National Science Olympiad
UW-Madison was the host for the 2011 National Science Olympiad where middle school and high school students came from around the country to compete in science competitions. As the host, UW-Madison had an exhibition of several academic department and academic student organizations, in which they presented their research for the students to explore. At each table students could learn about research conducted here on campus through hands-on activities and hopefully inspire them to learn more.
The UW-Madison 2011 iGEM team had a table and we talked about the iGEM organization based at MIT and about our current project. In order for them to interact with synthetic biology concepts, we created a problem-solving game where students could try their hand at cloning. For example, on our poster we listed several descriptions of genes and promoters. After the students read the descriptions, we challenged them to assemble the genes and promoters in the proper order for expression of a reporter gene. If they put the components in the correct order, they received a glow stick to represent the fluorescence one would see after induction of the system in liquid culture. Since some students were in high school, we also mentioned to students and teachers about the iGEM high school competition division and encouraged them to look at the iGem website for more information on starting their own team.