Engagement - iGEM Peshawar 2016

iGEM Peshawar travelled a total of 6112 kilometers and spent almost 62 hours spreading synbio awareness across Pakistan. Our roadshow stopped by schools, colleges and universities, engaging over 5000 students, teachers, parents, and members of the community. We also set up a 'Bio–Machines' lab at Magnifi–Science in Karachi — one of the biggest science fairs in the country. Because we were engaging a diverse audience, consisting of people of all ages and background, our activities were designed to keep everyone involved!






public-engagement-map Hover your mouse on any dot to find out more about each event
An interactive map of Pakistan with bubbles showing the location of the various workshops and presentations we conducted to promote synthetic biology. The size of each bubble is proportional to the size of the audience. Hover your mouse on a bubble to find out more details about each event.

Our Activities in Schools

DIY DNA Extraction!

"DNA is the code of life. It carries all the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all living things. And the best part? We can play with it! Learn how and why DNA is extracted and then try out your hands using a Do-it-yourself (DIY) kitchen method to extract DNA from your favourite fruit. Extract and compare your very own DNA samples just like real scientists do!" This is the kind of activity we engaged our audiance in.

Everyone, especially the children, enjoyed this fun–to–do experiment and took home not just their freshly extracted fruit DNA, but also a very good understanding of how DNA controls our cells and how we can now print our own! Click here to download our activity protocol.

Designer Bugs: Design your own biological system

"Synthetic Biology is one of the hottest areas in biotechnology these days. It is biology that is being driven by engineering principles to design DNA parts, circuits and devices that re–engineer living cells, making them work exactly the way we want to. Learn about this dynamic new science, the principles involved, the art of designing biological systems, the iGEM competition, what we are developing, and more! Once you know the structure of genes in detail and how DNA parts can be 'wired' together to build new genetic 'circuits', it is time to design your very own, brand new biological system using a selection of DNA parts. The best system design wins a special prize!"

We directed this towards an older age group, mostly high–school and undergrad students, using videos and slides to explain exactly how we do SynBio. After the tutorial, participants were divided into groups and given a catalog of some of the most interesting parts available in the registry. Students had an exciting time designing their own projects, from the ATGC Fire Dept (HeatShock promoter + CO reductase) to a Romantic Bio–candle (RFP + flower scent)!

Our catalog can be found here.

Bio-bricks expedition: The Quest for Parts!

"All around the world, SynBio scientists are embarking on exciting adventures, on the hunt for new DNA parts. Join the Quest and journey deep into the entrancing and amazing realm of 'GenBank' — NCBI's public online database for DNA sequences, home to even the rarest of all genes, where only the smartest of explorers survive and succeed. Hunt down your favorite gene and bring back your spoil, and be remembered forever as one of the smartest explorers known to science! Are you ready for the challenge?"

Bio-Bricks Trading card game

To make SynBio, especially Bio-Bricks and systems design, more accessible and fun for younger kids, we decided to design a game. We kept the following points in mind while brain-storming:

  • 1. It should be engaging and interactive
  • 2. It should be simple, easy to understand and play
  • 3. It should be extremely attractive and fun!

After lots of ideas, including a scrabble–like systems board game and even a slot machine, we decided on Trading Cards. Our team then started designing the layout and picking out some very interesting parts from the registry.

The Bio–Brick cards are of three categories — Promoters, Coding Sequences, and Terminators. The attractive DNA design on the back makes them all easy to align together as a system. Because they're meant to be educational, and for younger children, the rules are simple; there are no rules! Just pick up Bio-Bricks from the deck and keep on making new systems The design and parts list are available here. Ours are at the printers and we can't wait till we can get them and give them to some kids to test out!

We hope that this is something all present and future iGEM teams can build upon and improve. Let's make SynBio even more fun!

An example of the card design for our Biobrick Trading card game (front and back sides).

Public Survey

To bridge the gap between the lab and the outside world, we designed a survey that would cover all facets of our project, be it education, IP rights, ethics, project safety as well as implementation and development. In this way, we created dialogue with the general public.

Almost everyone who answered left behind some comments and questions, and we have been answering and communicating with them regarding every concern they have, be it safety or our future plans for other projects. A lot of our responders were of the ages 18–24 and expressed great interest in SynBio and how they could join up for the team! Our survey and responses are here and make for an interesting read!

Because we were the first ever iGEM team from Pakistan and this was the first time synthetic biology was happening in the country, it was a very big deal for us. We knew that it was our responsibility to educate the masses about this cutting-edge science and its potential, as much as we could. Moreover, because we were working on air pollution — which happens to be a major problem for our country — we could create great impact about the potential of SynBIo in tackling this problem.

We left no stone unturned and wrote to and contacted as much media personnel as we could. Our efforts paid off and we got interviewed and featured in 5 national newspapers and 4 national TV news channels.

On National TVs