EAGER: MAKER: bioMAKERlab: A Wetlab and Starter Activities for Promoting Synthetic Biology in High School Classes and Workshops

Friday, July 1, 2016 to Saturday, June 30, 2018
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Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Making and Tinkering Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Informal/Formal Connections, K-12 Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers
Education and learning science | Engineering | Life science | Technology
University of Pennsylvania

This project will make synthetic biology activities accessible to high school students and teachers by providing them with an authentic but safe context to learn. These activities will also broaden their understanding and perspectives about how synthetic biology and bioengineering is used in personal, health, and food production contexts as well as raise their interest in STEM. The design of bioMAKERlab will generate an educational version of an existing professional-grade lab for synthetic biology to promote safe production, accessibility, and affordability for high schools and community colleges interested in integrating such wetlab activities into their curriculum.

Most current efforts to broaden access to maker activities for K-12 students have focused on developing collaborative fabrication workspaces (fablabs) involving 3D printers, laser cutters, and other digital and traditional tools. This project will develop and implement bioMAKERlab, an innovative wetlab starter kit and activities that will enable high school students and teachers to engage in synthetic biology by building genetic circuits that let microorganisms change color, smell, and shape. In synthetic biology, participants make their own DNA--gene by gene--and then grow their designs into real applications by inserting them into microorganisms to develop different traits and characteristics provided by the genes. The project will involve students from a Philadelphia public high school and young people participating in weekend workshops at The Franklin Institute, a Philadelphia-based science museum.

This project is a part of NSF's Maker Dear Colleague Letter portfolio (NSF 15-086), a collaborative investment of Directorates for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, Education and Human Resources, and Engineering.

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Team Members

Yasmin KafaiYasmin KafaiPrincipal Investigator
Orkan TelhanOrkan TelhanCo-Principal Investigator

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