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Telus Spark Science Centre

Sharing Synthetic Biology

The Telus Spark gave our team the incredible opportunity to share synthetic biology with the general public. Through hands-on activities, we introduced participants to the field of syn bio, and we discussed how this emerging technology can solve problems. Our audience was diverse, ranging from young children and their parents, to adults at the Spark's Adults Only Nights.


Bacterial Art

We let hundreds of people try their own hand at making magnificent art by drawing with fluorescent bacteria "paints" agar plate "canvases." Cultures were prepared with different fluorescent genes from the parts registry. Visitors were given free reign to use their imagination to draw the bacteria onto agar plates. We incubated the plates overnight at our laboratory. Staff from the Telus Spark photographed the plates and posted them to their Facebook page so that participants could enjoy the results of their labour.

As participants prepared their artwork, we discussed synthetic biology, explained how we manipulated the bacteria, and told them how fluorescent proteins work. Through this event, we made synthetic biology accessible to the public, and in return, they gave us feedback on their conceptions of this technology.

Lab Escape: Video game debut

Our second major event was a public beta test of the Lab Escape video game. We spent the weekend of September 29th running a kiosk at the Spark where the public could try our video game. Players told us what they learned about synthetic biology and gave us valuable feedback on improvements for the game. We hope they had as much fun as we had sharing the game!

Synthetic Biology Survey

Our team conducted a synthetic biology survey during one of the bacteria art workshops on Adult's Night at the Spark. We wanted to evaluate the general public’s impressions of synthetic biology. A significant number of Spark visitors have a limited understanding of synthetic biology and feel genetic engineering will be useful into the future. Although feedback for genetic engineering in the future was generally positive, the majority of respondents would only give conditional support to commercial enterprise in genetic engineering. This highlights the responsibility shouldered by iGEM teams; we must take a proactive approach to ethical concerns surrounding the deployment of syn bio so that the public will be supportive of these technologies. Please check out the survey results below:

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