Team:CIDEB-UANL Mexico/HumanPractices/Rally


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Team: UANL_Mty-Mexico

Team: CIDEB-UANL Mexico

Human Practices
Synthetic Rally

iGEM-CIDEB 2012 High School team from Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, with the collaboration of iGEM-UANL 2012 team, organized this synthetic rally in order to spread the term “synthetic biology” and “iGEM” in 200 junior high students through a thematic activity. Its main objective is to inform the local community about advantages and applications of synthetic biology and iGEM in a funny, entertaining and stress-free way.

Synthetic Rally´s Objectives

To promote the importance and impact synthetic biology has actually, and inform about the interesting applications through a funny, entertaining, educative and original activity: the “Synthetic rally”. This would help the students learn and enjoy the experience of synthetic biology in a very “silence” way playing thematic games which helped them understand really easy some difficult concepts such as “DNA”, “Plasmids”, “BioBrick”, etc. .

-The purpose of the final activity is to simulate an iGEM competition, in which they would apply their knowledge to build an original circuit and win the “Great BioBrick”.

-To generate in 200 junior high students a “good feeling” about synthetic biology. Show them the applications, benefits, risks, and how they could improve the world by modifying something to make a better place, since medicines to advances for protecting the environment.


In order to explain completely what iGEM and synthetic biology several activities were done

-First a small introduction about synthetic biology was given to the students in groups of 2. This was distributed among the students by 2 iGEMers per group. After our iGEM-UANL collaborators gave a brief introduction of what synthetic biology is, some definitions, origins and what does it imply. Then CIDEB iGEMers explained the whole activity and the objective of the activity. This was to create in the students’ mind preparation for what they´d learn.

- Before go out to the rally, for every student to participate and understand the team-collaboration experience, they were arranged in teams of 10 students. They were a total of 200 junior high students. This is an important part of the activity as iGEM is about team work, so they had to be very united and try to understand each other to achieve something, just as iGEM-CIDE, iGEM-UANL and now the rally´s teams.

--The thematic rally was done introducing different concepts and knowledge in every station. This was done in the playground of the school “Colegio Americano Anáhuac”. The participants were junior high students from 7th, 8th and 9th grade. They formed 20 teams of 10 integers each team. For all the teams to experience every stop they followed different roles. For example, in the stop #1 2 teams started, team 1 and team 2. When the time was over they took different paths. Team 1 followed to the right and team 2 followed to the left. This allowed them to go in a circular way until completing every station and against different teams. The logistic was applied to every team in the really.

-This rally was about 10 different stations, each with a different game according to the topic we wanted the students to learn. There were 2 persons in each station, one from iGEM-UANL and one from iGEM-CIDEB. This was the arrangement for a better dynamic explaining the concept of the game and the game itself.

-Once the rally was over, they built a circuit using the BioBricks they won in every station. They had to be very creative in order to apply them to the real life and win the final price.

-This activity concluded with a very little award ceremony where we thanked them for their very big effort, attention and dedication to the activity and gave the “Golden BioBrick” to the winner. We said out loud all the circuits for the whole school to listen the different ideas and applications this may have.

-Finally a second poll was applied to compare it with the first one. This is a very good marker to evaluate our advance in the students´ knowledge and comprehension about synthetic biology..

General Topics of the Rally
*DNA and genetic code
* Genes and proteins
* Genetic Engineering, secuences and biocomputing
* iGEM and synthetic biology
* BioBricks and Biologic Machines
* Final Purpose of synthetic biology- iGEM Projects


Stop #1: Plasmid Conjugation!

Objective: To understand the plasmid conjugations in some bacteria as a mechanism for the natural DNA transference between the organisms.

Activity: Each team will hold their hands forming a big circle and passing the “plasmid” (a hula hoop) through the complete team circle. The teams will compete with each other; the faster team wins.

Materials: 2 hula-hoops and 1 chronometer.

Stop #2: Building with BioBricks

Objective: For students to understand that most of BioBricks constructions use to increase their difficulty as they increase their size.

Activity: The teams will compete to build the highest inverse tower of cans they can. The highest tower built and during 15 seconds is the winner.

Materials: Approximately 60 cans and 2 chronometers.

Stop #3: Blind Transcription

Objective: Simulate the transcriptions of DNA in order to form messengers RNA as a mechanism in genetic expression.

Activity: A labyrinth was drawn over the floor where certain promoters and transcription terminators. The objective is that one team member with his eyes blindfolded will look cross the labyrinth guided only by the rest of the team members. The path starts with one promoter; the objective is that the participant recollects as much promoters as he can to apply them in the final activity. In the same way, he will find terminators that will define the end of the activity.

Materials: The labyrinth designed on the floor with a rope, BioBrick promoters pieces, BioBrick transcription terminators pieces, and a piece of cloth for blindfolding.

Stop# 4: The Part´s Registry Pool Party

Objectiv: To make students understand that in order to build a circuit they have to verify the Parts Registry; to identify its importance and its function, which is that they can find the BioBrick description to know if they´re compatibles with each other to assemble them for their genetic circuit.

Activity: In a big, sealed, black folded box, simulating the “Parts Registry”, some BioBrick pieces with different compatibility assemble code will be collocated. One team member will build a genetic circuit according to the basic order of the gene structure, aided by the rest of the team.

Materials: Chronometer, BioBrick pieces with different compatibilities, Construction to build, Box for “Pool Party” and a specific space for the construction.

Stop# 5: Non-passing electrophoresis

Objective: To understand that the technique of electrophoresis, where DNA molecules are separated, requires special cares with the voltage and time to be in the perfect state to avoid molecules to spread out of the gel as it is into a magnetic field.

Activity: We´ll collocate a long rope for a few meters, this will have a mark of 50 cm at approximately ¾ from the beginning of the rope. Each team will manage a DNA which will move across the rope (electrophoresis gel), this basing the activity in a balloon together with a straw in order to let the student to get close to his final objective: the “3/4 of the gel”. Each team will try 3 times to get tho most close they can, avoiding crossing the limit..

Materials: 60 Balloons, 60 straws, a rope, ruler.

Stop #6: Third Grade Inverse Osmosis

Objective: Understand the process of osmosis, which is the regulation of nutrients through the plasmidic membrane with specific receptors.

Activity: The teams will arrange in couples and take a towel. Divided by a line drawn with cones, which simulate the membrane, they will pass a water-filled balloon from one side to another, passing it through all the couples. They will have 3 opportunities in 5 minutes for the balloon to explode. The team with 2 points wins.

Materials: Cones, 10 towels, 30 water-filled balloons and chronometer.

Stop #7: “Bacteria Transformation”

Objective: To introduce bacteria transformation as an important part of Synthetic Biology and of biotechnology as a whole.

Activity: Using a pair of oval-shaped containers to simulate the E.coli bacteria, it will be attempted to transform them with the corresponding plasmids represented by rings . The winning team will be the team that can land more rings within the time limit.

Materials: Containers that represent bacteria and rings to represent plasmids.

Stop #8: “Implacable search in the parts registry”

Objective: To introduce bacteria transformation as an important part of Sintetic Biology and of biotechnology as a whole.

Activity: Two members of each team, with their eyes covered, will be in the middle of a “BioBrick database”, represented by a delimited area, which will contain several BioBrick pieces which they have to find with the help of the other members of their teams, who tell them where the pieces are. The winning team will be the team that gets more BioBricks within the time limit.

Materials: Delimited Area, bandages to cover eyes and “BioBricks”

Stop #9: “Proteins Production”

Objective: To understand the messenger RNA translation into ribosome for proteins production and to specify the importance of proteins in the acquisition of certain characteristics to develop a specific function. Specify bacteria transformation as a key process in Synthetic Biology.

Activity: All the integrants of each team will form one row. They hould pass under their legs a watermelon covered by liquid soap without dropping it. The watermelon passing will represent the protein production, and once it falls will be the end of the production. The team with the largest protein will be the winner.

Stop #10: “Extraction and purification of DNA”

Objective: Getting plasmid DNA in synthetic biology is very important because inside the plasmid of the bacteria are inserted the BioBrick. Therefore, so that they be can handled, it is necessary to extract and purify the bacteria that contain them through molecular biology techniques.

Activity: Each team will receive a well-sealed box with several layers of cardboard and tape. The box will represent a bacterium and the different layers of newspaper and tape involving the bacterium will represent the plasma membrane. Inside the box will be another box lined with in the same way containing inside "DNA plasmid molecule" (pipe cleaners). Both teams form a circle and at the center a box will be place. A dice and a pair of mitts oven will be given to them. Each member of the team will be rolling the dice, the one that get an even number, shall be entitled to take the mitts oven and try to grab the box, if he or she gets an odd number, loses the opportunity. The first team in opening the box and get the "plasmid" will win.

Materials: Sealed cardboard boxes and DNA molecules.

Final Proyect

Objective: To simulate an iGEM competition, in which a biological dispositive that contributes to solve a problem of any kind of nature using BioBricks parts obtained through the rally will be designed. (Not necessary to use all the parts.)

Explanation: A brief explanation will be given of how BioBricks works. The list of BioBricks contains two types of genes: regulatory and functional. All work requires energy, and if it imposes a new function to an organism, then it will require more energy.

The deviation of the use of energy of the new function can seriously alter its metabolism and affects its growth. To reduce that effect, we can make use of regulatory genes. These allow turning on or turning off a gene in response to an environmental stimulus, saving energy for the body.

An example will be provided with both types of genes to clarify its role as well as the objective of the exercise:

Problem: Air pollution with carbon dioxide (CO2).

Identify what is required to approach the problem:
1. To arrive to the atmosphere
2. To remove CO2
3. To take into account the energy expenditure
DRAW A FLOW CHART: FLY [GVP] -> to detect CO2 [CO2R] ->
To remove CO2 [CO2A] -> To detect holes in the ozone layer [UVR] -> To produce Ozone [OZ].

Proposal: Larry will be able to remove CO2 (CO2A) and activate that function only in presence of the contaminant (CO2R), saving energy. Also produce gas (GVP), which will allow it to ascend and reach the contaminated areas of the atmosphere. Finally (as an additional feature), our bacteria will may produce ozone (OZ) when it detects high levels of UV radiation (UVR), since it will be an indicative of a hole in the ozone layer.


1. Ask 3 problems that students will try to solve with a focus similar to the one used in the previous example.
2. Each team must design at least one biological device to try to solve one of the problems presented or from their own creativity. Let them know that they can solve other problems that are not listed.
3. They will be have 10 minutes to draw their biological device and to make a flow chart of the operation of the set of genes implemented.
4. A representative from each team will present their proposal briefly.
The Great BioBrick

At the end of the 10 minutes, all the teams will tell to an iGEM member their proposal and the amount of BioBricks used in it. Then, all iGEM members will discuss which deserves the prize of the rally based in the logic of the proposal, the amount of BioBricks used, and the utility of the proposal in the modern world.

The team selected will present their idea to the rest of the teams, they will have to describe their project, the BioBricks used and why they used those BioBricks.

The prize will be “the big BioBrick”, a Lego brick shape boxed lined with foil containing “gansitos”. “Gansitos” is a Mexican snack cake, similar to Twinkies, with the exception of strawberry jelly along with the creamy filling and that is covered in chocolate with chocolate sprinkle topping.

Final Result of the Activity

Through this activity many objectives were achieved, from the promotion of iGEM and synthetic biology until the fact of 200 hundred junior high students understanding the whole concept. And not only that, but they actually understood things further that the basis, we introduced terms as DNA, proteins, osmosis, plasmid, BioBricks, transcription, translation, Parts Registry, electrophoresis, bacteria, extraction, purification, etc. Generally these concepts, are very difficult to understand, aver all in junior high students, but through this activity, in which they actually experienced the concept itself, it was much more easy, funny and important. We decided to implement this synthetic rally to spread the concept, but more than knowing what synthetic biology is, we achieved to develop a geed feeling about it in the students.

During the activity some students talked to us and commented that this activity was really funny. It was of course because of the games, but taking advantage of the fun of the activities, introduce these complicate concepts was the interesting part. It was of course difficult to us as well to adapt each concept to a game that helps students understand it. At the time of the logistic, as they were a lot of students, we used a megaphone in order to pay attention to the coordinator, whom announced the time to change to another stop. In general, as they were relatively a few students per stop, it was pretty easy to explain them the biologic concept and the development of the activity.

At the end the final project was the most important part of the activity, because they actually simulated to be in an iGEM competition. They invented a new organism with the BioBricks they recollected through the rally. It was very interesting and fascinating watch students applying their knowledge and creating new “organisms”. Our effort to make them understand synthetic biology was very satisfactory and productive. Actually generating an interest in the junior high students in IGEM was our best result. They even asked for the whole competition and how to participate. They were really interested and fascinated. Us, like a team, were very proud of our team work for a good cause, and of course because we don´t know, maybe one of them someday will create an organism that cures cancer or AIDS. Our conclusion of the activity is that sweat, effort, tiredness, creativity, and team work gave excellent results and satisfaction for the students and for us, plus a very good time of fun and knowledge acquirement.

This activity had a significant importance as the students learned and enjoyed the experience of synthetic biology in a very “silence” way playing thematic games which helped them understand really easy some difficult concepts such as “DNA”, “Plasmids”, “BioBrick”, etc. In every station 2 teams competed to win “BioBrick” pieces. The absolute winner got 1 piece and the other team got only 1.

At the end of the activity, in which they recollected “BioBricks”, they had a time to build a circuit. Every team made a different one with a very innovative use. As the BioBricks were different, the final circuits were very original. At the end the best construction won the “Golden BioBrick”, which was a box wrapped with golden paper filled with some snacks which they enjoyed a lot.