figure1. Tongji Seeding Program
COVID-19 stopped us from talking with these cute students face to face. So we had an online meeting with all these high school students on July 19th, 2020. Together with team members from Tongji_China, we popularized the knowledge of synthetic biology and iGEM to them. Then our team introduced the three parts of our software project and explained how our software runs. We showed some functions of our soft ware.
figure2. Online meeting with high school studentsAt the end of the program, we held an entertaining game where we provided them with some questions about our online presentation, and the first student to answer correctly will receive a gift from us. All the questions we prepared were responded to quickly and accurately. We were glad to see that those students were highly active, and they indeed gained a lot from our introduction. Last, we answered the students' questions and collected some questionnaires about the results of the whole program.
When we finally got permission to go back to school in September 2020, we decided to introduce synthetic biology to students from Tongji University. We think that offline meetings and face-to-face talking can help students get a deeper understanding of our project. On October 13th, 2020, with the help of Tongji Innovation Club of Life Science, we, together with the Tongji_China team, gave an offline presentation to Tongji University students, most of whom are studying life science. We explained how we built our software and why our software is useful. Team members from Tongji_China also gave a detailed introduction to their project.
figure3. Offline presentation for Tongji University studentsStudents present were mainly freshmen, so we invited YunZhe Kang, the Tongji_China team's instructor, to introduce his experience during iGEM. We hope that our introduction can arouse their interests in iGEM and synthetic biology. Then they may become an iGEMer or a synthetic biologist in the future. We told the students to finish our questionnaires after our introduction, and it seems that most of them showed great interest in synthetic biology. We also answered questions from the students about our project or iGEM competition. We were sure that those students gained a lot from our presentation.
figure4. A group photo
WeChat Official Accounts is one of the most popular promotion platforms in China. So it's a great way to popularized synthetic biology and our project to the public. We posted a series of articles on the platform to introduce our project. Since metabolic simulation is the main improvement of our project this year, we decided to talk about metabolism. The first article introduced some basic concepts of metabolism and the relationship between metabolism and human health. In the second article, we spoke about metabolic engineering and showed that metabolic engineering is useful but facing many difficulties. In the third article, we talked about our project and explained how our project could help with engineering design.
figure5. Some articles on Tongji iGEMWe tried our best to make our tweets easy to understand because we wanted these articles to be educational. We used many pictures and examples in the tweets so that even a primary school student without any knowledge about biology can know what we are doing. These tweets can help people get an understanding of the metabolism and the significance of our project.
In order to make more people know about synthetic biology, we decided to make a role-playing game and spread it through the internet. People can play our game on their mobile phone. We created a fictitious background for our game:
In the future, Synthetic biology is growing fast. There have been many incredible products using synthetic biology technology. To confirm these products' safety, humans set up World Synthetic Biology Administration Organization (WSBAO). The organization will check the biological products from all over the world, and only the products with no safety problems will be allowed to be sold. The player will play the part of a member of this organization. He or she should make decisions in each chapter. And the decisions he made will affect the world in different aspects.
We made up a few of fictitious projects about synthetic biology. For each round in the game, the player will receive a project description. He or she should make decision between several options: permit, reject, think it over. The third choice means the project can be optimized. Considering that many of our players may have no knowledge about biology, the player can ask for guidance from PATHLAB in the game. That is the software we’ve designed last year.
figure6. Game design
video1. Educational GameWhen the player makes his or her decision, some index of the game will change. The values, such as fund, credibility, and world security, shows the condition of the organization and the world. So that all the divisions player make will affect the ending of the game. We hope that the fictitious story in our game can show the influence of synthetic biology. We also hope that people can get a knowledge of some research directions of synthetic biology.
figure7. Student Wu tried out the gameWe feel lucky to have some middle school students play our game. Huangpu Creative Middle School is an innovative school in Shanghai. We took part in their PBL innovation class and asked some students to try our game. Those students have gained a simple understanding of synthetic biology and they felt that the game was interesting.