Team:TU Darmstadt/Public Engagement

Education and Engagement

Engaging in dialog with communities has been a big part of our iGEM year. Down below, you can see our efforts and what the community had to say about our education aspect.

How would pupils plan our project and what would be their critical opinion on being responsible? 
This year, we went to several schools in our area, visiting their biology courses. We designed our presentation to be very interactive; and were very pleased to see the students' eagerness to participate and share their opinion. While we talked about biology and iGEM, we focused heavily on our project and synthetic biology. A good amount of time was spent discussing the students’ concerns. With regards to our possible application as nanospheres, they demonstrated environmental concerns by fearing micro-plastics and medication leaking into the groundwater. Another issue was the controlled dose of active substances released from the nanospheres into the bloodstream. Though, in general they seemed very open towards synthetic biology and its application in the production of materials. We were able to ease some of their worries regarding leftover bacteria in the produced monomers and still emphasized the importance of responsible science.

How can we explain our project and synthetic biology, so that we can discuss it with others on equal footing?
Through our connection with CompuGene, we were invited by ProLOEWE to spent a few days at the Hessentag 2018 in Korbach, Germany. The Hessentag is a week long, annual event arranged by the german State of Hesse. Its main focus is the representation of the different scientific fields, institutions and the regions of the state. Each year, the Hessentag gathers thousands of people from many different backgrounds. We took this opportunity to talk about iGEM and our project to the general public and get their opinion on it. For an easy understanding of our project, we presented it using our poster, so that all the public could understand it. Something we made sure of, was to help them understand modern synthetic biology and its promising approaches, as well as the benefit our project might eventually have. Many visitors were impressed about our project and they seemed very open to our ideas. Furthermore, they described our plan as innovative, sustainable, and helpful.
We also seized the unique opportunity given by Radio Weinwelle for a live performance in their radio broadcast. Two of our members went on air for an hour and answered as many questions as possible regarding our project, who we are, and what iGEM is. Since the audience was predominantly not familiar with current limits and opportunities in plastics production, we tried to promote the awareness of current dependence on petrochemicals and break down barriers to the use of microorganisms as production hosts. We greatly appreciated the given opportunity and had lots of fun during the show. The hosts even told us, they had never heard of synthetic biology in such a positive and informative way before. We genuinely hope that it was possible for us to fulfill our mission to bring light to a topic generally misunderstood, so that people could recognize the advantages of synthetic biology.

With all these actions, the iGEM team TU Darmstadt was very active and present in various events, where many people of all ages got to hear about our project and the advantages of it. We also made sure that they had the tools they might need to arrive at an educated decision about issues regarding synthetic biology. Besides all of this, we also went to several trade fairs around Germany.

For more information on our Human Practices work, visit our HP page!