- Attended the Midwest Clean Energy Forum
- Assisted in planting a rain garden at Oakland Elementary School
- Contacted Imagination Station in Lafayette about the possibility of our club leading events on synthetic biology
- Hosted a booth about our project and synthetic biology and led DNA model building and pipetting activities with passerby at the Wabash River Fest
- Ran a fundraising campaign on Experiment, which included write-ups on synthetic biology protocols and background on our project
- Ran in the Purdue Relay for Life
Midwest Clean Energy Forum
9 June 2016
With a more concrete idea for our project in place, our team then sought out resources for defining how we could practically implement our design. This led us to the Midwest Clean Energy Forum--an annual event hosted on Purdue’s campus where members of U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and representatives in research and industry gather to discuss problems and pathways to a future of clean energy. Once there we had the opportunity to reach out to representatives of these groups in break-out sessions and guided panel discussions and talk about our team, our project, and synthetic biology on the whole.
Rain Garden at Oakland Elementary School
15 June 2016
Working with Sara Peel, Director of Watershed Projects at the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation (WREC) in Lafayette, Indiana, we got some dirt on our clothes as we helped replant a rain garden at a local elementary school. The goal of this particular rain garden is to collect runoff from the school roof and filter it before it runs into Lafayette’s combined sewer system that overflows in periods of heavy precipitation or snowmelt, spilling sewage and pollutants onto streets and out into the nearby Wabash River. The idea is similar to Dr. Andi Hodaj’s thesis dealing with two-stage ditches with vegetation planted along the dredged banks--plants collect sediment and uptake excess nutrients as water flows through them. Generally, our phosphorus-munching E. coli operate similarly: Water flows over the bacteria who uptake the nutrient, significantly decreasing its concentration.
It was interesting to talk to fellow volunteers about our project as we worked side-by-side, kneeling in the dirt. At first, many were skeptical, but, after framing our syn bio solution as an analogous method to accomplishing a similar action, they warmed to the idea. We had the opportunity to speak to other Purdue students, a Purdue Environmental and Ecological Engineering professor, and other community members who were also volunteering. The experience taught us a valuable lesson in the importance of finding common ground upon which to deliver our message, relating abstract or foreign concepts to the familiar, in order for it to be well-received by the public.
27 June 2016
The team visited Imagination Station in downtown Lafayette regarding the possibility of volunteering both this summer and continuing forward. Imagination Station is a museum with interactive exhibits; iGEM would assist by educating about synthetic biology. This would be a great opportunity for club community outreach, and we’re excited to launch this collaboration together.
Wabash River Fest
9 July 2016
As an outreach project, our iGEM team hosted a booth at the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation’s (WREC) annual Wabash River Fest. It was great fun for all parties involved as passersby learned about DNA, built (and ate) their own licorice and marshmallow double helix models, and asked questions about synthetic biology and the phosphorus cycle. Young scientists tried their hands at pipetting, mixing colored water in Eppendorf tubes to create vibrant new hues. In the days leading up to the Fest, we prepared 150 build-your-own candy DNA kits, and we ran out just after lunch! The event was well-attended; we appreciated the opportunity to spread our passion for synthetic biology with young and old alike.
Memorable passersby included a first-grade boy with infinite intelligent questions whose grandfather told me in limited English that their family had immigrated from China only several months ago; a woman who spoke in-depth of her passion for biology and desire to become a research scientist; a World War II veteran who listened intently to our story, asked a couple questions, then related synthetic biology to his woodworking business; and a small girl from whom we had to extract the micropipette for other children to use, lest she spend the next hour pipetting to her heart’s content.
We also used this event as an opportunity to distribute a survey about wastewater treatment practices. The population was varied and diverse, making the River Fest an ideal place to gather a random sample of data. Overall, the day was well-invested as the public learned more about the phosphorus problem and we learned the value of small moments connecting with others.
Relay for Life
8/9 April 2016
Every year Purdue University hosts an all-night Relay for Life event where student organizations from Greek-life to the Gallifreyan Scholars Society come together in one of our campus' largest fundraising efforts to one day put cancer behind all of us. This year the Biomakers brought along eight members of its members to the indoor track and spent the night, talking, taking laps, and signing the boys up to have their nails painted.