Synthetic biology is such a new, and largely undefined, field of science and we felt many people weren't aware of its existence or promising applications. So, as part of our outreach and human practices, the University of Melbourne team decided to spread the word of synthetic biology and iGEM to high school and university students, and the general public. We wanted to inspire and educate people and encourage the current and future students to be a part of iGEM and secure Melbourne University's' future in the competition.
For High School Students:
We felt that it was important to target students in their final years of high school. At this time in their schooling, some of them are thinking about going to University and possibly very unsure about what degrees/majors are on offer. We hoped that hearing about synthetic biology, and exciting extra curricular activities such as iGEM from current students would inspire them to consider a university education particularly in science. We gave talks in high schools to year 11 and 12 students taking Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. The presentations talked about the University experience, iGEM, synthetic biology, and some examples where synthetic biology has been successfully implemented to improve energy production, or health and medicine.
For University Students:
It seemed that even at a University, many people were unfamiliar with synthetic biology, even members of our iGEM team admittedly hadn't heard about it prior to getting involved in iGEM. We wanted to share our love of synthetic biology with the other science students, and tell them about iGEM and inspire them to join in the future. The University of Melbourne has had several teams in the past. But struggled to establish an iGEM legacy, simply because it isn't well known. The 2016 team is very passionate about making sure that the University will continue to have an iGEM team in the years to come, and we felt that class presentations was a good way to spread the word. We did talks in the 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate Biochemistry classes, telling them about our project and the many other exciting projects that have been achieved as part of iGEM in the past.
The General Public:
We wanted to inform the public about synthetic biology, and tell people about our project. The best way to do this seemed to be by using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, and Experiment.com. We successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign, which was shared over Facebook and reached almost ~2000 people. The crowd-funding page featured a video describing our project and its applications and raised more than USD$2,000. We also set up a citizen sciences blog on Wordpress (melbourneigem.wordpress.com) to share synthetic biology, biotechnology, and iGEM related news. Our vision is that the blog will be maintained by future Melbourne University iGEM teams and be a place where teams can interact with the community (followers) and post surveys, videos, and general updates on their progress.