Section 1: Education

In the course of our human practice activities, we recognized a significant deficiency in synthetic biology knowledge among non-biology college students and the general public. We committed ourselves to addressing this gap by organizing educational activities on synthetic biology. Our outreach efforts have spanned across various age groups within the younger generation, starting from primary school children, then middle school students, and finally extending to college students.

1.1 A Science Lecture for Kids at Wuhan Museum of Science and Technology

In our quest to ignite young minds with the wonders of synthetic biology, we had the pleasure of spending an enriching afternoon with children aged 5 to 12 at Wuhan Museum of Science and Technology on June 1, 2023. Here's an overview of our educational activity.

1.1.1 Unveiling the World of Synthetic Biology: What Is It?

Our first step was to introduce young minds to the field of synthetic biology in a way that was easy to understand. We employed an analogy, wherein the microorganism played the role of a factory responsible for accommodating and facilitating the operation of these genetic "machines" - the plasmids.

Fig 1. Analogy: Microorganisms as genetic 'machine' hosts

1.1.2 Introducing the specific knowledge related to our project: Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and S. oneidensis MR-1

We focused on two pivotal components within our project: Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and S. oneidensis MR-1. To introduce their application and arouse the children’s interest, we incorporated a board game into our educational approach. We provided the children with dice, and each roll determined the topic we would discuss. We described how Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 can produce oxygen when exposed to sunlight and also discussed how S. oneidensis MR-1 can generate electricity once it gets its "food".

Fig 2. Primary school kids actively participating in educational board games

1.1.3 Learning in a game: Creating your own "Synthetic Plasmid"

We wanted the children to not just understand but also actively participate in the learning process. We prepared stickers with images of plasmid components like promoters, terminators, and genes. Using these stickers, the children were encouraged to create their own synthetic plasmids, following the rules of synthetic biology. This hands-on activity helped them grasp the intricacies of genetic engineering in a playful manner.

1.1.4 Sharing Knowledge and Inspiring Curiosity

At the end of our lecture, we encouraged the children to share what they had learned. We gave them the opportunity to express their newfound knowledge and enthusiasm for synthetic biology. Furthermore, we also interacted with their parents, explaining the importance of nurturing their child's interest in science and technology. We recommended various resources for parents to continue fostering their children's curiosity in the field of synthetic biology.

Fig 3. HUST-China members at the Wuhan Museum of Science and Technology

1.2 A Summer Camp for Middle School Students

In our efforts to foster early interest in synthetic biology and encourage more adolescents to pursue studies in this field, we organized an exclusive summer camp tailored for middle school students on our campus on July 20, 2023. We aimed to introduce them to the fundamental concepts of synthetic biology and provide guidance on basic microbiological experimentation.

1.2.1 Introduction to Fundamental Concepts in Synthetic Biology

Given that middle school students typically possess a foundational understanding of genetic engineering through their biology textbooks, we focused on systematically summarizing the entire genetic engineering process. This comprehensive overview encompassed the extraction of target genes, the construction of gene expression vectors, the introduction of target genes into recipient cells, and the subsequent detection and identification of these target genes.

1.2.2 Guiding Middle School Students Through Microbiological Experiments

During the camp, we equipped middle school students with the essential skills to effectively utilize microscopes. We carefully selected a diverse range of microbiological experiments for instruction, including Gram staining, and observation of yeast and black mold, all accompanied by detailed explanations of experimental principles.

Fig 4. HUST-China members guiding middle school students in using microscopes Fig 5. HUST-China members with middle school students

1.3 A debate regarding synthetic biology ethics for college students

To promote an understanding of synthetic biology ethics among college students, we organized a debate that brought together students from various academic disciplines at Huazhong Agricultural University. This event aimed to provide fundamental knowledge of synthetic biology to a diverse audience and facilitate meaningful discussions with iGEM team HZAU-China.

1.3.1 Explain fundamental concepts in Synthetic biology

Considering that our audience consisted of students from different fields, we took care to explain synthetic biology concepts at a college student's level. This approach ensured that all attendees could grasp the biological content discussed during the debate.

1.3.2 iGEM project presentations

To provide concrete examples of synthetic biology applications, both iGEM teams, HUST-China and HZAU-China, presented iGEM projects to the audience. After hearing about the "C.A.T: Cat Allergic Therapy" project from HZAU-China and “Electrico Sisters” project from HUST-China, attendees gained insights into this year's iGEM projects in various tracks.

1.3.3 The Debate

The central question of our debate revolved around the ethical considerations in the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology: In the current rapid development of synthetic biology, should we adopt a creator's mindset towards life? iGEM HUST-China argued against the idea that we should play the role of a creator, even though synthetic biology enables the creation of organisms with characteristics that are not naturally present. On the contrary, iGEM HZAU-China supported the opposite viewpoint. This debate delved deep into the ethical dilemmas accompanying the evolution of synthetic biology, fostering valuable insights and sparking heated discussions about synthetic biology ethics among the college audience.

Fig 6. HUST-China members participating in the debate Fig 7. HUST-China with HZAU-China members

Section 2: Communication

We engaged in communication activities that reach both within our own country and across international boundaries, including a close exchange with one particular team and active participation in opening conferences as well as nationwide competitions alongside various iGEM teams.

2.1 Exchange with the iGEM Team WUST-China

On May 18th, 2023, we actively participated in a deep conversation with the WUST-China iGEM team. This exchange provided us with an opportunity to pose questions and collectively seek solutions to challenges.

2.1.1 Project Presentation and Progress Report

Members from both WUST-China and HUST-China teams provided updates on their recent activities, showcasing an overview of project designs. Following the exchange of ideas, we openly discussed potential shortcomings and proposed specific measures to optimize our work.

2.1.2 Sharing iGEM Experience

Jiangcheng SHI, the team leader from iGEM HUST-China 2021, presented previous iGEM projects and shared valuable insights gained from their competition experience. This sharing allowed us to draw from the lessons learned by previous teams and better prepare ourselves for the challenges of the iGEM competition.

Fig 8. HUST-China with WUST-China members

2.2 Exchange with the iGEM Team Evry Paris-Saclay

On July 12th, 2023, we engaged in close communication with Doriane BLAISE, the team leader of Evry-Paris-Saclay 2023, and also one of the core members of the 2022 team. This collaborative exchange allowed us to share ideas and discuss project intricacies.

2.2.1 Gaining Insight from Successful Wiki Writing

Evry Paris-Saclay iGEM team earned a best Wiki special award nomination in 2021. Doriane believed that while project results are undoubtedly significant, the ability to effectively convey those achievements is equally vital. This communication allowed us to learn how to articulate our project effectively and gained invaluable insights into the art of project documentation.

2.2.2 Learning from Successful Measurement

In their 2022 project, Electricia Coil, the Evry Paris-Saclay team was awarded a gold medal and the Best Measurement special award nomination. We learned how they utilized various measurement techniques to assess the performance of their components. They calibrated their experimental setups for the in vivo measurements in 96-well plates for the green, red and blue fluorescence and developed quantitative methods for measurement using reverse phase high pressure liquid chromatography.

Fig 9. HUST-China members with Doriane BLAISE in Evry-Paris-Saclay

2.3 Attending the Inaugural Synthetic Biology Conference

We had the privilege of attending the inaugural Synthetic Biology Conference in central China, a unique event jointly organized by the Hubei Synthetic Biology Society and Hubei University. The event took place intending to foster collaboration among various domestic iGEM teams and promote the understanding of synthetic biology to the general public

Fig 10. HUST-China members at the Synthetic Biology Conference in Hubei

2.3.1 Listening to iGEM project presentations

iGEM team from across the nation delivered their project presentation. Through project presentations and interactive Q&A sessions, we had the opportunity to gain insights from other teams’ projects.

2.3.2 Exhibition and Open Discussions

The event also included a marketplace where attendees could showcase their team culture and participate in open discussions about the latest advancements in synthetic biology and related technologies.

2.3.3 Recognition for HUST-China's Achievements

The organizers acknowledged the remarkable achievements of HUST-China in recent years. Rui TANG, a member of HUST-China, was invited by the organizers to unveil the event.

Fig 11. Hust-China team members unveiling the Hubei Inaugural Synthetic Biology Conference

2.4 Taking part in the National Synbio Challenges 2023 (2nd)

We took an active part in the Synbio Challenges 2023 (2nd) with team members in HUST-China 2022. Synbio Challenges, a competition hosted by the Chinese Society of Biotechnology(CSBT), provided a platform that has brought together 80 synthetic biology teams from 48 universities across our nation.

2.4.1 Awarded the Sole Best Award in the Competition

Our last year's project "REE Miner" achieved the most exclusive Award by genetically modifying Escherichia coli to efficiently recover rare elements from wastewater. This successful experience will be instrumental in improving this year's project.

Fig 12. HUST-China awarded the sole Best Award in the competition

2.4.2 Collaborative Exchange with Top Synthetic Biology Teams Nationwide

This competition provided opportunities for collaborative discussions and knowledge sharing with some of the most distinguished synthetic biology teams from across the country. Engaging with these interactions has not only enriched our project but also fostered a vibrant community of innovators dedicated to pushing the boundaries of synthetic biology.

Fig 13. HUST-China members at National Synbio Challenges 2023
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