Team:KU Leuven/Human Outreach/Education


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Secret garden

Congratulations! You've found our secret garden! Follow the instructions below and win a great prize at the World jamboree!

  • A video shows that two of our team members are having great fun at our favourite company. Do you know the name of the second member that appears in the video?
  • For one of our models we had to do very extensive computations. To prevent our own computers from overheating and to keep the temperature in our iGEM room at a normal level, we used a supercomputer. Which centre maintains this supercomputer? (Dutch abbreviation)
  • We organised a symposium with a debate, some seminars and 2 iGEM project presentations. An iGEM team came all the way from the Netherlands to present their project. What is the name of their city?

Now put all of these in this URL:, (loose the brackets and put everything in lowercase) and follow the very last instruction to get your special jamboree prize!

tree ladybugcartoon

Our goal was to spark the interest of high school students in science and synthetic biology, and to tell them more about our project and the applications of synthetic biology. We have already visited several high schools in Flanders and we will visit some more after the Jamboree.
Schools visited so far:
17th of September: Sint-Dimpnacollege, GEEL
23th of September: Sint-Lodewijkscollege, BRUGGE
1st of October: European School of Mol, MOL
15th of October: Campus Sint-Aloysois, ZEPPEREN
17th of October: Sint-Jan Berchmanscollege, DIEST
22th of October: Sint-Ritacollege, KONTICH


The workshop we prepared consists of a presentation, some exercises with 'LegoBricks' we designed and an experiment at the end. You can find the presentation in Dutch and in English and our text in Dutch.
We started by giving a short introduction about DNA and its biochemistry. In general the students already had an introduction to DNA in class, but it was still very new to them. We then informed them about bacteria and which bacteria we use in the lab. We made a 3D-bacterial model, which gave the students an idea of what a bacterium looks like. The model was printed by Fablab and consists of 3 layers. Inside, there is a representation of the cytoplasm, the plasmid and the bacterial genome.
After the introduction we came to the main part of our workshop: explaining what synthetic biology and its applications are. As an example, we discussed the development of modified yeast that can produce artemisinin to treat malaria. Subsequently, we presented our project by illustrating the mechanisms and properties of our bacteria. Our last topic in the presentation was the discussion about the ethical and social implications of synthetic biology in general, as well as in our project.

3D bacterial model


After the presentation, we gave the students two exercises about building new systems with plastic puzzle pieces. We made promotors, genes, regulators and proteins out of plexiglas in different colours.
First they had to make a biosensor system developed by the iGEM team of Groningen in 2009. The biosensor can detect arsenic and the bacteria can absorb this arsenic out of the water. To do this, they used an arsenic inducible promotor, followed by a gene encoding for a protein that helps with the production of hydrogen.
In the second exercise, we used our ED Frosti model circuit (iGEM project of KU Leuven 2011). ED Frosti can defrost ice and freeze water. We made a simplified system of ED Frosti, consisting of two activators, three promotors, four genes and a feedback-loop.

Plexiglas models Plexiglas system Exercise
Experiment Experiment


The experiment proves that gene expression can be inducible so bacteria can adapt to different circumstances. If there’s lactose in the environment, E. coli will produce β-galactosidase to hydrolyse the lactose. When there’s no lactose, β-galactosidase won’t be produced. We didn’t use lactose, but we used ONPG. ONPG is a substrate of β-galactosidase and will turn yellow after hydrolysis. The yellow colour is proof of the presence of β-galactosidase. We couldn’t use E. coli in the high-school because of the safety regulations, but we explained the principle of inducible genes and showed the enzymatic reaction with β-galactosidase and ONPG. The students did this experiment themselves and they worked with micropipettes for the first time.


Feedback from the schools

On the 17th of September, Flore and Sabine went to the Sint-Dimpnacollege. It was the first time we gave the workshops and everything went well. We gave the workshop three times to students in the sixth year of science-mathematics and latin-science. The students were enthusiastic and very interested. We got positive feedback from the teachers and students.
On the 23th of September, Lukas and Bert went to the Sint-Lodewijkscollege. These students were also very enthusiastic and interested in synthetic biology and our project. We got a lot of good responses to our workshop.
We also went to a European school. Aurelie and Lukas gave the workshop to a selection of international students. The students were from the Dutch, English and French section. Here we gave the presentation in English. The teachers here were so impressed with our Plexiglas biobrick system that they asked if they could buy it from us (maybe entrepeneurial iGEM competition next year?)!


Picture gallery