer, Charles Gao, a BBoy from the KinetiQ Crew, gave us a uniquely creative way of expressing the change in temperature. And, since none of us were particularly experienced in animation, this was far easier and animating a thermometer, and way more attractive than just using text. The best thing about it is that BBoys as skilled as Charles can simply improvise for the duration of the song without missing a single beat. When we filmed it, we literally did it one take and just yelled "Hot!" or "Cold!" at the times when we were cycling through the temperatures. This took us less than 5 minutes, which was less time than it took to even add the numbers to indicate the temperature in our video.
Our presentation at the Americas East Regional Jamboree
This was our ultimate goal. We had done the fun and simple stuff, so now we wanted to see how far we can actually take this. To present at an actual research competition, using dance, was something that no one has ever done before, and that started out as a dream at the start of the summer. And, it remained a dream for almost all of it. We started by talking with Dr. John Bohannon, and asked about how he put together his presentation at TEDxBrussels, as well as organize the Dance Your PhD competition. His advice and enthusiasm brought us that much closer to realizing this dream. With the help and support of the dance community in Kingston, as well as at Queen's, we pushed to recruit dancers throughout the summer, but because most people are away from the university, and on vacation, this was difficult. Then, September came around and the students and dancers returned. We were incredibly lucky to find a few people from the Queen's Dance Club that were interested in this opportunity. Our choreographer, Devon Ryan, played a key role in the recruitment and choreography of our routine. His dedication and creativity brought our dream into existence in just four short weeks. And the result was astounding.