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Minds in Motion

U.Calgary.2012 10.01.2012 Minds in Motion Final 7.png

Reaching Out To Our Neighbours

It may be difficult to admit but the average person often has little to no knowledge about synthetic biology. If people have never heard of this field it is hard to expect them to accept this concept as a viable alternative to products used in society. This is why it is a major objective of our project to be involved in the community. One way we wanted to approach this situation was to target a young audience, especially those enthusiastic about science. The atmosphere when working with kids is unlike that of adults, as kids often have a different opinion and mindset. Therefore, when given the opportunity to work with Minds in Motion we knew that this was a chance to work with an audience unusual for a university setting.

Exploring Synthetic Biology with Minds in Motion

Minds in Motion is a student led organization that focuses on providing summer camps to kids of all ages at the University of Calgary. Each year the camp aims to expose youth to the exploration of science, engineering and technology through innovating and hands-on projects. This year our University of Calgary iGEM was very fortunate to be invited several times as a special guest working with kids age 10-12. During this time our goal was to provide our audience with a general understanding of synthetic biology through hands-on activities that showcases proper wet lab techniques.

The Activities

Using simple common household items (balloons and yarn), the Minds in Motion campers would follow along as we explain the idea of inserting a gene into a bacteria. This was done through analogies such as blowing up the balloon to represent transformation or popping the balloon to simulate DNA isolation (mini prep). The next activity included using pipettes and simple LB plates to explain the process of preparing bacteria for plating. This activity was meant to explain proper use of equipment, techniques to perform wet lab work and display bacteria with different colour (GFP). For the last hands-on activity, we attempted to inform the campers the basics of acidity and basicity by testing common liquids and determining their pH.

As Kids See Synthetic Biology

Working with the participants at Minds in Motion it was evident that the kids were intrigued with the idea of synthetic biology. Throughout the presentation, there was constant active participation from the audience and many engaging question which further the discussion. Lastly at the end of the presentation we asked the kids what is something new that they learned from our visit. Surprisingly, everyone had something to talk about. Some mentioned the neat things that synthetic biologists have done like making rats glow, others talked about proper techniques and use of equipment. Another time, we received a thank you card from the kids at the Minds in Motion as a token of appreciation for being a special guest.