Team:UFMG Brazil/HumanPractices




On April 19th, when we were starting to be known inside the university, we were invited to make a presentation about iGEM, our team members and project proposal for the competition on the seminar schedule organized by the Biochemistry and Immunology Post-Graduation Program. Then, we could already practice a formal presentation and still receive valuable tips from UFMG researchers, concerning both the preliminary chosen biomarkers and the experimental approaches for achieving our aim.

UFMG & Escolas

In order to introduce children to synthetic biology universe (literally… virtually travelling to Mars!) of present and future applications, we have created and applied a didactic (and, please… fun!) game for middle school students. This opportunity and public arose from a preceding, very prestigious project (called “UFMG & Escolas”, literally UFMG & Schools; ufmg-escolas/) from the Biological Sciences Institute (ICB) of our university, whose intention is presenting compulsory school students to scientific life. Along a week, students participate in a sort of activities related to what academic community produces and also develop and present the proposal and results of an empiric project they themselves idealize and execute. According to our planning, a short presentation told students about the concept of synthetic biology, the biological structures and techniques supporting it and the iGEM competition. Once students had this basic information, they were oriented to separate themselves into seven groups, dispersed along the room where there were monitors from Brazil_UFMG team. Each group received a card deck and chose an initially secret mission to explore by engineering a genetically modified organism (GMO). On a first moment, the card game (BRICKARD) was played among the group mates: each student should individually try joining the set of cards he/she judged propitious to form the GMO able to solve the problem presented on the mission of the group. At this time, they knew only details about their own mission, while there were cards, related to the other missions, whose utility they ignored. Whether no one could show a complete, congruent set, approved by all group mates at the end of 5 minutes, the group together should elect one. On a second phase, independently from how they achieve the agreed set, the whole group should present its mission and chosen solution to everyone, justifying why. The boys and girls were always stimulated to speculate, trace hypotheses and show arguments (for or against), but direct answers were not easily given to them. After each group final presentation, students were argued and evaluated by other students (their pairs!), which decided if the group efforts deserved or not a reward (two yummy chocolates…). All of them received candies and applauses, but the real sweetness was on their discovering about how science is made and where biological engineering may take us.

Brickard Game

BRICKARD is the card game we created as a tool to help explaining synthetic biology in a fun way to the students that came to the UFMG & Escolas event. The game consists in a deck composed by 40 cards, which are divided into the main biobrick categories: promoter cards, RBS cards, coding region cards, terminator cards and chassis cards. Each group receive a mission alongside the deck, with an explanatory text regarding a problem they have to solve combining the cards, just like we do (with the real stuff!) in our lab. The missions were priority based on projects from past iGEM participations. They were: Mission 1: Mission 2: Mission 3: Mission 4: Mission 5: Mission 6: Mission 7 – Our own project!: To simulating difficulties faced on real experiments, there were incompatibilities among some cards. Promoter and terminator cards were classified according to an arbitrary force from 1 to 5 (represented by the number of full colored stars on cards), suggesting that different sequences present different affinities and, so, act on transcription on different ways. Thus, weak promoters could just be used with strong terminators, and constitutive promoters must join weak terminators following precise indications on each card description. Some options of chassis may apply, but the real possibility of their use should be justified; besides, each chassis must be combined with a specific RBS (bacteria with bacteria RBS, yeast with yeast RBS and so on), pointing the existence of molecular patterns that turn a sequence specific to a certain organism. Finally, the coding region cards included a sort of key genes to solve the problems proposed; the gene originally used by the related iGEM team was our expectation for each mission, but we were open to new creative, wellsupported devices students might present.

Publicity and Sponsoring

Together with our pleasure on promoting events that seed and grow knowledge about synthetic biology and the iGEM on people of many ages, we had to concern about a more practical problem: money to develop and travel to present our work! An iGEM team cannot live only from ideas after all… Due to it, part of the material we have created/provided, besides widely disseminating these concepts and our ideas, team and project, acted more directly on the seeking for sponsors and people that liked, learned and could become willing to support us financially.



Crowd Funding




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