The City of Pomona Community Services Department hosts a summer program that exposes students to a variety of STEM field activities over the span of two weeks every year. This year, we were lucky to take part in educating the kids in for one day in Synthetic Biology. We took it as a great opportunity to use the Building with Biology Kit alongside an activity where students compete with each other to demonstrate what they’ve just learned.
From the Building with Biology kit we used three of the activities that we felt would be most appropriate for students between the ages of 8 to 14 interested in the STEM fields. We used See DNA for the kids to visualize this abstract idea of DNA and to show the kids that DNA is present in most things they would not expect to have DNA, in the case of See DNA it was wheat germ. The super hero activity was a great way for the kids to embrace the iGEM way of thinking. The students had the opportunity to create a superhero and equip them with the tools needed to save person from falling off a building. They were then asked to equip a bacteria in the same way they did the super hero in order to clean up an oil spill. They were asked to present in groups about why they chose different strategies to solve the same problem. We then asked them to think about ways they could apply their new knowledge of synthetically modified organisms in other aspects. Lastly from the Building with Biology kit, the tokens activity was used to encourage the students to assume the identities of various positions in society such as the President of the United States, a businessman, a doctor, etc. and then invest into different fields of synthetic biology research. The students demonstrated an understanding that different identities made different field investments based on what was most beneficial to their identity.
Our main goal at this event was to develop an exposure of the field to these students. The Building with Biology kit allowed us to further educate young kids about the different career paths they could pursue in the sciences including those in synthetic biology.
♦Dr. Richard Worthington♦
To take into account the social justice aspect of our project, we consulted Dr. Richard Worthington, a Professor at Pomona College. Dr. Worthington primarily focuses on aspects within the fields of science, democracy, and social justice and how the three intertwine with one another. He has a strong interest in how citizens can shape and influence Science and technology rather than large corporations and military.
We were in contact with Dr. Worthington through email correspondence as well as a Skype call. Through our skype call, Dr. Worthington brought up a few great ideas about how our project could impact our immediate community of the Inland Empire and specifically, Pomona. We discussed how the production and use of biofuels can influence communities with larger populations stricken by poverty, such as Pomona. Oil refineries and oil drilling take place near these poverty-stricken communities, which are known to cause numerous health and environmental hazards that are associated with the surrounding areas.
In order to combat the problems that accompany petroleum production, a program could be implemented where oil refineries and drills were replaced with biofuel plants, greatly reducing the negative impacts of fossil fuels. A program like this has great to potential to be implemented into welfare where recipients of welfare will receive a gas card, which allows the recipients to purchase a set amount of biofuels. This will also increase the demand of biofuel and establish a reliable consumption source for biofuel production plants.
Programs like this potentially have huge influences on low income communities in keeping environmental and health hazard impacts to a minimal. However, it may take years to develop this program due to legislation. A program like this has opportunities to have a “prototype” in California due to some organizations designed for the environmental benefits in California. Dr. Worthington informed us of an organization that allows groups to introduce ideas that can be tested before taking to the next level of review and eventually reaching the level of legislative review.