Synthetic Biology Outreach:
From the start of our team's inception, Aquamatic Technologies interacted with a variety of student groups to communicate how synthetic biology has evolved and continues to change the future of science. Engaging students with science and technology was a main goal of ours, one that evolved as we found new ways to interact with students.
Our first two events were both lecture style presentations followed with a series of short, small and large group discussions. With U-Design, a university wide event created for visiting elementary and middle school students, we held a shorter series of small discussions that included each member of Aquamatic Technologies explaining a different microfluidic chip design to students. After reconvening, we each found that these students had unique and new perspectives on how far such technology could be taken in the synthetic biology field. We were again pleasantly surprised by such high levels of interest and engagement during a BioEthics presentation later that week. When students were split up to discuss the pros and cons of colonizing Mars, the debates that sprung up were focused on points regarding societal functions that our team did not initially expect.
In this first series of events, students learned about new biological concepts and technologies from Aquamatic Technologies, while our team was presented with novel approaches and solutions to problems students thought synthetic biology could help solve.
From this point forward, Aquamatic Technologies changed its approach in education outreach. In our next collaboration with BioBuilder after explaining our project to students, we entered a collaborative discussion where both groups, Aquamatic Technologies and the BioBuilder student teams, brainstormed together and gave advice on how to engineer more viable solutions. During the Cambridge Science Festival, our team was the most hands-on yet with pH activities and the ability to have in-depth explanations and conversations about synthetic biology.
Finally, the educational resources our team created for students to use in conjunction with our PI Douglas Densmore’s Introductory Synthetic Biology Course were a compilation of the advice and feedback we received throughout the summer. Both in person and online students specified to us how and what they would like to learn more about in the synthetic biology field, and our team followed these instructions in our SynBio Dictionary and adjacent lecture notes.
As students return to school this fall it will be even easier to reach out via classroom visits and tours; Aquamatic Technologies plans to maintain its involvement with students and spread the message of synthetic biology and iGEM. Further reading about each of these events is available in our Outreach section.