Innovative educational tools and outreach activities have the ability to establish a two-way dialogue with new communities by discussing public values and the science behind synthetic biology.


Producing new, useful technical advances is equally important as spreading this information and making it accessible to everyone around the world. A basic understanding of synthetic biology is necessary for society to comprehend and critically assess the role that synthetic biology plays in resolving contemporary issues. In this approach, it's possible that more people may become open to synthetic biology's benefits for society.

With project SPYKE, we focused on the education of three groups, young childeren, teenagers and the iGEM community. We believe that it is of utmost importance to inspire young children (4–12 years old) using the synthetic biology field. We created a game that can playfully engage their creativity and intelligence as a result. We also gave importance to high school students, by inviting them into our lab and observing them as they conduct several experiments. We focused on the education among the iGEM community as well, both through the organization of an entrepreneurship event and the creation of guides on various subjects. Finally, we made an effort to educate people with our social media platforms.

Entrepreneurship event

On the 12th of August, our team organized an ‘Entrepreneurship for iGEM 101’ event. See Figure 1. It was an online event in which 37 teams signed up. The slides and recordings can be found here ( Jan Adriaanse presentation, Cailin Greiner presentation, Andreas Keymer presentation, Recording ). The event consisted of four parts.

First of all, our Finance & Entrepreneurship manager introduced the event and our team and talked about the basics of entrepreneurship. Second of all, Jan Adriaanse gave the first lecture. Mister Adriaanse is a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands and is an expert in Turnaround Management. Next to that, he is also involved with business himself. In his lecture, he talked about the key elements to start a business (in synthetic biology). Finding your customer’s ‘pain’ and the importance of marketing were highlighted. The participants were also able to ask mister Adriaanse questions.

The second speaker was Cailin Greiner. She is an investment analyst at YesDelft, a company that helps Dutch start-ups. She is also involved with YesDelft Funded, a sub-organization that helps small companies become investor ready and get win-win deals. Her lecture was about raising funds for a start-up. She talked about the financial start-up cycle and what investors look for.

The third speaker was Andreas Keymer. Mister Keymer is a patent attorney at V.O. Patents & Trademarks, the company that helped our team file the priority patent. In his lecture, he talked about what a patent is, how to apply for one and why it would be useful.

We hope that through this event, the iGEM teams learned more about the different options and opportunities regarding entrepreneurship but also were inspired to analyze the entrepreneurship part of their project.

Figure 1. Screenshot of the opening of the entrepreneurship event.

High school project (PWS) Guidance

For education, we also guided a high school project. A profielwerkstuk (PWS) is a large project that students do in their last years of high school in the Netherlands. Students (usually in groups of two) are supposed to put in 80 hours per person in their PWS. They can choose their own topic and formulate a research question and hypothesis. By doing literature research and possible lab experiments they answer their research question.

Our team offered a high school in Delft, Christelijk Lyceum Delft, the opportunity to guide two students in their PWS. Lotte Havik and Carlijn Voorwinde showed interest in this. We talked to them and told them about iGEM, our project and the lab experiments we are performing. We discussed what might be an interesting research question for them to further investigate. The question they chose was “Do the mutations L66K and V68K improve the binding affinity between the DNA in the sensor and the transciption factor BlcR?”. Based on this, our team designed a few experiments for them to perform in the laboratory.

On the 20th of July, Lotte and Carlijn came to our faculty. After a summary of what PCR, site directed mutagenesis and an agarose gel are, we started the lab training. The PowerPoint and documents can be found here and here . Since proper pipetting is of utmost importance for PCR, we practiced pipetting with our own pipet puzzle. A stock solution of Milli-Q with blue food coloring and two eppendorfs with a lower food coloring concentration had been made. The goal was to make dilutions of the stock solutions, measure the absorbance of the dilutions using a spectrophotometer, make a calibration line and determine the unknown concentrations in the eppendorfs. With this exercise, they learned to calculate the volumes needed for a certain concentration and to pipet carefully and precisely.

After that, a PCR reaction was performed with 2 mutants of the wildtype BlcR in which 1 amino acid was substituted. These mutations were ‘L66K’ (Leucine to Lysine) and ‘V68K’ (Valine to Lysine). They also performed a positive control, by adding DNA strands of which the weight and successfulness are known, and a negative control, by not adding polymerases respectively. It was very important for us that the students did not simply perform the steps, but also understood why they were performing the steps. After the PCR reaction finished, we made a gel (since minors are not allowed to work with SYBR safe) which they filled with their PCR products and the ladder. With this day, we hope that the students have learned more about the practical applications of site-directed mutagenesis and experiments regarding molecular biology. A picture of the lab day is displayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Picture of the PWS students working during their lab day.

After the lab day, our team called the students multiple times to further explain site directed mutagenesis and give general writing advice.

NUCLEO - the iGEM board game

Our team also designed and tested a synthetic biology board game. In the iGEM TU Delft board game, NUCLEO, the goal is to build proteins. By building proteins, the players earn points called ‘NUCLEOcoins’ and the player with the most NUCLEOcoins wins. The full explanation of the game can be found here . The content of the game is shown in the following figures.

Figure 3. All content of the synthetic biology boardgame NUCLEO.

Figure 4. Content of the synthetic biology boardgame NUCLEO.


In the design phase, our team discussed which elements were important to implement in the design of NUCLEO. We decided that the following elements were crucial.

Educational. Our main objective was to teach about molecular biology in a fun way. A lot of information about the different proteins, genetic processes and protein synthesis can be found on the playing cards and in the rules. This way, the players can still learn about these topics if they desire to. This combination results in a game that is accessible and possible to play with children as well, but can still be interesting and educational for older children and adults.

Luck. This element is crucial for successful board games since it gives each player the chance to win the game. This element is implemented by the dice. Certain sides of the 6-sided die are statistically more beneficial, i.e. gaining two amino acids instead of one amino acid. The proteins that the player is supposed to build determine which amino acids are beneficial to acquire with the 20-sided die.

Strategy. Next to luck, strategy is of utmost importance for a successful board game. Players should be able to make choices that influence their winning chance. In this game, the player is faced with choices such as when to activate certain action cards, whether to keep or trade certain protein cards and whether to build proteins now or later in the game. This way, the game is more challenging for older players as well.

Variability. Because of the different protein cards, action cards and trading opportunities, NUCLEO games will vary greatly. This makes the game more interesting to play multiple times.

Interactive. For us, it was important that the players not only play the game against themselves but are also involved with the other players. Having trading moments and action cards that involve other players promotes the interactivity of NUCLEO.

Accessible. For NUCLEO itself the players don't need to have much knowledge of (synthetic) biology, making it easier to play. This allows NUCLEO to be played by younger children as well.

Fun. The last element of a successful board game in our opinion is fun. With interesting and unique rules, such as the determination of the first player by imitating proteins, NUCLEO becomes less static and more fun.

Keeping in mind the previous elements, we started designing the rules of the game. After the first designing round, we discussed NUCLEO with GameLab. GameLab is an institution within the TU Delft that develops games and simulations. We discussed the objective of the game, the rules and how easy it would be to play. We incorporated their feedback into the design and rules.


Our team then created a prototype for NUCLEO that has been played by our team over 10 times with varying amounts of players. After some playing rounds, the rules and design have been updated based on the feedback based on these questions. NUCLEO has gone through multiple design rounds this way. Every time the rules were updated, the game was played again with the new rules. A picture of the testing rounds with the team is presented in Figure 5.

team testing board game
Figure 5. NUCLEO testing round within the team.

After we were pleased with the design and rules, players outside the team tested the game as well. The game has first been tested by iGEM Thessaloniki. See Figure 6 and Figure 7. More information about this can be found here .

Figure 6. iGEM Thessaloniki playing iGEM TU Delft's game NUCLEO.

Figure 7. iGEM TU Delft playing iGEM Thessaloniki's game.


Another target group for our team were other future iGEM teams. We devoted time to creating multiple guides that can be found here . With these guides, we hope that future teams can more easily use the techniques described in the guides.

Molecular Biology Quiz

On our Instagram page, we had a weekly molecular biology quiz. For the quiz, we posted a story with a question about molecular biology and three answer options. Instagram automatically tells you if you selected the right answer. The next story had an explanation for the answer. Figure 8 contains photos of one of these quizzes.

Figure 8. Picture of a question and answer for the Molecular Biology Quiz.