We love Synthetic Biology, and to share our passion with other people, we did educational activities as part of our human practices. We took part in an annual event called “Manabi gate”, which literally means “learning gate” in Japanese. Many universities and schools prepared activities for the participant.
Even now, synthetic biology is not well known among people. But fragmental information can be spread, and it is typical reaction to feel “the thing not knowing well is frightening”. So we anyway would like to spread what is made and aimed by synthetic biology and iGEM.
For this event, we created “iGEM Card Game”. One of the most important essences in synthetic biology is to
combine genes. In our game, we reproduced the essence by combining cards. Before playing the game, posters were
used for introduction. And after the game, we asked some questions for visitors.
2. The iGEM Card Game
The iGEM card game has several series of cards. Each series consist of 3 to 5 cards each of which represents key parts of an iGEM project. The game’s rule is like poker. When we gather a whole series of cards, we can get points. By gathering them, the player can understand how the combination of the different genetic parts can be used to create living organisms with new and desired function.
For example, one series represented iGEM 2009's Tokyo Tech project, namely the Terraforming of Mars project, which is referred by NASA Space Synthetic Biology.
The aim of the project is to make Mars, a cold and inhospitable planet, into a more habitable planet. This series consists of three parts: “anti-freezing protein”, “feeding from iron”, and “melanin production”. Each of the cards represents one of the three parts. When the all cards are gathered, the aim is achieved. Anti-freezing protein allows the bacteria to survive in Mars, as well as the iron-feeding ability. By producing melanin, bacteria become black and can help to rise the temperature of Mars.
These cards are not only well representing nature of synthetic biology, but also have beautiful design. So the card game became very popular especially among children. Some children play the game many times and ask us “Can I bring these cards back?” Our card game attracts participants.
To make sure they understood the essence of the game, we also further explained how the series which players had gathered represented an iGEM project.
We created three posters to explain Synthetic Biology and iGEM to our audience. One of the posters was aimed at young audience, so we used Doraemon, a very famous comic character through many generations in Japan. In it, the characters make bacteria which can produce delicious drink. Another poster used metaphors and many illustrations to compare combining genetic parts to make new functions with combining kitchen tools to make dishes. A third poster was all about iGEM. This poster explained what iGEM is, and it served as a perfect way to invite our audience to play the “iGEM Card Game”. We think that our posters, as well as the card game, allowed our audience to know more about Synthetic Biology and iGEM.
Our survey consisted of the following questions:
- Q1. Did you know microorganisms are used for making bread, soy sauce, etc.?
- Q2. Did you know the words “genetic engineering”?
- Q3. Did you know the words “synthetic biology”?
- Q4. After hearing our explanations, what would you like to make using synthetic biology?
- Q5. Did you become to be interested in synthetic biology?
- Q6. Please feel free to write any other things, such as any comments or opinions you may have.
4.1 All respondents
206 people answered these questions. Here is the results we obtained.
4.2 Respondents under 10 years old
97 people under 10 years old answered these questions. Here is the results we obtained.
4.3 Respondents over 10 years old
95 people over 10 years old answered these questions. Here is the results we obtained.
4.4 What would you like to make using synthetic biology?
119 people answeres Q4 of our questionnaire.
According to results, the young tended to answer our questionnaire creatively. These are the examples of answers.
- bacteria glowing like a rainbow.(10 years, man)
- photosynthesizing animals(14 years, man)
- Neapolitan(10 years, man)
Our results show that many people of all ages learned about and became interested in Synthetic Biology through our activity! So we concluded that our human practices were really successful. We strongly believe that after about ten years, the number of iGEMers will dramatically increase.