We believe that a project will not be excellent enough without creative design, diligent lab work, and serious human practice work. Design of the biological machine determines the upper limit of the project, and lab work determines the lower limit of the project. As for human practice work, it views iGEM and synthetic biology in a broader perspective, which is close to the exploration of social value and describes a bigger world that synthetic biology and iGEM exist.


    In order to describe this “bigger world” better, ZJU-China has been tried hard to collect the voices outside the lab and integrate the investigated issue into the design and the execution of our project.


    As previously mentioned, we explored the topic of public engagement/dialogue. We intended to call for the public’s attention through our attractive project and use their feedback to improve it and the way we tell the story of synthetic biology. What’s more, we also reflected our own conception.



Elementary activities
    We went to STEM science festival and science & technology museum in summer. And set up a stall in the exhibition hall. We used room escape game, decoding game using cadies as props, and a video telling a story based on synthetic biology to attract their attention and introduced synthetic biology to the public.


What’ the feedbacks?



What do we think and do?


    These feedbacks are the epitome of wonder and concern about synthetic biology. The old rejected things that may change their life instinctively, and were very serious about biosafety. The teacher welcomed the new idea of synthetic biology, and want to help the students to expand their horizon. The high school student were curious about what synthetic biology can do, and want to know more about the details. And the kids’ curiosity for synthetic biology was sparked(though they may not know the whole meaning).


    We carefully explained the safety problem synthetic biology concerned to the old, and realized it is the first problem that synthetic biology should settled down, in order to apply it to reality. However, some problems of biosafety are easy to settle, while others are hard to make it clear. But what we can do is to improve the safety of our biological machine. And we decided to use less proper nouns while talking to the old and emphasis on the success that synthetic biology have achieved, in order to make them feel freer and easier to accept the idea. And we are very pleased to know that the idea of synthetic biology is valued by most of the public from the dialogue.


    What’s more, we found that our methods of attracting attention were useful, but it seemed that we need some other methods to help us to explain the project and synthetic biology. So we designed a software version and a mechanical version (using circuit board) of the biological cipher machine and use it to introduce our project to the public. And a series of postcards with codes that could be deciphered with the software came out, too.



Advanced activities
    In addition to what we have done to meet the requirements of the silver medal, we attended a national famous experience sharing activity in China, ONEYOUTH Talk. This activity was organized by a local youth organization, Huyou tower in Chongqing, China, and it is a part of the weekly activities there. We were invited there as one of the lecturers, and one of the team members gave an interesting speech about synthetic biology and our project.



    In order to confirm the effect of the activity, we started to get contact with people of that organization one month and a half before the activity was held. It was a very long and tiring process, since we had to communicate with the organizers from time to time, and give the speech in advance. However, we got many useful feedback from them, which we never thought about before. And when the presentation was over, many people talked to us, and gave some valuable feedbacks, which inspired us to improve the design and execution of our project.


    There was also a fair in the location of the Talk for people to sell some interesting made by themselves, and local people would like to go there for entertainment.


    We sold our postcards with codes there. Those postcards were specially designed by us, one kind was with riddles. And the answer of it was in the form of codes. Using a software which had a same principle of our Enigma machine, the information can be easily decoded. And that helped a lot to explain our project in a more clear way.


What’ the feedbacks?



    People from that organization also gave us many valuable advice. They are from different backgrounds, and unit together to improve the local cultural life. When we first gave the speech to them through the Internet, those who have studied biology, math and engineering find it easy to understand. However, the project manager, who is a designer, thought it a little confusing. They suggested us to tell a story which conveys the concept of our Enigma machine, which may fascinate the audience. And they also suggested us to split the proper noun from the main content, since the concept itself is very new, and it may take some time for them to understand.


What do we think and do?


    We are inspired by those sincere feedback, and try to improve our project and the way we introduce it. For an example, we consider feedback 1, and improved our hardware to make it capable of protecting the bacteria inside. We consider feedback 4, and add answer this question in our future plan. We design what change we need to do in order to deal with more information.


    We told them about the improvement, and appreciated him for the suggestion. He was rather astonished that his advice can be taken, since he thought the public can only accept those information from the scientists. We are very glad to give the public an impression that they can also engage in the biology field. And integrate our HP work with the design of the project, which is really exciting.


    Since the audience focused more on the content itself, their feedbacks were centered on the feasibility of the project. However, the feedback from the people of the organization were centered on the way we introduced the project and synthetic biology. After the first trial speech, we got to know that our speech contented too much proper noun, which may make it difficult for the general public to understand. In order to change this situation, we improved the way to introduce the project. We cut up the proper nouns and focus more on the idea, which is proved to be successful. And we do make up a story to make the project to be more interesting and easy to be accepted.


Contact Us
Room 413,Biology lab center, Zijingang Campus
Zhejiang University, YuHangTang Road NO.866
Hangzhou, China
iGEM ZJU-China 2016 Team