Team:Calgary/Public Engagement

Team:Calgary/Public Engagement -


The iGEM 2018 Calgary team focused our outreach and education efforts on targeting three tiers of stakeholders involved in the project: researchers, students, and the general public.


Faculty Talk

In May of 2018, our team held a informational presentation outlining our preliminary ideas and plans for researchers, doctors, and general interest groups at the University of Calgary. Our team used this time as an opportunity to connect with the individuals who are most likely to utilize our system in the future and listen to feedback surrounding our project. More about the feedback we received during this meeting can be found in our Integrated Human Practices page. One of our other dominant purposes of holding this information session was to educate researchers and professionals about our future plans regarding this system. We held this talk early in the summer to increase awareness and relevance of our project. A common theme we encountered in our early human practices discussions included concerns about the ethics and connotations surrounding a “gene therapy” project. We wanted to make sure that we had reached out properly to the target users of our system and addressed these concerns directly.


International Baccalaureate Curriculum

In an effort to engage with aspiring scientists worldwide, our team sought to create a new synthetic biology addition to the International Baccalaureate Organization program. The IB Biology Higher Level curriculum contains a variety of “optional studies,” where students are able to choose which topic to write on for their exam. Our team planned to create a novel “synthetic biology” option for high school IB students. We drafted a rough outline of the contents of a synthetic biology option, which we brought to discuss with IB teachers at Father Lacombe High School and Western Canada High School.

However, after meeting with Mr. Norman Hounjet (IB Coordinator), Mrs. Marija Susnjar (IB Coordinator), and Ms. Anna Majczak (IB Biology teacher) at Father Lacombe High School and Susan Rivers (IB Coordinator) at Western Canada High School, we were informed that the IB Organization had already passed their period of public corroboration for their upcoming curriculum change. Regardless, we have included our preliminary plans for a curriculum component here and we urge any high schools with flexibility in their curriculums to integrate synthetic biology concepts into their learning.

High School Lesson Plan

A common theme heard throughout meetings with Father Lacombe High School Teachers and Western Canada High School was that teachers would be more willing to integrate single-class lesson plans into their regular curriculum rather than an entire curriculum change. Taking this feedback, our team designed a lesson plan for a “Synthetic Biology 101” lesson, including a powerpoint on introductory synthetic biology and common laboratory techniques, as well as a strawberry DNA extraction activity.

This lesson plan is approximately 1.5 hours long and is intended for high school students in grade 11 or 12 with some but not extensive previous knowledge on cell biology. A full work-through of the lesson-plan can be found here. Alternatively, a printable version is available through this link.

Notre Dame Collegiate High School iGEM Graphic Design Workshop

After hearing that the Notre Dame Collegiate High School iGEM team enjoyed our graphic design during the aGEM (Alberta) competition, we decided to hold a graphic design workshop for their team. Rainer, our team’s graphic designer, walked a few members of the Notre Dame team through tips and tricks for creating eye-catching logos, diagrams, and slide-shows. We specifically worked with their team to upgrade their logo and provided a list of resources for them to refer to for their future graphic design needs.

General Public

Telus Spark's Adults Only Night

Our team participated in the “Hack It” event at Telus Spark’s Adults Only Night in September 2018, where we hosted a booth to promote our project and spread synthetic biology awareness in the community. We brought a hands-on Strawberry DNA Extraction activity, where community members could make drinkable strawberry daiquiris. At our booth, we promoted Snip, Equip, Flip and answered any outstanding questions surrounding gene editing and integration. Response from the public was positive, and we were glad to have had this opportunity to showcase our project to the members of the community.

We have outlined our procedure for strawberry DNA daiquiri activity in our protocols page - we believe that adults, not just children, can learn about and have fun with science.

Thought Leaders Meeting

Our team strongly believes that we, as scientists, should always consider and respect the varying faiths, doctrines, and perspectives of the general public. As a result, we decided to meet with the Alberta Health Services’ Spiritual Care Advisory Committee, a group of religious thought leaders from different faiths involved in healthcare-related decision-making in Alberta. We explained our project and its applications both as a research tool and as a gene therapy tool. Our project received great support from their team, which expressed great interest in integrating the core components of our project into their outreach efforts in the community. The Spiritual Care Advisory Committee often works closely with patients in our healthcare system - by reaching out through them, we were able to communicate to the general public about the uses of our project.


North American iGEM Kickoff

The Calgary team participated in and hosted the North American iGEM Kickoff in July 2018. We were joined in person by several Alberta iGEM teams and video called with teams from around North America. We were able to establish collaborations and learn about other teams’ projects. Specifically, we began planning our collaboration with the Lethbridge team. The Kickoff also involved several workshops hosted by synthetic biology entrepreneurs and iGEM alumni. These were very useful for constructing a narrative, hearing more about the realm of synthetic biology, and wiki design principles.


Our team participated in and hosted the aGEM event at the University of Calgary on September 22 and 23, 2018. Along with 6 other iGEM teams, we presented our project to a panel of judges, who are all involved with iGEM. We were extremely thankful to receive feedback following our presentation, regarding our visual presentation slides, content, and presenting style. This feedback was readily incorporated into the presentation we are preparing for iGEM. We also had the opportunity to learn about and collaborate with other Alberta iGEM teams. Notably, we began a collaboration with the Notre Dame Collegiate High School.