Human Practices: Education and Public Engagement
At CCA iGEM, we strongly believe that researchers and scientists should interact with the community as much as possible and spread the understanding of STEM to as many people as possible.
CCA iGEM's Summer Camp
In June 2019, CCA iGEM hosted a week-long summer camp to expose elementary and middle school students to the growing importance and applications of synthetic biology and biotechnology. Through a completely self-developed curriculum, our team members taught topics ranging from basic laboratory methods to the intricacies of nanotechnology, while spending a lot of time emphasizing the real-world applications of these techniques as well as their connections to synthetic biology. We aimed to foster a passion for science in the kids through hands-on experiments and interactive presentations. The goal of our camp was to not only give the kids a head start in their scientific education, but to create an open, inclusive environment where they could discuss topics and ask questions in order to increase their awareness within the subject.
During one of our 5-hour long days, we also had the amazing opportunity of having Anthony Kang, a student at Northwestern University specializing in synthetic biology, give an extremely useful presentation regarding synthetic biology to the camp attendees. After his presentation, we also had the opportunity of asking him some specific questions about our project, which gave us some valuable guidance regarding further improvements.
Towards the end of the camp, we also hosted a mini science fair, where the camp attendees were encouraged to present the research projects they had worked on in the last few days. Each attendee performed wonderfully, and discussed a well-thought out way to solve some of today's biggest problems using biological techniques. Overall, the camp was a huge success for the CCA iGEM team, and we felt like every kid took a giant leap towards a future in STEM and synthetic biology, and in doing so solidified their place in the scientific and synthetic biology community.
In September 2019, the CCA iGEM team participated in the "I Love A Clean San Diego" beach cleanup, a San-Diego wide effort occurring at multiple beaches. Over 3 hours, we collected trash (ranging from small plastic toys to a full-sized chair!), and beautified the beach. In total, we collected over 20 pounds of trash, and won the prize for the most trash collected among the 100+ volunteers!
The beach cleanup was an excellent way to engage with our target community; people who are most directly impacted by various oil spills and our procedure to help degrade these spills. We conducted interviews with 33 beach-goers of varying education levels and demographics, and asked them about their perceptions of oil spills and synthetic biology. This allowed us to gain valuable insights and new ideas from a diverse group. And of course, getting involved hands-on in the community is one of the best ways to give back. By cleaning up trash at the beach, we reduced the amount of pollution in the ecosystem, which continues to kill large amounts of animals and affect a huge part of oceanic ecosystems every single day, whether it be small micro-plastics or other harmful materials.
We learned a lot from this experience, especially regarding the concerns and misconceptions people might have regarding oil spills and/or our project, and decided to test out some of these concerns using a Modeling Approach (for more information, see the Modeling section).
We helped team EVRY from France with translating their comic into Spanish and Portuguese. For more details, please look at our Collaborations page.