| NDSU - iGEM 2022


2022 was a unique year for our team. Being the second year in the iGEM competition, we knew some of the challenges that lay ahead and what we could improve from our previous project. One of the biggest areas we felt we could improve was Community Outreach and Education. With only one year as a team under our belt and being one of two teams within the Midwest, very few people in our community know about synthetic biology, let alone iGEM. This year we set out to change that through community outreach and education.

We put great effort into being inclusive of all age groups with our outreach efforts and teaching multiple age ranges about synthetic biology and the iGEM competition. We made curated activities for all ages including informative kits to make DNA bead keychains and step by step guides for at-home strawberry DNA extractions. We also presented at multiple college campuses detailing our project and the benefits of synthetic biology. We hope that these opportunities to engage with children, college students, and adults, will provide insight and interest in synthetic biology for people of all ages.

Science Communication

Our world is at a crossroads where quality, transparent, and meaningful science communication is more important than ever before. One of our main goals with our outreach and education this year was to get people engaged with science and promote good science communication. We aimed to achieve these goals through multiple in person presentation opportunities. Presentations at North Dakota State University and University of North Dakota were both aimed at college students and professors and a third and final presentation at the Fargo-Moorhead Red River Market aimed our outreach towards everyone from children to adults. All of these opportunities yielded very positive feedback and garnered much interest from their respective audiences.

North Dakota State University Student Activities Expo

This presentation was aimed at the students on campus at NDSU. We curated a tri-fold poster about our club and our 2022 iGEM project that we used to present the goal of our project and how we aim to change the textile industry. This event garnered great communication amongst a diverse array of students from many different majors. Additionally, this gave us the opportunity to get students interested in helping with future projects and the potential that synthetic biology has to change the world. We curated this presentation to get students engaged with the content of our project, specifically the opportunities associated with being on an iGEM team such as lab experience, travel opportunities, opportunity to develop a novel project, and collaboration with other teams. We also added photos of our current project to show students how we are able to recombinantly produce natural dyes using bacteria, and explain that with synthetic biology the opportunity for innovation is virtually infinite. This presentation allowed us to show the general student body how amazing science and synthetic biology can be!


2022 North Dakota IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (ND INBRE) Symposium

Our Booth

At the ND INBRE symposium, we took part in the poster session, where student researchers from across the state of North Dakota presented their work. We used this opportunity to talk about what iGEM is and what our 2022 project is all about. Our poster was tailored towards a college-aged audience, but because this was a research symposium, we also talked about the specifics of our project and our design process. Surprisingly, almost no one had heard of iGEM. This presented an excellent opportunity for us to spread awareness about this competition and our club in the North Dakota scientific community. We received a lot of positive feedback about the goals and initiatives of our project, as well as tips we could use moving forward. This event was a great opportunity for us to gain some advice and bring awareness to our project and the iGEM competition as a whole.

Fargo-Moorhead Red River Market

Kids at the Market Our Booth Kid at the Market

As part of our commitment to educate our community about genetic engineering, we hosted a booth at the Red River Market, a local event held every Saturday in Fargo North Dakota from July to October. This event was the perfect opportunity for our team to engage in science communication with a vast array of people, ranging from children to the elderly. In order to garner excitement about genetics, we gave away free science kits which had two fun activities that focused on the basics of DNA. The first activity was a DIY lab experiment, where kids could extract the DNA from a strawberry. The second was a craft kit for a Double helix bead keychain, designed to teach about the structure of DNA. While these activities were aimed at younger children, we were thrilled at just how many adults took an interest in our booth. We also enjoyed hearing positive feedback from local parents, teachers, and even field professionals. Our team ended up giving away 100 science kits.

At the event, we engaged in conversations with members of our community at a variety of education levels, from people outside of the science community to genetic counselors and science educators. We witnessed kids of all ages with a range of interest in science wanting to learn more about biology with our activity kits. The younger kids were intrigued when we told them they could see and hold the strawberry’s DNA at the end of the first activity. We had a few middle and high school students that had extracted DNA from strawberries in biology class and were excited they could now try it at home on their own. We also had the chance to exchange ideas with local educators. A few suggested outreach ideas for next year that we are excited to try. The feedback we received at this event will direct how we structure our scientific communication in future seasons.

DNA Extraction Handout

This activity was made specifically for elementary aged students to do with their parents or guardians. It’s not only fun, but also educational and teaches children about the basics of DNA and one of the most essential techniques we use in synthetic biology, DNA extraction. This is not only an engaging activity for young students however, but fun for all ages especially for those who may not have much experience in the biosciences. It is always fascinating being able to see DNA at the end of this activity and that is what makes it such a mesmerizing activity for everyone. This handout was designed with vibrant colors and great art that makes it very engaging for younger people, but also appreciated by the older audience. Accompanied with this activity is a QR code that links to a youtube video made for children that further teaches about the importance of DNA. In addition to the handout we gave out a small bag of dry supplies needed for the DNA extraction composed of a ziploc bag, a popsicle stick, and a coffee filter. The other supplies needed (two strawberries, soap, salt, water, and rubbing alcohol) would need to be found at home, however they are very common and are typical household items. This activity was a big hit at the market, and gave us the opportunity to teach people of all ages about science and synthetic biology.

Strawberry DNA kit page 1
Strawberry DNA kit page 2

DNA Bead Keychain

DNA Keychain Instructions 1 DNA Keychain Instructions 2
DNA Keychain

This was another activity that we handed out at the Red River Market. This activity was also aimed at people of all ages and was made to be fun and educational for people of all backgrounds. This activity and the associated handout teach about DNA, the four base pairs, and why DNA is so important. This allows for people of diverse backgrounds and age groups to learn about the basics of biology as well as how we utilize DNA in synthetic biology. For this activity we provided all the materials needed to assemble the key chains as well instructions and an informational handout to guide them through the activity. With both this activity and the DNA extraction handout we aimed to spread the amazing things that can be done with science in two simple and elegant activities that are fun for everyone.