Team:Rice/Building With Biology


We facilitated a Building with Biology event at the Children’s Museum of Houston. Through hands-on activities like extracting DNA from wheat germ and helping kids to design their own superorganisms, we had the opportunity to introduce young children to the exciting field of synthetic biology and to clear up a few of their parents’ misconceptions.


The Building with Biology project is dedicated to spreading STEM learning and discussion about the technological and societal implications of synthetic biology through public and scientist dialogue. Successful applicants receive a physical kit with all of the supplies necessary to host an event with six hands-on activities.
  1. Bio Bistro: Decide what current and future synthetic biology-based food products you would, would not, or might eat.
  2. Kit of Parts: Solve challenges by building a model cell with standardized genetic parts (like BioBricks).
  3. See DNA: Extract visible DNA from wheat germ and create necklaces to display your own sample of wheat germ DNA.
  4. Super Organisms: Design a superhero to rescue a person falling from a tall building and then use that same creative engineering process to design a single-celled organism to clean up an oil spill.
  5. Tech Tokens: Consider the potential advantages and disadvantages of various areas of synthetic biology research, before investing in them with "tech tokens."
  6. VirEx Delivery: Explore the potential for engineered viruses to deliver beneficial, targeted genetic information to sites throughout the body.



Above is a timeline for Building with Biology, hover over different sections to learn more!


The afternoon we spent at the Children’s Museum was particularly rewarding because we had the opportunity to interact with a cross section of the general public. The attendees had not come to the museum expecting to learn about synthetic biology, but they were eager to actively participate in the activities and to engage in conversations about the potential impact of the field. We were reminded by their vehement objections to buzzwords like “GMOs” of the significant resistance that synthetic biology still faces.