Team:TUDelft/Public Engagement

Sci-Phi 29

As a team, we are inspired by the potential the microbial world holds. Exploring this potential would mean we can broaden the range of substrates and environmental conditions which is currently used in synthetic biology. We wanted to share our fascination for this microbial biodiversity. That is why our goal this year was to introduce the public, from children to your neighbour to your teacher, to the hidden world of microbes. We organized multiple events because we wanted to make sure that everyone has access to the invisible microbial world. During our ‘Foldscope’ event, we taught participants how to fold their own origami microscope and how to use these microscopes. With the proceeds, from this event, we shipped 100 Foldscopes to urban schools in India. To further engage the public in our project we organized Global Meeting Point, an open ended discussion with a local church community, where we received feedback on how people from outside the field of synthetic biology look upon our project and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in general. We participated in and organized many more educational events where we discussed the impact of our project with a lot of different people, from little kids to students to experts in the field of synthetic biology. Besides having shown people the potential of synthetic biology, we hope we inspired them so that they are to share our excitement for scientific exploration.

Foldscope Event

On earth, we can find more than a trillion different bacterial species (Locey & Lennon,2016). We as a team are fascinated by this microbial diversity, and we wanted to share our excitement with the world. We thought that sharing microscopes with the public would be the perfect tool to introduce people to the hidden world of microbes. We found foldable microscopes, produced by Foldscope, a company who promotes scientific exploration by breaking price barriers. By using these Foldscopes we organized a workshop in Delft, the place where the first microscope was invented by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in the 1670s. This workshop took place on Antonie van Leeuwenhoek day, the 7th of September. On this day he put microbes on the map by reporting his findings to the Royal Society in London (Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London). Using Foldscopes, a modern-day equivalent of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek-microscope, people could explore the microbial diversity of Delft. The money we raised during our event was used to buy more of these foldable microscopes, which we send to two schools in Mumbai, India, in collaboration with Foldscope, to help children in rural India also get the opportunity to learn about the hidden world of microbiology.

The first part of the workshop consisted of talks of experts in the field of microbiology and microscopy, to familiarize people with these concepts. The workshop started with a talk by Michele Laureni (Post-Doc in Environmental Biotechnology), who introduced everyone to the world of microbes. Ad Bergkamp (Member of the Dutch Microscope Society) then explained how microscopes are the perfect tools to access this world of microbes. Since Foldscopes are considered to be cheap and easy to use, they lower access to the world of science. Every participant of this event got his or her very own Foldscope.

“Foldscope was created with a vision to solve the accessibility problem in science. What began as a simple idea has now grown into a company that provides powerful low-cost tools to communities around the world in an effort to help advance education, health, and opportunity. Our mission is simply to expand access to science and break down the price barrier between people & the curiosity and excitement of scientific exploration.” -Foldscope

The workshop was filled with fun and incredible activities. After helping people fold their Foldscopes, people could prepare their own samples,which had been collected for them from Delft and areas surrounding Delft, from locations such as the picturesque canals from Delft, or from the sea at Scheveningen. By guiding the participants on how to prepare these samples for in their microscopes, we gave them the opportunity to start exploring the wonders of microbial nature.

Fold Scope Event

During the event participants were able to take pictures of their own made samples, with their own phones, while they were looking through their self assembled microscopes. We walked people through what they visualised with these microscopes by use of a panel discussion. This panel consisted of Ad BergKamp and Erik de Hulster (Research Technician in Industrial Microbiology). With 55 participants and 10 organizers our event sold out!

Because we wanted to encourage interest in science across all social and economic backgrounds, and give more people this hands on experience, we bought a 100 of these origami microscopes with the proceeds raised from this event. They were shipped to Raigadh Zilla Parishad School and Shree Ganesh Vidya Mandir High School in Mumbai, India. With these microscopes, more workshops were organized by Foldscope at these urban schools. We hope that these small actions will have a large impact, and can inspire more people to explore the hidden world of microbes.

Fold Scope Event

Global Meeting Point

On August 22nd we organized Global Meeting Point together with the International Student Chaplaincy in Delft. The goal of Global Meeting Point was to bring people from different cultural and religious backgrounds together to discuss a range of cultural, historical, social and environmental subjects.

During the event we explained what synthetic biology is and how we used it to create our project. After our introductory presentation we had an open-ended discussion about GMOs in general but also more specifically about the impact our platform can have on the world, so we could learn people’s opinions on our technology.

From the discussions we learned that the people we talked to are reluctant to release GMOs. Mostly, because they can never anticipate the long term effects these bacteria might have on the ecosystem or people’s health. Another concern was how we would be able to contain our platform if it were to be used in a real world application.

This event helped us to shape our use case scenario. Since participants of this event were concerned that bacteria who have been genetically engineered would influence nature, we implemented physical containment of our platform to a bioreactor in our use case scenario. This physical containment will make sure that our system is not to accidentally influence parts of nature for which it was not designed. Furthermore, we also implemented these design criteria to the safety of our design.

Global Meeting Point gave us the opportunity to learn the opinion of a range of people about the use of synthetic biology. We achieved a better understanding of why people might be reluctant to use genetically modified organisms. While we learned that the public see bacteria as something bad, and dirty, we were very content that we could change some people’s views on bacteria, by showing them they can also be very useful. Click here for a blog post about this event.

Children's Lecture

As a team, we wanted to learn the opinion of as many people as possible about the topic of synthetic biology. These opinions can then help us to shape certain aspects of our project, such as possible applications of our platform. Especially children can give an unbiased insight, allowing us to look at our project in a refreshing way. To get their opinion about synthetic biology, we got in touch with Museum jeugduniversiteit, an organisation that organizes guest lectures for children within the age range of 8-12 years. This was the perfect platform to introduce kids to the topic of microbes and synthetic biology, and get their input regarding these topics.

On the 15th of September we went to the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, where we gave a special lecture to children. In the presentation we addressed the topic of biology in general, cells; the smallest unit of life and what synthetic biology is and its applications are. We co-presented this presentation with Marijn van den Brink (Bachelor student Life Science and Technology), who taught the topic of ‘How to build a synthetic cell’. To make the lecture more interactive, we incorporated an interactive quiz to gain a better insight in the level of knowledge of our young audience about the topics we just presented. This quiz was also used as a tool to start a small debate. With this debate we obtained an understanding of children's opinions about subjects, like how to prevent the escape of engineered organisms, how to work safely with these bacteria, and how bacteria can be modified for intended misuse, such as the development of bioweapons.

From the debate with the children we learned that the safety of genetically modified organisms was a huge concern. They were worried that harmful bacteria might escape. Since we want to try to provide the children a safe future, we addressed these concerns in the safety of our design.

Education & Engagement

During our project we participated in multiple events to promote synthetic biology and to present our project to the public, as well as getting feedback from the public on our project. In this section, we elaborate on these events and how we used them to promote learning and engagement in different communities. Click below to scroll through our journey of inspiring and informing people.


Blog Eurofins



Lunch Lecture

Nanobiology Family Day



TU Delft Open day

Blog Biotechnologie

Throughout our project we have shared our story on With these stories, we aimed to inspire the public about the potential of synthetic biology and show them the different aspects that iGEM entails.

Blog Eurofins Genomics

To reach people who are already interested in scientific news, we wrote an article in Eurofins Genomics. Click here to read the article.


At the Dutch Biotechnology Conference we presented our project for the very first time! At this event we interacted with the experts in the Life Sciences and Technology, who informed us about difficulties we might encounter accessing different bacterial species.


eXplore eXtracurricular is an event that encourages students from the TU Delft to participate in activities during their studies. Here we presented what iGEM is and what it stands for. Hopefully, this may have contributed to the next year’s Delft iGEM team!


We presented our project to students of the Applied Sciences Faculty at the TU Delft. We explained our project and aimed to inspire people about iGEM and think about joining next years team.


We presented at the Family Day of the Nanobiology study program. Students can take their friends and family to this day to show them what Nanobiology is all about. To contribute to this day, we showed the participants some of the projects of past iGEM TU Delft teams. Here we had the opportunity to inspire students to be part of a future iGEM team.


The OWee is an introduction week for new students at the TU Delft. During this event we had our own stand and had the opportunity to talk about what iGEM is and what it represents. We explained synthetic biology to interested students and we informed them about our project. It was a beautiful day and hopefully we have made some students enthusiastic about synthetic biology!


We attended the Bioday organized by the TU Delft. At this event we will come to share and hear about new and exciting science, socialize with researchers from all faculties and present our own project in poster format.


At the very start of our iGEM journey, we represented iGEM at the TU Delft open day for new students. We aimed to inspire high school students to think about synthetic biology as a field of study.