Engineering Biology: Outreach and Opportunities for Students K-12 (Lead PI: Natalie Kuldell)

Engineering Biology: Outreach and Opportunities for Students K-12

Students Reached:  60 Elementary, middle, and ~15 high school students
Lead Researcher: Dr. Natalie Kuldell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Lead Teacher: Dr. Rebekah Ravgiala, Tyngsborough High School

This project aimed to make bioengineering and synthetic biology more accessible to students from elementary through high school. This was done by the development of targeted outreach activities for elementary and middle school students, the development of a modular Introduction to Genetic Circuits course for middle school students, and the sponsorship of a team of high school students for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition. An elementary school science night was held in 2013 and a three-week BioBuilder Jr. outreach event for middle school students was planned for the 2014-2015 academic year by this team of high school students. All activities supported by this award are in line with the Next Generation Science Standards as described in 2012.

The activities supported by this award are based on the techniques and curricula developed by BioBuilder, an educational foundation devoted to providing engaging, safe, hands-on opportunities for high school and college students to learn bioengineering. BioBuilder was founded by Dr. Natalie Kuldell, an instructor in the Biological Engineering department at MIT. BioBuilder’s main focus is reaching high school and college students, and those efforts were expanded to an elementary school science night led by the Tyngsborough High School iGEM team and National Honor Society chapter. This science night, called Science is Elementary and held October 24th, 2013, featured projects that could be performed by the 60 students who attended who ranged in age from 6 – 10. Most of the planning efforts to expand this event to a three-week course for middle school students, including the design of the modular Introduction to Genetic Circuits activity, were completed. More time will be devoted to improving this event and accessing this new audience in the future. Although they were unable to attend the international jamboree event in June of 2014, the iGEM team presented their work at an evening poster session with local BioTech clubs. Dr. Rebekah Ravgiala, science teacher at Tyngsborough High School, coordinated the science night and the iGEM team, served as a community liaison, and co-developed new material for BioBuilder.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase supplies for the Science is Elementary night and supplies for the development of the middle school BioBuilder Jr. outreach event.

Responses to the elementary school science night were very positive and the winners of this award were asked to host it again in 2014. Plans to further improve the BioBuilder Jr. outreach event are ongoing. Following these successes and unplanned in the original HOPES application, a new class titled Engineering Biology has been planned as an elective at Tyngsborough High School.

KuldellImage_1  KuldellImage_2

Left: Students making genetic circuits
Right: BioTech club poster session with THS iGEM team members, MIT