Team:UCL E/Outreach



The Public BioBrick

One of the inspirations for our company was provided by an extensive human practice activity from last year. We were strongly involved in the Public BioBrick project, a 5-month collaboration between UCL iGEM and the London Biohackers to explore the potential of citizen scientists to access and contribute to the Registry of Parts.

The project included molecular biology work in the London Hackspace as well as UCL's teaching labs, into which we invited the citizen scientists. In the end, the work culminated in the first BioBrick submitted to the Registry that was completely designed and made by a public, non-academic group. Finally, the result was exhibited and discussed at the Grant Museum in London by a large audience from a variety of backgrounds.

This collaboration was our first of many interactions with the DIYbio community, and have been an important stepping stone in discovering the needs of citizen scientists to access synthetic biology in a safe and responsible way.

Photo: Gel running during the exhibition, visualizing the "Public BioBrick"

Public BioBrick Exhibition

iGEM High School

Earlier this year, we helped mentor the first UK iGEM HS team at UCL Academy, a new academy school for pupils of any background. Even though the school is much better equipped than most public schools, the essential equipment for participation in iGEM - a PCR machine, a gel electrophoresis device, etc - was missing and laboratory work had to be carried out in our university laboratories with the high school students.

This experience has not just taught us about the necessity for affordable equipment that can be used in the classroom, but also about the need for the tools to be user-friendly to the inexperienced.

Photo: iGEM HS team from UCL Academy, working on their project "Mutare Papyrum"

Social Enterprise Grant

Going forwards, we want to test Darwin Toolbox in a large variety of contexts, not just inside the classroom. We have successfully applied for a social enterprise grant to work with different communities in London and explore the potential of citizen biotechnology to increase science literacy and contribute to the solution of community problems.

With the funding secured, we are now approaching the first communities, such as Hackney City Farm and the Somerstown Community, which is in need of quickly increasing confidence about biotechnology, as it is faced with the construction of the Francis Crick Institute.

Speed Debate

We were invited to host an event for the Bloomsbury Festival, whose topic was "The Future of Food". This allowed us to explore, amongst other food-related topics, the idea of using Darwin Toolbox as a food testing device.

For the event, we opted for the speed debating format, which we pioneered last year and even gave a talk about at the annual science communication BIG event.

MakerFaire Rome

In October, we were invited to attend the MakerFaire Rome and present the work-in-progress prototype of Darwin Toolbox. We shared a large booth with The Kitchen, a London based BioArt studio and together we presented our own projects, iGEM and the Registry of Parts, and DIYbio. Rome gave us a tremendous boost of confidence. The response and enthusiasm we got for Darwin Toolbox was overwhelming, and almost a third of our visitors asked to purchase one. These included field researchers, but also parents who were keen to explore biotechnology with their children and get them interested in Synthetic Biology.

Pictures from MakerFaire Rome