iGEM team teaches younger students about science


This year’s International Genetically Engineered Machine team began teaching two kindergarten classes and all seventh-grade students about science to engage them at an earlier age through fun lessons and activities. The iGEM project this year aims to find a solution to ALDH2 enzyme deficiency, which causes causes difficulties in breaking down ethanol in the body. Emily, Human Practice Head, says, “We started this initiative because STEM is increasingly becoming a prominent field and we want to introduce student to science and its applications.”
The iGEM team introduced seventh-graders to synthetic biology, the combination of biology and engineering which allows us to design DNA that can carry out specific functions, and then led them through some common lab techniques utilized in a synthetic biology lab. “We taught them pipetting techniques, the process of electrophoresis, as well as the basic structure of DNA constructs,” says Nicole Chang (’18).
Emily explains that iGEM teaches the kindergartners about an “intangible force” which governs the world and where they can find these forces. She says, “We conducted activities such as ‘The Magic Cabbage’ where we introduced them to pH levels, and [others that] taught them about rainbows and the concepts of light. We also had balloon activities which taught charges, described to them as magical forces that attract each other.”
Nicole says, “It’s nice to see older students getting to pass on information to younger students. In a way we’re sort of role models to them. If they see how excited we are about the subject and how interesting synthetic biology and iGEM is, they can get a head start at pursuing it in the future.” Emily recounts that one of the seventh graders she taught thanked her for teaching, and said that he hopes to join the team someday. “Just looking into their eyes filled with a hunger for knowledge made me more passionate about what I’m doing,” Emily says.