Team:Imperial College/Engagement

Public Engagement and Education

This year our team, ecolibrium, has created a mobile game: Go Culture which aims to introduce the concept of microbial co-cultures to a wider audience. Our research into data visualization, which emerged from our reflexivity process, shows the importance of interactivity. It serves to engage the audience, and improve their understanding of our project. We believe that abstract concepts, such as the function and co-operation of microbes, can be better understood through interactive representations, hence the idea of creating a game. If you have done so yet, please download it from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store!

When we were developing our game, we used Bloom’s taxonomy to develop the objectives. This takes the form of a hierarchical framework which we have used in other parts of our project (Armstrong, 2013). Learning at the higher levels is dependent on having developed knowledge at lower levels (Shabatura, 2015). The summarized hierarchy we used from bottom to top was:

  1. Knowledge - Recognition of terms and ideas.
  2. Application - Apply abstractions to specific concrete situations.
  3. Synthesis - Creative construction of novel ideas from multiple sources of information (Armstrong, 2013).

We wanted people who played our game, Go Culture, to be able to:

  1. Recognize what co-cultures are and how they can be beneficial.
  2. Explain where they occur in nature and how they can be useful to people.
  3. Produce their own ideas for novel applications of co-cultures.

Based on the responses we received from participants in our game, we believe Go Culture succeeded in achieving our educational goals. 80% of people who played were able to recognise and explain co-cultures. Moreover, they were able to create amazingly novel applications which we had previously not considered like managing obesity through the regulation of the gut microbiome.
Over 100 people at the New Scientist Live Event, and an additional 15 students from the City of London High School contributed to the testing of our game. We had over 20 hours of contact time with players, and collected detailed survey responses from everyone.
In the future, we would like to increase the amount of guidance the game provides its players. For example we would like to improve the instructions for how to mix microbes to make novel applications on our mixing platform in the game. We would also like to include a short tutorial video at the beginning of the game. Furthermore, we would like to expand the number of microbes and products available in the game.

Go Culture Game

Most people have a negative view of bacteria and microbes in general. We wanted to show that many different microbes exist and that most of them are very useful to humans. Since our project focuses on co-cultures and microbial consortiums we also showed that these are very common and explain some processes in which they are employed. We created a video game in order to present and inform the public on the points above in a fun and interactive way.

The aim of the game is to collect different types of microbes and co-culture them to obtain all the products available in the game. The microbes are found at the end of platform levels in specific environments such as the Gut or the Ocean. The lab environment is where the player can, using a mixing platform, mix the microbes together and create products such as yogurt and glow-in-the-dark cellulose.

Microorganisms to collect in Go Culture Game

Most of the microorganisms in our Go Culture game have been used in iGEM and synthetic biology. Others have yet to be engineered but they are known to have interesting properties which one day could be used.

Picture Microbe Name Game Level Natural Environment Description
Lactobacillus Green Level Gut Human microbiome (digestive, urinary and genital tracts). Also found in fermented foods, like yoghurt and sourdough bread This ‘friendly’ bacteria is a common probiotic supplement for lactose intolerance improve the immune system. Can be used to treat certain skin disorders, such as eczema and acne
Bacteroides Blue Level Gut Mammalian gastrointestinal tract Breaks down complex food molecules, producing nutrients and energy for the body.
Bifidobacterium Red Level Gut Human microbiome (gastrointestinal tract, colon, female urinary and genital tract) Used as an effective probiotic for digestive problems (e.g. irritable bowel disease).This is one of the first bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract of newborn babies
Streptococcus thermophilus Green Level Kitchen Fermented dairy products e.g. yoghurt and cheese Converts lactose (the sugar in milk) into lactic acid, needed for the production of yoghurt. 1 billion kg of mozzarella cheese is made using S. thermophilus every year.
Penicillium Blue Level Kitchen Soil, plants and decaying organic matter Penicillium roqueforti: Used in the production of blue cheeses, e.g. roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton Penicillium chrysogenum: Penicillin production. Blue cheese was first eaten by humans in AD 50
Propionobacterium shermanii Red Level Kitchen Swiss cheese e.g. emmental and jarlsberg Ferments lactate to produce CO2 bubbles, which are used to create holes in swiss cheese. There are almost 1 billion cells of P. shermanii per gram of emmental cheese. You can control the size of the holes in swiss cheese by changing the temperature and pH of the mixture
E. Coli Green Level Factory Large intestine of warm-blooded animals. Syn bio Chassi, does loads of stuff, drug production, biosensors... It takes 40 hours for E.Coli to completely colonise the gut of a newborn baby.
S. cerevisiae Blue Level Factory On the surface of ripe fruits e.g. grapes Essential for wine-making/brewing and baking. Very popular eukaryotic model organism. A small capsule of S.Cerevisiae was sent on a 3 years interplanetary trip to investigate the fate of living cells in deep space. S.Cerevisiae is what causes bread to rise in the oven.
B. subtilis Red Level Factory Soil and human intestine Used as a model organism in laboratory research. Secretes enzymes that break down proteins and carbohydrates. Can form dormant spores that tolerate extreme environments
Pseudomonas denitrificans Green Level Forest Soil and water. Produces vitamin B12. 1 litre of this bacteria can produce 60 milligrams of vitamin B12.
Nitrobacter Blue Level Forest Soil Plays an essential role in aquaponics oxidizing nitrite into nitrate in soil. They secrete a slime matrix that allows them to attach to surfaces.
G.xylinus Red Level Forest Kombucha Tea and Soil Makes Cellulose. Extrudes glycan chains from pores into the growth medium. These aggregate into microfibrils, which bundle to form microbial cellulose ribbons. Used by Imperial iGEM Team in 2014 in order to make cellulose water filter and clothes.
Dinoflagellate luciferase Green Level Ocean Marine and freshwater habitats Glows when stimulated by a force e.g. by a boat or wave. The luminescence only occurs at night time, causing the sea to sparkle blue.
Cyanobacteria Blue Level Ocean Soil and water Can make its own food through photosynthesis. Can be engineered to produce biofuels. They are the oldest known fossils.
M. magnetotacticum Red Level Ocean Shallow freshwater and sediments Able to orient itself according to the Earth’s magnetic field using magnets it produces. Potential to be used for magnetic tapes and magnetic drug targets.
Deinococcus radiodurans Extreme Land Soil and feces Polyextremophile as it can withstand cold, dehydration, vacuum and acidic environments. Is the most radiation resistant organism known. Was listed as the world’s toughest bacterium by The Guinness Book of World Records
G. sulphuraria Extreme Land Acidic hot springs Is a thermoacidophile as it is able to survive in high temperatures and highly acidic environments. Produces a photosynthetic pigment called phycocyanin. Can be found in hot sulfur springs in Italy, Iceland and Russia.
Products to create in Go Culture Game

The products are obtained via the drag and drop mixing interface in the Lab zone. The products were inspired by current products created using microbial consortiums or synthetic biology, previous iGEM projects and some were invented to trigger the player's imagination. Most players, when interviewed, were able to create new products by using the ones they created in the game as inspiration.

Picture Product Name Microbe 1 Microbe 2 Microbe 3
Yogurt Lactobacillus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Lactobacillus or Streptococcus thermophilus
Probiotic Yogurt Lactobacillus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Blue Cheese Lactobacillus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Swiss Cheese Lactobacillus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Propionibacterium shermanii
Sourdough bread S. cerevisiae
S. cerevisiae
Probiotic Lactobacillus
B. Subtilis
Gut Flora E. Coli or Lactobacillus
Cellulose Overcoat E.coli
G. xylinus
G. xylinus or E.Coli
Glowing Cellulose E.coli
G. xylinus
Dinoflagellate luciferase
Aquarium Water filter E.coli
G. xylinus
Antibiotics Penicillium
E. Coli
B. Subtilis
Aquaponic Ecosystem Nitrobacter
B. Subtilis
Biofuel Cyanobacteria
E. Coli
Vitamin B12 Pseudomonas denitrificans
Pseudomonas denitrificans
Pseudomonas denitrificans
Artemisinin S. cerevisiae
S. cerevisiae
S. cerevisiae
Magnetic Infinity Lamp Dinoflagellate luciferase
M. magnetotacticum
Fluorescent Lamp Dinoflagellate luciferase
Dinoflagellate luciferase
Dinoflagellate luciferase
Nanomagnets M. magnetotacticum
M. magnetotacticum
E. Coli
iGEM top 3 Chassis B. subtilis
S. cerevisiae
E. Coli

Our Go Culture game was built using the Unity 3D game engine. The game has a PC version and a touch device version. Both of these versions of Go Culture can be found on our Github.
The touch version of Go Culture can be found on the App Store and the Google Play Store.


1. Armstrong, P., 2013. Bloom’s taxonomy. The Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University, Retrieved on, 3, p.2014. 2. Shabatura, J., 2015. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Objectives | TIPS.
Available at: (Accessed: 10th October 2016)


Loading ...