We worked to educate the public about synthetic biology and the field of STEM in many ways.
- Elementary School Synthetic Biology Matching Game
- Jaya VS COVID-19 Coloring Book
- Boss Women in STEM Podcast
- Instagram Engagement
- Virtual Benefit Concert
- Masks Donation
This game includes 12 term and definition pairs that students can match together in the form of a traditional matching card game. These terms and definitions all derive from the basics of synthetic biology, with a goal to familiarize younger students with this area of study. The game has hand-drawn photos on each card, and the matching pairs have the same drawing to make it easier for students to connect one term to its respective definition. Any person can play this game, but our team directly targeted upper grade elementary school students, mostly fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, in order to expose them to synthetic biology before they headed into middle school and high school.
We were inclined to create this game after conducting a survey with high school teachers around the states. Our team ended up getting around 30 responses. These responses showed us many things, but mainly highlighted the fact that many students, and even teachers, in high schools were not familiar with the basics of synthetic biology.
Part of the results is summarized in the chart above. These results proved how 26.6% of teachers that we surveyed did not know what synthetic biology is, and some were just learning about it recently. This statistic was shocking because if the teacher is not familiar with synthetic biology, then there was a very high possibility that the majority of their students were unfamiliar as well.
In the second graph shown above, the majority of teachers, just under 70%, stated that the majority of their students do not know about synthetic biology. Due to these results, our team wanted to do something to change this for future classes of students. We then asked teachers if they did teach synthetic biology to their students, and if they did, were they fully equipped with the right tools and resources to teach it. We saw that the majority of students in high school were unfamiliar with synthetic biology because they had never been exposed to it during their academic career. This is proven in the results shown below, as 57% of teachers reported that they did not discuss synthetic biology with their students, and almost 30% of teachers reported that they did not have the resources to teach this type of curriculum in the first place.
After studying these results, our team came to the decision to create a matching game for students so they can be exposed to synthetic biology at an earlier age. We created this activity for mainly elementary school students so they can be exposed at a much earlier age, and have basic knowledge of it as they head into higher levels of their education. We wanted the game to be a simple, stress-free, and most importantly, a fun way for children to engage with this information. By playing this game, we hope students will become more familiar with these concepts by seeing the word matched with the definition, and a photo to correlate the two. In addition, we hope that children will become interested in learning about synthetic biology and actively search for opportunities to learn about synthetic biology as they grow older. By introducing this game to students, we also hope that their teachers will use the terms in the game as a segway into more description of synthetic biology and its components.
We distributed this game out to elementary schools all around San Diego. Over 60 teachers were emailed a copy of our game, and our hope is that they will incorporate it into their teaching, or at least keep it as an available and accessible resource for all students. We also hope that teachers will pass this game onto their peers, therefore allowing it to be distributed all over and accessible by a large audience of students and teachers.
We created a childrens’ coloring book titled Jaya VS COVID-19. The book goes over the basics of coronavirus from the perspective of a student, Jaya. As the pandemic spreads, we see Jaya’s experience and struggles, learning more about how to stay safe in the process.
We decided to create a coloring book because it would be a fun way to engage and educate little kids about COVID-19. In addition, a coloring book would offer interaction through reading and coloring. By creating this coloring book, we hoped readers would be encouraged to be careful and understand the current world situation.
The coloring book is directed towards young children to spread awareness and educate them about proper precautions to take against COVID-19. Since we wanted our book to be more accessible to a wider audience, we decided to translate this book into multiple languages and distribute copies to other iGEM teams. We posted our coloring book on our website and invited teams to help with translations. We collaborated with multiple teams: Brno_Czech_Republic, Edinburgh, and iGEM Athens. With their help, we translated our coloring book into Greek, Spanish, Italian and Czech. Our team also translated the book into Chinese. After translating, we distributed the translated coloring books to the iGEM teams and they distributed the coloring book as well. We also gave the Chinese translation version of our coloring book to our team members in China so they can distribute it.
In this podcast, we conducted interviews with famous and successful women in STEM and published the episodes on Spotify with the goal of inspiring girls interested in STEM. We decided to create a podcast on Spotify because not only is Spotify a free service anyone can use, but we wanted to be able to share the advice from these women on a large platform. We published the podcast under the “Education” topic and under the “Science” and “Education” subtopics, so anyone seeking to learn something new can find it!
Our first interview was with Dr. Christina Athena Aktipis. Dr. Aktipis is currently an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, director of the Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative and the co-director of the Human Generosity Project, director of the Cooperation and Conflict lab at Arizona State University, vice president of the International Society for Evolution, Ecology and Cancer (ISEEC), and was the director of human and social evolution and co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer at UCSF. Dr. Aktipis is a cooperation theorist, evolutionary biologist, evolutionary psychologist, cancer biologist, and author with her own podcast.
Our second interview was with Dr. Olivia Graeve. Dr. Graeve has taught at the University of Nevada, Reno, Alfred University, and UCSD, as a professor. She was the first Latina engineering professor to be hired at UCSD and is a mechanical and aerospace engineer. One material her research group has engineered is a revolutionary steel called SAM2X5-630. Dr. Graeve established and serves as the Director of the Cali-Baja Center for Resilient Materials and Systems at UCSD, a collaboration between researchers at UCSD and National Autonomous University of Mexico. Dr. Graeve conducts scientific bi-national outreach to students in the US and Mexico.
Finally, our most recent interview was with Dr. Laura Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin is the founder, CEO, and President of OncXerna Therapeutics (Oncologie). She was previously Vice President at Imclone Systems and Eli Lilly, and has also been faculty at Harvard Medical School.
Each scientist provided extraordinary insight in both their fields and also in life. We learned a lot about what it’s really like to go into STEM and research, and what it’s like to also be a woman in those fields. Each shared struggles they faced as a result of their gender, from feeling alone amongst their male colleagues, to having disapproving male mentors, and to being a single mother balancing taking care of their children and their passion for science. At the conclusion of each interview, we asked what advice they would give to girls interested in STEM, girls in difficult financial situations, and girls who don’t have much support in achieving their dreams. Dr. Aktipis spoke about the larger societal and systemic inequalities that ultimately need to be addressed, Dr. Graeve stressed the importance of finding a mentor, and Dr. Benjamin talked about the need for grit and passion. These interviews were incredibly powerful and inspiring, and we believe they will be to anyone who listens to the podcast – the podcast introduces girls to different pathways in STEM and provides role models for them. Girls can listen to fun interviews and hear inspirational stories from women like them, and can also gain insight on how to get into and achieve success in the STEM field, ultimately finding motivation to pursue STEM careers. By listening to this podcast, girls can see first-hand the impact we, as we women, have on STEM, and what they can achieve if they pursue a career in STEM.
We created an Instagram to spread knowledge about COVID-19 to the general public. We created infographics about what COVID-19 is, the symptoms, and what to do in order to stay healthy and safe. These infographics were posted to our Instagram. We accumulated over 200 followers. Additionally, we used our Instagram to gain knowledge about the public’s view on coronavirus through a survey. Our target audience was the younger generation who may not see COVID-19 as a threat. As Instagram is fairly popular with the younger generations, we thought it was the best way to reach the GenZ and Millennial generation.
Hosting a Virtual Benefit Concert, we raised over $400 for COVID-19 relief to Foundation to Metrowest. We had team members play the violin, piano, cello, and flute to our audience of families of all ages and backgrounds, across the United States. Before starting the concert, we spoke to our audience and introduced them to iGEM and our project idea. We informed them about an important gap we discovered in SARS-CoV-2 research and explained the relevance of our project given the current global situation.
Fantastic evening at our Virtual Benefit Concert where our team member Alanna Xue played the piano to raise funds for COVID-19 relief.
We did research in our local community of San Diego and learned that the homeless population was in dire need of masks. Hence, our team sewed over 120 masks and donated them to the San Diego Rescue Mission. These masks went to people that graduated from a one year transition living program.