Education & Communication
Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) Educational Lesson
Our team took part in the collaboration started by the iGEM TAU-Israel organizing and holding lectures for students from the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV, Agahozo = “the place where tears are dried”, Shalom = “peace”). ASYV is a youth village for vulnerable teenage orphans from Rwanda, originally founded for supporting victims of the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
The goal of this collaboration was to introduce the students from ASYV to synthetic biology and its possible applications, by holding engaged one-hour lectures over the time span of 7 weeks. Each lecture was held by another iGEM team (iGEM TUDelft, iGEM MTU-CORK, iGEM Hong Kong HKU, iGEM Vilnius-Lithuania, iGEM TAU Israel, iGEM BOKU-Vienna, iGEM Concordia-Montreal). Our team created one session together with the teams MTU-CORK and Concordia-Montreal. The students age reached from 14 to 18, therefore their level of English and their understanding of biology varied. Each week the students were given a new task, starting with getting to know a previous years iGEM project and ending with finding their own problem and thinking about possible solutions for this project using synthetic biology.
During this session each team introduced themselves and their country. Then we continued by letting them introduce their country to us. Followed by a short session about iGEM and the importance of Bioinformatics. Lastly the team from Ireland (MTU-CORK) and our team introduced our projects.
The students showed real interest in knowing every part of the project. Since the time was limited, we were only able to cover the basic idea and concept of our project, but at the end they asked to know more about the specifics. For example, they wanted to know how the drug will be given, what is special about the bacteria we chose for our project, how the enzymes we use are specific, what exactly in the different types of food makes the people sick and how we would make sure that the drug we develop is good and tolerated by humans.
Lastly, together with the other teams involved in this collaboration the team TAU Israel organized to create a guidebook for future iGEM teams to continue the work with ASYV, giving them advise on what to include in their presentation and get them involved with synthetic biology.
Lessons at School of Life – Allgemeine Sonderschule Groß-Siegharts
To broaden our educational impact, we not only reached out to students of different ages but also to students with special needs. We therefore organized and held a one-hour lecture for a class of 10 students reaching from the age of eight to fourteen in Groß-Sieghart, a smaller town in rural Lower Austria.
To involve them with our project, a talk was given starting with the fact that the microbiome exists, what it is, and that the bacteria living on and in us are helpful for our wellbeing. We also went through the topics of irritable bowel syndrome, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and similar disorders and especially tried to show what this means for the patients. For the interest of some students our approach was described. The students had many questions about the bacteria, which they called “small animals”, why we need them and what makes them different from the “bad” ones.
Before our session, an informed consent from some parents was given to take a picture of some students, which we are happy to present you
Children University in Vienna
During the summer, Vienna’s universities open doors for children from 7 to 12 years, who can attend fun science courses and lectures, meet scientists, and get to know the universities from the inside. All free of charge. This is called the annual Children’s University and usually, the lectures are held in large lecture halls and a festive graduation ceremony for the children is organized.
Our team took part by presenting the background and principle of our project and what our goal would be. Learning from previous educational sessions we set our focus on the bacteria. We therefore called the bacteria “small animals” to let the children better understand what they are and that they are harmless and good, since we noticed from previous lessons that the principle of bacteria living inside us is often completely new and frightening. We prepared a picture from the gut and bacteria from cotton to emphasize on their role in our body and showed them, that these small animals can’t escape our designed pill because the holes the pill have are too small to fit through.
The children all together really liked our presentation, especially since they were allowed to choose one of the cotton-made bacteria to take home.
Social Media Posts
Social media are valuable platforms to raise awareness and to give information upon several topics. Therefore, we regularly posted educational information regarding our project and synthetic biology on our social media. Early in the iGEM year, during the time we were brainstorming about our final project, we began to inform society about synthetic biology, the iGEM competition, and its message and values guided by the UN sustainability goals.
During our project reveal, it was of particular importance to us to educate our audience about IBS and its and relevance in the society. One of our educational posts for example aimed at informing about one of the main triggers of bowel diseases: FODMAPS.
Furthermore, we held discussions and conversations with several people who were interested in learning more about our project and the research being conducted about FODMAPs. Our project idea and the therapeutic approach we were planning to work on were announced through all our social channels as well.
Our science education series continued with posts about the main platforms we used for our project: the Lactobacillus and genetically engineered plasmids. Over the course of the iGEM cycle, the content was additionally supplemented with informational posts on genetic engineering and their implementation and contribution to the public health. Insulin-producing bacteria were cited as a well-known example.
Science Busters Podcast
The Science Busters is an Austrian scientific cabaret founded in 2007 which is well-known in German-speaking countries. Their goal is to explain science in a fun way to their audience. We are proud to announce that we were invited to be their first guest in the Science Busters podcast and to talk about iGEM and our project in a one-hour session. The podcast was published in German and can be listened to via Spotify, Deezer, or here. More information about the podcast can be found on our wiki page Featured. We want to kindly thank the Science Busters for having us in their podcast. We sincerely appreciate your time, the effort of cutting the recording file, and your support!
iGEM NAWI-Graz Podcast
We were invited to the iGEM podcast of iGEM NAWI-Graz, where we could share our plans and considerations that went into Friendzyme with other iGEM teams. In 14 minutes, we talked about FODMAPs, the importance of recognizing food intolerances, and why our technology could help not only IBS patients. The podcast was published in English and can be listened to via Spotify. We want to kindly thank the iGEM team NAWI-Graz for having us in their podcast.