We decided to approach the gold medal criterion Education & Communication in various different ways. iGEM states that in order to reach this criterion a team must develop and implement education, science communication, and/or outreach materials related to synthetic biology and we’ve created material for all of these purposes. We decided to classify them roughly in two groups and place them under the names of Education and Communication. We considered Education to be more about spreading awareness of synthetic biology in general and Communication to be more about spreading awareness of iGEM as a competition. Our Communication efforts are described on this page but you can read a short summary of our Education efforts below and follow this link for more details.
Our starting point for developing and implementing educational material was good already beforehand because our team had knowledge of education science, experience in teaching and enthusiasm for interaction with people. Our team was skillful and because of this, we took many different approaches when aiming for bringing more awareness of synthetic biology to people. We targeted our efforts to the general public but also more specifically to pre-school children and high school students. We decided to use many different tools when trying to get the message out there. For example, we used social media and other online platforms, digital games and interactive lectures. Our big aim was to reach people by using language and tools suitable for specifically to them. This means that for example we approached children through games and stories but when approaching high school students, we gave them information about career possibilities while also making sure they’d get a chance to be an active learner during a lecture. This approach also stemmed highly from a prevailing understanding of learning in the pedagogical field, socio constructivism, which indicates we also based our activities on a scientific background.
One of our biggest obstacles to face during this year’s iGEM project was that iGEM as a concept is not very well-known here in Turku - or even in Finland. We had hardly any support to lean on to, or structure to back up our work. Every time we wanted to ask for something, we had to first explain what iGEM is before we were able to actually talk about what we needed. This situation is caused by the fact that we are only the second team ever to compete in iGEM from Turku. In addition, there is only one other team from Finland. We wanted to help future Aboa teams to have it easier and therefore, we focused our Communication efforts into making people in this area more aware of iGEM and Aboa.
We acted in various different ways when trying to reach this previously stated goal for Communication. We targeted our efforts at different groups of people such as students of biochemistry, first year students of all fields, personnel in the administration of the University of Turku, students of the University of Turku and in general, habitants of Turku. The material we created or made possible to publish is also diverse, as you can see from the list below:
- digital and print media publications
- flyers and posters
- social media posts
- team clothes
- PowerPoint slides
Below, you can read more about our Communication efforts.
Presentations for Biochemistry Students
In September our student team leader, Malin, was able to give short presentations to first and second year biochemistry students about iGEM and our project. The students attended courses our PI teaches so the presentations were easy to organise. For first year students, the presentations took about 5-10 min each but for the second year students, the presentations took about 15 min with plenty of questions and discussion after. All of the students were really interested and some of them even sent us emails later to make sure they’d get chosen to the next team. In numbers, we reached almost a hundred biochemistry students through these talks. This is a major achievement regarding the future of iGEM in Turku.
Åbo Akademi University Students
Turku is a bilingual city since 5 % of the population speaks Swedish as their first language (Turun kaupungin konsernihallinto). Swedish is also the second official language of Finland. In Turku, there is a Swedish speaking university called Åbo Akademi University where many of the Swedish speaking people of Finland go to study. iGEM in Turku is supposed to be open for students from all universities of Turku, including Åbo Akademi University. Unfortunately though, this year we didn’t have any members from there. Later this year we will go to Åbo Akademi University and give a talk about iGEM and Aboa in the hopes of recruiting new members for next year's team.
To strengthen our validity and make communication easier, we created our own website separate from the wiki. We collected everything important from our project on this website so that we could attach the link to different outreach materials. We assumed it would enhance the effect of us being an actual organized group. The website helps people understand what iGEM and Aboa are actually all about.
Study in Turku fair
Study in Turku is a fair in the beginning of the academic year aimed for first year students in Turku. We participated in the fair this fall as exhibitors and put up a small workshop to present our project and team. You can read more about the educational activities of our workshop from the Education page. However, we used the situation to our benefit and tried to recruit members for Aboa 2022 already at that point. We had made flyers that people could take a picture of and read at home since we couldn’t pass them out due to COVID-19 (Figure 3). We also posted a Finnish and an English version of the flyer on our website.
As people were queuing for the workshop, we talked to them about iGEM, our project, and advised them to check our website and Instagram page for more details. Many students, especially the ones from biochemistry and biotechnology, were really interested and we told them to apply for the next team when the recruitment starts later this year.
When we started our lab work in the summer, we decided to write and publish a press release. We got some help from our PI and the communication experts of our university to finalize the text but otherwise, we wrote it ourselves. We were hoping for some member of the media to contact us but that hasn’t happened yet. However, the release is available online and we put a link to it on our website so people have been able to read it when interested (Figure 4).
In addition, we contacted some members of our local media and later, the reporters wanted to interview us. In the beginning of August, our university newspaper, Tylkkäri, published an article about us on the paper’s website (Figure 5).
In the beginning of September, a big local newspaper, Turun Sanomat, also published an article about us. This time it wasn’t only an online version but instead, there was also a whole page article in the paper printed version of the newspaper (Figure 6). This article is unfortunately behind a paywall but the link still exists for subscribers to read.
We still have one more magazine and another newspaper interested in our project and we are contacting them later this year. The magazine is Finnish Chemical Magazine Kemia-Kemi (www.kemia-lehti.fi) and the newspaper is Åbo Underrättelser (abounderrattelser.fi).
John Nurminen Foundation
John Nurminen Foundation is a big Finnish organization whose ultimate goal is to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage to future generations. They organize annually on the second last Thursday of August a national event, Baltic Sea Day. According to their website "the objective of the day is to encourage people to enjoy the unique sea that belongs to us all, and to take concrete actions that benefit the sea. In addition to the celebrations, the purpose of the Baltic Sea Day is to provide information on the versatile nature, culture, and history of the Sea." (itameripaiva.fi/en).
Because the topic of our project is directly linked to the Baltic Sea, we obviously wanted to take part in this event. The day was organized on the same day as the Study in Turku fair so we decided to add an informative poster and a game about the condition of the Baltic Sea to our workshop. You can read more about these activities on the Education page. We also reported our project as an activity made for bettering the situation of the Baltic Sea, and a presentation text was posted on the foundation’s website (Figure 7).
Already early in the beginning of 2021, we took over the Aboa Instagram page that the previous team from 2019 had put up. We didn’t think it would make sense to start from scratch since Aboa 2019 had already established a good platform with hundreds of followers from all over the world. Later we realised this was a good call because we were able to benefit from the connections the previous team had already made long before us.
As we’re writing today, on Oct 6th 2021, we have 598 followers and 27 posts on our Instagram account. We’ve made content from various topics: We’ve introduced our team members one by one, we’ve made info posts about our project’s main topics and we’ve kept our followers updated on the biggest achievements on the way also in the stories section. In addition, we’ve attended some social media challenges that you can read more about from the Collaboration page. Below you can see an overview of the content we’ve posted on our account (Figure 8).
In November, we are also going to take over our university’s social media account for one day. We are aiming to do this during the jamboree so we can let everybody see how big of a thing iGEM really is. You can go and follow our university’s account. You can find it as @uniturku.
During the summer we designed and ordered team clothes with financial support from TEK which is a professional community of academic engineers and architects in Finland (TEK). The reason for doing this was that we wanted to strengthen our group spirit but we also wanted to raise awareness of Aboa and iGEM in the campus area. When we would walk around in our team clothes publicly showing our logo and sponsors, people would start noticing and then later asking and finding out more about us.
One of the biggest reasons for our difficulties during this year was that we had far too few team members in our team. We tried to recruit new members in multiple ways through the first half of the year but it was very difficult to attract anybody in. One reason for this was that people didn’t know about iGEM and they were not yet ready to participate this year. Another reason was that we couldn’t offer any clear benefits from the work such as credits or wages. As we are very well aware of the conditions for Aboa in Turku, we wanted to better the situation for future teams.
Therefore, we have started to negotiate with the administrative personnel in the lead of our faculties about making it possible to receive credits as a return from the work in the iGEM project. Our proposition for how this could be done is that iGEM would be structured as a course in the future that would be offered by the Faculty of Medicine, Science and/or Technology. There would be an assigned person from the university to take responsibility for this course. This person would make sure that all Aboa team members return a report and a table of work hours at the end of the project so that the credits could be given accordingly.
The negotiation will continue far later than the wiki freeze but there are team members in Aboa 2021 who are determined to continue working to achieve something concretic. We’ll see later what will come out of this endeavour.
Seminar for Researchers and PhD Students
In November we are going to give a 45 min talk about our project in an openly accessible seminar series. Our goal for this presentation is to give information about the possibilities of iGEM for researchers and PhD students. We hope that this talk facilitates getting more advisors and instructors for the future Aboa teams.
- John Nurminen Foundation website. Retrieved October 6th, 2021 from https://itameripaiva.fi/teot/aboa-joukkue-pelastamassa-itamerta-tieteen-keinoin/
- TEK. Retrieved October 6th, 2021 from https://www.tek.fi/en/what-tek.
- The John Nurminen Foundation: Information about The Baltic Sea. Retrieved August 16, 2021 from https://johnnurmisensaatio.fi/en/baltic-sea-protection/information-about-the-baltic-sea/.
- The press release. Retrieved October 6th, 2021 from https://www.utu.fi/fi/ajankohtaista/mediatiedote/turun-yliopiston-opiskelijat-pelastamassa-itamerta-kansainvalisen.
- Turun kaupungin konsernihallinto: Turun väestökatsaus, Heinäkuu 2019. Retrieved October 7th, 2021 from https://www.turku.fi/sites/default/files/atoms/files/vaestokatsaus_heinakuu_2019.pdf.
- Turun Sanomat article. Retrieved October 6th, 2021 from https://www.ts.fi/teemat/5414405/Turkulaiset+300+joukkueen+tiedekisaan+Itameriteemalla++miten+hajottaa+vesielioille+haitallisia+laakejaamia
- Tylkkäri’s article. Retrieved October 6th, 2021 from https://www.tylkkari.fi/kampus/turkulaisopiskelijat-ratkomassa-itameren-laakejateongelmaa-kansainvalisessa-igem-kilpailussa.