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Telus Spark Science Centre


Sharing Synthetic Biology

Telus Spark has given us the amazing opportunity to share and engage with the general public to demonstrate through hands on activities what biology is and how we can use synthetic biology to solve problems. The Science Centre brings together a huge range of people, from young children and their parents, to adults of all ages at their monthly Adults Only Nights. We have shown off our work and an exhibit meant to demonstrate the cool factor of synthetic biology. The first event we ran was Bacterial Art, and the second was an public beta test of our video game.

Bacterial Art

We have been able to let hundreds of people try their hand at making magnificent art by drawing bacteria containing different fluorescent biobricks onto agar plates. Stocks of bacteria with various colors of fluorescent protein plasmids were prepared. Visitors were got to use their imaginations and 'draw' the bacteria onto agar plates to make pieces of art. These agar plates contained a antibiotic to ensure the plasmid containing the fluorescent marker was not shed by the bacteria. These plates were then incubated overnight, before being photographed under a UV light and being posted to Telus Spark's facebook page for the public to tag as theirs.

This event let us go hands on with the public with bacteria that we use everyday in our lab. We got to explain what the bacteria were, how we changed them, and a bit of the biology on how biobricks coding for fluorescent proteins work. Not only that we got to challenge some of the negative press that bacteria have by showing people that there are bacteria out their that do not cause disease and that can do amazing things.

LAB ESCAPE Video Game Premiere

Our second major event was the first public beta test of the video game we have been developing throughout the summer. We spent two days on a weekend (September 29-30, 2012) letting the general public try out our video game and learn a thing or two about synthetic biology. Players of the game gave us valuable feedback on places where we could improve the game, make it more clear, and most importantly how to make it more fun!

Synthetic Biology Survey

At one of the Telus Spark Adult Only Nights our team conducted a synthetic biology survey. The purpose of this survey was to evaluate the general public’s knowledge and thoughts on synthetic biology. Our results showed that a large amount of the general public feels like they have at least some understanding of synthetic biology and that they feel genetic engineering will be useful in the future. This is important because, for new advances in biology to be accepted in the general public, there needs to be understanding and the knowledge that the advancement can be useful. With this survey we also found that support of genetic engineering companies would be dependent on the ethical integrity of the company. This shows the importance of genetic engineering companies keeping a good standing with the general public. Below is some graphical representations of the answers to our survey.