The CSU Fort Collins iGEM team deliberately chose a project that is a hot topic in the synthetic biology world. By focusing on antibiotic resistance and mechanisms to combat this, we felt it important to gain a better understanding of the community’s knowledge and receptiveness to advances in this field. A large portion of conducting safe, responsible research that is good for the world is understanding the public’s knowledge and comfort level with these high-level advances. Our community outreach efforts were divided into these two areas of focus: education and awareness.
In order to educate the public on Synthetic Biology, we as a team decided to target the 5-14 age group by volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club STEAM Fest. STEAM Fest stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. At this event, approximately 200 kids in the Northern Colorado region came together to learn about these disciplines from organizations in the community. Our team hosted a booth at the event that led kids through hands-on synthetic biology activities. The first activity allowed students to extract wheat germ DNA. This served as the foundation for discussions with students regarding the function of DNA and the ability to selectively mix and match DNA such as in the selective breeding of wheat. We then introduced the idea of designing organisms to fulfill particular needs and functions. Students had the chance to design a superhero to save someone from falling off of a building as well as a single-celled organism to clean up an oil spill. Students were then able to draw similarities and differences between designing a superhero and a microorganism.