An evening at Cheste

The iGEM competition demands a part of security or human practices. Along previous years, each team has been improving and increasing this part of the competition having arrived to realize surprising achievements.

The iGEM Valencia 2012 team considered interesting to do some activities focused on the youngest children. The purpose of these activities was to make children know something about the DNA or to amplify their knowledge about it and the synthetic biology. We chose the youngest people because it is a way to relay them the curiosity about this field, managing to make them learn new concepts and ideas at the same time.

Depending on the age of each child, there were arisen different activities and games.

To the youngest, we considered interesting to explain them what was DNA and why all living creatures have it. Once children listened the explanation with photos (to make it easier), we started playing “Paint it!” That game consisted in painting the complementary bases in a giant DNA molecule.

In the next game, we painted them a complementary base in their face so they had to find someone with their complementary base.

To children between 6 and 9, we decided to ask them what they know about DNA, and, depending on their level, we would explain them more about this subject or clarify what they knew. We taught them that all living creatures have DNA and that DNA could be modified.

The first game was with animal cut-outs. Each child had to combine different animals obtaining different combinations. After that, we put children in two lines; one was the line with DNA and the other the line without DNA. Then we showed photos and the line who didn’t match with the photo had to catch the one which matched.

To conclude, the last activities were planned to children within 10 and 13. As always, first of all, we asked them if they knew something about DNA and if they knew something related to synthetic biology. Once children had answered, we explained them correctly the incorrect answers; moreover, we taught them on what consist synthetic biology and why it is important.

For their game, we separate the children in two groups. Each child had a complementary base do DNA painted in his face. Near each group there were water balloons. When the game started the children had to wet their complementary base so the winner was the child who had wet more his complementary base.

The aim of these activities was to learn to transmit our knowledge easily to children while they (and some of their parents) pass a good time learning and playing.

Introduction and intentions declaration

Before we begin with the ordinary posts, there’s a thought from all the people from our team we’d like to share with you: we live in a thrilling world, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve evolved to be conscious of this fact and get amazed with the patterns we found in nature. One way or another, knowledge makes us feel comfortable, no one doubts this. Science, the most accurate tool we have to reach this knowledge, despite not being perfect due to its asymptotic approach, it’s an incredibly powerful tool. And it’s powerful in two different ways.

Science’s strength comes from two different approaches because it’s does not only unweave the rainbow giving us answers about the universe with a growing accuracy, but also these answers come with a present in the shape of control above the studied phenomena (which can be more or less limited depending of the phenomenon) like if it was a fire brought to us by a (modern) Prometheus. Answers always come with that possibility, which is no exent of risk, and, on the profits and benefits of this new chances, we build that construct we call society. Much of what we are nowadays is due to science and it’s daughters, the engineering and the technique. It happened ten thousand years ago when we began taming species for agriculture. And it’s happening right here and right now.

Almost sixty years ago, in a lab from Cavendish Institute, James Watson and Francis Crick gave birth to one of the most successful hits in modern science history: finally all the information that configures all the beings at the biosphere had a chance to be understood and in consequence, try to be controlled. It’s a hard enterprise of growing complexity that perhaps will never reach to an end, but we will never be able to say that this enterprise was a failure at all, as all the genetic engineering-derived applications prove us. As the synthetic biology proves us.

Thereby, synthetic biology stands as the next step in chances of biological information control:it means stop searching blindly at the seas of information that conform the species’s genomes to, using all our accumulated knowledge about genes,designing programming  circuits which allow us to take profit from all the biosphere’s versatility in order to solve many of the problems that menace us.

As we said before, science fascinates us  and so does everything we can do with it. But it’s true these chances have risks at many levels, despite of which, science stands as our best tool. Because of this, we expect to make this blog become a place where we can share our enthusiasm and offer some thoughts about the wonderful chances that are coming.

Enjoy the trip!